The new screen makes it easier to read text, and faster charging enables some sleep tracking, but it’d be nice not to have to charge every day
These incremental refinements don’t add up to a better though. enough Better viewing experience. If you loved the Apple Watch before, you’re going to love this one. If you weren’t already convinced that you need a $399 wrist computer, the Series 7 probably won’t convert you. But if you’re an iPhone user thinking about getting your first smartwatch, you might want to consider it.
slightly bigger screen
Every time I turn on my Apple Watch, I have to type in a passcode and about 75% of the times, I enter the digits correctly. The rest of the time, I let out a sigh, retry the code and dream about the day Face ID comes to the Apple Watch. (Also acceptable: Touch ID in the side button.)
On the Series 7, the on-screen buttons—including my dreaded passcode number pad—are bigger. Mis-taps are less frequent. For the first time, I used the calculator app of the clock and it wasn’t terrible. Apple squeezed more pixels out of the watch’s screen by reducing the display border. Despite the large face, the watch doesn’t feel overly heavy. It’s the same thickness as the Series 6, and the case size has only increased by 1 millimeter.
For those coming from the Series 4, 5, 6 or SE—all of which have the same display size—the difference is subtle. If you have a Series 3, this will feel like a real upgrade. That model’s thick case and wide border make the Series 7 look chunky next to it.
Apple somehow determined that the Series 7’s screen was big enough to accommodate a full-size keyboard. Even when swipe-typing took place, it took me several tries to get my text answers correct. “Hey this” turns out to be “Hey that,” then “Hey Tia.” (I don’t even know a Tia.) Only with laser focus could I type entire sentences without error.
Voice dictation is much more efficient. The 58-character message took me 11 seconds using voice-to-text, while it took me 27 seconds to type on the smaller keyboard. But hey, options!
Also good: Toughness. The screen of the Series 7 is thicker. That means it’s harder to crack, Apple says. I didn’t test this claim by banging my wrist against every concrete wall. (When receiving a review unit, I agree to keep the device in good working condition.) But because I’m accident prone, I’ll report back after the inevitable fall or fall.
This new model is also the first to have a dust resistance rating of IP6X, which means it’s not susceptible to dirt, sand, or other fine particles. (Previous generations were not tested for dust.)
same battery life
Series 7 is rated for 18 hours-As have Apple Watches from 2015—Based on an advanced test that includes workouts with music, using other apps, and a steady stream of notifications and timing checks. In other words, your battery life could be very different. Recording GPS workouts, listening to audio from the watch, or using the onboard apps without a paired iPhone can eat up a serious amount of energy. The optional always-on display is also a drain.
With casual home use, where the watch is mostly connected to my iPhone and Wi-Fi network, I actually got around 25 hours on a single charge. This includes an hour of outdoor workouts, at least 30 minutes of audio streaming, six to eight hours of sleep tracking, and multiple checks an hour. And I had opted for Always On Display.
The Series 7 exceeded my battery expectations, but it still needs to be charged on a daily basis, especially if you want to use sleep tracking. And that is its Achilles heel.
Apple found that one solution to the battery-life problem is fast charging. The Series 7 includes a USB-C charger that, in my testing, powered it from 0% to 100% in 74 minutes. It is only 15 minutes faster than the Series 6. However, charging for eight minutes with the included USB-C cable and a power brick rated for at least 20 watts is enough for eight hours of sleep tracking (with display and notifications).
This is a good solution, but not perfect. All day long battery life might be enough for people in the habit of charging their devices every night, and who don’t care about sleep tracking. (Some experts say this won’t necessarily help you get more restful sleep.) Plus, Apple’s Sleep app is pretty basic.
Still, going on a long weekend without an Apple Watch charger seems like a pipe dream. Meanwhile, Fitbit’s Charge 5 and Garmin‘s
With smart features like Phone Alert and Mobile Pay, the Fenix 6S can last for several days on a single charge. (The Fenix 6S is rated to handle 25 hours of GPS activity, compared to the Apple Watch’s rating of seven.) Neither has anything like the Apple Watch’s ecosystem of apps and features, but they’re great for fitness. Huh.
I understand the trade-off: Apple can’t just stuff a big battery into the case. The watch has to be held wide for it to remain wearable. Bright screens and multiple sensors all require energy – and more sensors are coming.
The Right Apple Watch for You
In addition to screen-size variations, the three Apple Watch types currently sold by the company differ in the lineup of onboard health sensors:
- Series 7 ($399 and up): It has an always-on display and fast charging, plus fall detection and an array of health sensors to monitor heart rate, ECG, blood-oxygen levels and more.
- SE ($279 and up): It does fall detection but doesn’t have an always-on display, blood-oxygen sensor, ECG app, or fast charging.
- Series 3 ($199 and up): None of the latest health sensors or fall detection — just heart rate — and no iPhone-free cellular option.
You can still buy refurbished older models. Apple has limited inventory of these watches, and you can gamble on sites like Amazonhandjob
Back Market and eBay.
(Just make sure there’s a return policy.)
Deciding between basic GPS and more expensive cellular models? Without an iPhone, you can do a lot with any new Apple Watch, like listen to Spotify or Apple Music offline. When connected to Wi-Fi, you can send messages and make calls. Cellular models have a killer feature. The Apple Watch SE and Series 5 and newer include international emergency SOS, calling for help even without a cellular plan.
If you’re on a budget, the SE is still a better choice than the aging Series 3. If you want more health sensors, check out the upgrade. (I recommend the Series 5.) The Series 7 is the best Apple Watch you can buy right now, but if you already have a 5 or 6, hold off until next year for added health capabilities. My colleague Rolf Winkler reports that Apple is working on a blood pressure tool and thermometer to help with fertility planning.
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Nicole Nguyen [email protected] Feather