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Apple Watch 7 review: The most usable smartwatch yet

Are you seeing the bigger picture?

Apple Watch 7 full review
Editor's Choice
(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

Tom's Guide 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.

Pros

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

Cons

  • - 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 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 game-changer, and makes it difficult to return to previous-generation models. The Series 7's big screen 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 watch faces, 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. 

This Apple Watch 7 review covers all the changes, from minor to major, that make it best smartwatch of the year. Be sure to check out our Apple Watch 7 tips and guide on how to use the Apple Watch for more ways to enjoy Apple's smartwatch.

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?

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Apple Watch 7

(Image credit: Future)
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Apple Watch 7 side view

(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.

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Apple Watch 7 review

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Apple Watch 7

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Apple Watch 7 both sizes

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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.

Apple Watch 7 back of case

(Image credit: Future)

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

Check out the display size differences between the Apple Watch 3 (left) vs. Apple Watch SE (center) vs. Apple Watch 7 (right). (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

Apple Watch Series 7 (left) display in always-on mode compared to the Apple Watch Series 6 (right) in always-on mode.  (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. In addition to established features like sleep tracking, cycle tracking (which is why it's one of the best smartwatches for women,) calendar alerts, weather notifications and a Find My app for Apple Watch, watchOS 8 has a few special tricks on the Series 7. 

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Apple Watch 7 sleep tracking

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Apple Watch 7 review watchOS 8

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Apple Watch 7 maps UI

(Image credit: Future)

It's mostly the same UI I've been using for months, with some tweaks. From the control center to the calculator app, buttons are larger all around. Some apps flex clever animations, too, like HomeKit. I especially appreciate the larger Apple Maps UI, which lets you see nearby landmarks more easily. 

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Apple Watch 7 keyboard

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Apple Watch 7

(Image credit: Future)
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apple watch 7 emoji keyboard

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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. It's also something that will prevent me from returning to an older Apple Watch model. 

I've been texting away from my wrist practically since I've taken the Apple Watch 7 out of the box. I prefer swiping my words instead of tapping out individual characters, but either method works well. My mom, who has a hard enough time texting without typos on her iPhone (sorry if you see this), could even manage coherent messages using the Apple Watch 7's keyboard. 

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Apple Watch 7 watch face contour

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Apple Watch 7

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Apple Watch 7 portrait watch face

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Apple Watch 7 watch face

(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. After seeing the Galaxy Watch 4 come out with combinable faces, I wish the Apple Watch 7 offered a similar degree of customization, but I'm still satisfied with my watch face library. 

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 risks falling behind the competition. 

That said, the Apple Watch is still a reliable fitness tracker and one of the best running watches. It monitors your heart rate, counts your steps and tracks your mileage with GPS, plus offers support for dozens of workout types. It added Tai Chi and 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. 

Apple Watch 7 walking workout

(Image credit: Future)

The Apple Watch is my go-to for fitness tracking, though sometimes I’ll also wear one of the best fitness trackers to compare metrics or get access to some activity tools the Apple Watch lacks. A native tabata timer and guided exercises are features found on some of the best Garmin watches and Fitbit watches, for example.

Apple Watch 7 heart rate monitor

(Image credit: Future)

But when I wore the Apple Watch on a number of outdoor walks and indoor workouts, the large display made it a breeze to see my mid-exercise metrics at a glance. I do a lot of heart rate-based training, so the ability to view heart rate zones at all times is key.

Apple Watch 7 review: Battery life

The Apple Watch Series 7 battery life can last up to two days, but that’s if you pass on popular features. Instead, the 18-hour battery life checked out with daily activity tracking, and always on display and a couple of phone calls answered from my wrist. 

Now, the Apple Watch 7 claims to charge 33% faster than the Apple Watch 6, as long as it's charged with the new Magnetic to USB-C charger that comes in the box. (It doesn't come with a wall adapter, though.) But when I charged the Apple Watch 6 with the USB-C cord, it charged nearly as fast. I’ve been documenting charging tests on the Tom’s Guide TikTok account, which you should go follow if you haven’t already.

Apple Watch 7 USB-C to magnetic charger

(Image credit: Future)

As someone who charges their Apple Watch for small periods of time throughout the day, I do 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. Guess I don’t really need this $10 Apple Watch accessory to extend battery life anymore.

Apple Watch 7 review: Verdict

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. 

It's the top smartwatch choice for anyone with an iPhone, and easily the best Apple Watch ever. The keyboard makes a difference, and if there was finally a time to fully recommend adding Cellular support to your smartwatch, its now.

You should check out how the Apple Watch 7 vs. Apple Watch SE compare if you're torn between Apple's $279 midrange model and the latest-gen smartwatch. And if you're in search of a smartwatch for less, we've devised a list of the best cheap smartwatches overall.

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.