The latest Apple Watch is here, and it’s the Apple Watch Series 7 that will start to ship to buyers just a few days after this article is released in mid-October 2021. The Apple Watch Series 7 represents an incremental but meaningful improvement over previous-generation Apple Watch products, and today, I check out the aluminum-cased version of the Apple Watch Series 7 in the 45mm-long case with “Sequoia Green” anodized finishing. Apple will also offer the Series 7 in a steel or titanium case that each offers its own colors and finishing options.
As someone who has been wearing an Apple Watch since series 1, I have found it absolutely fascinating to see what Apple changes in each new generation product of its class-leading smartwatch. In short, Apple seems to be putting as much focus on improving the software experience as the hardware experience. Tweaks to both in the Apple Watch Series 7 represent how Apple wants to continue evolving this product, as well as a response to how people actually use the Apple Watch.
Let’s consider that last point for a minute, as I think it is really important. Apple seems to obsessively study data that explains how people use their Apple Watches, ranging from how many hours a day they wear it to how often they look at the screen. Apple has learned that people both want a brighter display and one that is larger. While it might not be apparent to everyone, two of the biggest improvements in the Apple Watch Series 7 include the larger, slightly rounded screen and a screen that is brighter during always-on mode. I actually don’t know if this latter capability is related to a better battery and more efficient processing or if Apple just decided that each Apple Watch still has enough power in it when the average person goes to charge it, and thus they can route more power during “wearing times” to things like the screen backlight. Apple is understandably discreet about all of this background thinking by its engineering team, but at the least, I think it is important to say that no other product team I know of out there in the smartwatch space so obsessively focuses on how wearers actually use and live with their products. The result is that each generation of Apple Watch feels more intuitive and automatically shares information with the wearer that they may not even know they want.
One great example of how Apple keeps improving the software experience is in how the fitness tracking features work. Apple knows that many Apple Watch wearers use the watch to track exercise. Apple is starting to automate exercise tracking more and more by doing things like starting a workout automatically if it detects that the wear is (say) on a bicycle. This helps remove one of the problems with tracking your exercise regimen, which is that users frequently forget to inform the watch when a workout begins. More so, Apple keeps adding new niche workouts to the Apple Watch that help it offer even more precise feedback. One of the latest exercises added to the software is pilates, which I was able to do with the Apple Watch, and it certainly made the experience more meaningful knowing that my Apple Watch could correctly “score me” for the exercise I was doing.
A lot of focus on the new Apple Watch is on the new screen, which is said to be about 20% larger than before. Will you notice? I did. The first thing my eyes realized about the Series 7 was that the screen was noticeably larger than the screen on the Apple Watch Series 6 (aBlogtoWatch review here). This not only makes the screen more attractive but also improves legibility because everything (including the default font size) is a bit larger. While I’m not sure the screen size and brightness alone necessitate an immediate upgrade, this is a very real improvement for the Apple Watch product family.
Also new for 2021 is the case shape. Apple measures its watches length-wise (versus width-wise), and the new Apple Watches measure 41mm-long and 45mm-long, respectively. The piece on my wrist is the 45mm long version, which is produced with an anodized aluminum body, ceramic caseback (finally standard on all models), and has an “Ion-X” screen. There is a lot of value here for an entry-level model, but my personal preference is the materials on the most expensive Apple Watches that offer a sapphire crystal and a steel or titanium case. Unless lightness is absolutely important to you, I feel that the steel versions of the Apple Watch are the best combination of durability and value. That said, you won’t get all the fun color choices of the Apple Watch Series 7 aluminum (which Apple claims is made from 100% recycled aluminum ) which now includes five colors with lovely tones such as red and blue available, in addition to the deeper green tone.
Prior to the release of the Apple Watch Series 7, it was rumored that the Apple Watch would have a new shape. This ended up happening but the difference in case shape is minor. Most important is that all of the existing Apple Watch straps continue to fit the watch. It is my belief that it would be very challenging for Apple to change the design of the Apple Watch in a way that would make its robust universe of straps and bracelets no longer useful. What we see is a greater rounding of the case in a way that simply makes it feel more elegant. The watch no longer looks like a miniature iPhone for your wrist, and is now increasingly taking on its own attractive rounded form and shape.
Most areas of the Apple Watch have improved such as faster charging time and a more intuitive way of inputting text via one finger on a smartwatch-sized QWERTY keyboard. Like I said above, this is a combination of hardware and software updates. Some will be available on previous-generation Apple Watches capable of upgrading to the latest Watch OS software, and other features will only be available when purchasing the latest hardware. Another example that comes to mind is the Apple Watch’s increased dust resistance, which like water resistance, is crucial in allowing this product to serve its wearers in the largest variety of scenarios and environments.
You may have also noticed that this Apple Watch Series 7 is paired with a brand-new strap that Apple calls its Leather Link. This is very similar to a related Leather Loop strap previously produced by Apple. The leather strap includes a series of magnets (larger this time around) which, together with the ridges, help keep the strap secure on your wrist. This is actually one of my favorite-looking Apple Watch straps to date and is a great option for all but the most demanding of sports, in which the watch might get pulled off your wrist.
Apple always releases a few new watch dials with the Apple Watch (though I crave even more options). The most meaningful new dial for wristwatch enthusiasts is the new World Time dial, the brand’s latest homage to classic timepieces. Notice that each time Apple comes out with new watch dials, it tries to come up with something that is very modern, and then it also offers something very classic. It’s nice to know that the Apple Watch team is interested in appealing to different demographics, including the youngest wearers and those with a more nostalgic approach to enjoying their watch-wearing experience.
One area in which I’d like Apple to keep developing is its ability to customize when someone’s day starts and stops. The software is very heavily “day/night cycle” dependent but it assumes people have “average” waking and sleeping schedules. As someone who is a night person (meaning I am awake at midnight), this presents me with odd challenges when it comes to tracking my activity level and other features of the watch. I’d very much like future versions of the Watch OS software to consider the value in being able to adapt to different awake/sleeping schedules that people may have. Perhaps that is already on Apple’s list of things to add in future versions of the Apple Watch.
Apple’s ability to capture the fashion audience, as well as consumers seeking the latest technology, is impressive when it comes to the appeal of the Apple Watch. The brighter always-on screen on the Apple Watch Series 7 will reveal its fashion value to many people and, in general, it is nice that the Apple Watch dial is something onlookers notice as much as the case. Apple might not revolutionize the Apple Watch with each iteration, but it never fails to make the new Apple Watch feel both substantial and compelling, both visually and functionally. Pricing for the Apple Watch Series 7 in the 45mm-long aluminum case with this Leather Link strap starts at $479 USD. Learn more at the Apple website here.