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The Apple Watch Series 7 is unquestionably great, but does it do enough to justify an upgrade from the prior model? Find out in our review.
Comfortable and jam-packed with features, the Apple Watch Series 7 is an iterative update to the wearable family that won’t leave Series 6 wearers too jealous, but could be a compelling upgrade for anyone with an older model on their wrist.
If you have an iPhone in your pocket, it’s possible you have also considered buying an Apple Watch for your wrist. Perhaps you’re already wearing one.
In either case, the release of the Apple Watch Series 7 presents some questions. Do you choose this flagship model over a more affordable Watch SE as an entry point? Or, do the new specs and features justify an upgrade from the prior version?
In many ways, the Watch Series 7 is quintessential Apple – refining what came before it instead of reinventing the entire concept. That reinvention or design overhaul may come down the line. Just not this year. For now, don’t break what’s working.
We have been testing out the Apple Watch 7 for several days, and we can report that it’s a fantastic smartwatch – an industry-leading wearable that’s well-constructed and comfortable to use, with an intuitive app layout and smooth performance.
Ultimately, that’s not a surprise. The Apple Watch has been great for years. But that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the tweaks made. While we can’t go as far as to say it’s a necessary update for Watch 6 users, there is a lot to like here if your old model is feeling a little bit tired, specifically the enhanced durability and screen size.
However, Android users should still avoid it as the Apple Watch 7 continues the long-running tradition of not working with anything other than an iPhone. It’s a shame this persists, and it’s been one of our complaints while reviewing older models, too. For more on those, read our Apple Watch 6 review and Apple Watch SE review.
Taking the crown as the flagship in Apple’s growing smartwatch family, the Series 7 is a subtle update to the series that makes some great quality-of-life changes: faster charging, a bigger screen with less bezel, better brightness, an always-on retina display, IP6X-rated dust resistance, and a selection of new colours. It still has a premium price tag, but it’s cheaper than the Watch 6 at launch.
The Apple Watch Series 7 design has been slightly changed to reduce the size of its bezels and soften the edges, but we can’t help feeling that the device is overdue for a bigger aesthetic overhaul and limited connectivity options with Android. And while the spec upgrades are really nice, it lacks a headline feature to shout about.
It’s not a must-buy for Series 6 users, but it’s still a stunningly good piece of tech.
The Apple Watch Series 7 is the tech giant’s flagship wearable that sells in two main variants – GPS and GPS/Cellular –and two case size options: 41mm or 45mm. It can send messages, take calls, measure blood oxygen levels, track your sleep, monitor workouts, look at Maps, listen to music and more. There’s even a calculator.
Compared to the Apple Watch 6, the new model has 30% faster charging, 20% more screen area and 40% smaller bezels – the borders around the display.
It retains the 18-plus hour battery life of the prior model, which was unfortunately not extended significantly for this entry. However, we found the battery often lasts longer if usage is not too heavy and when not using the always-on display. The Series 7 is now more durable, with a tougher screen and dust resistance for the first time.
For anyone with an iPhone, the new model’s health tracking and fitness modes are still industry-leading and easy to use, while the haptic feedback, little clicks from the right-side navigation wheel, and screen feedback feel really premium to use.
With the newest release, the official Apple Watch line-up is now a trio of devices: the Apple Watch Series 7, Apple Watch SE and the Apple Watch Series 3. Older models are still available via retailers including Amazon, Currys, John Lewis and Argos.
The Apple Watch Series 7 starts from £369 for a 41 mm case and from £399 for the 45mm case. The GPS/Cellular models start from £469 with a 41 mm case and rise to £499 with a 45mm case. There are a variety of strap colours, styles and finishes available to pair with the watch, with some raising the price to the £700 range.
For comparison, when it was released last year, the Apple Watch 6 was priced from £379 for the GPS version and from £479 for the GPS/Cellular version. The Apple Watch Series 6 also had two different case size options: 40mm and 44mm.
The Apple Watch 7 is a premium product that has premium pricing. Ultimately, that translates to one thing: it’s definitely not cheap. At the end of the day, though, Apple has long had eye-watering price tags on its tech, and the new flagship watch is no exception – although the pricing is not at all out of the ordinary for the series.
And the Watch 7 is a flagship, you can always expect to pay more for the top model. Luckily, there are two alternatives if your budget can’t stretch to the new model. The Series 3 is the most affordable option still for sale via Apple, priced from £179. The Watch SE is now priced from £249 (GPS) and from £299 (GPS + Cellular).
Of course, there are other watches on the market (read our best smartwatch page for a full breakdown), and many of these will be more affordable, but as a rule, you should expect to pay more for a flagship. While some variants of the new Samsung Galaxy Watch4 series are around £250, others set you back more than £400.
We feel that the Apple Watch 7 is good value for money overall, but you should be shopping around for some alternatives if you are concerned about your budget.
The Apple Watch 7 has ever so slightly more rounded corners than prior models, but let’s be honest: it is still clearly an Apple Watch. In our sample, which was the Green Aluminium Case with Clover Sport Band, we saw first hand there is now a pleasing curvature to the screen that blends the display nicely into the body of the watch - but the Watch 7 is certainly not a radical departure from the models of recent years.
We tested two separate straps with the Apple Watch 7, a Clover Sport Band, which feels like soft-touch plastic material, and the Nike Sport Loop, which is made with a soft nylon weave that was perfect for the gym and outdoor exercising.
Both straps were stylish and comfortable, and their design has been perfected over the years. It’s simple to attach them – both ends attach to the top and bottom, and there’s a small button to release them on the back of the watch. At no point during our testing did they cause discomfort. In fact, we often didn’t feel them on the wrist at all – and that’s a compliment for a smartwatch with a decent size screen.
There are five new colours this year: Midnight (close to black), Starlight (metallic), a dark green, a vibrant blue and a deep red. They all look great. On the wrist, the main watch face doesn’t feel chunky and looks neat. On the rear of the smartwatch is the charging port – which snaps onto the new Magnetic Fast Charge USB-C cable.
As we have said, we don’t feel there is a headline feature that sets the Apple Watch 7 apart from the prior model – but it does have several improvements. The one that is most apparent is the slightly larger screen housing the retina display. Apps have been optimised to take advantage of the smaller bezels. We found that text is easy to read thanks to the bigger fonts, and messages are easy to read at a glance. This is great as we only tend to check the watch for a few seconds at a time – so it’s easier on the eye to not have to strain to read an email or check the Maps.
After our time with the smartwatch, it was the screen size that stood out as the major attraction. It’s still subtle, but it does give the apps more room to breathe.
We liked the inclusion of the Qwerty keyboard – although we found it’s still a little too awkward to use – there’s no comparison to just picking up your iPhone instead.
Fast charging, on the other hand, is a great addition. In our tests using the magnetic cable that comes in the box paired with a 30W wall plug, it took under one hour for the battery to go from dead to 100%. We didn’t have a Watch 6 to directly compare, but Apple assures users that it’s around 33% faster than the previous model.
In terms of longevity, battery life is listed by Apple as lasting for around 18 hours at a time. In testing, we found that it typically exceeded that amount of time – often lasting for closer to 24 hours before needing a top-up. The battery will drain faster the more you use it during the day, and the specs are not stunning – it wasn’t a big issue.
Durability is another major selling point this year, thanks to the addition of the IP6X dust-resistance rating and a stronger screen protection than ever before. The Series 7 also retains water resistance up to 50 meters, so while we would never really try it ourselves, the smartwatch is technically OK to use while swimming.
To be very honest, we couldn’t find any incredibly dusty conditions to test the claims and weren’t about to dip the Series 7 directly into a box of coffee granules – but the IP6X rating is perfect for anyone working outdoors or on beach holidays.
Like the Watch Series 6, the health and fitness tracking features are back, including a sensor that measures blood oxygen levels and the ECG (electrocardiogram) app that checks heart rhythm. Also returning are SOS features, such as fall detection – which can detect a stumble and message the emergency services for help.
Aside from telling the time, the fitness app tracking remains one of the best uses of an Apple Watch, especially when paired with an iPhone.
The workout mode is still very easy to use: open the app, scroll to a desired exercise using the wheel (called the Digital Crown) and tap the screen. The watch will show several key metrics, including real-time heart rate and any calories burned. A quick swipe left brings you to a menu where you can pause or stop the tracking. It’s really great – and there are two new workouts added this year: Pilates and Tai Chi.
Setting up the Apple Watch 7, like the others, is streamlined, intuitive and speedy. Of course, you will need an iPhone for this very first step, and both devices will need to be updated to the latest operating systems – currently iOS 15 and watchOS 8.
Turn on the watch using the side button and hold it beside the iPhone to start pairing them together. At this stage, you can choose to set up the watch for yourself or for a family member who doesn’t have an iPhone – using the “Family Setup” option. Using the iPhone camera, align the Apple Watch with the animation on screen to pair.
From there, it’s a step-by-step process that takes place on the screen. You are asked to log in using your Apple ID, set a password, decide what permissions you want between the iPhone and smartwatch, and then wait for data syncing to complete.
There’s no argument: The Apple Watch 7 is great. It has industry-leading health and fitness tracking, lovely touch feedback, buttery smooth performance, a solid battery life and seamless iPhone integration. We love the bigger display, faster charging and the five new colours. Without a doubt: it feels ultra-premium to use.
It has now taken the crown as Apple’s flagship smartwatch over the Series 6, but the changes don’t quite do enough to justify an update for anyone with that model, while anyone on a tighter budget is likely to be lured by the Watch SE. So the Series 7 earns the title of Apple’s best wearable, but it does so not by adding any new concepts or features – but simply by iterating on a product that was already pretty great.
Certain categories are weighted more highly.
Overall rating: 4.3/5
The Apple Watch Series 7 is available from plenty of UK retailers.
For the latest news, reviews and deals, check out the RadioTimes.com Technology section. Don’t miss our in-depth guide to the best iPhone that you can buy. Looking for present ideas? Check out our tech gifts guide.
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