Apple Watch Series 7 review: great for runners

Over the previous week, I’ve been working with the brand new Apple Watch 7, which fits on sale in the present day. Whereas the brand new watch is a package deal of incremental enhancements over the earlier mannequin, among the modifications influence its worth as a working companion.

The marquee characteristic of the 7 is its display screen dimension. Apple’s engineers did the whole lot they might to broaden the dimensions of the usable show area on the watch face. The show has 20% extra display screen space than the Watch 6. And the bezel–the black strip that borders the display screen–has been squeezed to a width of simply 1.7mm.

Generally, Apple has enlarged the Watch apps to increase towards the brand new limits of the show, and so they’ve made among the textual content within the apps bolder and brighter. Once you do a side-to-side comparability between the Series 6 and the Series 7, the 7’s graphics don’t look dramatically bigger, but it surely’s sufficient to matter. I observed the dimensions improve most whereas I used to be working and needed to glean data from my wrist with only a look—the bigger show made it considerably simpler to get the data I needed.  Additionally, I’ve lower than good eyesight (I put on studying glasses), so not having to squint so onerous to see the watch face is sweet.

The Apple Watch Series 7’s display screen is noticeably bigger, making it simpler to look at my stats throughout runs. [Photo: Mark Sullivan]

There are occasions once I must rapidly faucet on the display screen whereas working or throughout strolling intervals. Earlier Apple Watches have been a bit unforgiving on the subject of the accuracy of my faucets. I needed to intentionally hit the buttons straight and true so as for them to reply. However the Series 7’s contact display screen appears simpler to take care of. Most of the buttons on the interface are simply greater, so the goal of your contact is less complicated to hit.

The app I take advantage of most throughout runs, Apple’s Exercise app, didn’t get a redesign. However the options of the present app are noticeably bigger and extra glanceable. As an illustration, I discovered it simpler to rapidly examine my working time and coronary heart price whereas in movement, data that may be helpful when adjusting my tempo at totally different components of the run. Additionally new within the Exercise app is the voice which talks into my ear by way of my AirPods to provide me my mile numbers and tempo. My solely grievance is that the display screen doesn’t brighten quick sufficient after I flipped my wrist up; the display screen stays within the dimmed, always-on mode whereas I’m not actively it. (This dim mode is now brighter than in earlier Apple Watches.)

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The buttons within the Music and Podcasts apps are 9% bigger on the Apple Watch Series 7 (proper) than on the Series 6 (left). [Photo: Mark Sullivan]

Each the Exercise and Coronary heart Charge apps received redesigned to make the most of the extra display screen area. I don’t usually use these apps throughout exercises, but it surely’s actually a extra nice expertise earlier than and after. I do usually use the Music and Podcasts apps throughout runs; Apple tells me that the buttons on these two apps are 9% greater on the Series 7. The bigger buttons assist just a little, however skipping songs or rewinding 15 seconds in a podcast throughout a run continues to be a little bit of a problem.

Greater display screen, similar battery life

After I go for runs, I don’t need to be weighed down, which is why I go away my iPhone at residence and rely on my Apple Watch as my solely computing gadget. I need one thing on my wrist that’s compact and streamlined, not massive and blocky. Nonetheless, I additionally need a massive show. Apple’s design engineers have a tough job mediating these two beliefs, however the Series 7 strikes an intriguing stability. A lot of the show dimension improve is completed by reducing the bezel area on the outdoors edges of the watch face, however the Series 6’s 40mm and 44mm watches grew to 41mm and 45mm within the Series 7.

Rising the show has implications for different facets of the design. It takes extra battery energy to gentle up that further display screen area, which can be one purpose Apple couldn’t ship any battery life enchancment within the Series 7 over the Series 6. Each units promise the identical 18 hours of use per cost, which implies you’ll need to cost the brand new watch on daily basis, both in a single day or by topping it off sooner or later throughout waking hours. That’s a disappointment–it’s cheap to anticipate new Watch generations to realize higher battery life by frequently enhancing energy effectivity. Apple made a trade-off right here, and I’m unsure it was the suitable one.

Then again, the corporate has discovered a method to recharge the battery sooner, a course of that has Ben frustratingly sluggish on earlier Watches. The corporate says that  it completely revamped the charging system contained in the gadget, and switched to a brand new Magnetic Quick Cost USB-C cable, which permits the gadget to cost as much as 33% sooner and cost the battery to 80% in simply 45 minutes. I didn’t do a timed take a look at comparability between the outdated and new charging methods, however the 80% declare checks out.

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Apple has modified the design of a few of its Watch apps to use the bigger show, with emphasis on bigger buttons and bolder, brighter lettering. [Photo: Mark Sullivan]

This can be a massive deal for me and my working schedule. I don’t prefer to run with out my Watch, as a result of I need to measure my velocity and distance and get credit score for it within the Exercise app. I additionally rely on the Watch to play music and podcasts by means of my AirPods to maintain me distracted/entertained/psyched throughout runs. However there are occasions once I’m able to run and I uncover my Watch is undercharged, normally as a result of I forgot to cost it in a single day or as a result of I eliminated its USB cable received jerked from the MacBook Professional to make room for one thing else. My decisions at that time was both to run with out music or a podcast, or to blow off the run. The sooner charging shrinks that essential time window once I could also be tempted to go for possibility B. I discovered that even when the watch is totally lifeless I can wait round for it to cost up sufficient with out dropping my mojo.

Extra new options

I’ve by no means cracked or chipped the crystal on an Apple Watch, however I do know it occurs: My buddy Stephan banged his Apple Watch 4 towards his surfboard and cracked the show. Apple says the crystal on the brand new Series 7 has been redesigned, and that it’s 50% thicker at its thickest level than the crystal on the Series 6. Stuff occurs throughout runs, particularly throughout path runs within the mountains with onerous rocks in your path. So the thicker crystal is sweet insurance coverage. The Watch can also be extra immune to mud particles, which may very well be an element if you happen to run on filth roads as I generally do.

Lastly, Apple made two model new watch faces to indicate off the bigger show space of the Series 7. Certainly one of them, Contour, merely jams the clock numbers into the extra area on the edges of the display screen in order that they refract by means of the bend within the glass. One other new watch face referred to as Modular Duo is extra helpful, and doubtlessly extra related to runners. The design makes use of roughly the underside 70% of the show to suit two massive issues (that are one thing like widgets for watches) stacked one on high of the opposite. I’ve been utilizing the Coronary heart Charge and Exercise issues. Throughout roughly the underside third of the display screen the Exercise complication exhibits my train and motion ranges on one-day timelines. Stacked on high of that in roughly the center third of the display screen, I can see my coronary heart price graphed over an identical one-day timeline. The presence of these graphs retains me fascinated by health through the day, and it’s additionally cool to see how an excellent run impacts my coronary heart price and exercise ranges–one other small reward for getting on the market.

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The brand new Contour watch face’s principal profit is exhibiting off the display screen space enchancment within the Series 7 (proper) over its predecessor (left). [Photo: Mark Sullivan]

The Apple Watch has come a good distance since its debut in 2015. The shows on the primary fashions appeared like little squares in the course of numerous black bezel area. As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber points out, Apple used to ensure the backgrounds of its watch apps have been black in order to obscure the bounds of the show. As of late, the Watch is present process the identical course of because the iPhone in masking your complete entrance of the gadget with show, in order that the {hardware} recedes.

Personally, I just like the Watch in darker colours as a result of it understates the {hardware}. The brand new Midnight colour (which is metallic black with only a trace of blue) within the Series 7 does the job properly. The brand new darkish inexperienced colour (think about a deep forest inexperienced built-in with steel) is equally understated, and maybe my favourite Watch colour to this point. Apple additionally added a Starlight colour (a combination of silver and gold), brightened its blue watch’s colour, and made the pink watch’s colour deeper and richer.

The Apple Watch Series 7 begins at $399 (41mm) and $429 (45mm) for the aluminum-cased variations. As other reviewers have said, these watches aren’t an enormous leap ahead; most Watch Series 6 or SE house owners can most likely stick to what they have already got and never really feel too ignored. For individuals who have older Watches with smaller shows and weaker processors, upgrading to Apple’s newest and biggest might really feel like cash properly spent.

And I’d say about the identical for individuals who depend on their Watch for working. The added show dimension is sweet, and the sooner battery charging makes a distinction, however these are nonetheless incremental enhancements. After which there’s my beef about gaining no further battery life. All in all, I’d most likely have a troublesome time advising different runners who’ve comparatively latest Watches to shell out $400 for 20% extra show area and 33% sooner charging.

Nonetheless, it’s price saying that I don’t see myself switching from the Watch to another working companion. The Watch is just the best-designed, most correct, and most versatile smartwatch I do know of, and I don’t anticipate that to alter anytime quickly.