The Apple Watch has been one of the best smartwatches in the industry, and each new generation becomes the wearable of choice for those using an iPhone. Apple Watch has been improved over the years, with multiple generations each bringing in new features and capabilities. The new Apple Watch Series 7 launched this year features a bigger display, a new S7 SiP, a crack-resistant display, and fast charging, all while retaining features such as SpO2 tracking which was introduced last year with the Series 6. So is the Apple Watch Series 7 a big leap over the Series 6, or just a small iterative step? I put the Apple Watch Series 7 to the test to find out.
Apple Watch Series 7 price
The Apple Watch Series 7 is available in three case materials – aluminium, stainless steel, and titanium. The aluminum case is available in five colour finishes: Midnight, Starlight, Blue, Green, and (PRODUCT) Red. The stainless steel case is available in Silver, Gold, and Graphite, while the titanium case is now available in Space Black and Titanium.
Apple offers two case sizes, 41mm and 45mm, and you have the choice of a GPS-only watch or one with GPS + Cellular connectivity. There are multiple strap options to choose from as well.
The Apple Watch Series 7 starts at Rs. 41,900 in India for a 41mm GPS-only model with an aluminum case, while the bigger 45mm model of the same spec will set you back by Rs. 44,900. If you want a GPS + Cellular Apple Watch Series 7, it will set you back by Rs. 50,900 or Rs. 53,900 for a 41mm or 45mm case respectively. The stainless steel and titanium cases command significant premiums. I had a 45mm GPS + Cellular unit with a green aluminium case for this review.
The Series 7 is the new flagship from the company, and is definitely expensive compared to other smartwatches in the market. Apple still sells the Watch SE (Review) and the Watch Series 3 (Review) for more affordable prices.
Apple Watch Series 7 design and specifications
The Apple Watch has a recognisable design, and the company hasn't changed that much. However, the new Series 7 is slightly bigger – the cases have grown compared to the Apple Watch Series 6 (Review) and the Apple Watch SE. If you were expecting a big redesign this year, you will be disappointed.
The Series 7 now has bigger displays, and the front glass now curves over the sides of the case. The right side has the digital crown and a multi-function button just below it. Between these two is a microphone hole. On the left side you'll find a single wide cutout for the speaker, while all the sensors for tracking are on the underside.
My Apple Watch Series 7 review unit came with a Clover Sport Band which is made out of fluoroelastomer, and has a pin-and-tuck clasp design. The Series 7 still uses the same proprietary connectors for straps, so if you have an older Apple Watch of a matching size, it will slide right in. Standard watch bands can't be attached to the Apple Watch easily, but given the popularity of the product, you won't have an issue finding suitable replacements that are designed especially for it.
Apple Watch Series 7 is available in 41mm and 45mm case sizes
The Apple Watch Series 7 has a 1.9-inch LTPO OLED display with a resolution of 396x484 pixels for the 45mm model. It has a peak brightness of 1000 nits when it's active and upto 500 nits when it's in the always-on state. Apple has also shrunk the bezels on the Series 7 and claims that the front crystal is its most crack-resistant material yet (aluminium models have Ion-X front glass while stainless steel and titanium ones have sapphire crystal). This watch has an IP6X rating for dust resistance and is also water resistant upto 50m. If you are planning to go for a short swim, you can take this new Series 7 along to track it as well.
You get the new Apple S7 SiP powering the Apple Watch Series 7, but there is no performance improvement here. Apple says this new processor is on par with the previous-gen S6 SiP in the Series 6. The Series 7 supports dual-band Wi-Fi, Apple's U1 chip, and ultra wideband antennas. It has health sensors for blood oxygen and heart rate tracking as well as the hardware to record an ECG. Just like the Series 6, the new Series 7 also has an always-on altimeter that can track elevation changes constantly. The fall detection feature now also works while tracking workouts.
The digital crown on the Apple Watch has a sensor to record an ECG
Apple says that it has tweaked the watchOS 8 UI to take advantage of the bigger display. Text on the watch is easier to read and UI elements (tap targets) are bigger too, making it easier to do things such as entering a passcode. Apple also claims the display to be brighter in the always-on state. I found the Apple Watch Series 7 to be bright enough to check the time without needing to raise my hand to wake it. Apple has also introduced a couple of new watch faces to show more information on the bigger display.
The Apple Watch Series 7 can only be paired with an iPhone, but the process is seamless. The watch installs compatible apps that are already on your phone so you can access them on your wrist directly. For cellular models, the process of setting up LTE is simple and quick. Once done, you can stay connected using just LTE and leave your iPhone out of reach, for example while working out. Apple had also advertised faster charging speeds on the Series 7 at the time of its unveiling, but this feature is currently not available in India.
The underside of the Apple Watch Series 7 has all the sensors
When testing the Apple Watch Series 7, it was running watchOS 8. The user interface is very intuitive. A swipe down from the homescreen gives you access to pending notifications while a swipe up shows the Control Centre. You can swipe from the left or right edges to change watch faces. These are customisable using the Apple Watch app on the iPhone.
Apple's virtual assistant, Siri, is also available on the Apple Watch and can be summoned in three ways. You can long-press the digital crown, say “Hey Siri”, or raise the watch to your face and speak. Siri was good enough for basic tasks and quick replies while using the watch.
Apple Watch Series 7 performance and battery life
If you have used an Apple Watch in the past, the experience will be very similar. Even if you haven't, there isn't a steep learning curve. The Series 7 offered a smooth, lag-free experience. Pressing the digital crown opens up the app drawer on the Apple Watch, and this can be set to zoom in/out and also be used to scroll through menus and notifications. Apple has also added a sensor on the digital crown for measuring ECGs using Apple Watch Series 7. I found the watch to be quick to respond to touch inputs, and the bigger display compared to previous models did make content a little easier to read. The Contour watchface highlights the new rounded screen edges of the Series 7, while the Modular Duo face shows details of three complications at once.
The Apple Watch is well regarded for its health and fitness tracking abilities, and the Series 7 did not disappoint. I wore the watch for my evening walks, and after covering a distance I knew was 1km, the Series 7 reported it accurately. The Series 7 was also very accurate with step counting, measuring exactly 1,000 steps for the 1,000 that I manually counted. However, the step counter is a little slow to update on screen. Apple pushes you to complete three activity rings each day, which represent your exercise, movement, and standing goals. WatchOS also gamifies your fitness goals, constantly nudging you to finish your rings throughout the day. There are different challenges as well, you can participate in them or achieve targets to get medals.
Apple has gamified fitness tracking, and the Apple Watch nudges you to reach your targets
You can track a wide variety of activity types with this Apple Watch such as strength training, HIIT, cycling, walking, and even swimming, and it tracked my heart rate constantly while working out. However, it does not track individual exercises such as arm curls, squats, etc, like the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic (Review) does. While working out I found that heart rate tracking was in the same range as the readout from the treadmill. The watch was also quick to detect changes in heart rate.
The Apple Watch Series 7 is capable of tracking blood oxygen saturation (SpO2), and takes around 15 seconds to measure your level, during which you need to be completely still. It showed my blood oxygen level to be between 96 percent and 98 percent, which is within the ideal range for a healthy individual. While SpO2 tracking is convenient, no wearable should be used as a replacement for a dedicated pulse oximeter. The Apple Watch can track SpO2 levels throughout the day and even while you are asleep.
Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, which cannot take ECG readings in India (yet), the Apple Watch Series 7 can record an ECG, taking about 30 seconds to do so. The Apple Watch does check for signs of atrial fibrillation but warns that it cannot detect heart attacks. ECG readings are stored on your paired iPhone and can from there be sent to your doctor.
Sleep tracking is one area in which the Apple Watch Series 7 can still do with some improvement. I found it to be inconsistent. If you sleep at a set time and wake up with an alarm, it can track those times correctly. Unfortunately it failed to track sleep properly on days when I switched off the alarm and went back to sleep. It also does not provide a detailed breakdown of sleep phases, instead it only shows time in bed and sleep trends for the week. A new feature in WatchOS 8 is respiratory rate tracking – the Apple Watch can now detect the number of breaths you take per minute.
Since I had a cellular-enabled model of the Apple Watch Series 7, I set it up with an eSIM. The watch primarily relies on Bluetooth to stay connected to your iPhone. When the phone is out of range (or out of power), the watch hunts for a saved Wi-Fi network. If you are around one, the Series 7 latches on to it without any issues, keeping you connected. The Watch Series 7 only switches to LTE when everything else fails.
The Health App on your paired iPhone gives you all the stats that the Apple Watch Series 7 records
You can take incoming calls directly on the watch and make outgoing calls as well. I had to raise the watch quite close to my face to hear callers clearly, and they did notice that I wasn't speaking from a smartphone, but did not have any complaints about sound quality. You can pair Bluetooth headphones to the Apple Watch Series 7 and comfortably leave your iPhone behind when going for a run or while working out.
Apple claims 18 hours of battery life on the Apple Watch Series 7, and I was able to get about a day and a half worth of use on a single charge. The device did have to track workouts during this time. It was set to monitor my heart rate throughout the day, with the always-on display mode enabled, and SpO2 tracking on by default. During this time, the watch was connected to my iPhone at all times. I did also manage to get just about two days' worth of battery life with the always-on display switched off. Using the Series 7's cellular capability resulted in a drop in battery life as I expected.
Charging the Apple Watch Series 7 requires the included magnetic charging puck. Apple claims 33 percent faster charging compared to the Apple Watch Series 6, but sadly this feature is not (yet) available in India. The Apple Watch Series 7 charges relatively slowly, getting to about 41 percent in an hour. Once it is fully charged, you'll get a notification on your iPhone, which is very convenient.
The Apple Watch Series 7 is an incremental upgrade over the Apple Watch Series 6 (Review) and could have passed off as an Apple Watch Series 6s. The biggest difference, visually, on the Apple Watch Series 7 compared to the Series 6 is the bigger and brighter display. Fast charging would have been a worthwhile update but sadly it isn't supported in India. If you are using an Apple Watch Series 6, there isn't any incentive for you to upgrade to the Series 7 right away.
Apple has sadly discontinued the Series 6 Apple Watch in India, officially at least, and has priced the Series 7 at a slight premium of Rs. 1,000 for the smaller 41mm variants while the 45mm ones are exactly the same price. If you are using an Apple Watch Series 3 (Review) or older, the Series 7 will be a noticeable upgrade for roughly the cost of the outgoing Apple Watch Series 6. If you don't want to spend as much, the Apple Watch SE (Review) is still a capable alternative on a budget.