Now in its seventh generation, the Apple Watch is approaching elder statesman status. It’s a fine piece of kit, both useful and stylish, but has entered a phase in its development cycle where improvements have become incremental: a smaller bezel here and a better battery there.
For new buyers, that’s great news: the Series 7 is an exceptional device, refined over the years into something that – to borrow a phrase from Apple – “just works”. For owners of a previous-generation Apple Watch, however, this is one you can happily skip, safe in the knowledge there’s no killer feature you’re missing out on.
The biggest improvement in the Series 7 is the display: a virtually non-existent bezel means it’s 20 per cent larger than its forebears while growing just 1mm (41mm and 45mm replacing the old 40mm and 44mm), allowing you, through a feat of mathematics, to squeeze 59 per cent more text on the screen.
The screen also has a ‘wrap-around’ effect that seems to push the display over the side of the screen, an optical illusion created by refracted light that seems to further shrink that bezel.
The obligatory selection of new colours includes the very fetching deep forest green one currently on my wrist; a Jaguar Racing Green sort of shade that looks great with the “Sequoia Green” leather strap. (This style of strap fastens snugly using magnetic links, which is an elegant solution for those, like me, with skinny, bird-like wrists – it was introduced last year but is worth checking out in person if this is news to you.) The other new colours are an inky Midnight, a goldy-silver Starlight, a more vibrant Blue and a Product Red.
Elsewhere, you’ll find a battery that charges a third faster than the last one, although it still tops out at a slightly disappointing 18 hours of ‘normal use’; I actually got through 24 hours fairly comfortably, so this may account for some battery drop-off after using it for a few months or years. Either way, those who like to track their sleep will probably have to juice up at some point in the evening to make sure it’s still alive come dawn. The good news is you can get eight hours of sleep tracking from just eight minutes of charge. An hour plugged in will get you through a day in the office and 75 minutes should fill it up completely.
The health sensors remain the same as before – heart rate, blood oxygen monitor and EKG, none of which are medical-grade – but there is also good news for health trackers, with the new WatchOS 8 able to auto-detect new activities such as outdoor cycling. Beyond that, you can still take it for a swim or simply start exercising and it will automatically work out what you’re up to and begin tracking your progress and counting your calories.
It remains a useful device for the elderly, with fall detection and the ability to make emergency calls, and the option to make the text bigger than ever underlines this further.
You probably already know by now if the Series 7 is for you. It’s ideal for those new to Apple Watch, or for people who have fallen out of the ecosystem. For the rest, this would make for a pleasant if slightly profligate upgrade.