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The latest Apple Watch revision is a story of refinement – again

The new Apple Watch offers few surprises. It’s another iterative step, to the degree you might not initially notice much difference on upgrading from a Series 6 – or even a Series 5. But if you care about the finer details, you’ll find meaningful change.

Place the Series 7 next to its direct predecessor and you might spot that it no longer looks like a metal watch wearing a glass hat. Fire up both devices on your wrist and you’ll clock the larger display on the newer model.

Big screen

If you’re going to upgrade your Apple Watch, that screen will be the main reason. The revamped always-on display is noticeably brighter indoors, especially in dim lighting conditions, meaning you need to fully wake your watch less often. It’s 20% larger than the one on the Series 4 through 6 (and SE), and 50% larger than the Series 3’s square screen.

The Apple Watch display continues to grow.

At first, this might not be apparent, but place the Series 7 next to a previous model and the older one’s display will suddenly look small. But how the extra space is used varies. There are two new Series 7-only watch faces, one that places large numbers around the screen edges and another that has two large complications.

Elsewhere, apps sometimes make buttons bigger, and Apple provides a swipe keyboard (much to the chagrin of third-party alternatives). In list views, Calendar doesn’t show more data but Carrot Weather can fit an extra day within the extended forecast. Text-based apps might show an additional line – but not always.

On the edge

This is largely good stuff, the only negative being light can catch the curves of the display in a manner that occasionally slightly obscures content, since it’s closer to the edges. But in the main, you get a more pleasant, less fiddly Apple Watch experience.

It also means you could drop down an Apple Watch size and lose little. The new 41mm size gives you a 352x430px screen vs 368x448px on the Series 6/SE’s 44mm. (The new 45mm model has a resolution of 396x484px.) Note: don’t base any buying decision on weight, because the difference between the two models is a negligible 8g/0.3oz.

This year’s color line-up. Midnight and Blue are particularly nice.

The other main visual change is the colors of the aluminum models, which are now dubbed Midnight (black with a hint of indigo), Starlight (gold/silver mix), Green, Blue and Product Red. Our review unit was the Green model, which is dark and subtle – unlike the vibrant and very green Clover strap it was twinned with.

Hidden side

Other changes aren’t evident at a glance, but all are welcome. Apple says the front crystal is more durable, and the watch’s 50m water resistance is joined by dust resistance. More importantly, the charging system has been overhauled by way of revamped internal architecture and a Magnetic Fast Charge USB-C cable.

Apple reckons this lets you charge up to 33% faster, taking 45 minutes to get from 0 to 80%, and that you’ll get up to 18 hours of use on a single charge. That seems about right. At the end of a typical 16- or 17-hour day, we usually have 10–20% charge left. That figure drops with excessive screen/exercise/cellular use, but you’d have to be a very heavy user for your Series 7 to require a charge during the day.

That said, Apple now wants you wearing your Apple Watch 24/7 and says an eight-minute charge is enough for eight hours of sleep tracking. We wouldn’t recommend that from dead, unless you want disappointment on waking. We’d also hoped Apple Watch would by now have multi-day battery life and Qi compatibility. Perhaps next time.

Apple Watch Series 7 verdict

So should you buy an Apple Watch Series 7? That depends on what you already own. If you’re happy with a Series 5 or Series 6, there’s no compelling reason to upgrade unless you desperately want that larger display. We’d recommend you wait.

For Series 4 owners, the always-on display is a big deal, and you’ll get the added benefit of a faster chip. Series 3 owners: now is definitely the time to upgrade. You’ll also add a compass, fall detection, and a display set-up far beyond the unrefined square cut-out on that device. As a bonus, whichever Apple Watch you currently own, all your straps will fit the Series 7.

Sleek? Yep. The best smartwatch around? Definitely. Worth buying? If you own a Series 4 or older, sure.

For newcomers, the Series 7 is objectively the best of Apple’s line-up, but what of the others? Well, the Series 3 is far behind and shouldn’t still be available – it’s yesterday’s news and yesterday’s tech. The SE is more compelling and cheaper than the Series 7, but you lose the excellent always-on display. Our advice: grab the highest in the range you can afford and realize although the Series 7 is not revolutionary, it is meaningfully the next step in the Apple Watch journey – albeit a smaller one than you’d perhaps hope for.

Apple Watch Series 7 is available now, priced from $399/£369 (41mm) or $429/£399 (45mm).

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