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Should you buy the Apple Watch 7? How it compares to the Series 3 and other models

Apple Watch 7 colors
(Image credit: Apple)

The Apple Watch 7 is Apple’s latest wearable device designed to keep you connected, in shape and even safe, in certain situations. But if you currently own an Apple Watch 6 or earlier, should you upgrade to the newest Series 7? 

Choosing the best Apple Watch for you changes annually. Every year’s Apple Watch welcomes incremental upgrades, whether it's an added health sensor, communication feature or design alternation. The Apple Watch 7 new sizes and bigger display are its standout changes, for example.

Unlike the iPhone, there’s little incentive to swap out your Apple Watch each time a refreshed one comes out. But after a few trips around the sun with your older Apple Watch, you might be thinking about exchanging it for the newest flagship.

Here’s how the Apple Watch 7 compares to the Apple Watch 6, Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch 5, Apple Watch 4 and Apple Watch 3, and if we think it makes sense for you to upgrade to the next-generation smartwatch, starting at $399.

Apple Watch 7 vs. Apple Watch 6

In our comprehensive Apple Watch 7 vs. Apple Watch 6 guide, we determined those with the 2020 Apple Watch don’t need to upgrade to the new one. Of course, if you’re keen on owning the latest wearable tech, don’t let us stop you. Here’s what’s different between the two models:

The Apple Watch 7 sports an S7 chip and comes in larger sizes than the Apple Watch 6 — 41mm and 45mm instead of 40mm and 44mm. The display borders on the Apple Watch 7 are significantly smaller, making the Series 7’s screen up to 20% larger than the Series 6’s. The Apple Watch 7 is up to 70% brighter, too.

But that’s about it in terms of hardware updates. Faster charging comes from a new USB-C cord that you can buy for the Apple Watch 6, plus software upgrades come from watchOS 8, which is available for Series 6 users right now. 

Apple Watch 7 vs. Apple Watch SE

If you own an Apple Watch SE, you’ve only had the smartwatch for about a year or less. In fact, unlike the Apple Watch 6, you can still buy the midrange Apple Watch SE starting at $279. 

As explained in our Apple Watch 7 vs. Apple Watch SE face-off, there are quite a few differences between the two models in terms of features. The Apple Watch SE doesn’t have the Apple Watch blood oxygen app. It also can't record ECGs, which are used to detect signs of atrial fibrillation. It doesn’t get an always-on display mode, either.

Perhaps if you acquired the Apple Watch SE as a sort-of starter smartwatch, and are ready for a big display improvement and more advanced health tools, you might find it worthwhile to get the Apple Watch 7. In most cases, though, the upgrade won't be worth it. 

Apple Watch 7 vs. Apple Watch 5

The Apple Watch 5 was the first Apple Watch with an always-on display. It also introduced noise alerts while continuing the ECG and Cellular capabilities of previous models. If your Apple Watch 5 is about two years old, you might be considering an upgrade to the Series 7.

With the Series 7, you’ll get a brighter, bigger display and SpO2 monitoring, as well as Apple’s U1 ultra wideband chip for better connectivity within the company’s product ecosystem. That said, the Apple Watch 5 is also eligible for the watchOS 8 software update, with a redesigned messaging experience, expanded support for digital keys, all the best Apple Watch apps and more.

You could upgrade to the Apple Watch 7 from the Apple Watch 5, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Your current smartwatch will receive watchOS software refreshes for at least a few more years.

Apple Watch 7 vs. Apple Watch 4

The Apple Watch 4 users have a few more years of software updates to look forward to as well. But the Series 4 is now three years old, and might be worth updating more than the newer models. That's because it doesn't have an always-on display, which is one of our favorite Apple Watch features in terms of convenience. 

Another reason you would consider upgrading is if you're running short on storage. The Series 4 only holds 16GB, while the Series 7 holds 32GB. Of course, you'll also get other upgrades from the Series 5 and Series 6 like SpO2 monitoring, noise alerts and a compass.

If you're hoping to get trade-in value for your current Apple Watch towards a new one, this is probably the last year the Series 4 will be worth a good sum. Consider handing over your Apple Watch 4 to ease the price of the Apple Watch 7, as long as it's in working condition.

Apple Watch 7 vs. Apple Watch 3

Why does Apple still sell the Apple Watch 3 for $199? We're not really sure. While it's still one of the best cheap smartwatches for basic fitness tracking, the smartwatch and its processor are now four years old. We wouldn't recommend buying one new, but if you already have one, it could be time to upgrade.

You'll see significant differences between the Apple Watch 3 and Apple Watch 7. For starters, you'll get ECG and SpO2 readings, as well as fall detection and a compass. There's no option for Cellular with the Series 3 anymore, either, so you could consider untethering your Apple Watch 7 from your iPhone when you upgrade.

The Apple Watch 7 display is 50% larger than Series 3 display, too. That alone should allow for an all-new experience. You can fetch some money back for your Series 3 with the best Apple Watch deals for trade in through Apple or Best Buy, if it's working and undamaged. 

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.