How much tougher and larger is Apple Watch Series 7’s screen, really?

The display on Apple Watch Series 7 has a unique refractive edge that makes full-screen watch faces and apps appear to seamlessly connect with the curvature of the case.
| Photo Credit: Apple Inc

When Apple launched the Watch Series 7 in October 2021, many expected the smartwatch to have a host of new health-tech features for the user to enjoy. Watch Series 5 introduced an electrocardiogram (ECG) while the Watch Series 6 added a blood-oxygen monitor or pulse oximeter, the latter a fitting feature in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

But when Apple revealed the hook of the Series 7 would merely be a larger and much more durable display – along with an expected IP6X certification for resistance to dust and a WR50 water resistance rating – many were baffled. 

Conscious and responsiveness design

While the overall size of the Watch barely changes, design-wise, it makes sense to increase the screen size – by roughly 20% – to also reduce the size of the surrounding band for a more sleek look. This maximises screen real estate for the Watch versions of an app. After all, the best apps for smartwatches support fast interactions and focus on the content that users care about most, but it is important that the smartwatch design itself supports this. 

Place this side-by-side with a previous model and you may notice the user interface has been redesigned to take advantage of the larger size and shape of the new display – it fits more text onscreen, has larger buttons and type sizes (which can be customised in case of accessibility issues), and a QWERTY keyboard. 

The uptick in wants

The consciousness around physical health permeated to rising demand in smartwatches; overall, sales for smartwatches in Q4 2020 were slightly lower than for the same period in 2019, but Apple had actually increased its share. According to data by Counterpoint Research, Apple Watch accounted for 40% of all smartwatch sales in said quarter.

Ideal smartwatch app design requires careful thought into not just font and image sizes but also negative and/or whitespace. The overall user experience is compromised when there is information overload so often app designers create visual groupings to help users find the information they want. They then use negative space to place related elements and information into distinct areas. So the Series 7 does not just allow for more space for text and other media but also more space for, well, nothing. 

During exercise, work or other highly-engaging routines, this hardware design choice helped me focus on the Watch only when I needed to and not for an exhaustive amount of time. It retained its placement in my offline and online routines as little more than an accessory that I rely upon to track my health through the day and night.

But what of durability?

Having used the Watch Series 7 for some time now, the stronger, more crack-resistant front crystal barely has a crack whereas I experienced minor crack lines with its two predecessors. For a small screen, even the smallest scratch can ruin the user experience. Users of the SE and the Series 3 to Series 6 most likely invested in a wraparound screen-guard or a tempered glass, but the Series 7’s durability negated that need. 

Apple took similar efforts with its smartphones starting with the iPhone 12 series’ Ceramic Shield; in May 2021, Apple awarded US$45 million from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund to Corning Incorporated, a supplier of precision glass for iPhone, Watch, and iPad. 

According to Apple, Ceramic Shield was enabled by a high-temperature crystallisation step which forms nano-crystals within the glass matrix. These specialised crystals are kept small enough that the material is transparent. Therefore, the resulting material makes up the Ceramic Shield, which is reported to be stronger than Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus.

Perhaps Apple’s strategy here was to mark the world’s desire to return to a more outdoorsy and physical lifestyle after being homebound for almost two years. Coming with the territory of engaging in outdoors activity comes the hazard of falling over, bumping against other elements, and so on. The Watch Series 7 is the intersection of both these conundrums, attaining the added perk of a hardy device that does not have the rugged and somewhat chunky look of a Garmin or an Instinct. 

So, what would the Apple Series 8 (if that is what it will be called) offer? 

The Apple Watch Series 7 starts at ₹41,900. It can be purchased from Apple’s official online store, or in-person at third-party authorised resellers. 

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