CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Apple Watch Series 7 vs. Apple Watch Series 6: The Biggest Differences

The Apple Watch Series 7 has a bigger screen than the Series 6.

Lisa Eadicicco Senior Editor
Lisa Eadicicco is a senior editor for CNET covering mobile devices. She has been writing about technology for almost a decade. Prior to joining CNET, Lisa served as a senior tech correspondent at Insider covering Apple and the broader consumer tech industry. She was also previously a tech columnist for Time Magazine and got her start as a staff writer for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide.
Expertise Apple, Samsung, Google, smartphones, smartwatches, wearables, fitness trackers
Lisa Eadicicco
5 min read

The Apple Watch Series 7's larger display, sturdier design and fresh color options make it a modest but appreciated upgrade from the Series 6. The Series 7's bigger screen is undoubtedly the most dramatic update. Other improvements, including faster charging, feel minor by comparison. 

With that in mind, the Series 7 is a better choice for those upgrading from an older Apple Watch like the Series 4 and earlier. But Apple is expected to release the Series 8 in connection with the company's next event on Sept. 7, so it's a good idea to hold off if you can. 

Here's a closer look at how the two watches stack up.

Apple Watch Series 7 vs. Series 6

Apple Watch Series 7Apple Watch Series 6
Size 41mm; 45mm40mm; 44mm
Display Always-on Retina display with nearly 20% more screen area than Series 6Always-on Retina display
Display resolution 352x430 pixels (41mm), 396x484 pixels (45mm)324x394 pixels (40mm); 368x448 pixels (44mm)
Durability Water resistance; IP6X dust resistanceWater resistance
Sensors Blood oxygen, electrical heart, third-gen optical heart, compass, always-on altimeter, fall detection, accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS/GNSS, ambient light Blood oxygen, electrical heart, third-gen optical heart, compass, always-on altimeter, fall detection, accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS/GNSS, ambient light
Processor S7S6
Colors and finishes Aluminum: Midnight, starlight, green, blue red. Stainless steel: Silver, graphite, gold. Titanium: Natural, space black.Aluminum: Silver, space gray, gold, blue, red. Stainless steel: Silver, graphite, gold. Titanium: Natural, space black.
Battery Life Up to 18 hours with 33% faster charging than Series 6Up to 18 hours
Storage 32GB32GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, W3 wireless chip, U1 chip, emergency SOS, international emergency calling, optional LTE Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, W3 wireless chip, U1 chip, emergency SOS, international emergency calling, optional LTE

Design: A larger screen with a more durable build 

The Apple Watch hasn't gotten a bump in screen size since the Series 4 debuted in 2018, but that changed in 2021. The Apple Watch Series 7 has a screen that's nearly 20% larger than the Series 6 and more than 50% bigger than the Series 3's, according to Apple. 

The borders that frame the watch's display are 40% smaller on the Series 7 compared to the Series 6, helping it gain that larger screen without making the device much bigger overall. It's similar to the way smartphone screens have gotten bigger now that most major phone makers have eliminated the bezels that once housed the device's physical home buttons and cameras. 

There's another way Apple is improving the screen, too: brightness. The company claims the new smartwatch's display should be 70% brighter than its predecessor's, but only indoors in always-on mode when the wrist is down. 

The Apple Watch Series 7's enlarged screen also means it comes in new size options: 41 millimeter and 45mm. That replaces the 40mm and 44mm size options for the Series 6. Apple is also making some tweaks to the Apple Watch's user interface to take advantage of that roomier display. 

Watch this: Should you upgrade to the Apple Watch Series 7?

The Apple Watch Series 7 is also the first to get a QWERTY keyboard that allows you to type on the watch more similarly to the way you would on your phone. The Contour and Modular Duo watch faces will also be designed to better fit the Series 7's bigger display.

The other big way in which Apple has changed the Series 7's design comes down to durability. Apple's latest wearable is its first smartwatch to come with IP6X dust resistance and it says the crystal that covers the front screen is 50% thicker than that of the Series 6. You'll also continue to get water resistance up to 50 meters just like the Series 6. 

Read more: This Stylish, Luxury Hybrid Watch (Almost) Made Me Ditch My Apple Watch

Battery life: The same as the Series 6, but with faster charging

The Apple Watch Series 7 isn't getting longer battery life, but it is getting the next best thing: faster charging. Apple says the Series 7 will continue to last for up to 18 hours on a single charge like the Series 6. But it'll also charge up to 33% faster than its predecessor when used with a magnetic fast-charging USB-C cable. 

That should make it more convenient to use the Series 7 as a sleep tracker since it'll be easier to top off the watch's battery when you have a few spare minutes in your day. Still, rival smartwatches such as those made by Fitbit can last for multiple days on a single charge.

Colors: New finishes for the aluminum model

Aside from its bigger display, Apple is also updated its smartwatch's design by giving it a fresh coat of paint. The aluminum version, which is typically the least expensive model in Apple's lineup, will come in five new finishes: midnight, starlight, green, blue and Product Red. 

The starlight model has a white gold type of finish and replaces the silver model, while the midnight finish has a black casing that's darker than the space gray it succeeds. Green is an entirely new color option for the Apple Watch, while the Series 7's blue is lighter than the navy blue-like shade Apple launched for the Series 6. The red model essentially looks the same as the Series 6's red option.

Apple is keeping the same silver, graphite and gold options for the stainless steel variants, while the high-end Apple Watch Edition version of the Series 7 will be available in the same titanium and space black colors. 

Performance and health features: Same as the Series 6

Otherwise, the Apple Watch Series 7 shares a lot of the Apple Watch Series 6's characteristics when it comes to performance and health tracking. The Series 7 runs on a newer S7 system-on-a-chip, but performance is the same as the Series 6. It also has Apple's U1 chip just like the Series 6 to help the watch function as a digital car key. 

The Series 7 has an electrical heart sensor with the ECG app and the ability to measure blood oxygen levels just like the Series 6. You'll also get Apple's other suite of health and safety features like sleep monitoring, exercise tracking, compatibility with Apple Fitness Plus, emergency SOS, international emergency calling, noise monitoring, compass and an always-on altimeter. 

Read more: What WatchOS 9 May Reveal About the Next Apple Watch

Both the Series 7 and Series 6 will get Apple's new WatchOS 9 software this fall, too. The update will bring new metrics for runners like stride length, more detailed sleep tracking and a new app for tracking medications. 

The Series 7 feels like a major upgrade for those replacing an older watch such as the Series 4 and earlier. But since Apple makes many of its new watch features available through software updates, those who own a Series 5 or Series 6 can probably skip this one. 

Lexy Savvides/CNET

The Apple Watch Series 7 is Apple's flagship smartwatch for a reason. Not only does it have a bigger screen than earlier Apple Watches, it's also more durable thanks to a dust and crack-resistant design. It has a blood oxygen and electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) sensor and is available in either a 41mm or 45mm case size. You can also choose a cellular or LTE model that lets you take calls and answer messages from your wrist without your phone, although that does cost extra.

But the Apple Watch is iPhone-compatible only and the battery life generally lasts 18 hours with typical use, less than many of its competitors. Read our Apple Watch Series 7 review.

Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

Starting at $399, the Apple Watch Series 6 has the most advanced features Apple offers on a smartwatch, with an even brighter screen than the Apple Watch SE that's easy to see even when it's on standby. The Series 6 is the only Watch with an always-on display and it has a built-in ECG app on your wrist. (These features were first introduced on the Apple Watch Series 5 in 2019, which Apple has since stopped selling.) The Series 6 is also the first, and only Apple Watch to monitor blood oxygen levels both on demand, or automatically as you go about your day (and while you sleep).