Apple Watch Series 7 review: The best smartwatch you can buy gets a bigger screen

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I tested the new Apple Watch Series 7 about a week before its release on Friday. There are three major upgrades from last year’s model: it’s more durable, has a bigger screen, and charges faster.

Apple doesn’t care its watch revenue the way it does for iPad, iPhone, and Mac. However, the company’s Wearables, Home and Accessories business, which includes Apple Watch, HomePod, AirPods and Apple TV, is one of its fastest-growing segments. That company generated $8.7 billion in revenue in its fiscal third quarter, ahead of Mac and iPad.

Research firm Canalys said in March that Apple shipped an estimated 14.5 million Apple Watch units in the fourth quarter of 2020, with a 25% market share and 49.2% year-over-year growth.

Apple told me that about 75% of its Apple Watch customers are first-time buyers, and I think the Series 7 offers the best experience yet.

New Apple Watch buyers will love the Apple Watch Series 7, which starts at $399. People who own the Apple Watch Series 3 or older should consider an upgrade, as there’s plenty here to justify it.

But if you just need a basic smartwatch for notifications and fitness tracking, and you don’t care about screen size, you can still pick up the cheaper Apple Watch SE for $279. I’d skip the $199 Series 3, though. Apple still sells it because it shows its age and you get a lot more features for the extra $79 for the SE.

Here’s what you need to know about the new Apple Watch Series 7:

What is good

The Apple Watch Series 7 is the best smartwatch money can buy. No other smartwatch maker comes close to the ease of use and reliability of the Series 7. There are a number of niche fitness tracker manufacturers – like Garmin, who make excellent watches that are more specifically geared towards fitness (or things like ultramarathons). ) and which have a much longer battery life – but Apple still has the best all-in-one solution that works well with the iPhone.

The bigger screen is the biggest difference this year. You get 20% more screen area compared to last year’s Series 6 and over 50% screen area than the Apple Watch Series 3 screen, which now looks a bit like a small stamp by comparison.

Slanted, the curved design almost makes the screen look like the screen is rolling over the edges.

The larger screen is more than just nicer to look at. It is easier to enter a passcode because the buttons are larger. I liked that I could see more on a map as I walked around my neighborhood, and that I can see more text in things like emails or messages that pop up. The watch also offers a touch keyboard that works very well. So you can swipe or tap a message on your wrist to reply to someone. I also like the new Modular Duo watch face, which allows you to display more information on the home screen.

Thanks to the larger screen, I can now see a complete overview of my next calendar event and all my fitness activities. But you can customize these larger complications to show other data as well, such as the song playing, a stock or index you’re watching, and the weather forecast.

I also like that the new Apple Watch can charge to 80% in 45 minutes. It’s useful if you want to top up just a few minutes before bedtime to have enough battery life for sleep tracking. Apple says an 8-minute charge gives you 8 hours of sleep tracking. I found the quick charge handy one day when just before a run I realized I only had about 15% battery left. I charged it while getting dressed and was able to charge at over 50%. For faster charging, use the new Apple Watch cable included.

The Series 7 Apple Watch is more durable than any previous version. Apple says the screen is more crack-resistant (on both the glass version and the more expensive sapphire models). The watch is also dust resistant for the first time. That’s a feature I’m excited about, as I’ve always carried the Apple Watch to the beach, but worried about getting sand in the crown area or in the speakers. Now I don’t have to worry about that. The Series 7 is still rated for water resistance up to 50 meters anywhere, including the ocean or pools, so you can swim with it just about anywhere.

The Always on Display is a must-have for me, and it works well on the Apple Watch Series 7. I like that I can always look down and see the time without lifting my wrist to see it. Apple says it’s now 70% brighter inside with your wrist down, which should make it easier to see. However, I never really had a problem reading the screen and couldn’t see a huge difference in brightness.

Then there’s everything you get with an Apple Watch. I love the tight integration with the iPhone so I can get all my notifications from anywhere, and that it shows things like the next direction of travel while I’m using CarPlay. I regularly buy the mobile model (also available on Series SE) and just leave my phone at home, but still know that I can call my wife or stream music, find my way around a map, talk to Siri or someone texting who is on the run.

There are also many more apps than on competitors like Samsung, Fitbit and Garmin. So you can book an Uber from your wrist or save Spotify songs offline, get a more in-depth analysis of sleep tracking, or listen to an audiobook from Audible. And all models work with Fitness+ if you want access to Apple’s subscription service, which I really like for indoor cycling classes and the new meditation features. My wife uses it for yoga.

Like the Series 6 before it, the Series 7 is also the only one that can track oxygen in the blood, in case you want to keep an eye on that as you hike to higher altitudes. It also has an EKG app if your doctor wants to see that information, although mine never asked for it and instead runs those kinds of heart tests in her office.

What’s bad?

I wish it had longer battery life. Apple promises up to 18 hours, and I achieved that with the Apple Watch Series 7. I wish Apple could find a way to extend that to two or three days so I didn’t have to worry about charging. The faster charger definitely helps, but sometimes I still worry about having to find and top up the charger before going for a run. But a bigger battery would make it thicker, and I don’t want that either.

A charging cable is included, but without a plug. This is part of Apple’s environmental initiatives. The good news is that faster charging works with any 7.5 watt or greater USB-C plug you may already have from an iPad or MacBook. You can still charge your Series 7 with an older cable, just it won’t start up as quickly as possible.

Should you buy it?

Buy the Series 7 if you can afford it and want the bigger screen, faster charging and improved durability. It is the model I would tell my friends and family to buy, largely because it is the latest model and will last several years.

You can save money and get the Apple Watch SE, starting at $279, but you’ll miss the larger screen, blood oxygen and ECG apps, new tear-resistant crystal, and dust resistance. You can save even more money and get the $199 Series 3, but you’ll miss emergency calls, fall detection, a cellular option, the always-on display, and more. I would skip that.

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