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Apple Watch Series 7 review - More display area for Apple's smartwatch

Fast charging as the star feature. The Apple Watch 7 is mainly distinguished by a larger display without much of an increase in the watch size. The Californians have also equipped it with a fast charge function, but this is as far as the improvements for the newest Apple smartwatch go. Find out in our test, for whom the changes might still be worthwhile.
Daniel Schmidt, 👁 Daniel Schmidt (translated by Mark Riege), 🇩🇪 🇳🇱 ...

The good news for those who are interested in the Apple Watch Series 7 is that the price of the smartwatch remained the same. On the other hand, there are no extensive changes compared to the Series 6 predecessor, and Apple merely gave it a gentle facelift.

Apple offers a wide selection of models. In addition to the two display sizes of 41 and 45 millimeters (~1.6 and 1.8 in), there is an option of different case materials from aluminum, stainless steel, or titanium, and the choice of the watch band will also effect the price, which starts at 429 Euros (~$492) for the Watch 7.

Apple Watch Series 7 Aluminum Stainless Steel Titanium
41 mm from 429 Euros (~$492) from 729 Euros (~$836) from 829 Euros (~$951)
45 mm from 459 Euros (~$527) from 779 Euros (~$894) from 879 Euros (~$1008)
Cellular +100 Euros (~$115) included included

Our test unit is the 41-mm model with a blue aluminum case, without LTE, and with a woven Solo Loop watchband.

Apple Watch Series 7 (41 mm, Aluminium, GPS)
Processor
Apple S7 2 x 1.8 GHz, Thunder
Memory
1024 MB 
Display
1.61 inch 7.37:9, 352 x 430 pixel 333 PPI, capacitive, Retina LTPO OLED, glossy: yes, 60 Hz
Storage
32 GB SSD, 32 GB 
Connections
NFC, Brightness Sensor, Sensors: accelerometer (up to 32 G with fall detection), gyroscope, heart rate sensor (3rd gen), ECG, barometer, always-on altimeter, compass, SpO2, VO2max
Networking
802.11 b/g/n (b/g/n = Wi-Fi 4), Bluetooth 5.0, GPS
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 10.7 x 41 x 35 ( = 0.42 x 1.61 x 1.38 in)
Battery
1.094 Wh, 284 mAh Lithium-Ion, 3.85 V
Charging
fast charging / Quickcharge
Operating System
Apple WatchOS 8
Additional features
Speakers: Mono, Keyboard: onscreen, 12 Months Warranty, GNSS: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS and BeiDou; Apple Wireless W3 chip, U1 chip, fanless, waterproof
Weight
32 g ( = 1.13 oz / 0.07 pounds) ( = 0 oz / 0 pounds)
Price
479 Euro
Note: The manufacturer may use components from different suppliers including display panels, drives or memory sticks with similar specifications.

 

Case and Equipment – Not much has changed in the Apple Watch 7

The most apparent changes of the Apple Watch Series 7 are its larger displays, which offer a better screen-to-surface ratio. This only makes the smartwatches slightly larger, and the smaller model now has a height of 41 mm (~1.6 in) and the larger of 45 mm (~1.8 in), while the rest of the measurements remain unchanged. Despite offering a thicker layer of protective glass and a slightly more powerful battery, the watch thickness has not increased.

The aluminum version we tested here offers the most extensive color choice. It is available in Midnight (black), Polar Star (silver), Green, Blue, and Product Red (red). Those who prefer stainless steel can chose among Graphite, Silver, and Gold. The titanium watch is available in the colors Space Black and Titanium.

The back, which is made from ceramics, houses a series of sensors consisting of green, red, and infrared LEDs that are accompanied by four photodiodes, which measure the blood oxygen content. The optical heart rate sensor (3rd generation) measures the heart rate and rhythm, and there is also an electric heart sensor that is used by the ECG app.

In terms of connectivity, the Apple Watch 7 supports dual-band WLAN (2.4 and 5.0 GHz), Bluetooth 5.0, UWB, and NFC for Apple Pay. In the aluminum version, the cellular option costs extra. This allows you to connect with an eSIM, so that you can also receive messages or make calls without an iPhone. Apple Watch users can also communicate with each other easily using the Walkie-Talkie function.

Apple also uses recycled materials in the Watch 7. Those include aluminum, wolfram in the Taptic Engine, rare earth elements in the magnets, and tin in the SiP. In addition, the Apple Watch is protected from water up to a depth of 50 meters (according to the ISO 22810:2010 standard), and it is also protected against dust (IP6X).

Top edge
Left: speaker
Right: page button, microphone, digital crown / home button
Bottom edge

Setup and Operation - Apple Watch now with AssistiveTouch

The Apple Watch Series 7 arrived with WatchOS 8.0, which was then updated to Version 8.1 during the time of our testing. In order to setup the smartwatch, you need an iPhone that is equipped with iOS 15 or higher. This means that those who have at least an iPhone 6s can use the watch. Alternatively, the Watch 7 can also be configured by another family member. Even though you have to use your own Apple ID, you don't necessarily have to use your own iPhone. As soon as you bring the new watch close to an iPhone (see photo), it is recognized directly and the setup process can begin without any complications.

In addition to the numerous preinstalled apps, you can also directly transfer the Watch apps that correspond to the apps already installed on the iPhone. Navigation is mostly done using the capacitive touchscreen. This is complemented by the side button and digital crown, which also gives a discrete haptic feedback.

The new AssistiveTouch function allows navigation on the watch by clenching your fist or pressing your thumb and index finger against each other. It can also distinguish between single or double gestures, resulting in a total of four new input options. This works surprisingly well in everyday operation and is particularly handy when you only have one hand free. In other situations, the direct input via touchscreen is faster most of the time. You first have to activate this function in the navigation options, and it can also be adjusted there.

The watch faces can be configured either directly on the watch or using the iPhone app. By simply placing your finger on the current watch face, you can get into a menu where you can easily change your watch face. The crown also serves as the contact for the ECG, allows scrolling through news, mails, or menus, and can also be used for zooming in the photo app. The button on the side can be used as app switcher, allowing you to switch either between your own favorite apps or the apps last used, depending on the setting. In addition, you can start Apple Pay with a double-press on the button, allowing you to complete payments quickly and easily, without having to enter additional PINs or even pulling out your smartphone or wallet. This is a real bonus in everyday use. Since the corresponding coupons were also directly available on the watch, we were much faster than usual at the cash register when we used the Apple smartwatch. Since the watch has full access to the iPhone Wallet, you can also save your tickets there directly.

Operation follows the same principles as already in the predecessor, so those who have previously owned a watch from Apple will find their way around without any trouble. Open websites, search queries, notes, or other correspondingly connected apps can directly be opened on other Apple products that have signed in with the same ID. The watch can also be used as key for locked devices again. When the watch wearer is in close proximity to their iPad, for example, that will remain unlocked, and when they move away, the tablet will then be locked. Notifications about devices you might have left are also pushed to the watch.

Calling Function and Messages

The Apple Watch Series 7 is equipped with a speaker and microphone, and you don't necessarily need to have the cellular version to use it for phone calls. As long as the iPhone connected to the GPS watch is close by, it will also ring and vibrate. When no suitable headset is connected to the watch, you have to make do with the speaker function. In quiet surroundings, this is a good alternative, particularly when you cannot use your hands or the smartphone is out of reach. The microphone is powerful enough to still be able to record the user of the Apple Watch when the it isn't held directly in front of the mouth. However, environment noises are hardly filtered out, and a quiet place is also necessary to maintain your privacy anyways.

Messages are forwarded by all the usual message apps. Messages marked as read will also be marked on the iPhone. Text and emojis are displayed in their regular size and appearance, and only for photos or videos, a blurry preview is displayed. If the corresponding watch app is installed, you can not only respond using the predefined standard responses but also use text input. To do this, there is also a scribble function where you have to draw each word letter by letter, or you can also use voice dictation. The full keyboard is currently only available for the English language, and you can activate it by changing your country settings to the United States, for example.

Display - Apple Watch 7 with larger OLED panels

Subpixel structure
Subpixel structure

Our test unit is the 41-mm version of the Apple Watch Series 7, which has a 1.61-inch OLED display with a resolution of 430 x 352 pixels. According to the manufacturer, it has a brightness of up to 1000 cd/m². In our test, this value is also just barely reached. This means that the watch can always be easily read, even outdoors. The viewing angle stability of the watch is also good.

If you use the flashlight function, you don't get the full brightness of the Watch 7 but slightly more than 600 cd/m², which is completely sufficient to orient yourself in a dark room. When you point the watch directly at it from a short distance, you can also read text, for example.

In our aluminum version of the Apple Watch 7, the panel is protected by Ion-X glass in front, which is thicker than that of the previous Watch Series 6. This is supposed to give more protection. If you chose the models with a stainless steel or titanium case, your screen is protected by Sapphire glass.

Compared to the predecessor, the bezel width has dropped from 3 to 1.7 mm (from ~0.12 to 0.07 in). The always-on functionality is also supported again.

966
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 3
Maximum: 966 cd/m² (Nits) Minimum: 3.23 cd/m²
Contrast: ∞:1 (Black: 0 cd/m²)
Outdoors
Outdoors
Viewing angle stability
Viewing angle stability

Health and Fitness - Software optimizations only for the Apple Watch 7

In terms of fitness features, the hardware of the Apple Watch Series 7 is unchanged from the Series 6. The smartwatch allows you to measure your heart rate and determine your blood oxygen level or saturation (SpO2). It also continues to be possible to create an electrocardiogram (ECG) that is able to detect atrial fibrillation, which is again a sign for a heightened risk of stroke.

Via the microphone, you can also monitor the noise level of the surroundings to give you a warning of elevated noise exposure. You can also continue to create a sleep protocol, and the watch counts the number of breaths per minute.

Unfortunately, the Apple Watch does not offer the capability to measure blood pressure, which is a feature that many users have been waiting for. In this regard, Samsung was faster with the Watch 4.

Activity Goals

For motivation, the Apple Watch Series 7 displays three activity rings called Move, Exercise, and Stand. In addition to the steps, it also determines the distance covered and floors climbed. The calories consumed are computed from the total of all activities including training sessions. The heart rate, blood oxygen level, and number of breaths can be measured automatically.

The VO2max value is only estimated during a training session, and it requires that you started a recording of a walking, hiking, or running training outdoors. It also determines the speed when climbing stairs, the step length, and the bipedal support time, and you can also activate recognition of drops.

Heart Rate, Heart Rhythm, and Blood Oxygen Saturation

In contrast to the Watch Series 6, the ECG app is now available directly on the watch. Those who don't want to constantly record their heart rate and blood oxygen saturation can also limit this in the settings to a manual measurement, which is necessary for an ECG anyways.

In our previous test, the Apple Watch Series 6 showed a very good accuracy in the heart rate measurement. Since the sensors and hardware are almost identical, this should also be the case for the Watch Series 7.

Sleep Tracking

The sleep tracking of the Apple Watch Series 7 remains almost unchanged compared to the predecessor. The recording isn't particularly detailed and only distinguishes between the time spent lying down and the phases of sleep, but there is no differentiation between the sleep phases themselves. However, the recording is surprisingly accurate, and you also have the option to record your heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, and breathing rate per minute. 

One advantage of the new fast charge technology is that now eight minutes of charging should be sufficient to record eight hours of sleep.

Training Recording

The Training app of the Apple Series Watch 7 supports numerous types of sports and can also recognize some activities automatically. With WatchOS 8, biking outdoors has been added, for example. Those who jump on their bike and just get going will be asked after a short time whether a recording should be started. If you take a break, any type of training can be interrupted or you can manually pause it. In addition to stopping the session, the same menu also allows you to activate an input protection for water contact, so that any water or rain that got on the screen cannot cause inputs on the touchscreen. 

Those who don't want to take along their phone during the activity but still like to listen to songs or audio books can make them available offline on the Watch 7. You can listen to the audio via Bluetooth headphones, and to control the output, you only have to swipe left on the watch. 

The recording of the workout includes the route distance, calories used, average speed, altitude meter difference, heart rate, and more. Those who want to get a more detailed recording for their type of sports can also get the corresponding third-party apps from the App Store. 

GNSS and Navigation

The Apple Watch Series 7 is able to use the GPS, Glonass, BeiDou, QZSS, and Galileo satellite networks, so locating should not be any problem worldwide. The watch is also supported by an integrated compass and altitude measurement that is constantly activated. Locating the watch succeeds very quickly outdoors and even indoors.

During a short bike tour, the Apple smartwatch is compared with the Garmin Edge 500. While the watch doesn't perform flawlessly here either, it is still significantly more accurate than the bike computer.

Navigation tasks can also be handled by the watch. This works either using the integrated Map app from Apple or third-party apps such as Google Maps. However, the latter first has to start the navigation using the iPhone.

GNSS test route: Around the lake
GNSS test route: Around the lake
GNSS test route: turning point
GNSS test route: turning point
GNSS test route: overview
GNSS test route: overview
Active navigation using the Maps app
Active navigation using the Maps app

Performance and Battery Life - Fast charging makes the difference

The Apple Watch Series 7 is run by the inhouse Apple S7 SiP. The System-in-a-Package uses a dual-core processor that operates at up to 1.8 GHz and includes 1 GB of working memory and 32 GB internal storage. In addition, the U1 and W3 chipsets are also integrated, so the technical data should be identical to those of the S6 predecessor.

In the benchmarks, the Apple chipset remains behind the Qualcomm W4100, but it offers a smooth performance without stutters in everyday operation.

Octane V2 - Total Score
Mobvoi TicWatch E3
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100, 1024 (Web Browser for Wear OS 1.1.21)
3624 Points ∼100% +347%
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 LTE
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100, 1024 (Free Browser for Wear OS 0.8.40)
3308 Points ∼91% +308%
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 LTE R845
Samsung Exynos 9110, 1024 (Samsung Internet Browser 10.1.01.3)
2171 Points ∼60% +168%
Oppo Watch 46 mm LTE
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100, 1024 (Free Browser for Wear OS 0.8.40)
1730 Points ∼48% +114%
Motorola Moto 360 (2020)
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100, 1024 (Free Browser for Wear OS 0.8.40)
1522 Points ∼42% +88%
Apple Watch Series 7 41 mm
Apple S7, 1024
810 Points ∼22%
Average Apple S7
 
810 Points ∼22% 0%
Sunspider - 1.0 Total Score
Oppo Watch 46 mm LTE
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100, 1024 (Web Browser for Wear OS 1.1.201123)
4139 ms * ∼100% -132%
Motorola Moto 360 (2020)
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100, 1024 (Free Browser for Wear OS 0.8.40)
2997 ms * ∼72% -68%
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 LTE R845
Samsung Exynos 9110, 1024 (Samsung Internet Browser 10.1.01.3)
2661 ms * ∼64% -49%
Apple Watch 5 44 mm Stainless Steel Cellular
Apple S5, 1024
2014 ms * ∼49% -13%
Apple Watch Series 6 44 mm
Apple S6, 1024
1807 ms * ∼44% -1%
Apple Watch Series 7 41 mm
Apple S7, 1024
1785 ms * ∼43%
Average Apple S7
 
1785 ms * ∼43% -0%
Mobvoi TicWatch E3
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100, 1024 (Web Browser for Wear OS 1.1.21)
946 ms * ∼23% +47%
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 LTE
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100, 1024 (Free Browser for Wear OS 0.8.40)
925 ms * ∼22% +48%
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 - Total Score
Apple Watch Series 7 41 mm
Apple S7, 1024
85527 ms * ∼100%
Average Apple S7
 
85527 ms * ∼100% -0%
Motorola Moto 360 (2020)
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100, 1024 (Free Browser for Wear OS 0.8.40)
21266 ms * ∼25% +75%
Oppo Watch 46 mm LTE
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100, 1024 (Free Browser for Wear OS 0.8.40)
17098 ms * ∼20% +80%
Mobvoi TicWatch E3
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100, 1024 (Web Browser for Wear OS 1.1.21)
10459 ms * ∼12% +88%
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 LTE
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100, 1024 (Free Browser for Wear OS 0.8.40)
8710 ms * ∼10% +90%
Speedometer 2.0 - Result
Apple Watch Series 7 41 mm
Apple S7, 1024
21.74 runs/min ∼100%
Average Apple S7
 
21.7 runs/min ∼100% 0%

* ... smaller is better

Battery Life

The battery life represents the Achilles' heal of the Apple Watch. While the competitors are often able to coax several days of runtime from their batteries, Apple specifies a battery life of up to 18 hours. This also corresponds fairly closely to our experience.

During our test, we ran the Watch Series 7 with a constantly activated display and at medium brightness. If we took the smartwatch off the charger first thing in the morning, it still had 36 to 39% at bedtime. When we then also performed the sleep tracking through the night, there were still 23 to 25% left in the morning. If you record some activities or use the GNSS receiver intensely, the battery charge drops quicker. During our test ride to determine the accuracy of the location recording, the Watch 7 used around 10 percentage points of charge, and that didn't even last for one hour.

While the battery life is fairly similar to the Series 6 with this, the integrated fast charging technology makes a large difference. A full charge takes about an hour and a half (86 minutes). So those who charge it when getting out of bed in the morning while getting ready and eating breakfast can then start using a fully charged smartwatch again. After all, Apple specifies that the battery is recharged up to 80% within 45 minutes, which we were able to confirm. In everyday operation, this function is a real plus, even if a longer battery life would still be desirable.

Pros

+ bright LTPO OLED
+ large amount of available apps
+ extensive heath features
+ accurate sensors
+ fast charging

Cons

- not many improvements compared to the predecessor
- fairly short battery life

Verdict - More to see but few changes

Testing the Apple Watch Series 7 (aluminum, 41 mm)
Testing the Apple Watch Series 7 (aluminum, 41 mm)

With the Series 7, Apple definitely didn't reinvent its smartwatch, and there are also no larger changes compared to the Series 6. But the slightly larger displays are surely nice to look at, and particularly the smaller model is enhanced by this. While the fast charging technology cannot be considered an innovation, it can make quite a difference in everyday operation, particularly if you want to use all the features of the watch to the fullest.

The Apple Watch Series 7 is a successful development, but the wow effect remains elusive this year.

The extensive amount of features and particularly the seamless integration into the Apple cosmos represent the largest strengths of the Apple Watch. You can push any message you like also to the watch and even respond to many of them directly. To operate Apple Pay is child's play and useful at any cash register, particularly during these times of the pandemic. The health data is determined very accurately, and while the creation of an ECG isn't new, it can still only be found in very few competitors. In addition, you can use the watch to play music or make phone calls, and those wo chose the cellular version can do all this even without an iPhone.

While an upgrade might be worthwhile for owners of older Apple watches, those who already own a Series 6 watch can relax back without having to jump to the purchase.

Particularly the Samsung Galaxy Watch4 represents a powerful alternative. It also offers great equipment and can even already measure the blood pressure of the wearer. Those wo need more battery life should take a look at the Huawei Watch 3 Pro Classic.

Price and Availability

The Apple Watch Series 7 can be purchased directly from the manufacturer's online shop or it is also available from Amazon, for example.

Pricecompare

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Daniel Schmidt
Editor of the original article: Daniel Schmidt - Managing Editor Mobile - 439 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2013
As a child I was fascinated by my Commodore 16, and this sparked my enthusiasm for computers. Using my first modem, I surfed the BTX videotext system and later the World Wide Web. I have always been captivated by the latest technologies, and this is especially true for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. I’ve been part of the Notebookcheck team since 2013 and have also on occasion written for Notebookinfo.de, and I’m looking forward to testing new innovations for our readers. I like to spend my spare time indulging in photography and barbecues and being with my family.
Mark Riege
Translator: Mark Riege - Translator - 316 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2018
Having worked as a programmer for 20 years (medical devices, AI, data management systems), I've been following the computer scene for many years and especially enjoy finding out about new technology advances. Originally from Germany but living in the US, I've been working as a translator more recently, with Notebookcheck allowing me to combine my interest in new devices and translation. Other interests include Buddhism, spending time in Tibetan monasteries, and translating ancient Tibetan texts.
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Apple Watch Series 7 review - More display area for Apple's smartwatch
Daniel Schmidt, 2021-11-12 (Update: 2021-11-12)