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A quick review of the Apple Watch Series 7 from a Series 3 and Series 1 user

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Well, I've been putting off buying a new Apple Watch for years. We got the first Series 1 and it was hard to figure out what to do with it (this was before it became more fitness-focused and was supposedly a general application and notification platform). Like all first versions, you could see the promise, but the delivery was hard. The big problems were very short battery life, it was super slow running anything, and let's face it playing a game on a screen that small was pretty useless.

The next step was the Series 3 which was definitely faster, but it just wouldn't run applications reliably. This was when Apple turned to more of a fitness focus, so the Workout application was great, but whenever I tried to use Strong to do my lifting workouts, it would often just hang forever syncing. Still, for hikes and things, it was more convenient than having a heart rate monitor, but the battery life took a great hit with monitoring and running on cellular. Also, given that the sleep function was what I really wanted it was hard to keep it charged up.

But, I've been waiting for the "next big" watch release, so as they added more features, I was just hoping to hold on until the big release, that is a change in form factor, etc., but all the watches seem to be small iterations. Since the Series 3 finally broke, after just two hiking trips, I concluded, I could wait. At the same time, there was a decent Amazon sale, so the Series 7 just arrived and it's interesting to compare the Series 7 vs Series 3.

Quick Initial Thoughts

A few things surprised me. First of all, having the always-on display is way handier than I would have thought, even though the old Series 3 had a flip to see the time, having it always on just makes it so convenient. This is one of those things that once you have it you won't want to give it up. The rumored Apple iPhone 14 is supposed to have an always-on screen and I think I'll probably feel the same way about that.

Second, The larger, super-bright display is really stunning . The size difference between 42mm and 45mm seems so minimal, but it does make a big difference even though that's only 15% bigger. I think that's because the resolution is higher 396x484 vs 312x390px and just so much brighter. The bezels are really tiny so the thing feels just so much larger and sharper. Because of this you get really beautiful watch faces that are not available on the Series 3. I really love the Sun dial one as an example

The performance actually makes a big difference. I had not realized how used I was to the sluggish performance of the Apple Watch Series 3 (which they amazingly still sell). When you swipe up, you have to wait and it is never clear if the input has worked. Or swiping up, sometime it just wouldn't function.

The Series 7 (and the Series 6 for that matter) has an S7 1.8Ghz dual processor with 1GB memory is based on the A13 but is of course many times slower than a phone chip. On Sunspider 1.0 Javascript benchmark its scores 1807 ms (lower is better). It is 20% faster than the S5 (and the S4 too) in the Apple Watch Series 5 (2022ms compares with It seems much faster than the dual-processor S3. But the bigger news is the big performance jum Apple claims S5/S4 is 2x faster. But another Sunspider benchmarks hows that the S3 runs at 8000ms vs the S4 at 1500ms. So the figures are slightly different perhaps because there are more webkit improvements in the S4/S5, but basically the S6/7 is 2.4-5x faster than the S3.

Finally, the battery just seems to last way longer. Even though Apple says the battery lives are an identical 18 hours, but that isn't true for me. The Series 3 is supposed to last about a day with a full charge, but for me, that's been a stretch. And it only lasts five hours with the GPS. (And personally, I think the cellular makes an hour hike take a huge chunk of battery life out).

It seems to be able to make it through the day and then about 45 minutes it goes from 0 to 80% and it can survive through the night because it supports higher-speed charging. You need a higher-speed USB C charging cable for this to work. The trick here is that the old charger and other third-party chargers are working 5W, but this one is a 7.5W charger. Note the MagSafe Duo is cool but only does 5W not 7.5W, so you will need the new charging cable.

The sensors are less important than I thought

What I did find surprising is that while I was waiting for new sensors, I don't actually use them that much. Compared with the Series 3, the new sensors are in sort of my order are:

  1. Light exposure. It will tell you that you are in a sunny spot this is actually the most interesting to me because its ambient
  2. Hand washing. I don't quite know how this works, but it senses this, I've actually never gotten an alert yet, but its a good idea if I can figure out how to enable it.
  3. O2 Sensor. Measures your blood O2 levels automatically at night which is pretty cool, but mine is always normal, so not much there.
  4. In a special EKG mode, which is a special application that's hard to find, it will look for heart arrhythmias, but the hard thing is you have to remember to do this.
  5. Compass. Sort of useful too for those trapped in the woods time (assuming you ave power).
  6. Fall Detection. It will send an alert if you take a tumble
  7. Always-on altimeter. I didn't even know the Series 3 had an altimeter
  8. International emergency calling so the SOS works globally

Of course, the Series 8 is coming with a temperature sensor, but for me, the big thing is the rumor of a more rugged Explorer version with a larger battery, that might be very nice.

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