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Apple Watch 7 vs. Apple Watch 6: What's different?

Apple Watch 7 vs 6
(Image credit: Future)

The new Apple Watch 7 is a step up from the current Apple Watch 6 flagship. But how exactly do the Apple Watch 7 vs. Apple Watch 6 compare?

Apple Series 7 plans were revealed at the Apple Event on September 14. As usual, Apple took an incremental approach to improving its smartwatch, meaning we didn't see any sweeping changes. That said, the seventh-generation Apple Watch has a curvier shape and thinner display borders, as well as faster charging.

The Apple Watch 7 might not be changed enough to convince Apple Watch 6 users to trade in. But it does take exciting steps towards making the best smartwatch even better. 

Here’s how the Apple Watch 7 vs. Apple Watch 6 compare according to what's been announced. Keep in mind the Apple Watch 7 was only released as of October 15 and we can't give a final verdict on its performance until we've fully tested it ourselves. But we have spent some time with it already and can bring you our early thoughts in our Apple Watch 7 review (hands on).

We'll update this once we've completed our review but for now, if you're wondering whether you should buy the Apple Watch 7 now, this should help.

Apple Watch 7 vs Apple Watch 6: Design

Apple Watch 7

(Image credit: Future)

The look of the Apple Watch has hardly changed over the years. You wouldn't be able to tell the Apple Watch 6 from the Apple Watch 5 or Apple Watch 4 before it, unless you noticed the brighter always-on display. 

That's changing with the Apple Watch 7, slightly. The Series 7 is actually curvier compared to previous Apple Watch models. From what we've seen, the change is vert subtle, but it's clear Apple is going for a softer overall aesthetic. 

While the Apple Watch 7 has the same swim-proof rating (up to 50 meters) as the Series 6, it's more shatter- and dust-resistant. If you've taken to outdoor sports, you might be excited to know the Series 7 has an IP6X certification. 

Apple Watch 7 vs Apple Watch 6: Display

The Apple Watch 7 display is probably the biggest upgrade over the Series 6. Apple hasn't changed the Apple Watch's display borders in several years. But now, the Apple Watch 7's display is up to 20% bigger than the Apple Watch 6's. With a tiny 1.7mm bezel, the Apple Watch looks a lot larger, even though the chassis size hasn't changed.

In addition to a bigger screen, the Apple Watch 7's display is 70% brighter than the Series 6's display in Always-On Display mode. This means when your watch is down by your side, you should be able to see your complications more easily than before.

Apple Watch 7

(Image credit: Future)

Apple Watch 7 vs Apple Watch 6: Features

Apple usually debuts a few exclusive features with each new version of its smartwatch. The Apple Watch 6 got a blood oxygen reader and always-on altimeter, while the Apple Watch 5 got a compass and the first iteration of an always-on display. 

The Apple Watch 7’s new features perhaps more limited in comparison. The Apple Watch 7 doesn't offer fitness upgrades beyond what's coming with watchOS 8. With the latest software version, the Apple Watch will be able to track pilates and Tai Chi (among several other software improvements).

Apple Watch 7

(Image credit: Future)

One feature exclusive to the Apple Watch 7, though, is one we've had on our wishlist for a while now. Taking advantage of the expanded screen, the Series 7 gets a full QWERTY keyboard for typing out messages. It's the one thing we said Apple Watch 7 should steal from the Galaxy Watch 4, so we're glad it materialized. 

Apple Watch 7 vs Apple Watch 6: Battery life

The Apple Watch 6’s battery life didn’t improve with the S6 chipset. On the bright side, literally, the current Apple Watch's always-on display is two-and-a-half times brighter and the performance is 20% faster than the Series 5’s. 

Will the Apple Watch 7 finally offer longer stamina than 18 hours? Sadly, no. The Apple Watch 7 has the same 18-hour battery life as the Apple Watch Series 6 and Series 5 before it. We would have liked to see some improvement in this area, but we'll have to hope a better performance and display quality justify the daily charge.

That said, the Apple Watch 7 can charged to full up to 33% faster before with the new USB-C cord that comes in the box. 

Apple Watch 7 vs Apple Watch 6: Outlook

Apple set the smartwatch bar high for itself several years ago, which is why the incremental improvements continue to pay off. But competing smartwatches are getting better — not quite good enough yet to beat Apple at its own game, though the gap is closing. 

Though sweeping Apple Watch 7 upgrades didn't materialize, an updated display could make the flagship unbeatable. Aesthetics matter plenty when it comes to something you show off on your wrist. 

You're not going to upgrade from the Apple Watch 6 to the Apple Watch 7 — Apple's smartwatch's are designed to last several years — but enough is different that it's worth waiting for the new one to arrive later this fall instead of buying an Apple Watch 6 as retailers clear out inventory. 

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.