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Apple Watch 7 review (hands on): The most usable smartwatch yet

Are you seeing the bigger picture?

Apple Watch 7
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Apple Watch 7's bigger display makes it the most practical version of this smartwatch yet. And we're not just saying that because we love the QWERTY keyboard.

For

  • Larger display
  • Brighter always-on mode
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Comes with USB-C magnetic charger

Against

  • No added health features
  • Still 18-hour battery life

An entirely iPhone-free Apple Watch experience is not a question of if, but when. With its slimmer bezels and bigger displays, the Apple Watch 7 is shaping up to be the most usable standalone smartwatch yet.

Apple’s latest smartwatch is mostly an incremental upgrade from the Apple Watch 6, maintaining an 18-hour battery life, the same CPU and adding no new health features. But the enlarged display is already proving a game-changer in my short time with Series 7. It adapts wearable computing for more everyday applications, making it practical to be productive from your wrist.

Apple Watch 7 specs

Starting price: $399
Sizes: 41mm, 45mm
Chipset: S7
Storage: 32 GB
Connectivity: Cellular (optional,) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, U1
Durability: IPX6
Waterproof: Up to 50 meters
Sensors: Heart rate, ECG, SpO2

From a full QWERTY keyboard and larger calculator buttons to a brighter always-on mode and exclusive complications, the Apple Watch 7 offers a tailored version of watchOS 8 you won’t get on the Apple Watch SE or Apple Watch 3, which both remain on sale. Faster charging, greater durability and contemporary case colors are almost afterthoughts, but nonetheless welcome. 

We won’t come to conclusions until we spend several days with our colossal-screened wrist candy. This hands-on Apple Watch 7 review has what you’ll want to know in the meantime, along with our first impressions of what could become the best smartwatch of the year. And if you've already got one on your wrist (lucky you), you might find our Apple Watch 7 tips guide helpful.

Apple Watch 7 price and availability

The Apple Watch 7 is available now and starts at $399 for the 41mm model. The larger 45mm model starts at $429. For cellular support, which lets your Apple Watch optionally work untethered from your iPhone, you'll spend $499 for the 41mm size or $529 for the 45mm size. 

Stainless steel cases start at $699, while titanium cases start at $799.

Note that Apple Watch Black Friday deals may bring discounts to Apple's newest smartwatch. Though it wasn't much, we saw savings on the Series 6 last year ahead of the holidays.

Apple Watch 7 review: Design

The Apple Watch 7 features the product's first real redesign since the Apple Watch 4. Given, it's not a major change — the iconic curved squircle holds strong — but it's clear Apple wanted a softer overall aesthetic for its smartwatch.

First, the corners are ever-so-slightly rounder, while the display meshes into the chassis more seamlessly than it does on the Series 6. I probably wouldn't notice these adjustments if I hadn't compared the Apple Watch 7 vs. Apple Watch 6 side-by-side, though. And even with the larger Apple Watch 7 sizes (41mm and 45mm) the smartwatch doesn't actually look bigger to the naked eye. Anyone have a micrometer?

Apple Watch 7

(Image credit: Future)

You can better tell the Series 7 and Series 6 apart by the Apple Watch 7 colors, which are all new. I'm testing the Green model. Midnight is kind of black, with a subtle hint of blue. Starlight is a stunning blend of silver and gold. While Apple offered Blue and Red last year, they're slightly brighter now. If you want more of a neutral metal, you'll need to shop stainless steel or titanium versions. That doesn't bother me, but you're entitled to be particular about how something you wear every day looks.

Apple Watch 7

(Image credit: Future)

The Apple Watch 7 has the same swim-proof rating (up to 50 meters) as previous models, but for the first time is also earned an IP6X certification for dust resistance. I'm hoping this pays off in the kitchen, since I've taken to pasta-making lately and flour simply gets everywhere. Altered geometrics should make the latest Apple Watch more crack-resistant, too, making it a little safer to wear while playing sports.

Want to see a little more of the Apple Watch 7? Here's a hands-on video I captured for TikTok. (NB: Don't forget to follow Tom's Guide on TikTok.)

@tomsguide

New #applewatch anyone? #applewatch7 #apple #tech #review #technology #techtock #foryou #fyp #smartwatch #unboxing

♬ I'm So Pretty - chunkymonkeeyy

Apple Watch 7 review: Display

Yes, the display is bigger, and bigger is better. I will die on this hill. With more screen, the smartwatch is morphing more and more into a mini iPhone for your wrist, and it's awesome. The Apple Watch 7 display is nearly 20% larger than the the Series 6 display, and more than 50% larger than the Series 3 display. The display borders are 40% thinner than before, too. 

Apple Watch 7 display

(Image credit: Apple)

The screen is curved in a way that makes the watch easier to read off-angle and makes edges of UI visible from side. The pour-over effect isn't as evident as the promo videos suggest, but it's noticeable with the new Contour watch face. More on that in the following watchOS 8 section.

Apple Watch 7 next to the Apple Watch 6

(Image credit: Future)

In addition to smaller bezels and a larger screen, the Apple Watch 7 is 70% brighter in always-on mode. This means you won't see a difference with the face awake direct sunlight, like we did with the Apple Watch 6 vs. Apple Watch 5. Instead, you should be able to see your screen more easily when your wrist isn't raised. I saw a major difference side-by-side with the Series 6.

Apple Watch 7 review: watchOS 8

In the past, Apple's watchOS looked similar across all its smartwatches, minus select apps exclusive to the new hardware inside a given model. Apple Watch 7 doesn't have new sensors, though, so instead the company altered watchOS 8 for a bigger screen.

Apple Watch 7 with AirPods

(Image credit: Future)

While it's mostly the same UI I've been using for months, watchOS 8 has a few special tricks on the Series 7. From the control center to the calculator app, buttons are larger all around. Some apps flex clever animations, too, like HomeKit.

Apple Watch 7

(Image credit: Future)

And then there's the QWERTY keyboard. I've had an Apple Watch keyboard on my wishlist for literal years. It's even the one thing I said Apple Watch 7 should steal from the Galaxy Watch 4, so I'm thrilled it materialized. I've been texting away from my wrist practically since I've taken the Apple Watch out of the box. 

Apple Watch 7 with weather complication on screen

(Image credit: Future)

I mentioned the dedicated Contour face in the display section. It's sharp-looking, but not that easy to read. I much prefer the new Modular Duo watch face, which lets you stack two large complications on your wrist. The Apple Watch 7-specific Portrait and World Clock faces compliment the large display, too. 

Apple Watch 7 review: Health and fitness features

Do I think it's odd that the Apple Watch 7 doesn't introduce new wellness features in an age when most people are obsessed with health? Absolutely. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 pushed the boundaries with body composition analysis, and the best Fitbit watches remain rather holistic wellness tools. By skipping out on a health upgrade this year, the Apple Watch may be susceptible to falling behind the competition. 

That said, the Apple Watch is still a reliable fitness tracker. It monitors your heart rate, counts your steps and tracks your mileage with GPS, plus offers support for dozens of workout types. It added automatic outdoor cycling tracking this year, meaning it can detect when you've hopped on your bike and enable a workout. The cycling algorithm has also been adjusted to accommodate metrics for the best electric bikes, which are less strenuous to ride than regular bikes. 

I'm going to spend time working out with the Apple Watch to see how it holds up. Beyond that, I'll check that features like ECG, blood oxygen monitoring, noise alerts perform up to par. 

Apple Watch 7 review: Battery life

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 it's not all a let down.

The Apple Watch 7 charges 33% faster than the Apple Watch 6, as long as it's charged with the new Magnetic to USB-C charger that comes the box. It doesn't come with a wall adapter, though. 

Apple Watch 7 with charger

(Image credit: Future)

As someone who charges their Apple Watch for small periods of time throughout the day, I should be able to spend less energy worrying whether I have enough juice to go for an outdoor walk or make it through the night. Eight minutes of charging before bed is supposed to get me eight hours of Apple Watch sleep tracking.

Apple Watch 7 review: Outlook

We saw it happen with smartphones. Bezels shrank and displays grew until we wound up with the giant phones and phablets we have now. With its bigger screen I can't help but believe the Apple Watch is destined to take a similar path to independence. The smartwatch is already an extension of your iPhone on your wrist, but it's clearly capable of becoming more than an accessory. 

This Apple Watch 7 review isn't complete. Over the coming days, I'll be testing it to determine if it's the best Apple Watch ever, and how the Apple Watch 7 vs. Apple Watch SE compare for shoppers. If you want to know whether you should buy the Apple Watch 7, bookmark this page for our latest updates and impressions. 

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.