“Relief that is almost tidal in scope washes over me in an awesome wave,” wrote Bret Easton Ellis in American Psycho, and it’s a line that came to my mind about my own emotions just a few moments after Jeff Williams revealed the Apple Watch Series 7.
Why? The rumored flat-sided redesign of the Apple Watch had me worried, to the point where I wrote quite a lot of cathartic words about it. So to see an only subtly altered model on the screen during the California Streaming event, and not the slablike horror featured in the earlier leaked renders, was my ideal scenario come true. It means the Apple Watch Series 7 still has one of its predecessor’s primary strengths, all-day wearability.
Why the worry?
Before the Apple event on September 14, several sets of rendered images supposedly showing the Apple Watch Series 7 caused my concern, due to the adoption of a flat-sided design similar to the iPad Pro, iPhone 12, and now the iPhone 13 series. Flat sides look great on phones, where the ergonomic frustrations of sharp edges can be obscured by using a case, but not so with a watch. Watches are even more intimate than smartphones as they’re constantly touching our bodies, making comfort essential.
I tried hard to look on the positive side before the launch by trusting Apple’s sense of what makes a good wearable, and also my experience with other square watches like the Tag Heuer Monaco, the Casio G-Shock GW-B5600, and the Bell & Ross BR-03. All these have sharper edges and flatter sides than you find on a round watch, yet still manage to sit comfortably on my wrist, but there’s no doubt in my mind that these aren’t for everyone. A smartwatch needs to have a far friendlier fit.
Redesigns keep products fresh, but the Apple Watch Series 6, like all the previous models, is expertly judged when it comes to shape, making it easy to wear all day long without fatigue. It doesn’t get annoying, it doesn’t get sweaty or itchy, and it’s lightweight and slim enough to wear under a shirt cuff or overnight. Apple didn’t stumble on this by accident. It took extensive research and development, plus the design expertise of Sir Jony Ive, to come up with the Apple Watch as we know it.
A smartwatch needs to have a far friendlier fit.
Shifting away from this for the Series 7 to an edgier — in all meanings of the word — shape in an effort to jazz it up would be, to put it kindly, brave.
The best outcome
Obviously, we now know the flat-sided design isn’t part of the Apple Watch Series 7. Instead, Apple has subtly altered the look of the Watch with a larger screen and more curves, plus a tiny increase in case size. Look at the photos of the Series 7 and you can see the side profile shape is very similar to the Series 6, indicating it should wear in exactly the same way, although Apple hasn’t released case dimensions or weight for these new versions to do a direct comparison yet.
You may be wondering why this matters, especially if you’re looking at your first smartwatch. To understand, we need to explore the best features, mostly related to health and fitness, on the Apple Watch. The Series 7 can recognize if you fall over when working out or off your bike when cycling, and there’s fall detection in normal use. too. The sensor array enables respiratory rate monitoring at night, and includes irregular heart rate alerts throughout the day, background blood oxygen level readings, and the usual encouragement to close the Activity rings and to check if you’ve washed your hands for 20 seconds or not.
Apple’s health and fitness features are comprehensive, easy to use, and reliable, but they only make a difference to your life if you’re wearing the Watch. It’s not going to know if you take a tumble from your bike if it’s still on the charger at home, is it? The first step to wearing the Apple Watch, or any smartwatch, each day and getting all the benefits is for it to be comfortable. The moment you stop wearing a smartwatch, it becomes completely useless.
The moment you stop wearing a smartwatch, it becomes completely useless.
Apple knows this, hence any design-related decision it makes is unlikely to creep into “brave” territory. The only changes we’re likely to see are ones made to encourage long-term use. This is why I’m glad the rumored design changes were wrong. The Apple Watch succeeds because you can wear it and forget about it until it’s actually needed. It’s a vital aspect of us being able to recommend a smartwatch to you, and at first glance here, that looks set to continue with the Series 7.
Flat sided future?
Where did the rumor of the flat-sided Apple Watch even come from then? We’ll probably never know, but there are a few possibilities. It could have been a strategic leak to throw us all off the trail, it could have come from someone’s imagination, or it could be based on a real Apple concept that was abandoned. Or, and here’s why the worry hasn’t completely gone away, it could be the plan for the Apple Watch Series 8 or Series 9.
Despite a flat-sided Apple Watch not making much sense to me, there’s still the nagging doubt Apple doesn’t agree.
Apple has brought the iPad Mini back into the family with an updated, flat-sided design, showing how much it loves a uniform style. Despite a flat-sided Apple Watch not making much sense to me, there’s still the nagging doubt Apple doesn’t agree. Whether the renders will return, specter-like, this time next year or the year after and herald a real product remains to be seen.
Now I’ve got all that off my chest, and any worries about the Apple Watch’s near future have been put to bed, I’m looking forward to understanding how the design changes that have been introduced make the Series 7 feel during everyday use. Unfortunately, while most of the Series 7 rumors were false, the one that proved true ended up being the one about production delays, and I’ve got a longer wait than usual before I find out.