A few small changes make the best smartwatch even better
The launch of the iPhone 13 series also saw the launch of the Apple Watch Series 7, even though it wasn’t available to buy up until last month. The Apple Watch is already so far ahead of any notable competition that it has entered the phase where the changes between generations are few and far between and the Apple Watch Series 7 is no different.This year, there are three main improvements, the most notable being a slightly larger screen albeit in an almost identical size to the previous generation. Beyond that, there’s the addition of an on-screen keyboard and fast charging, the latter being a much-needed feature that’s been sorely missing.
The aforementioned lack of any serious competition – at least when it comes to features that matter to me like health – means the Apple Watch Series 7 is already the best smartwatch by virtue of being the latest Apple Watch, but the new bigger screen and fast charging make a great experience even better. And so here’s our Apple Watch Series 7 review.
Once you pick up your new watch using one of the best Apple Watch Series 7 deals, don’t forget to check out our collection of the Best Apple Watch Series 7 screen protectors to protect your new watch! Also, check out our Apple Watch Band Replacements to see if you can find something that is a bit more suited to your individual style than what Apple offers you.
Apple Watch Series 7 Battery life: which version has the best battery?
When Apple announces every new version, they say it still has all-day battery life, but what does this truly mean? Have you ever wondered which model Apple Watch has the best battery life? Whether there is a difference between the cellular and non-cellular versions and whether the size you chose affected the battery life?
This year for this Apple Watch 7 review, XDA Managing Editor Rich Woods and I ran battery tests for more than 20 days to answer all these questions. We tested the 41mm and 45mm versions in both cellular and GPS variants. We each ran multiple tests and although the testing conditions were different between us, each of our own tests followed similar patterns. That said, here’s what we found.
|Apple Watch Series 7 Version||Average Battery Life||Median Battery Life||Workout Mode?||Sleep Tracking?|
|41mm Cellular||29 hours 49 minutes||29 hours 38 minutes||N||Y|
|45mm Cellular||30 hours 41 minutes||31 hours 6 minutes||N||Y|
|41mm GPS||22 hours 20 minutes||22 hours 55 minutes||Y||N|
|45mm GPS||26 hours 35 minutes||27 hours 38 minutes||Y||N|
One of the biggest things we learned from this testing is that when Do Not Disturb is turned on, it can vastly extend the battery life of the Apple Watch. For example, Rich doesn’t wear his Apple Watch overnight, while I wear mine constantly and the difference is pretty vast. During a few different tests, I found that 6-8 hours of sleep with my phone and watch in Do Not Disturb mode (one of the focus modes) will only result in an average 15% drop in battery life. If you keep your phone in DND for large parts of the day, this will likely extend your Apple Watch battery life considerably as well.
During multiple different tests, I also found that both sizes of the cellular variant are capable of more than 24 hours of usage, with a total of 12 out of 14 tests (86%) resulting in battery life exceeding 24 hours. Regardless of your definition of ‘all-day’ battery life, I think it’s safe to say that the Apple Watch Series 7 delivers on Apple’s claim here, even with Always On Display enabled. Add in things like workout mode, active heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking, and battery life changes but in general, almost all variants average over 24 hours, and all deliver at least 22 hours of battery life in any mode.
Apple Watch Series 7 Fast Charging: How long do you need to charge for a full day’s use?
The other big addition to the Apple Watch Series 7 is fast charging, which makes a big difference to how you will use it. For years, the Apple Watch has been far too slow at charging, which has resulted in my need for two Apple Watches for health reasons, more on that below. With the addition of fast charging, however, this may no longer be the case.
The Apple Watch still doesn’t come out of Power Reserve mode until it’s charged to at least 8%, but once it does, it charges fairly rapidly. The Apple Watch Series 6 took at least two hours to charge to full, but the Apple Watch Series 7 Cellular version cuts this almost in half. In a series of tests, we found that they charge to full in about 65 to 75 minutes depending on notifications and exact usage.
However, beyond the total charge time, we found that it takes just 45 minutes to charge to 80% with charging slowing down considerably in the final 20%. This may be down to Apple’s ‘Optimized Battery Charging’ feature, which aims to finish charging the Apple Watch at the exact time you need it but disabling this feature didn’t change the charging speed much. Granted, it takes time for the AI to understand when you’re likely to need the Apple Watch, so it probably wasn’t affecting the charging speed.
Looking at our battery life tests; how long would you need to charge it for the “all-day” battery life that Apple claims? This ultimately depends on what “all-day” is for you, but assuming all-day battery life means 15 hours from taking it off charge to being able to put it back on charge including a variety of usage, you would need approximately 60% battery life. This would mean you need to charge it for 30-35 minutes depending upon the exact model and your exact usage. If all-day is 12 hours for you, you would need about 40% battery life meaning 20-25 minutes of charge, whereas if all-day is 18 hours, you would likely want to charge the Apple Watch Series 7 for 50-60 minutes.
Apple Watch Series 7: Apple Health is a must for anyone with health concerns
Beyond these metrics, there’s one key reason I keep using the Apple Watch and an iPhone: Apple Health. Simply put, it’s way beyond the competition as far as health features go, and the integration with health providers means that it can be a lifesaver, quite literally.Last year, I had a heart attack. 8 weeks ago, I had spinal fusion surgery. As a result, I’m someone who finds great value in all the deeper features of Apple Health and the way it integrates with the Apple Watch. About 5 weeks ago, I had to call an ambulance, and rather than explain my entire medical history, I was able to pull it up on my Apple Watch and my iPhone. This includes not only my past procedures but also all the medications I take and the precise doses of them. The result was the paramedic changing exactly what was administered to me, as the other drugs would have interacted with the blood thinners I take every day.
I personally use two Apple Watches, as I use them to monitor my heart rate and other vital signs at all times. I’ve found the accuracy of the heart rate to be within 2% of medical-grade equipment 98% of the time and while fast charging has meant I could probably make do with just one watch, I no longer feel comfortable not having the Apple Watch on my wrist, even for an hour.
Beyond just the heart rate monitoring, Apple Health also syncs with my blood pressure monitor and Kardia Mobile EKG machine which I use every day. It also syncs data from my medicine tracking app and my blood sugar tracking app. So, in one app, I have all my vital signs, both current and most recent. In the case of an emergency, this helps doctors and medical personnel provide the best care as it provides more than just a snapshot of my vitals at that moment; it allows them to spot the trends and changes over just the most immediate history.
Last year, I lost my father and with my mother now living alone, I’m also moving her to an iPhone and Apple Watch for one simple reason: fall detection and emergency SOS. As anyone who has a single parent living alone can attest to, the biggest fear is that something will happen, and no one will come to know. The Apple Watch helps alleviate these fears: if my mum happens to fall, not only will it contact the emergency services with her location, but it’ll also send a message to myself and my siblings as her designated emergency contacts. Given my recent medical history, I’ve also set up the same and the peace of mind that this provides is why I always have an Apple Watch on my wrist.
Apple Watch Series 7 Bigger Display: new watch faces and an on-screen keyboard
The other main standout new feature that you’ll notice on the Apple Watch Series 7 is the biggest display. This year the Apple Watch comes in 41mm and 45mm case sizes, whereas all generations up until now have been 40mm and 44mm. A 1mm difference in case size may seem like a slight difference but it’s noticeable enough in use as it’s 20% larger than the Series 6, and also paves the way for a few additions to the Apple Watch experience.The first is one you will probably never use, or want to use at least. Until now, the only supported input methods on the Apple Watch have been using voice or quick replies, but in WatchOS 8, Apple added an on-screen keyboard that’s exclusive to the Apple Watch Series 7. As great as this might sound, I used it twice and gave up – the screen is still far too small for any meaningful text input, albeit for a quick one-word or two-word custom reply it is usable.
There are also a couple of exclusive watch faces that aren’t found on other Apple Watch models including Modular Duo (a personal favorite of mine), World Time that displays 24 time zones and is ideal for anyone who works in a global company and Countour. The latter takes advantage of the bigger display and pushes the dial all the way to the edge but Modular Duo is my personal favorite, as it’s the only watch face that lets you use two large complications on the display at once.
Should you buy the Apple Watch Series 7 Cellular model?
If there was a single buzzword to explain the entire tech industry in 2021, it would be promotions. Most major phones launched this year have had promotions attached that were designed to loosen customer pockets that have inevitably tightened during the pandemic, and even Apple hasn’t been immune to this.
The iPhone 13 came with promotions galore attached, and every iPad launched this year also came with promotions that were designed to entice you to buy the more expensive Cellular model. So does the Apple Watch Series 7, in the US at least.
For $100 extra, you can get the Cellular model which you can then claim back via a rebate after you activate it on T-Mobile or Verizon. These promos are often fraught with issues but the benefits to buying a Cellular model are that you can leave the iPhone at home, and still pick up calls, texts, and notifications on the go.
Most carriers charge $10 per month to activate the Apple Watch on your postpaid account so it’s worth considering whether you really need the Cellular model, but I will say that both of my Apple Watch Series 7 models are Cellular as the promotion was enticing enough for me personally.
Apple Watch Series 7 Review: The best smartwatch just got better
For several years now, I’ve been using the Apple Watch and while I’ve dabbled with others, including the new Galaxy Watch from Samsung and Google’s partnership, I always come back to the Apple Watch. The reason is pretty simple: the smallest improvements take the best smartwatch and make it even better.The bigger screen on the Apple Watch Series 7 makes for a more immersive experience and means the complications can include even more information now, albeit I’ve yet to really test these out. The biggest improvement is the fast charging, which now means I probably don’t need a second Apple Watch although I will still continue to use two.
The biggest improvements continue to happen behind the scenes, if you will, as Apple Health syncs with more and more apps and services that I use every day. While exact features vary by country, in the US it syncs with most health services and it automatically updates all the medicines, test results, and procedures as they are updated in my health profile. To have this information on my wrist – especially as country borders and international travel opens up – is invaluable to me.
While other smartwatches offer surface-level or even one-level deep health features, the Apple Watch goes deep into your medical history so that everything you need is just one or two taps away, all on your wrist. With rumors that next year will bring blood glucose monitoring – which will appeal to any diabetic, including myself – the Apple Watch looks like it’ll continue to get better and stay miles ahead of the competition in the areas that truly matter.