Apple Watch Series 7 could finally push my Garmin off my wrist

Apple Watch 7 offers new biking features, improved durability and a more visible, brighter screen… but still has a battery life concern

Apple Watch Series 7 underwater
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple took the wraps off its latest and greatest wrist gadget, the Apple Watch Series 7, today and while the announcement (alongside the iPhone 13) didn’t bring heaps of fresh and exciting health features, it’s safe to say that Apple has upped its game in the pro smartwatch stakes. 

Boasting improved durability – making it the first Apple Watch to have IP6X certification – a brighter screen when in its dimmed mode, and a host of upgrades that cyclists will love, the Watch Series 7 could be the first to turn the heads of more dedicated fitness enthusiasts out there. You know, those people that love to wear Garmin watches.

Let’s have a look at those new Apple Watch features in more detail and see if the Series 7 could really be enough to replace your Garmin.

Enhanced durability

With a new IP6X durability rating, the Apple Watch Series 7 is the Cupertino tech giant’s “most durable” smartwatch yet. 

What this means is that the device is completely dust-tight so there’ll be no chance of any tiny external material getting inside the casing. So when find yourself caught up in a sand storm, again, at least you know your Apple Watch will be safe. 

Jokes aside, this upgrade does make the Series 7 way more appropriate for wear for tracking activities in more extreme conditions. On top of that, the Series 7 is completely water and swim-proof, with a 50ATM water resistance, meaning it can really hold its own against the elements.

This is a characteristic Garmin has used to market its devices for some time now. Is the Series 7 Apple’s first chance at truly stealing the limelight from the rugged smartwatch maker and catch the attention of those more enthusiast users who’ve always seen the Apple Watch as more of a lifestyle device aimed at the masses? As a dedicated Garmin user myself, I know I have certainly had my head turned.

Apple Watch Series 7 being used by someone riding a bike

(Image credit: Apple)

Specialist cycling features

Some of the biggest health features added to the Watch Series 7 are perhaps those geared towards cyclists – though I should note, these are being added in watchOS 8, and aren't unique to the Series 7.

The Watch now automatically detects when you’re hopping on your bike and will remind you to start tracking the workout if you forget to. It will automatically pause and resume when you stop riding temporarily, too. There’s also better support for e-bikes in this edition, with an improved workout algorithm that more accurately calculates calories when you're being assisted.

Although, my favourite fresh feature has to be the addition to fall detection during riding. This nifty tool will assess the unique motion of your bike to analyse when it’s likely you’ve had an accident and gone flying. While it wasn’t specifically mentioned in Apple’s announcement, we’re assuming that when a fall is successfully detected and the wearer fails to respond, the Watch will phone emergency services on their behalf automatically (just like the original standing fall detection feature).

This dedicated focus for cyclists is yet another way in which Apple is thinking of the enthusiastic smartwatch user, with, perhaps, the aim of giving Garmin a run for its money.

Better, brighter screen

One thing that more premium Garmin smartwatches (such as the Fenix line) possess that competitors don’t is the ability to offer up detailed information on a display that can be seen well in most environments, even direct sunlight. This is thanks to its special transflective liquid-crystal screen that touts an optical layer that reflects and transmits light for an eye-wateringly clear display. 

While the Apple Watch Series 7 is a world away from this kind of screen technology (and thank goodness, because who has ever really loved a Garmin watch’s display?) at least it has attempted to keep up by upping the brightness of its screen when it's in its dimmed "always-on" mode. 

The Series 7’s new display is up to 70% brighter than its predecessor in this case, making it easier to glance and see updated information with having to take your hand away from whatever you're doing – biking, carrying gear and so on. Additionally, Apple said it also now refracts light at its edges for a subtle wraparound effect, creating a seamless integration with the curvature of the case. 

Apple Watch Series 7 on someone's wrist while sitting outdoors

(Image credit: Apple)

Battery life: still not up to scratch

While the new and improved features in the Series 7 might sound appealing for those iPhone-owning Garmin fans out there, one thing that won’t prove as attractive is the watch still has the same disappointing 18-hour battery life. This is an area where Garmin is a clear market leader, knocking the Apple Watch out of the park, with most of the brand’s watches offering at least 21 days of use, or 60 hours with GPS powered up.

Nevertheless, I do still think Apple is edging ever closer to fulfilling the needs of that enthusiastic market and should only be a matter of time before athletes and pro users are seriously weighing up which company’s smartwatch to strap to their wrists. 

Lee Bell

Lee Bell is a freelance journalist & copywriter specialising in technology, health, grooming and how the latest innovations are shaking up the lifestyle space. From national newspapers to specialist-interest magazines and digital titles, Lee has written for some of the world’s most respected publications during his 11 years as a journalist.