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Apple unveiled the Apple Watch Series 7 during its California streaming event today, but contrary to most of the rumours we’ve been hearing over the past few months, the new model was not at all what we expected.
Rather than the highly anticipated squared-edge design that many predicted, the new Apple Watch Series 7 is almost indistinguishable at a glance from prior generations.
The same rounded edges are still present, although the screen does gain a small but noticeable size improvement.
In fact, much like the Apple Watch Series 4, the screen is the most noticeable difference in the new Series 7, yet it’s not as profound of a difference as that past model. Instead, it gains about 1mm in size, which works out to an increase of about 20% over last year’s Series 6.
Apple’s Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Williams, took the stage to announce the new Apple Watch Series 7, where he actually began by revealing a small but previously unannounced improvement that will be coming to all supported Apple Watch models with watchOS 8.
Although the Apple Watch has long supported cycling workouts, with watchOS 8 users will now be reminded to start, pause, resume, and stop cycling workouts automatically whenever the wearable detects appropriate motion. Williams added that the workout algorithm has also been improved for e-bikes, and Fall Detection has been tailored to specifically recognize the unique motion and impact of cycling-related falls.
In unveiling the Apple Watch Series 7, Williams noted that Apple did manage to reduce the borders to only 1.7mm, as well as making the screen 40% thinner than on the Series 6. Both of these do make for a pretty impressive design change, even if it falls short of the rumours that the display would appear closer to the front surface.
That said, there’s a good reason for the glass front, as Apple has made the glass even stronger. According to Apple Watch Product Manager Lauren Braun, the Series 7 features a new crack-resistant front crystal, and stronger geometry that makes it the most durable Apple Watch ever built.
It’s also the first Apple Watch to feature IP6X certification for dust resistance, alongside the same WR50 water resistance that’s been available since the Apple Watch Series 2 debuted in 2016.
Larger Display, New Faces
The larger display means that you can get 50% more text on the screen than the Series 6, so it’s not an insignificant improvement in practical terms, especially for those who regularly read messages and emails on their wrists.
Everything in the UI has also been enlarged to match the size and shape of the new display, which means that not only are things more readable, but they’re more easily tappable too.
Apple has also increased the screen luminance in the Series 7, where the always-on display is now 70% brighter when your wrist is down, making it far easier to check the time, or even anything else that may be using the always-on display. It’s a nice improvement considering that watchOS 8 will greatly expand the use of the always-on display, not only to more of Apple’s own apps, but also by making it available for third-party developers to take advantage of.
While the Apple Watch Series 7 didn’t get the major squared off redesign that everyone seemed to be predicting, Williams did note that the shape has been “refined” so that both the case and the display have softer and more rounded corners. In other words, it sounds like Apple went in the opposite direction.
The flip side of this, however, is that the new display blends into the casing more seamlessly than ever, refracting light at the edges for a subtle wrap-around effect. A new Dynamic Counter face exemplifies this, pushing the time dial out to the well-rounded edges and animating when you raise your wrist.
There’s also a new Modular watch face that takes advantage of the larger screen, presenting more information and more room for complications.
The larger display also leaves room for a full keyboard, which you’ll be able to either tap on or slide-to-type, using a “QuickPath” algorithm similar to what Apple added to the iPhone a few years back.
Same Battery Life, Faster Charging
Some reports suggested that the Apple Watch Series 7 would be getting a larger battery, and while we’ll likely have to wait for iFixit’s teardown before we know for sure if that’s true or not, there’s been no actual improvement in battery life.
While Braun notes that the Apple Watch Series 7 still features the same 18-hour battery life as prior models, there is a silver lining — it now charges 33% faster.
In practical terms, this means that you can charge from zero to 80% in 45 minutes, and a quick eight-minute charge will give you eight hours of Sleep Tracking, so you can easily pop it on the charger during your evening ablutions, and it will be ready for bedtime.
To accomplish this, however, you’ll need to use the new Apple Watch Magnetic Fast Charging USB-C Cable (A2515), along with a compatible 20W+ USB-C power adapter. There’s no word yet on whether that’s going to be in the box or not. It’s unlikely that Apple is going to include a power adapter, but we’re certainly hoping it will bundle the faster magnetic charger, rather than making users upgrade separately.
Colours, Pricing, and Availability
The Apple Watch Series 7 is coming in several new colours this year. The base aluminium version will be available in Midnight, Starlight, Green, Blue, and (PRODUCT)RED, while the stainless steel will follow similar Silver, Graphite, and Gold colours as the Series 6.
There’s also going to be a Titanium Edition model again this year after all, and it will come in “natural” and Space Black. The Nike models will also feature a new graphic sport loop and Nike Balance watch face, and there are several new Hermès options this year as well.
Considering recent reports of mass production delays, we weren’t entirely surprised that Apple didn’t offer an exact ship date for the Apple Watch Series 7, stating only that it’s “Available later this fall.”
Although recent reports had suggested that the production delays wouldn’t impact availability, in the very least it seems Apple would rather be certain all the production lines are actually up and running before committing to a date.
Once it is available, the Apple Watch Series 7 will start at $399. Apple is also continuing to sell last year’s Apple Watch SE starting at $279, and amazingly, the Apple Watch Series 3 also remains in the lineup at $199.