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While the new Apple Watch Series 7 was probably the biggest disappointment at yesterday’s event, it’s not really fair to lay all the blame at Apple’s feet. The rumour mill got us worked up, sharing a new design that never came, but that’s not the only underwhelming thing about this year’s model.
When Apple’s Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Williams, unveiled the new Apple Watch yesterday, he and Product Manager Lauren Braun spent most of their time talking about the larger screen and newer watch faces, and it turns out there’s a good reason for that, since these are the only really significant changes in this year’s Apple Watch.
To be fair, even though it’s only a 1mm increase, the larger watch face is kind of a big deal, as Braun noted that you can now get 50% more text, and even a full keyboard on it.
As we’ve seen from similarly iterative iPhone improvements over the years, this sort of thing can make a tangible difference in the user experience, but it’s not exactly a groundbreaking change.
The Apple Watch Series 7 offers one other important quality-of-life improvement too in the form of faster charging. While you’ll need a new USB-C Magnetic Charger for this, it will allow you to top up your Apple Watch to 80% with only 45 minutes on the charger. We’re hoping Apple doesn’t cheap out and require Series 7 owners to buy the new cable separately, although it’s almost certain you’ll need to supply your own 20W USB-C power adapter.
The faster charging will also be a considerable boon for those who want to take full advantage of the Sleep Tracking features introduced in watchOS 7 last year. You’ll be able to pop it on the charger before bedtime and get a full eight hours of Sleep Tracking with only an eight-minute charge, although you’ll still need to juice it up again for the day before your morning workout.
‘Just a Chassis Tweak’
Beyond these two things, however, it seems that there’s not much else to say about the new Apple Watch. In fact, the internals may be almost identical to the Apple Watch Series 6.
As developer Steve Troughton-Smith found after taking a look at the code, not only does the Apple Watch Series 7 use the same 64-bit dual-core S6 SiP as the Apple Watch Series 6, but Apple hasn’t even incremented the main model number.
Specifically, the Apple Watch Series 7 still bears the “Watch6” base model number, with sub-designations of 6–9 for each of the combinations of GPS, Cellular, 41mm, and 45mm models.
This is effectively the first time in the history of the wearable that the internal model number hasn’t been bumped by a full increment for a major new Apple Watch release. Although the Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2 shared the same “Watch2” designation, they were also released at the same time, and featured the same chip. Similarly, last year’s Apple Watch SE was a “Watch5” since it used the same S5 chip as the Apple Watch Series 5 that came before.
If you’re seeing a trend here, you’re right. This year the Apple Watch Series 7 has landed in the same category, still packing in last year’s S6 chip, rather than a whole new S7 SiP.
Although the Apple Watch Series 5 used almost the same generation silicon as the Apple Watch Series 4, Apple at least chose to designate that as the “S5” chip, and the Apple Watch Series 5 carried a new “Watch 5” internal model designator as well. However, it appears that the Apple Watch Series 7 doesn’t include even the slightest revision this time around.
What this effectively means is that the Apple Watch Series 7 will not be any faster than the Apple Watch Series 6, nor will it provide any improvements in battery efficiency. Of course, Apple never said the Series 7 was going to get better battery life, but now we know why.
This is actually something else that flies in the face of previous rumours, which predicted a smaller “S7” chip would be used to power the new Apple Watch, allowing more room for a larger battery.
Update: MacRumors has confirmed that Apple is at least calling this year’s Apple Watch Series 7 SiP an “S7” chip, but it also still clearly uses the same t8301 silicon as last year’s S6, so it’s still unclear what, if anything, has changed.
While it’s possible the battery size has increased slightly, since this does seem to happen every year, whatever extra capacity that provides will likely be eaten up by the larger screen — especially since the always-on display is supposed to be 70% brighter.
Since the Apple Watch isn’t expected until sometime “later this fall,” Apple hasn’t yet published the specifications for the new wearable, so it’s unclear if there may be other things that have changed. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman previously predicted “updated ultra-wideband functionality,” but it’s unlikely that this involves an updated U1 chip, especially in light of the lack of other internal changes.
Even though the Apple Watch Series 6 added a U1 chip last year, it currently serves no purpose, it’s also possible Gurman was merely referring to the software features coming in iOS 15 and watchOS 8, which could finally put the Ultra Wideband functionality to good use.