The best thing about the Apple Watch Series 7 is its case
Note: This article was first published on 12 November 2021.
Apple is the number one watch brand in the world. Its sales alone eclipse the entire Swiss watch industry. But what is it about the Apple Watch that makes it so loved?
I reckon it is its case. Not the way it looks – though it helps it has become one of the most recognisable watch cases you can find – what I’m referring to is the thought that Apple put into making a watch case that fulfils its intended purpose.
In the early days of the Apple Watch, it could be said that Apple was still trying to figure out what it wanted the Apple Watch to be. More recently, they seem to have that down, and that is to look after you and your health and keep you connected to the people and things you care about the most. At the heart of the watch is its display. The digital crown aside, the display is the main way you interact with the Apple Watch.
“It impacts almost everything you do a hundred per cent of the time,” said Stan Ng, Apple’s vice-president of product marketing, who also recognises that a larger screen is better but said that it posed unique challenges. “Growing a display that huge benefits for users but only if it didn’t compromise on other parts of the experience such as comfort, aesthetics, battery life, and band compatibility.”
Apple could have easily slapped on a larger display on the Apple Watch Series 7 by enlarging its case, but that could have made it too chunky to be worn comfortably, which defeats its intended role. Remember, this is a watch that Apple intends for owners to wear to all sorts of occasions from workouts to ballroom dinners.
Instead, Apple took a harder path. “This was such a challenge for our design, engineering, and manufacturing teams. And it required us to completely re-engineer the display, the front crystal, and the internal enclosure,” Stan added. The end result was a watch case that grew a mere millimetre and yet had a display that was 20% larger.
This has broad implications on wearability. Compared to other smartwatches, even the larger 45mm version of the Apple Watch Series 7 remains easy to wear for folks with skinny wrists. It doesn’t dominate the wrist and a large reason why is because Apple kept the watch’s dimensions sensible.
The 45mm measurement refers to the height of the display and that’s a modest size in the world of modern watches. Furthermore, the width is a mere 38mm. Compare these figures to other smartwatches like the Huawei Watch 3 Pro and Galaxy Watch 4 and you’ll begin to appreciate Apple’s attention to case design.
And by keeping the watch’s dimensions roughly the same, it also means seamless backward compatibility with straps. People often mistake it as a simple matter of making the attachment points are the same, but it’s much more. The shape of the case must flow into the strap so that they look like a coherent piece. Otherwise, it'll end up looking like wearing wellingtons with a tuxedo. Besides, Apple has spent a long time building up an unbelievable collection of straps and it would be a tragedy if they didn’t work with newer models.
Are there compromises? Sure, the smaller case equates to a small battery, so many owners baulk at the need to recharge it once every 24 hours. And some people just can’t get used to wearing a watch that isn’t round. But would users really want a thicker, chunkier watch if it meant they could only charge it once every two days instead of daily? I certainly wouldn’t. And to the people who can’t get used to a round watch, I say get over it. You don’t read emails on a round monitor or a round phone so why should a smartwatch – a computer on your wrist, essentially – be round?
Fact is, watches are deeply personal items but what Apple has successfully created, over years of consistent iteration, is one that fits the wrists and lives of millions of users around the world. It has even saved the lives of a few of them (1, 2, 3 ). Surely that is something worth celebrating.
Kenny Yeo / Associate Editor
Specifications are not everything. It's what you do with what you have that matters.