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Apple Watch Series 7 vs. Series 6: Comparing Apple's latest smartwatches

Here's every notable difference between the new Apple Watch 7 and last year's Apple Watch 6.

Apple announcements September 14 2021: iPhone 13, new iPads, Apple Watch Series 7, and more
Apple/Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

With a larger screen, more durable design and new color options, the Apple Watch Series 7 seems like a modest but appreciated upgrade from the Series 6. It launches on Oct. 15 starting at $399 (£369, AU$599), and preorders have already started. 

Apple announced the Series 7 during its iPhone 13 launch event, but several important details about the watch remain a mystery. Based on what we do know, it's clear the Series 7 will have more than a few things in common with the Series 6 it replaces. Here's a closer look at how the two stack up, and you can check out the table below for a snapshot of the major differences.

Apple Watch Series 7 vs. Series 6: The biggest changes

Apple Watch Series 7 Apple Watch Series 6
Starting price $399 $399
Size and display 41mm/45mm, always-on screen that's about 20% larger; 70% brighter indoors in always-on mode 40mm/44mm, always-on screen
Durability IP6X dust resistance, water resistant up to 50 meters Water resistant up to 50 meters
Battery life (estimated) Up to 18 hours with 33% faster charging Up to 18 hours
Colors Midnight, starlight, green, blue, red (aluminum); silver, graphite and gold (stainless steel); space black titanium and titanium (Apple Watch Edition) Silver, space gray, gold, blue red (aluminum); silver, graphite and gold (stainless steel); space black titanium and titanium (Apple Watch Edition)

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's changing 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. 

Read more: Apple Watch SE vs Series 6 vs. Series 3: How to choose?

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. 

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

The Apple Watch Series 7 will be the first to get a new 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: Apple Watch Series 7: The best new features and how you'll use them

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 updating 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 seems to be a white gold type of finish that seemingly replaces the silver model, while the midnight finish looks to be a black casing that's darker than the space gray it succeeds. But we'll have to wait until we see the Series 7 in person to truly know what these colors look like and how they compare to the Series 6. 

Green is an entirely new color option for the Apple Watch, while the Series 7's blue seems to be lighter than the navy blue-like shade Apple launched for the Series 6. The red model doesn't look all that different based on Apple's renders, but we'll have to wait until we see the watch to know for sure. 

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: Probably the same as the Apple Watch Series 6

Otherwise, it seems like the Apple Watch Series 7 will share a lot of the Apple Watch Series 6's characteristics when it comes to performance and health tracking. Apple didn't mention anything about the Series 7's processor during its launch event, which signals that it will likely offer similar performance as its predecessor. 

We also know the Series 7 will come with 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 features like sleep monitoring, exercise tracking and compatibility with Apple Fitness Plus. Since the Series 7 is Apple's premium smartwatch, it's likely safe to assume that it'll inherit many features on the Series 6 that Apple didn't focus on during its launch event, such as emergency SOS, international emergency calling, noise monitoring, compass and an always-on altimeter. 

Read more: Forget the iPhone 13 -- here's why the iPhone 11 is still a great buy in 2021

And of course, the Apple Watch Series 7 will support the new health and wellness features that launched with Apple's new WatchOS 8 software update, which is also available for the Series 6 and other older models. Such updates include improved fall detection that can recognize specific types of falls caused by cycling and other workout types, new Pilates and tai chi workout modes and the ability to track respiratory rate during sleep. The Breathe app is also being transitioned to a new Mindfulness app that includes a new Reflect mode -- which encourages you to pause for a moment and think about something positive -- and guided meditations for Fitness Plus subscribers. 

Based on what we know about the Series 7, it should feel like a major upgrade for those replacing an older watch like the Series 3 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. We'll know more once we've had the chance to try the Apple Watch Series 7.