Apple Watch Series 7 Review: The best smartwatch you can buy, by far
“Stylish, personalizable, powerful, reliable, and with a bigger viewing area, smaller bezels, and faster charging than before, the Apple Watch Series 7 is the best smartwatch you can buy.”
- Large screen, small bezels
- Easily personalized
- Choice of models and sizes
- Comprehensive health tracking
- Reliable software and notifications
- Fast charging
- Stronger and tougher than before
- Only works with the iPhone
The Apple Watch Series 7 might just be the perfect smartwatch. Sorry to give the game away this early, but there are no secrets or surprises here — and that’s a good thing. A smartwatch should be an extension of your smartphone, yet also needs to be able to function reliably and usefully on its own. It should provide extensive, motivational, and informative health and activity tracking without alienating those who aren’t athletes. It should look great, and be easily customized to match your mood, style, and environment. It shouldn’t require constant supervision or have complex or gimmicky features that overshadow basic everyday usefulness. New models need to also improve over the previous version, so everyone can consider upgrading if they want.
The Apple Watch Series 7 delivers all this and more. Let’s talk about it.
It’s pretty much impossible to tell the difference between the Series 7 and the Series 6 just by glancing at them. The 1mm increase in case size — 45mm and 41mm for the Series 7 versus 44mm and 40mm for the Series 6 — is only clear if you get a tape measure out, and the slightly greater curve at each edge is only evident if you put the two watches next to each other and look really closely. The speaker on the left-hand side of the case is a single slit rather than the dual slit on the Series 6, but that’s about as obvious as the visual alterations get.
What you do notice are the much smaller 1.7mm bezels, down from 3mm on the Series 6, and the increase in viewing area. Apple says there’s 20% more screen area visible compared to the Series 6 and the Watch SE, and 50% more than the Apple Watch Series 3. The Ion-X glass over the screen has a contoured edge, so the screen appears to curve toward the case, just like a curved screen on a smartphone.
The version in our photos is an aluminum model in Midnight, which is black in color with a hint of blue, and I chose it as it’s easier to match with more strap options, unlike the blue or green versions. If you have a strap collection from an existing Apple Watch, they will all fit with the Series 7 perfectly, just in case you are worried the 1mm size increase would make them look odd.
It would be easy to chastise Apple for not changing the design much, but it hasn’t done so because it doesn’t need to. The Series 7 looks fantastic, and the Apple Watch has become a style icon, in my opinion. The gentle curve of the case makes it very comfortable to wear, regardless of which strap you choose, and it’s really light at 38.8 grams without the strap, meaning you can wear it day and night.
While this is also true for some fitness bands, the difference is that the Apple Watch looks good, and it’s incredibly easy to change the complete look of it if you get bored. Apple’s watch faces have evolved a lot, especially in WatchOS 7 and WatchOS 8, becoming classier and more visually exciting, rather than just adding complications. Build a small collection of straps and bracelets, and the Apple Watch is ready to go with anything you’re wearing, and suited to any time of the day.
It’s this versatility that makes the Apple Watch such a joy to own. It turns it from a piece of technology to something that’s truly yours. No other smartwatch provides the ease of customization in the same way. You can even just choose the wear-and-forget Sport Loop strap, which is one of the best basic straps you can get, and be set for the duration of your ownership.
The Apple Watch Series 7 doesn’t wear any differently from the Series 5 or Series 6 Watch, and that’s fine. It’s still the most comfortable, most personalized, easiest to live with smartwatch you can buy.
If the slimmer bezel hasn’t changed the design much, has it changed the screen? Yes, it has, but don’t expect coming from the Series 6 to feel like picking up a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. The increase is much more subtle, but Apple has emphasized the difference through WatchOS 8 by using new watch faces like Contour, offering larger fonts, and making better use of the additional space.
Buttons are larger and easier to quickly locate, wider notification cards include just that little bit more information, more text fits on screen at once, and you can see more at one time. Swipe up to show the quick settings, and activating a Focus mode takes a less precise action, making it faster than before. But perhaps the best indication of how much screen the Series 7 has gained comes from the three additional font sizes available on it compared to older models.
Apple says the screen is brighter indoors, but I haven’t noticed any difference. However, this may be because I never have any issue reading what’s on it, regardless of whether I’m in sunlight or darkness, or whether it’s showing the main screen or the excellent always-on watch faces. It’s sharp and colorful, and isn’t absurdly reflective either. The Ion-X glass over the top is also tougher and more resistant to cracks than before, but to get the reportedly more durable sapphire glass displays, you have to buy the stainless steel or titanium models.
The smaller bezels make the Series 7 look more modern, too, even when put next to the Series 6, a smartwatch that can hardly be described as old. If you’re coming from a Series 3 watch, the Series 7’s smaller bezels and larger viewing area will transform the experience for you. In this case, the Series 7 is a huge upgrade. I’ve used a Series 6 for the last year, and the additional screen real estate was obvious the moment I started using the Series 7.
Health and activity tracking
The Apple Watch Series 7 takes your heart rate and electrocardiogram (ECG) readings, measures blood oxygen levels, warns of heart rate irregularities, sends out an emergency alert if you fall down, reminds you to start a workout if it notices you’re not moving or cycling, tracks your swimming activity, and automatically starts a timer when you wash your hands. I’m only scratching the surface here, as I haven’t mentioned sleep tracking, dozens of workout plans, Apple’s Fitness+ service, noise alerts, and the mindfulness app yet.
The health and fitness tracking is comprehensive, detailed, accurate, and in my case, total overkill for my needs — and that’s a good thing. It means should I decide to do more, the Watch will be ready without the need to upgrade. The Series 7 tracks my walks, sleep, and workouts at home without a problem, and it’s so fast and simple to set it in motion I don’t even need to go to the workout app sometimes, as the Watch recognizes I’m doing more than usual and suggests a tracking mode. Or I use the app selection mode by pressing the lower button on the Watch to leap straight into the workout app. It takes seconds, which as a casual exerciser, is what I want.
I also appreciate the “silent” features. Heart rate, blood oxygen, and even noise are all monitored in the background, so should something change, it will let me know. I don’t have to do anything even at setup, as most of these features are active by default. Apple’s Activity Rings give me a clear indicator of my daily activity, and are suitably motivational, with reminders to move around and animated screens when I achieve a goal.
Data is presented in Apple’s Health app. It shows helpful trends that inform about whether you’re doing more or less than usual, overviews of your most recent workouts (including GPS maps), and offers the option to dig deeper. I love the All Health Data list view, which instantly tells you the most up-to-date information, and combines it with historical data, too. Tap each section to see a more detailed breakdown of the data. It’s superbly laid out, very informative, and extremely simple to digest.
Although it’s all very attractively presented with bright colors and neat graphs, the app can feel dense and complicated. But it highlights just how much ability the Watch has and how it can benefit those who are far more focused on fitness than I am. I’d quite like the Health and the Fitness app to be incorporated into one, as I often forget about the Fitness app, which contains further information on daily activities.
The Apple Watch Series 7 is as much of a fitness partner as you want it to be, and it performs just as well regardless of the amount of effort you put into exercise. It has all the ability, data, and motivation you want — or as little as you want — all without irritating messages about pushing yourself to the limit either on the Watch or in the marketing. This ties in with the design and customization, too, as it does all this while looking as sporty or not sporty as you want. It’s excellent.
Software and performance
Apple’s WatchOS 8 software, which was released in September, comes installed and is compatible with all Apple Watch models since the Series 3. It operates in the same way here as it did on the Series 6, and I summed up my experience with the software in an earlier article.
It’s fast, responsive, and feature-packed. I receive notifications from my iPhone 13 Pro without a problem, and I can respond to most of them directly from the Watch. Most messages can be replied to using the keyboard, which has a new QuickType swipe-typing feature. It’s surprisingly accurate and makes it much quicker to type on the Watch’s small screen. I also like how a pop-up will appear on the iPhone, letting you enter text on the phone rather than on the Watch, all without finding the relevant message. Not all messages have such deep interaction. For example, tweets can only be liked or retweeted, and Outlook emails can’t be replied to on your wrist, only flagged or marked as read.
It’s still the most comfortable, most personalized, easiest to live with smartwatch you can buy.
The Watch Series 7’s processor may be called the S7, but it’s only a name change, and it has the same performance as the S6 inside the Series 6. What this does mean is it offers 20% more performance than the S5 chip inside the Apple Watch SE, which Apple still sells alongside the new Series 7. You can buy the Series 7 with a cellular connection, and provided you pay extra on your monthly carrier plan, the Watch will make and receive calls and receive messages even when not connected to your phone.
Using WatchOS 8 on the Apple Watch Series 6 and Series 7, I have not had any problems with responsiveness or apps at all. During the setup of the Series 7, I did have trouble using the Set up as a new watch option, but it activated without issue when I chose the Restore from a backup option. It’s the first time I have encountered this, and suspect it may have been to do with setting up the Series 7 on launch day and the associated server delays.
I’ve worn the Apple Watch Series 7 for 24 hours a day for the last week, and when I wake up in the morning after tracking my sleep, the Watch has consistently still had between 20% and 30% power remaining, depending on whether I tracked a workout the day before. This means a single, full day’s use is no issue. With 30% remaining, it has continued on until the end of a workday if I didn’t track a workout. Alternatively, if you don’t activate sleep tracking and you turn it off overnight, two days or even more will be achievable.
The Watch Series 7 has a new charger, complete with fast charging, and is easily recognizable compared to the older versions due to the silver case. It provides an 80% charge in 45 minutes according to Apple, but when plugged into the Apple fast charger, it exceeds this, getting to about 88% in that time. It reaches 100% in an hour. There is also has a handy feature where an eight-minute charge will return eight hours of sleep tracking.
If you use an old charger with the Series 7, then it charges at normal speed, which is understandable but unfortunate for anyone who has splurged on a stand like the Belkin 3-in-1 MagSafe charger, as you won’t get the benefit from the new charger’s speed increase.
Price and availability
Thestarts at $399 for the 41mm model and $429 for the 45mm model. Add $100 for the GPS + Cellular version, and even more depending on the strap you select. For example, if you want the Product RED Braided Solo Loop strap in our photos, prices start at $449.
In the U.K., the 41mm Apple Watch Series 7 in aluminum starts at 369 pounds, and the 45mm model from 399 pounds. Prices increase depending on the strap you choose, and you must add 100 pounds to the price if you want the GPS + Cellular model.
The Series 7 looks fantastic, and the Apple Watch has become a style icon, in my opinion.
Outside of the standard Apple Watch models, you can buy special Nike versions, which cost the same but come with Nike-branded straps and exclusive watch faces. You can also pay more for the Apple Watch Series 7 to get a stainless steel case and sapphire crystal over the screen. Prices start at $699 or 649 pounds. The titanium Apple Watch Edition starts at $799 or 699 pounds, and the Apple Watch Hermés starts at $1,229 or 1,179 pounds. Functionality and specification is identical across the range, so all these offer only material and strap differences.
Smaller bezels and a 1mm case size difference have made a big impact on the Apple Watch Series 7, increasing its attractiveness and overall visual appeal. Faster charging and that helpful eight-minute zap for overnight use means the relatively short battery life is much less of an issue, and you can use and enjoy the Watch 24 hours a day. WatchOS 8 is reliable and easy to use, the health tracking remains second-to-none even without any hardware changes, and the massive amount of customization makes it fun to own.
It’s everything you want a smartwatch to be, as it perfectly integrates with the iPhone, yet has enough power to be used on its own if you choose, and never feels superfluous due to a lack of features or poor app support. The Apple Watch Series 7 has improved over the Series 6, even managing to feel like a worthwhile upgrade to last year’s model for those who don’t mind spending the money. It’s also worth mentioning that Apple has not changed the price either, keeping it the same for the last few generations despite hardware and software improvements.
The Apple Watch Series 7 does everything I want, and I’m very aware it can do a whole lot more, making it feel like a safe purchase even for those who are just beginning with a smartwatch. The fact that it’s not difficult to use also makes it great for newcomers, and the two sizes and various versions means you’ll find one that suits you. It’s really superb, and I struggle to find a reason not to recommend it wholeheartedly.
Is there a better alternative?
It’s not often I get to say this, but if you own an iPhone and want a smartwatch, there is no better alternative to the Apple Watch. There’s usually some alternative, but in this case, by buying an Apple Watch Series 7, you’re getting the best available option. This year, the Apple Watch SE is less of a good deal than it was in 2020 due to the lack of always-on screen, larger bezel, standard charging speed, and less capable health tracking.
If you own an Android phone, you cannot use the Apple Watch in any meaningful way, so take a look at our recommendations for Android smartwatches.
How long will it last?
The Apple Watch Series 7 has an IP6X dust-resistance rating, water resistance up to 50 meters, is swimproof, and has stronger, more crack-resistant glass over the screen. Straps are easily and cheaply replaced, should they get broken or dirty. Apple should support the Watch with new software updates for up to five years. Keeping the Apple Watch Series 7 for five years may be a stretch if you’re wating to keep up with tech trends, but for everyone else, it’s perfectly achievable given the Series 7’s ability, performance, and toughness.
Should you buy one?
Yes. It’s not only the best smartwatch for your iPhone, it’s the best smartwatch available today.