Apple Watch 7 Full Details & Opinions plus Specifications
Today Apple has made a tiny gamble by changing the overall appearance of the new Apple Watch 7. It has a 20% larger screen area, a slightly larger case has subtly softer rounded edges & corners, and packs some new onboard goodies from watchOS 8, which is also now available to existing Apple Watch owners going back to Watch 3.
What’s New? – Sports Highlights
There are some minor additions to the cycling mode with auto-detection of your cycling activity and improved recording of calories on e-bikes. However, the best change for sporty types is the larger, more readable screen and the fact that the whole watch and screen, in particular, are more durable.
Sports app developers can use the gesture controls from watchOS 8 or create bigger app buttons for easier presses and it looks like those same developers can give you better control over the always-on display during sport.
A faster charging watch should see a 10ish-minute charge be enough to get you ready for a one-hour GPS-enabled workout. Whilst you are waiting to start you might also be warned of one of the new precipitation alerts which might change your workout plans.
There are other minor features mostly linked to Fitness+, the cleverest sporty feature is the ability to participate in Fitness+ workouts with friends via SharePlay.
What’s New – In More Detail
- Starts at £379/$399 and includes 3 months of Fitness+
- There IS a new S7 processor but there are no claims that it is faster. It is probably smaller.
- Watch 7 is an aesthetic redesign
- Case sizes increased to 41mm and 45mm models (from 40mm and 44mm)
- More screen real estate: The retina touchscreen is changed & updated and now boasts a 40% thinner border and 20% more display area. Indoors, when your wrist is down, the always-on display is 70% brighter.
- The slightly thinner front panel comprises an OLED display and crystal (lens). However, the crystal part is thicker than before and its increased robustness comes from that extra thickness as well as from the revised geometry
- The crystal is claimed to be more crack resistance but no mention was made of scratch resistance.
- Durability is improved with IPX6 dust-proofing and remains waterproof for swimming with WR50.
- Official Battery Life – is unchanged but charging times are 33% faster than Series 6. the new USB-C cable/puck MUST be used to get the faster charging experience and then you can get an 80% charge in 45 minutes (just under 10% every 5 minutes). A mere 8 minutes of charging gives 8 hours of sleep tracking. Thus, faster charging increases usability more than a minor increase in battery life.
- There are 5 aluminium case colours (green, blue, product red, starlight, midnight), 2 titanium colours, and new strap colours to match but no new strap designs. All bands remain 100% compatible with earlier models in terms of the physical fit HOWEVER every case colour has changed albeit subtly in some instances. This might mean that your old straps don’t quite match in an aesthetic sense.
- The Series 7 models are between 2 to 3g heavier than their Series 6 equivalent (exact details below).
- GNSS/GPS – there IS a new GNSS chip in the Apple Watch 7.
- Apple claim to use more recycled materials
- There are many changes that come with watchOS 8 and, whilst OS 8 is compatible with older watches back to Series3, specific features are unavailable on some models.
- A Detailed Look at new Focus Modes – The new modes can be automatically enabled, for example, when you start a workout. In essence, they are augmented do not disturb modes where you can specify which people or apps are allowed to disturb you. You can even set the Focus mode to tell those trying to contact you that you are working out right now!
- On-screen buttons are redesigned, there are new ways to input text and 50% more text can be shown
- A Detailed Look at new Gesture Control – Gesture controls let you control the watch with hand movements. Whilst these are primarily intended as accessibility features they can boost your fitness experience, for example, to take a lap without touching the watch, as I covered in this link.
- The workout app now supports the auto-detection of cycling as well as a revised calorie calculation for e-bikes. Fall detection now also supports cycling and can call emergency services.
- New Breathe app – the Breathe app is merged into a new mindfulness feature and has improved animations. I use the Breathe app daily to take HRV readings.
- Expanded workout app – now includes Tai Chi and Pilates sports profiles, with the latter linking to new workouts in Fitness+.
- Respiratory rate tracking – is also added. Apple uses an apparently super-accurate 50Hz accelerometer to sense your breathing rate and track it over time. This will give app insights into changes to your fitness and health. Perhaps more importantly, this is a great metric that sleep apps will need to use and incorporate to improve their scope and accuracy.
- Sleep Tracking includes the respiration data as well as time to sleep, average heart rate, and blood oxygen level.
- Fitness+ Subscribers – will benefit from a new instructor, new workouts, new music artists and picture-in-picture display. 15 new countries now support Fitness+. Although only English-language workouts are served, there are now 6 subtitle languages.
- Group Fitness+ – now allows you to join Fitness+ workouts with friends using SharePlay.
- Secure health data logging and sharing – you can now get health alerts from your kids’ watches and also reports for your watch data to share with your doctor.
- Sports App developers – now have the option to better control the always-on screen during workouts
- Next hour precipitation alerts – these will be great for planning the timing of your daily workouts.
- Find My – is now a more all-encompassing service to help you find your kids, friends, your AirTags and other devices. There are some neat features like, for example, the ability to be notified when your child leaves a location eg heads home from school.
- Find My – is powered by Ultra Wideband Tech (UWB) and can also open and start some car models.
- New watch faces – There is a dynamic contour face but I particularly liked the new modular face which allows two full-width complications both of which were announced today, don’t forget the live/moving pictures from the portrait watchface added in watchOS 8 beta. Apple is unlikely to allow 3rd party watch faces in the foreseeable future. For now, we have to make do with pre-loaded customisations you could do yourself from Facer or slightly advanced ones with Watchsmith that allow some limited time-based changes to complications throughout the day
What’s The Same
Many things are apparently unchanged. Here are a few that are worth highlighting
- Apple Watch 3 and Apple Watch SE remain as current models, the cheaper alternatives to the AW7
- There are still GPS and GPS+LTE variants of AW7
- There are Nike+ (sport) and Hermes (luxury) versions that have unique watch faces and straps.
- TBC The optical HR sensor appears unchanged from AW6 and supports HR, HRV, SpO2, ECG/EKG
- Compass and always-on barometric altimeter remain
- Bluetooth 5.0 is unchanged. Its ability to pair with external sensors other than headphones and an HR strap is the responsibility of the 3rd party sports app you want to use.
- WiFi support remains unchanged at 802.11bgn (2.4GHz & 5GHz)
- WR50 (50m) water resistance remains
- Case materials remain the same as aluminium, stainless & ceramic although, as noted above, there are claims for increased recycled content.
What You Don’t See
You won’t see an Apple Watch 7 Review for a few more weeks as production delays mean that Watch 7 won’t be available to buy until later this fall. Realistically, Apple will be aiming for Friday 29 October at the latest. So if you are thinking of getting one it is a good idea to upgrade your existing iPhone & Apple Watch software to iOS15/watchOS 8 on September 20th to check out some of the new features before deciding to take the expensive plunge. FWIW: I’ve been using watchOS 8 (beta) for over a month and it’s very reliable.
Also, don’t get too excited about being able to see blood glucose monitoring and blood pressure monitoring any time soon. Those ‘Holy Grail’ features of wearable tech won’t be on an Apple Watch until September 2022 at the earliest, perhaps even the year after.
There is no announcement for the second generation of Apple Watch SE, which will come next year when we will probably also see the Series 3 finally discontinued.
Apple Watch 7 Specifications
These are the Apple Watch 7 specifications
|Apple Watch Series 6||Apple Watch Series 7|
|Date Announced||September 2020||September 2021|
|Watch case||Aluminium, Stainless Steel|
Nike: Aluminium only
|Aluminium, Stainless Steel|
Nike: Aluminium only
|Digital Crown with haptic feedback||Digital Crown with haptic feedback|
|Display||lon-X glass (Aluminium)|
Sapphire Crystal (Stainless Steel)
|lon-X glass (Aluminium)|
Sapphire Crystal (Stainless Steel)
|Always-On Retina LTPO OLED display||Always-On Retina display|
|44mm: 1.73 x 1.50 x 0.41″ or ( 44 x 38 x 10.4mm)|
448 x 368px (~326 ppi density)
40mm: 1.57 x 1.34 x 0.41″ or ( 40 x 34 x 10.4mm).
394 x 324px (~326 ppi density)
|unknown (likely ~326 ppi density)|
|Up to 1000 nits brightness when screen is active||Up to 1000 nits brightness when screen is active|
|Up to 500 nits when wrist is down||Up to 500 nits when wrist is down|
|3.0 mm borders||1.7 mm borders|
|Over 30% larger than Series 3||Nearly 20% more screen area than Series 6|
|Up to 70% brighter than Series 6 when wrist is down, indoors|
|Durability||Durability Water resistant 50m (swim proof)||Durability Water resistant 50m (swim proof)|
|Most crack-resistant front crystal|
|IP6X dust resistance|
|Processor||Processor S6 SIP with 64-bit dual-core processor||S7 SiP with 64-bit dual-core processor|
|Up to 20% faster than Series 5||Up to 20% faster than Series 5 (same)|
|Sensors||Sensors Blood oxygen sensor (Blood Oxygen app)||Blood oxygen sensor (Blood Oxygen app)|
|Electrical heart sensor (ECG app)||Electrical heart sensor (ECG app)|
|Third-generation optical heart sensor||Third-generation optical heart sensor|
|Accelerometer and gyroscope (fall detection)||Accelerometer and gyroscope (fall detection)|
|Always-on altimeter||Always-on altimeter|
|GPS/GNSS, GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSS||GPS/GNSS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and Beidou|
|Ambient light sensor||Ambient light sensor|
|Audio||Audio 50% louder speaker than Series 3||50% louder speaker than Series 3|
|Battery and charging||All-day battery life, up to 18 hours||All-day battery life, up to 18 hours|
|Up to 100% charge in just 2.5 hours||100% Charge time unknown|
|Up to 80% charge in just 1.5 hours||Fast charging: Up to 80% charge in about 45 minutes|
|Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion||Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion|
|Case Finish||Aluminium: Space Grey, Silver, Gold, Blue, (PRODUCT) RED,|
Stainless Steel: Graphite, Silver, Gold.
Titanium: titanium & Space Black
Nike: Space Gray, Silver
|Aluminium: Midnight (replaces space grey), Starlight (replaces silver), Green, Blue, (PRODUCT) RED,|
Stainless Steel: Graphite, Silver, Gold.
Titanium: titanium & Space Black
Nike: Midnight, Starlight
|Weight (case)||Aluminium+Nike: 30.5g/36.4g|
Stainless Steel 39.7/47.1g
|Aluminium+Nike: 32.0g/38.8g |
Stainless Steel: 42.3/51.5g
|Connectivity||LTE and UMTS||LTE and UMTS|
|Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz, 5GHz||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz, 5GHz|
|W3 wireless chip||W3 wireless chip|
|Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.0|
|International emergency calling||International emergency calling|
|U1 Ultra Wideband chip||U1 Ultra Wideband chip|
|In the box||Apple Watch Band (Nike band for Nike model)||Apple Watch Band (Nike band for Nike model)|
|1m USB-A Magnetic Charging Cable||1m USB-C Magnetic Fast Charging Cable|
Items in bold are listed as being different to Apple watch 6.
This information is not on the Apple website but is sourced from various Apple documents. Please quote this source.
Notes: The S7 processor appears to have the same performance but Apple obfuscate this information. Rumours stated that the S7 chip would be smaller, so maybe that is the difference.
Apple Watch 7 Opinion
I have very much come into the Apple fold and now get as excited as the rest of you when perhaps I shouldn’t! Like this time.
This hardware upgrade is somewhat underwhelming and fails to meet my already-lowered expectations. That said, I’m trying VERY hard to get excited right now. I liked the look of the more subtle improvements to the interface and, to be fair if you add in the watchOS 8 features it’s not so bad overall ;-). Or put another way, I’ve got a scratched screen now on my SE, my partner has my Watch 6 and that’s my excuse to upgrade to a new toy that has a bigger screen (but that’s about it). I’m genuinely excited about the watchOS 8 feature that allows two wide complications on the new Modular face…but I fully appreciate that no one else in the world is excited as me about that!
The new GNSS/GPS chip is also intriguing and if it can bring increases to accuracy then would be seriously impressive as accuracy is already market-leading on AW6.
We also see Apple continuing to expand Workout features (cycling) and add to their Fitness+ service, these are trends that will continue over the coming years.