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Apple Watch 7 Launched: Complete New Features & Tech Details

Today Apple has launched their Apple Watch 7 slate of watches, including the largest display in the Apple Watch lineup to date. This is combined with WatchOS 8, which was announced back in June. Meaning that while many new features discussed today are launching atop Apple Watch 7, most of the software-focused ones are available on the Series 3/4/5/6/SE watches. Below I’ll call out which features are unique to Series 7, versus everyone else.

However, unlike every past Apple event, Apple did not specify exactly when the Watch 7 would be available, other than to say “later this fall”. This hints at what’s been reported by Bloomberg and others that Apple has struggled with manufacturing of the new watch (supposedly due to the new display). Of course, Apple isn’t immune to all the supply chain challenges that every other company is facing, which undoubtedly plays a part in it. However, they did outline pricing, which is detailed below.

Apple Watch 7 Details:

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Here’s the down and dirty on what’s new in Apple Watch Series 7:

– Expanded the display: The Series 7 has the largest display to date, some 20% larger than the Series 6, or 50% more screen area than the Series 3. This means the base model went from 40mm to 41mm, and the larger unit went from 44mm to 45mm.
– Reduced the bezel: Apple says the bezel (or borders, as they called them) are down to 1.7mm, or 40% thinner than the Series 6, the actual watch dimensions though remain nearly identical to before.
– Increased the brightness: Apple says it’s 70% brighter than before indoors, and called out specific scenarios such as glancing at your wrist without moving it to check the time.
– Increased durability: Apple says it’s the most durable Apple Watch to date, including a new crack resistant front crystal that Apple says is 50% thicker than previous models – which they demonstrated twice using a mountain biker crashing directly onto the wrist/watch
– Added IP6X Dust Resistance: In the event you find yourself on the wrong end of a playground sandbox fight. It still has WR50 water resistance
– Larger user interface buttons: While the external buttons haven’t changed any, the buttons used within the menus have been increased to take advantage of the larger display. Apple noted areas such as the stopwatch, alarms, and activity menu as examples of this.
– More text on the screen: The larger screen means that in text messages, Series 7 can fit up to 50% more text than before
– New full keyboard: With the larger screen Apple has crammed in a full keyboard onto the display, including both tapping letter to letter as well as swiping between letters.
– New Watch Faces: Apple has included a few new watch faces, including one that’s larger and more data-driven for activity/fitness tracking
– Battery life remains 18 hours: Yup, still.
– New charger design: The new charging design results in 33% faster charging than Series 6
– Fast Charging: The new charging design can go from 0% to 80% in 45 minutes, or 8 hours of sleep tracking in 8 minutes. As one who has oft battled with late-night right before sleep charging, 8 minutes for 8 hours is a brilliant way of phrasing it.
– Charger comes with USB-C cable: As opposed to previous USB-A charging cable.

Here’s a quick look at some of those new things, starting with the difference of the display compared to the Series 3, despite the watches not being much different in physical size:

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Here you can see larger text buttons in both the activity app and stopwatch, it’s also in other areas too, but these were highlighted.

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Next, you can see the difference the screen makes in terms of text messages (or just text in general), side by side with the Series 6:

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Speaking of texting, here’s the new keyboard:

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And one of the two new watch faces, this is the activity-focused one:

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Here’s the new charging puck. It’s not clear if existing pucks will continue to work with it or not (Update: The new charging puck is compatible with older watches, but isn’t going to make older watches charger faster, that’s specific to the Apple Watch Series 7). It looks pretty darn similar.

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They also showed a mountain biker splatting on the ground, and thus, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include that:

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Finally, from a colors standpoint, there’s basically a pile of different options. First up there’s the five core Series 7 color models:

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Then there’s three new stainless steel colors:

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And two new titanium colors:

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Plus new Apple Watch Nike models:

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And then the new Hermes models:

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Oh, and there’s a boatload of new bands. Most notable is that Apple says all existing bands are compatible with the new Apple Watch Series 7. This was somewhat notable because if you listen closely to the presentation, when he says this compatibility line, the voice was clearly added later and doesn’t quite match the remainder of the recording. This is likely a nod to some rumors that swirled in the last week saying they wouldn’t be compatible.

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And as usual, Apple highlighted all their recycling and environmental efforts on a single slide, handy for me to insert here:

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Lastly – pricing. Apple says the Series 3 will remain in the stable, as well as the SE. Then the Series 7 comes in to replace the Series 6, with Apple basically keeping the same separated lineup as last year of the Series 3 and SE + the newest model. Pricing also remains the same:

– Apple Watch 3: $199
– Apple Watch SE: From $279
– Apple Watch Series 7: From $399

And again, all of these are simply noted as being “available later this fall”, without any specific date. Normally Apple releases the watch about 10 days after the event, but clearly that’s not going to be the case this year.

WatchOS 8 Updates:

WatchOS 8 will land on your wrist on September 20th, well before the Apple Watch Series 7 does. Apple noted three specific WatchOS 8 features in the keynote that they hadn’t previously disclosed, that includes:

– Will automatically detect bike riding: The unit will automatically detect cycling and start logging a working, similar to other sports

– Added Fall Detection During Workouts: They specifically called out cycling within the keynote as a new fall detection area

– Added new e-bike workout support: This will (attempt) to more accurately calculate calories when using an e-bike. E-Bikes typically provide assistive power at varying levels, which means that Apple has to try and figure out based on a boatload of variables (gradient/wind/power level/etc…) how much effort the bike is contributing versus you. Seems awfully complex, but they can use heart rate as the backstop instead to treat it more like an indoor cycling workout

And then just as a quick reminder from back in June, here’s the quick and dirty on what’s coming to all Apple Watch Series 3/4/5/6/7/SE units:

– Adding two new workout types – Tai chi & Pilates: This typically means some sort of basic calorie algorithms for that support, as well as occasionally some sort of data fields specific to a given workout type. We don’t have the complete details yet here though.

– Added more sleep tracking features: This includes time to sleep, average heart rate, and blood oxygen levels (plus the respiration rate in the next bullet).

– Added respiration rate during sleep tracking to Apple Watch: This will track your breaths per minute, and then surface that through trends and Apple Health. Note that Apple Health already supports respiration rate today (as do most other wearables).

– Adding new Mindfulness app replacing Breath: This adds new animations, reminding users to calm down for a second, including some guided meditation.

– Adding new portraits watch face: This will automatically use your portrait mode photos, and allow you to then use the digital crown within that watch face to make the photo feel ‘alive’ by having it slightly tweak the composition.

– Revamped Photos app on Apple Watch: Will now support sharing photo memories directly from the watch via messages and e-mail.

– You can now blend a message that’s dictated, scribbled (handwriting basically), and emojis all in one. It’s like the burrito of messages, for when you simply can’t get through a single text message without changing mediums.

– Added support for Find Me items directly from the wrist: This allows you to leverage the find devices from the Find My network

– Added multiple timers on the watch directly

– Added support for HomeKit enabled extended detail notifications on Apple Watch: Specifically doorbell previews and package detection (coming via new extended HomeKit features, for HomeKit enabled accessories/cameras)

– Added Home Keys support via HomeKit: Allows you to unlock doors using your Apple Watch, with supported accessories/platforms/systems.

– Added support for UWB car keys: This would be for unlocking your expensive car

– Added support for ID cards via Wallet: This includes Apple Watch support as well.

– Added support for the always-on display to more apps: They’ve showed music, maps, and calculator. As a reminder, only certain apps have historically been able to use Apple’s always-on screen, not including most 3rd party apps. It sounds like that’s changing going forward, but we’ll have to see the details there.

– Added ‘Focus’ concept to Apple Watch, which is part of the larger Apple ecosystem update that basically tells your contacts when you’re doing something that needs focus (a new variant of do-not-disturb).

Got all that? Good, there’s undoubtedly more things too that will have snuck in along the way, but that’s a good starting point of the key ones.

Wrap-Up:

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Ultimately, from a sports & fitness standpoint, the Watch 7 includes minor updates over the previous Series 6. Of course, from a more general watch standpoint those updates are more substantial, notably the display and battery charging aspects. The bulk, if not all, of the sports/fitness features are tied to Watch OS8, which means everyone is getting them.

Apple didn’t mention any GPS or heart rate sensor changes, but then again, they don’t often mention those in the keynote unless it’s driving a key new feature (like ECG did). However, I’d assume there are at least some changes. Apple has revamped their optical HR sensor in minor or major ways most years. GPS has seemingly been more tied to specific WatchOS versions than anything else.

As usual, I’ll have a full in-depth review once units start shipping.

With that – thanks for reading!

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66 Comments

  1. Toschi

    There were rumours the watch could monitor hydration levels. Any update on that?

    • Anthony

      Doesn’t seem like it. Seems like most of the health upgrades are pushed to next year.

    • Yeah, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Sorta like the non-invasive blood glucose rumors, Apple rarely is the first to implement something in an industry, especially something as tricky as this. Until we see it proven in some other company (as in, real-world proven), I wouldn’t expect to see it in an Apple product.

    • Thomas L

      What is your thoughts on Garmin Fenix (I’m thinking the upcomming Fenix 7)?

      I would really love a non-invasive blood glucose monitor.
      But the chance that Garmin is coming up with that is, I assume, also rather slim. Or what do you think?

    • The AURA band for Apple Watch is interesting and monitors hydration. It is a sensor built into a strap that replaces your apple watch strap. I’ve not used it and have read mixed reviews

  2. Luis

    I assume that if they state the new aw is waterproof… is because you won’t have to lock it and then unlock it as with the previous versions. Right? (That would be a great addition, I tend to forget locking it at the beach hehe)

    • like the AW6, it’s WR50 ie waterproof to 50m and suitable for swimming.

      Ray, I was wondering where you got the 41 and 45mm sizing from? I don’t recall hearing it in the presentation and, weirdly, some sites like macrumours (or maybe it was 9to5mac) DO quote those sizes but others don’t

    • It’s in the official press release: link to apple.com

      Still, the way they explained it in the keynote was wonky given that they immediately said the size difference was non-existent, when in reality, it went up 1mm (which, I know, is tiny, but still, was messy in explanation).

      Cheers!

    • Luis

      Mmm yes it is but you have to lock it (the AW6), same as AW4 and AW5, to expel the water inside the watch afterwards.

      I guess then the AW7 will need the same locking 😅

  3. Paul S.

    I hope the new keyboard doesn’t mean they’ve hidden scribble, which I use when I can’t use dictation. I have trouble enough with the keyboard on my iPhone.

    “Automatically detect bike riding”. That’s going to be a problem. I’d also rather not have fall detection because of the false positive problem. I hope they have ways of turning both off.

    • Michael Goble

      My Apple Watch has fall detection which I turned off almost immediately. My elderly dog is hard of hearing but I can attract her attention by clapping loudly. Every time I clapped, my watch thought I had fallen. Since I did not want emergency help trying to get my dog’s attention, I turned off that feature.

  4. BobV

    Hopefully this is just a WatchOS 8 feature and will be available on my SE. This is from the Apple Watch 7 page:

    “And to help you keep your eyes on the road, a voice feedback feature announces workout milestones, like speed, distance, and more.”

    Hopefully this will be there for Running and other activities too. Long overdue since most 3rd party apps already have voice feedback.

  5. dr_lha

    Improved stop detection during Cycling is massively overdue but welcome. Hopefully it avoids the current pitfalls, i.e. when I’m slogging up a massive climb with my HR maxed out, the watch buzzing me and asking if I’ve ended my work out. I’m a slow climber I know, but come on! Secondly the issue that I never remember to unpause if I pause my workout during a rest stop.

  6. Terry Jones

    Auto pause when cycling? Hope so.

  7. Alasdair

    Does anybody use the inbuilt app for outdoor activities?

    It is so far behind the likes of GoOutdoors (I’m sure there are others but it’s the one I found and stuck with) that it seems a bit weird to focus on it.

    • Alasdair

      WorkOutdoors, even! (Go Outdoors being a British discount camping/sports shop)

    • I actually kinda prefer the built-in app – namely because I know it’ll work consistently every time. It won’t have the features of other apps of course, but reliability is solid.

    • Stéphane

      However there is a major flaw with the first-party Apple Workout app, it does not show if it has acquired the GPS signal… On a regular basis, I receive support emails asking me why the beginning of the route is missing…Hence I have added a section which shows how much time it took for the Apple Watch to acquire the GPS signal…That said, yes the reliability is quite solid…

    • Yup, it’s one of the biggest frustrations of the app (and, also, not showing whether HR lock is there).

    • Nicole

      This is the ONLY reason I will not buy the Apple Watch. Garmin all the way.

  8. Robert

    I have IOS 8 on my watch but I’m not finding a E-Bike profile anywhere.

  9. cmv

    Great, it has a “7” in its name… getting closer to what we really care about here! 😉

  10. Dave

    Nothing here to sway me away from switching back to Garmin for my training, which is slowly picking up again 4.5 years into being a parent. Love my AW5…but I’d really like to get an awful lot more detail from it. Descent 2S it is.

  11. David

    Apple increased the line spacing on the Apple Watch 6 before comparing to the Apple Watch 7 to make it seem like ”nearly 50%” extra text can fit on the screen. However, in the default text spacing setting, this is not true.

    • dr_lha

      Came across like they were struggling to find ways to differentiate the 7. Sure the bigger screen is nice, but it’s not exactly mind blowing stuff. Certainly I’m not seeing any strong reason to upgrade my Series 4 as yet.

    • Jay

      You were not swayed by the larger user interface buttons? 😀

      I think these sum up the whole keynote quite nicely.

  12. Tim Burns

    A bit underwhelming in my view. Looking to replace my existing watch, having both a Garmin VA4 and Apple. Wanted something that gives good battery life as well as handling hikes and open water swimming.

    Am fed up wondering if my AW battery will make it until the end of the days activity – and having to recharge daily even if I spend the day sitting at my desk. Also, I found an annoying bug (and in my view, something that should have been spotted and fixed) using the stock activity watch app. If you pause and unpause the activity, then the section of the walk/hike before the pause is not sent to Strava (or Garmin – the info is not in the fit file).

    Put together, wondering if now to stick with VA4 or go for the 745 25% discount. After a AW user for five or six years, the time has come to move away. Wonder how many other people will be thinking similar?

  13. Jerome

    Very simple question, Is it Ant+ Compatible?

    • Jerome

      merci, so not really a cycling gear in my case.

    • Dave

      There are tons of BTLE sensors out there, but Apple Watch has never been that great on the bike.

    • Paul S.

      Watches in general, even ones like Garmin’s which do have ANT+, make poor cycling gear. A bike mounted cycling head unit is a much, much better choice.

    • Dr_LHA

      If you just want to record GPS track and HR, it’s good enough. I find myself using my watch to record events where I don’t really care about cadence and power, e.g. rail trails with my family. For many it will fulfill that crucial role of “good enough”.

    • yes, don’t forget it is the responsibility of your Apple Watch sports app to pair to the more exotic sensors over BLE eg the iSmoothRun watchOS app pairs to my R9100p power meter and to stryd (and many more too)

      similarly on Google’s Wear OS, apps like Sporty Go and Ghost Racer pair similarly.

      as the comment above from @PaulS also points out …a bike computer on the handlebars is a MUCH better and safer format than any watch and you can get cheap head units for £/$130ish that pair to PMs over Ble/Ant+

  14. iyuccah

    Hopefully it can calculate calories more accurate in actual mountain biking in rough terrain. It still lack that kind of basic feature and somehow it is correlated too much to speed and not HR.

    • Paul S.

      No watch “calculates” calories in mountain biking. Or gravel biking. Or road biking. Or anything else. Unless you’re using a power meter, you can only poorly estimate calories. It’s best to not even pay attention to the number they’re giving.

    • iyuccah

      Yes, but could be something more accurate than Apple has now. I have done hard biking in winter with Apple another hand and Polar Vantage V in other. Two hours in snow with slow speed and Polar gave me about 1000kcal (hr average about 140-150) while Apple get me little over 350kcal.
      But doing easier gravel riding it is much more accurate.

    • Paul S.

      How do you know that? Maybe 350 is all you actually did. Comparing one bad estimate with another is problematic, especially when you (like all of us) want the higher number to be “correct”. Most likely the answer is in between, but you can’t be sure of that. Again, there’s no real reason to pay much attention to these numbers.

    • GLT

      Personally distrust the exactness of all calorie burn estimates as well.

      There are people that do meticulously track their calorie input & estimated burn as part of their overall wellness strategy though. They have no choice but to try to figure out which data source they will accept as canon.

      While exact algorithms may be proprietary it would be useful if all fitness device products provided a few sentences of explanation of what data is considered to estimate burn. Being able to up-vote or down-vote on a per-activity basis would probably relieve customer support from taking those kind of calls at least.

  15. Annie B

    Thanks for your comments!

  16. Damien Hatfield

    I have Apple Watch 6 and a Fenix. Aside from battery, the thing that has me going back to Garmin is turning off the watch when swimming and you finish laps or open water. I thought I read somewhere that Watch 7 was going to be more swimmer orientated. I can’t find anything official on Apple. Any news on this?

  17. Chris McKeown

    Will automatically detect bike riding: The unit will automatically detect cycling and start logging a working, similar to other sports.

    Ray, I don’t use my AW5 for outdoor cycling, preferring my garmin 530…I wear the watch, but don’t utilize it for rides. IF the watch will auto-detect my cycling and, I assume, turn on the GPS, my watch battery will be draining faster, right? I get barely get 48 hours out of my watch, with only 5-6 notifications turned on, and don’t want to see my battery life reduced or needing a charge earlier than that.

    • NVT

      Your assumption is tricky: as long as you take your iphone with you, AW does not use its own GPS, but uses GPS data from the iphone as that drains less quickly. Likely you already were taking the iphone together with the 530 (i do too, for a number of reasons), so shouldn’t affect AW battery too much.

    • Paul S.

      Personally, if Apple doesn’t provide a way to turn cycling detection off, I’ll just start leaving my AW at home again as I used to. I don’t use it for activities at all (Edge 830, Fenix 5+ for those) and basically it just provides on wrist communications. I don’t really need to bring it.

  18. Kasmis

    “Battery life remains 18 hours” – the one and the only reason why I will never purchase an apple watch, I can`t believe there are people using this device for daily runs-activities, charge the device 1-2 times a day, that`s a big NO for me.

    • BobV

      Quite honestly, the 18 hour battery life is way understated.

      For instance yesterday, had a full charge at 8AM on my AW SE. Did a 6-mile run (50 minutes) using iSmoothRun while streaming Apple Music via LTE. Battery at the end of run was 81%.

      Did a 45-minute gym workout later that evening while connected to the WIFI at the gym to stream music.

      Went to bed with 54% battery. Wore it to bed to track sleep, woke up this morning with 41% battery. Thru it on the charger, and less than an hour later, it was 100%.

      YMMV. I don’t use it at all for phone calls, just texts, notifications, and workouts.

    • BobV

      FYI .. didn’t have my phone along for either workout.

    • dr_lha

      How do you go from “18 hours of battery life” to the idea that people are charging it 1-2 times per day? 18 hours means you charge it while you sleep, and honestly, when mine was new (a series 4) it could last longer.

      The only reason to care about the battery life being this short is if you want it to be a sleep tracker.

    • GLT

      It is less that the current battery endurance isn’t workable, and more how comfortable someone may be with heading off into the night for a PR run with the battery listing 29%. Awesome that is charges quickly. That does substantially help.

      Apple’s position on battery life is defensible. Wanting to stumble around for a few days without a power source is defensible too. Buyers can pick one or the other, and can buy one of each if they want both.

  19. NVT

    My biggest gripe with AW as a fitness tool is Apple Health and its inability-by-design to recognize 2 different people with their own Apple watches.

    Been sharing one apple ID with my wife since well before family sharing became an option and it just works fine for us. We like one photostream, find my iphone, app store etc. To take a day off work to untangle all of that, set up separate apple IDs and then reconnect all the family sharing functions is just too much to ask for having separated Apple Health metrics. Would I have done it differently in hindsight? Yes, but that’s irrelevant now.

    Any great advice here, or should one of just jump ship to eg. Garmin?

    • GLT

      I suspect setting up the new Apple IDs & sharing would not be too awful, but if you don’t want to then you don’t want to.

      Staying on the Apple ship & adding Garmin for fitness ought to be completely painless though.

  20. Jim H

    This is just a summary of content provided by Apple, not a lot of in-depth information. Would like to see “behind the scenes” info… Also, lots of old articles still show up on this site. Needs a facelift. Sorry to say.

    • In Ray’s defence, pretty much every one of the internet’s 100s of articles written about the watch 7 so far is based on Apple’s press release, Apple’s presentation and the current AW7 page on Apple.com…there’s virtually no other information as not one watch has come off the production line yet!

      If you want info on wear OS8 then that is available as it is released in beta some time ago #OldNews. As Ray points out he has another post on that.

  21. Arnout Boer

    I love the fact it’s more robust. Trying to understand if it could work to receive a call when doing laps in a pool while on call for some reason. I hate skipping swimming for that but do want to be able to answer an emergency call when required and tell them I will call back in 3 minutes with my phone to continue the conversation. KPN is planning the support of the 4G watches later this year so nice timing 🙂

    • hey

      the new FOCUS MODES do what you want. they are in watch OS8 and available now in beta on AW3 and newer. It is made fully public on 20 Sep
      so, you can specifically allow a contact and/or app to interrupt you when performing sport. from memory, contacts can even be notified that you are doing sport if you prefer that. it automatically turns off when the sport is finished. I’m not 100% sure if all the components of FOCUS are available on all previous watch models.

      info: link to the5krunner.com

      (I’m sure DCR won’t mind that link as it doesn’t clash with his content, please delete if so Ray)

    • Arnout Boer

      Thanks that makes sense. I will keep my 945 until the AW 7 is in my hands. I like the bigger screen and more robustness and LTE on the watch. And no races past 5 hrs planned for coming 3 years.

  22. pavlinux

    > The Series 7 has the largest display to date, some 20% larger than the Series 6,…

    45×45 / 44×44 = 1.045 – it’s 4.5% but not 20% !!! 😀

    • Jan

      That’s body size, not display size. Bezels are smaller on the 7, making the screen larger in relation to the body.

    • yes the case is larger and the screen display area is proportionately larger because the borders are reduced by 1.3mm

      thus: the Apple claim is NEARLY 20% more screen area (real estate)

      I have seen leaked official specs but they don’t say exactly what the new pixel count is. Apple has a very strange way of not declaring the dimensions in the docs I have seen.

    • edit: it’s almost like they don’t know the final dimensions…because they haven’t yet made the watch.

    • Luc

      Is finally an interval training possible with the native app: for example 500 meter fast, 2 minutes recup, etc….?

      Greetings
      Luc