When Apple announced the Series 7 Watch last year, I was admittedly blown away by the larger, thinner screen, which is 40 percent thinner than the Series 6 and, according to the brand, displays almost 50 percent more text. But I didn’t seriously consider buying one until everyone else in my friend group started communicating solely through the watch’s Activity app — when you and your friends share your stats with each other, you can cheer on each other after completed workouts and challenge each other to competitions and more.
To be honest, I’ve spent years avoiding the Apple Watch in all of its iterations. My phone is always with me, so I never felt like I needed another way to read texts, and using a fitness tracker once led me down a nice rabbit hole of orthorexia and compulsive exercise. I was afraid of how I might react to using an Apple Watch, to tell the truth. I don’t want to say I spent hundreds of dollars on a watch mainly because I had FOMO over my friends’ messages in the Activity app, but realistically – okay, yeah, that’s it.
Here’s what happened: I gave in and bought an Apple Watch Series 7 on Prime Day when it was $400, its lowest price ever. I chose the Starlight model in 45mm – the larger of the two options – with GPS and cellular capabilities. All in all, it costs about $130 less than it would on a normal day, and now that I’ve had a chance to use it, I can say with a clear conscience that it’s worth buying at full price.
After my watch fully synced with my phone — more on how long that took below — I started playing around with its features and functions. Of course, one of the first things I did was share my activities with my friends so we could cheer each other on, but I also learned how to record workouts, customize my screen, and sync my watch with my Peloton app – I have a Peloton bike at my apartment that I use regularly, so this last feature is particularly great. By far my favorite thing about the watch was its ability to send and receive texts – the Series 7 has a full keyboard for typing messages, and the talk-to-text feature is surprisingly accurate most of the time.
The battery life of the Series 7 has proven to be quite durable: I’ve been using my watch since 7am and it’s still at 66% at 3pm. And while I didn’t put the IPX6 water and dust resistance rating through rigorous testing, I’ve worn my watch through numerous sweaty workouts and haven’t had any issues.
Given my experience with fitness trackers, I’ve been particularly vigilant about how the Apple Watch is affecting my relationship with the gym, but so far I’ve felt my watch has been encouraging rather than pressuring. I don’t like the clock telling me to get up every hour – I’m working, relax! — but I love that when I’m just strolling around the neighborhood for a morning coffee, it asks me if I want to track a workout. I’m redefining my relationship to sport and getting some fresh air in the process.
As for the cons, they mostly surfaced at the beginning of my trip. When my watch arrived, I was disappointed to find that it didn’t come with the power adapter that needs to charge it (although it did come with the MagSafe charging cable). However, this was not entirely surprising, since Apple no longer delivers new iPhones with the power supply unit for reasons of environmental friendliness. My iPhone 12 Pro uses the same adapter, so for now I’m just using one adapter for both devices.
Setting up the clock took a little more time and effort than I expected. The watch synced to my phone without any problems, but it took several days for my watch to successfully connect to my AT&T plan. I spent hours on the phone with AT&T support trying to fix the issue but they couldn’t connect it either – after two days of trying I checked the app on a Hail Mary and it had somehow connected successfully. Numerous internet searches tell me this is not an uncommon problem, so be prepared for possible hiccups if you decide to go with GPS + Cellular.
Other Smartwatches to Consider
If you’re looking for a watch that’s compatible with other types of operating systems, or want something a little more specific for exercising, we’ve rounded up a few other smartwatches for you to consider.
Garmin Forerunner 745
If you use your smartwatch specifically to track your runs and don’t care that much about the social features, consider the Garmin Forerunner 745 with a 30.4mm screen. Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Kristina Jennings said Garmin watches “[are] is known for being the best at tracking mileage accurately,” noting that you can stream music while running via Spotify, Apple Music or Deezer. Like the Apple Watch, this watch tracks metrics like heart rate, VO2max, blood oxygen saturation, sleep, and more.
Samsung Galaxy Watch4
The Samsung Galaxy Watch4 is a popular choice among Android phone users (although it can also be paired with iOS devices). It comes in two sizes – 42mm and 46mm – and features a more traditional round face that can be customized with different designs. According to Samsung, the watch can track your workouts and measure metrics like EKG, sleep quality, VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise), heart rate and more.
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