Why I’m Happy the New Apple Watch Has Hardly Changed

Another year without buying a new watch I don’t need

Key Takeaways

  • The Apple Watch Series 7 is more of the same.
  • That flat-sided Apple Watch rumor? Dead wrong.
  • 'Upgrading' your gadgets every year is a bad idea.
Apple Watch Series 7 in 5 different colors

Apple

Despite Apple’s claims that the Apple Watch has a brand-new design, almost nothing has changed. And that’s just great. 

Look quickly, and the Apple Watch Series 7 looks just like all the other Apple Watches so far. The family resemblance is strong—it’s still a rounded blob that bubbles out from your wrist, looking more like dorkwear than an elegant timepiece. I can’t tell you how happy I am about that. I own a basic Apple Watch Series 5, and I really don’t dig its blobular, protruding form. 

If the Series 7 had followed the rumors of a sleek, new, flat sided design, I’d have jumped on it right away. But with this pedestrian remodeling, I can save myself several hundred dollars, and not miss out.

Maturity

In its early years, a new product category tends to morph and shift, before the ideal final form is reached. The first few iPhone models played with materials and form, before slowly settling into variations on glass with aluminum or steel. Mac laptops, too, were wild in the early days, but have barely changed in more than a decade.

"With this pedestrian remodeling, I can save myself several hundred dollars, and not miss out."

The Apple Watch seems to have reached this maturity without significantly changing shape. It went from a barely-viable device to a fairly capable app platform, all while keeping the bubble shape we know and tolerate. This latest version is a small evolution, with a bigger screen and smaller screen borders, but the improvements are incremental. And that’s just fine.

Good Enough

Some devices are valuable even when they’re just "good enough." The Apple Watch is one of those. We use it for notifications, for glancing at the weather or our daily step count, and we rely on its various sensors for fitness and health tracking. To some of us, it’s an essential tool, and we feel weird if we start the day without wearing it.

But it’s already good enough. Unlike the iPhone, where a new camera really can make a difference, and more power can change the whole feel of it, the Watch gets along fine as it is. That’s not to say it couldn’t use some improvements. It’s just that they’d have to be pretty big improvements to justify the upgrade.

Apple Watch Series 7 in different colors with different watchbands

Apple

That may be what made the rumors of a flat-sided Apple Watch so compelling. There’s no mistaking the current Apple Watch for a regular watch. It’s just too thick and bulky. Try slipping a tailored shirt cuff over it and you’ll immediately know it’s a little computer, and not a piece of functional jewelry.

But a new, slimmer shape would be a real step up in terms of aesthetics. And aesthetics might be more important on the watch than on any other device, because it’s the only one you wear. It’s also the only one that cannot practically be modified with a case, or stickers, like you can do with a phone, a laptop, or an iPad.

Normalization

As a tech journalist, I’m accustomed to "upgrading" to newer versions of still-serviceable gadgets. I used to write how-tos for Apple gear, and that required using the latest models.

Most people don’t do this. Most folks keep their old phone until the screen is too cracked to use, or their favorite apps stop supporting their older hardware. Why? Because this stuff is expensive, and works for years.

side view of apple watch series 7

Apple

Of all my Apple devices, the Watch is the one I won’t upgrade until it’s broken or dead, because why would I? It still does everything perfectly. The battery lasts all day, and it still does everything I bought it to do.

Perhaps this is a lesson. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we need the newest hardware, and we even have a special vocabulary to help justify it. We say "upgrade" instead of "throw away and buy a new one," for example. Perhaps it’s good to slow down for a while, and to just enjoy the amazing technology we have.

And there’s one other bonus to not buying a new gadget every year, apart from the environmental and financial benefits. If you hold off for a few years, then the difference between your old device and the new one will be huge, instead of just a small spec and speed bump. It’s a win-win all round, except for the companies selling them.

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