Apple Watch Series 7 Review: Slightly different, largely better

As you might have heard, the new Apple Watch Series 7 smartwatch will be available this Friday (Oct 15). If you are thinking of upgrading or switching to the Apple Watch, you will want to read on to see if the Series 7 is the right fit for you. Even if you have already pre-ordered it last Friday, you might still want to continue reading to see whether you have made the right choice.

And if you are using an Android smartphone, the Series 7 is still for iPhone only. So, please move on or buy an iPhone.

SPECS
PRICE: From S$599, available on Apple Store
OPERATING SYSTEM: watchOS 8
CASE MATERIAL: Anodised aluminium, stainless steel, titanium
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi or cellular
WATER RESISTANCE: 50m
WEIGHT: 38.8g (45mm aluminium case, without strap)

With the release of Apple Watch Series 7 (from S$599), its direct predecessor Series 6 has been discontinued. Instead, only the 2017 Apple Watch Series 3 (from S$299) and last year’s Apple Watch SE (from S$419) are available along with the new smartwatch.

Apple Watch comparison. (Photo: SGEEK)

Both of these old Apple Watch models do not come with Always-On Retina Display, blood oxygen and electrocardiogram (ECG) functions found in Series 7. Plus, they are only available in aluminium watch case. So, should you get the latest Series 7 or the cheaper available models? Read on to find out!

DESIGN & DISPLAY
For those waiting for a circular Apple Watch, they will be disappointed at the lack of a major re-design. The Series 7 looks pretty much like the Series 6, 5 and 4. You still get the same rectangular watch case with a crown and button on the right side.

Like the Series 6, it comes in three case finishes of aluminium, stainless steel and titanium. The aluminium case has five colours to choose from – midnight, starlight, red, green (version reviewed) and a new blue colour. The stainless steel (from S$999) models are available in their usual silver, graphite and gold finishes, while the titanium (from S$1,199) variants only come in two colours of space black and titanium.

I really like the green review unit, as it looks different depending on the angle you look at it. At some angles, it looks like black instead of green. But if you look carefully, you realised it is of a dark green shade.

The green aluminium model looks really sleek. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

However, the Series 7 has a larger display that literally reaches the edge of the case. Apple claims the bezels around the display are a mere 1.7mm. When you read the news and see the pictures online, you probably might be thinking this is no big deal.

Notice the difference in display size in (L-to-R) Apple Watch Series 3, Series 6 and Series 7. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

But you can really see the difference in display size when you actually strap the smartwatch on your wrist. In fact, you wonder why Apple never upgrade the smartwatch to this bigger display earlier.

The difference in display size between the Series 7 (left) and Series 6. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Furthermore, the display’s crystal bends light from the screen at its edges creating a subtle but yet visible wraparound effect. This refractive edge looks almost seamless with the curvature of the case.

This is especially evident when you use the watch face Contour – one of the two Series 7 exclusive watch faces. The numbers on Contour’s dial bleed to the edge of the display. When you look at it from the sides, the numbers are like floating inside the glass. It looks almost like those in analogue watches.

The numbers in Contour watch face looks like those in analogue watches. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

The larger display also allows the Series 7 to offer two larger fonts and a new QWERTY keyboard for easy typing by either tapping or swiping. Replying Telegram or WhatsApp messages become so much easier to do so, despite my fat fingers. In fact, I am more inclined to use the Calculator app on the Series 7 with the bigger display.

As a result of the bigger screen, the watch case of the Series 7 is slightly bigger. Instead of 40mm and 44mm sizes of Series 6, the Series 7 now comes in 41mm and 45mm. But fret not, all your previous watch bands are still compatible with the new smartwatch.

PERFORMANCE
Apple says this display’s front crystal is the most crack-resistant of any Apple Watch. I am not doing any real-life experiment to test this claim.

But I can confirm that the display looks much brighter (up to 70 percent according to Apple) when the wrist is down. So, I just need to glance at the watch to know the time without raising my wrist when the always-on display is turned on. Convenient when I have my hands full of grocery.

FOR
+ Larger and brighter display
+ Superb performance
+ Old watch bands still fit
+ Faster charging time
+ New exclusive watch faces

AGAINST
– Relatively same design as its predecessor
– Sleep tracking needs improvement

On paper, the Series 7 uses a new S7 SiP chip. But it actually has the same speed as Series 6’s S6 SiP chip, or 20 per cent faster than the S5 chip in SE. All the apps started quickly and responded enthusiastically, whether it is the Compass app or Clockology app.

Plus, the Series 7 continues to feature all the health and fitness features such as heart-rate monitoring, ECG screening and blood oxygen measurement like the Series 6.

In terms of fitness tracking, the Series 7 is as good as it gets. For step tracking, the readings are very close to those of my own calibrated Series 4, with a mere difference of 50 steps at most.

Yup, I am slow. Not the Apple Watch Series 7. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

On a 4.2km jogging route along a park connector, the GPS-tracked runs by the Series 7 are spot-on to the tee.

With watchOS 8, there is supposed to be improved cycling workout algorithms to calculate calories for e-bikes and fall detection for cycling. I don’t have an e-bike, and my bicycle was stolen a few years ago right outside my HDB flat.

So, I took an SG Bike for a ride with the Series 7 at Labrador Park. I am not sure about the accuracy of fitness measurements, but the distance tracked is accurate as I used an Android smartphone’s GPS to calculate the distance.

Luckily, the Series 7 didn’t register my clumsy trip as a fall. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

But I did have an embarrassing fall when I alighted the bike in order to lock it. As the fall is more like a trip since I was stationary when it happened, it was thankfully not picked up by the smartwatch. If not, it will be pretty embarrassing to have ambulance called in.

Like the Series 6, the Series 7’s sleep tracking can be better. It does not automatically track sleep, like what Fitbit and Garmin’s fitness trackers and smartwatches can do. You have to set the time you sleep and wake, or manually turn the sleep mode on and off.

BATTERY LIFE
Battery life is slightly better than that of Series 6. With the watch constantly paired to an iPhone with notifications turned on, always-on display turned off and a 4.2km run recorded, the battery has around 62 per cent power remaining by bedtime. This is better than 50 per cent of the Series 6 using the same parameters.

But I found that 6 per cent of its battery life was depleted after six hours of sleep, same as Series 6.

However, the Series 7 now comes with a new magnetic Fast Charge USB-C cable that is supposed to charge 33 per cent faster than the Series 6. It is said to take just 45 minutes to charge the Series 7 from nought to 80 per cent using this cable, which is 15 minutes faster than the Series 6.

The Apple Watch Series 7 with the new Fast Charge cable. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

It is important to note that you can only achieve such charging speed with the new cable. If you use an old Apple Watch charging cable with the Series 7, it will not support fast charging.

In my tests, I found the Series 7 to be charged from 40 per cent to full battery in 32 minutes using the new charging cable connected to a 100W USB-C adapter. This is quite close to the advertised timing.

VERDICT
If you are using an Apple Watch Series 3 or Series 4 (like myself), it is almost a no-brainer to upgrade to the Series 7 with its faster performance, bigger display, longer battery life and more fitness functionalities.

I will be on the fence if I have a Series 6, as there is no significant bump in terms of performance. But the larger near-bezel-less display will be tempting enough to upgrade.

Undoubtedly, the Apple Watch Series 7 is currently the best smartwatch in the market with its speed, design and multitude of health and fitness features. It might look slightly different but it is largely better in every sense.

RATINGS
FEATURES: 9/10
DESIGN: 9/10
PERFORMANCE: 9/10
BATTERY LIFE: 7.5/10
VALUE FOR MONEY: 8/10
OVERALL: 9/10 [SGEEK Editor’s Choice]