When Apple announced the Series 7 last month, it left out exactly when you’d be able to buy it. That made sense, given murmurs of production delays related to the Series 7's new design. But now we know: The Apple Watch Series 7 will be available for preorder starting at 5 a.m. PDT/8 a.m. EDT on Oct. 8, with general availability in stores starting Oct. 15.
Normally, we’d recommend that you wait for reviews before rushing off to buy the latest and greatest. This year, the calculus is a little different. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman—a reliable Apple prognosticator—has said multiple times that the Series 7 may be hard to come by early on. There’s a lot of things to consider when it comes to upgrades, but here’s a rundown to help you decide what’s the best decision for you.
If you have a perfectly fine Series 5, Watch SE, or Series 6, you need to sit down. Contemplate the perils of e-waste and your role in contributing to it.
The Series 7 isn’t adding an industry-changing health feature as the Series 4 did in 2018. The notable things this time around are your annual processor upgrades, slightly larger size, increased durability, and a bigger screen. It’s also the first Apple Watch to have IP6X certification for dust resistance. Battery life remains unchanged at an estimated 18-hours (though we’ll have to see how much you get in real-life usage), though Apple says the Series 7 charges 33% faster.
If you’re on a Series 2 or older, and for whatever reason, didn’t upgrade last year—you should. If you’re on a Series 3 or 4, now is a very good time to consider upgrading. That’ll depend on a few things. For starters, how does watchOS 7 or watchOS 8 work on your device? If you notice some features you want don’t work for you, if the upgrade progress is tedious, or performance on newer software just blows, then it’s time. While watchOS 8 does work with the Series 3, the watch’s hardware is at the end of its useful life and you might as well trade in now rather than wait another year.
If you’re on a Series 4, you could probably hold off another year. But whether you should depends on one thing. How important are health features for you?
Rumors should always be taken with a heavy pinch of salt. However, it’s believed that next year’s Series 8 will feature a body temperature sensor. Another murmur is that next year, we might see a rugged version of the Apple Watch. It’s way too early to predict what’s in store for 2022, but if health and fitness is your priority and your Series 4 is chugging along fine? You might want to wait a bit longer. If not, then upgrading now is a good choice. (After all, next year’s gadgets are always going to be better than this year’s.)
The $279 Apple Watch SE is an excellent value. It has an S5 chip—the same as the Series 5—and in my testing, it runs watchOS 8 well. As we recommended last year if you’re young and in good health, the SE is worth the savings. You can still get cellular connectivity for a bit extra, and you won’t really miss features like ECG or SpO2. Plus, you still get features like fall detection and abnormal heart rate notifications. Likewise, if you can find a Series 5 or 6 discounted somewhere, that’s not a bad halfway upgrade. The latter options are especially true if having an always-on display is important.
Under no circumstances should you buy a new Series 3. It’s just not worth it when the SE is right there.
However, there are a few scenarios when it doesn’t pay to be a cheapskate. The first is if you already know you like the Apple Watch and that you intend to stick with this platform. The Watch SE is great, but it’s best for folks who are new to the Apple Watch and aren’t completely sold on whether they want the smartwatch experience. Meanwhile, the Series 7 is a solid investment for the already converted. It has an always-on display, SpO2 sensors, ECG capabilities, and will likely receive the majority of whatever new software-enabled health features come in the next few years. The only ones it wouldn’t get are those dependent on new sensors or hardware—and there’s no guarantee of when Apple plans on adding new components. Getting the Series 7 at this point is also a good way to futureproof. (Apple has a pretty good trade-in program for older products, and if you happen to love the Series 8, you’ll get the most value from a Series 7 trade-in.)
The other reason you may want to consider a Series 7 is the screen itself. If you have a Series 4, 5, or 6 and find it difficult to read or have sausage fingers, you may benefit from the increased screen real estate. This may be especially beneficial if you like using your Apple Watch to text. watchOS 8 has made it easier to directly message from the wrist, but it’s still a little cramped on smaller screens. You’ll also gain access to Apple’s new accessibility features, including gesture controls. (This is also available on the SE.)
So there you have it. We’ll be reviewing the Series 7 in the coming weeks, so you can check back then for a more in-depth review.