Apple Watch Series 7 looks like a late substitution for the upgrade Apple wanted to deliver

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The aluminum Apple Watch Series 7 comes in five colors.
Wow, a bigger screen! What else you got?
Photo: Apple

Apple Watch Series 7 is not the upgrade most of us expected to see from Tuesday’s Apple event. The new model doesn’t sport the big design refresh multiple sources said was coming. It doesn’t even pack a new chip.

Is this the upgrade Apple wanted to deliver this year? Or is it a last-minute substitution that Cupertino had to settle on because the refresh it really wanted to deliver just wasn’t ready to roll out?

Based on the evidence, we’re going to say it’s the latter.

Apple Watch Series 7 isn’t what we expected

Apple Watch Series 7 looks like a nice improvement over its predecessors. It offers a larger display with more pronounced curves around its edges, which wrap around to meet the aluminum case seamlessly and beautifully. It also charges 33% faster.

And … well, that’s it. The new display, which Apple calls its “most advanced” Apple Watch display to date, is the only reason to buy Apple Watch 7.

OK, bigger screens are nice. Apple says you get 20% more real estate than on Apple Watch Series 6, and a whopping 50% more than on Series 3. It’s also up to 70% brighter indoors when using the always-on display feature.

Apple Watch 7: A bigger screen always looks better
A bigger screen always looks better.
Photo: Apple

The display is more durable, too. It uses Apple’s “strongest front crystal ever,” so you’re less likely to scratch it or crack it when you walk into things.

But is that really enough to convince you to upgrade? If you’re using an Apple Watch Series 5 or Series 6 right now, the answer is probably no.

Where are the upgrades?

Look past the larger screen, and Apple Watch Series 7 is nearly identical to previous models — and not just on the outside. Under its hood, there are no new health sensors. There’s no new chip. There’s no other reason to spend your money.

This isn’t the refresh Apple was supposed to deliver.

Several sources who proved incredibly reliable in the past — including Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman, TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, and controversial Front Page Tech leaker Jon Prosser — all predicted more.

Prosser showed off gorgeous renders based on the information gleaned from his sources. Gurman echoed those claims and said we would get a faster chip. Kuo promised a “dramatic change in design.”

Other, less-reliable sources also predicted new health sensors that might give Apple Watch the ability to monitor things like blood pressure — a feature available on Samsung’s latest watch — and even blood sugar.

We got none of that.

Apple Watch 7 is basically the same

“There is a reason Apple didn’t talk about the Apple Watch Series 7 CPU this year… because it’s the exact same as last year’s Series 6,” wrote developer Steve Troughton-Smith on Twitter. “It doesn’t even get a new model number, it’s effectively just a chassis tweak.”

“It seems clear to me that the Apple Watch 7 was not supposed to have the design we saw today, and something went wrong from a manufacturing perspective towards the last second,” tweeted Binyamin Goldman.

“The fact that it doesn’t even get a new model code makes me think that the rumors about a redesign were right, but something went south at too late of a time to be fixed, and they had to improvise,” said dev Guilherme Rambo.

There’s evidence to back up these theories. Firstly, Apple cannot tell us when Apple Watch Series 7 will ship. It’s “available later this fall,” the company said. That suggests the device didn’t enter production on time to launch with iPhone 13. (Previous rumors indicated that production problems related to the new screen would cause delays. And the COVID-19 pandemic probably doesn’t help, either.)

Examining the evidence

What’s more, Apple showed us just one flavor of Apple Watch 7 — the standard aluminum model. The company says stainless steel, titanium, Nike and Hermès options are coming later, but there’s no fancy ceramic model.

The Apple Watch 7 page on Apple’s website is, unsurprisingly, looking a little light on information. Most of it is dedicated to the new screen, and the rest talks about features that are available on older Apple Watch models.

Apple doesn’t even give visitors the opportunity to compare Apple Watch Series 7 with its predecessors, like you can with earlier models and other Apple devices. Although that may come nearer to launch.

Apple Watch comparison
You can’t compare Apple Watch 7 with its predecessors.
Photo: Apple

There are no new types of bands available alongside Apple Watch 7, either — although the new model is compatible with all previous bands. Apple did add new color options for bands, and a pair of new Apple Watch faces to take advantage of the larger screen.

Save your cash

All in all, Apple Watch 7 looks like it was thrown together quickly because Cupertino’s real plans for this year’s refresh were somehow ruined at the last minute.

Is Apple’s massive (and massively complicated) design and manufacturing process really agile enough to make such a change so late in the game? It seems hard to believe a huge industrial endeavor — fine-tuned to crank out millions of technologically complex devices — could turn on a dime.

One thing’s clear, though. Unless you’re using a really old Apple Watch right now and in desperate need of an upgrade, you might be better off holding onto your cash and waiting for what will almost certainly be a much bigger refresh in 2022.