Apple’s 14 September ‘California Streaming’ event wasn’t all about new iPhones. As expected, the Watch Series 7 also launched, continuing Apple’s tradition of annual wearable updates.
The new device represents the most significant update we’ve seen to the core Apple Watch line since 2018. Razor-thin bezels and new curved edges allow for almost 20% more screen real estate, meaning there’s now space for a full on-screen keyboard.
Apple is heavily promoting its durability, adding IPX6 dust resistance to the existing WR50 water resistance. There’s also much faster charging and new fitness features, alongside an updated range of colours and straps.
But do these new features justify buying the Series 7 when it becomes available? And should existing Series 6 owners upgrade to the new model? To help simplify your decision, here's how the devices compare.
Design and display
Much has been made of the Apple Watch Series 7 design, which represents the biggest hardware changes we’ve seen since 2018. Apple has trimmed the bezels down to just 1.7mm in thickness, while new curved edges help deliver an immersive all-screen design.
It also paves the way for larger displays – you can now choose between 41mm and 45mm, up from 40mm and 44mm on the Series 6. It sounds like a very minor change, but Apple says this allows for almost 20% extra screen area. This makes all the difference when it comes to typing – there's now space for a full keyboard on-screen.
The quality of the display itself is the same, although the Always-On Display is now supposedly 70% brighter on the Series 7 than the Series 6.
Design and display upgrades on the Series 7 mean the Series 6 looks dated by comparison, but it’ll still perform well as a premium smartwatch in 2021 and beyond.
Apple didn't mention performance during the launch event or in the official press release. That’s because it’s using the same Apple S6 chip as last year, with no changes or upgrades of note. The Series 7’s new design has been built around the older silicon – this may be in response to the ongoing global chip storage.
That means performance will be almost identical on both watches – it's certainly not a reason to buy one over the other.
Battery life was widely tipped to be an area Apple would improve on the Watch Series 7, but that’s not the case. The company continues to claim 18 hours of typical usage on a single charge – that's the same as the Series 6. However, it’s not clear how much the brighter Always-On Display might affect that.
One area that has been upgraded is charging speeds. The Series 7 now supports fast charging, with Apple claiming you can go from 0-80% in 45 minutes. This typically slows down as you approach 100% , but it’s a step up from the 1.5 hours it takes to fully charge the Series 6.
As usual, Apple doesn’t mention specific battery capacities or the wattage of the new charging architecture on the Series 7.
Software and other features
The new Watch Series 7 will be the first wearable to run Apple’s new watchOS 8 software out of the box. It was announced back at WWDC in June 2021, adding a handful of new features to the now-familiar user experience.
First up, the Photos app has been redesigned and now lets you use portrait mode images as a watch face.
There are also various new ways to communicate using Messages. New Focus and Mindfulness functionality has been added, while the Health experience has been upgraded with various new workouts. The Fall Detection safety mode kicks in during workouts, while Siri can now work offline.
However, these changes won’t be exclusive to the Series 7. All recent Apple Watch models (Series 3 or newer) will be eligible for a free update to watchOS 8. In fact, it’ll be available for Series 6 owners as soon as 20 September. Again, the software experience isn’t a reason to pick one over the other.
With no confirmed release date so far, we only have a confirmed starting price for the Series 7. £379/$399 will get you the 41mm GPS-only model – that's identical to the entry-level 40mm Series 6 configuration. It remains to be seen how much more expensive models will cost, but they’re likely to be the same as last year:
- Smaller size, GPS-only: £379 / US$399 / AUD$599
- Larger size, GPS-only: £409 / US$429 / AUD$649
- Smaller size, cellular: £479 / US$499 / AUD$749
- Larger size, cellular: £509 / US$529 / AUD$799
However, while the Series 7 will stay at its RRP for a while after launch, the Series 6 is regularly discounted. Indeed, there are some great Apple Watch Series 6 deals available right now.
We can confidently say that the Series 7 is the most capable watch Apple has ever made, but that doesn’t make buying one an easy decision. The Series 6 will continue to be sold by Apple until its successor is released later this year, and available from third-party retailers after that. It will also continue to get software updates for many years.
If you can find a discounted model of the Watch Series 6 and the new features in Series 7 aren’t of interest, it still represents a good buy. Despite some useful upgrades, most existing Series 6 owners shouldn’t feel the need to get the new models.
However, if you have older Apple Watch hardware or are new to the world of smartwatches, the Series 7 is an excellent choice. For most people, paying the same price for a device that’s a notable upgrade is a no-brainer.
More Apple events between now and the end of 2021 are likely. Check out our regularly updated guide on when that could be.
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