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When Apple announced the Series 7 watch last year, I was admittedly enamored by the larger, thinner screen, which is 40 percent thinner than the Series 6 and displays nearly 50 percent more text, according to the brand. But I didn’t seriously consider buying one until everyone else in my friend group started to communicate exclusively via the watch’s Activity app — when you and your friends share your statistics with one another, you can cheer each other on after completed workouts, challenge each other to competitions and more.
To be honest, I’ve spent years avoiding the Apple Watch in all its iterations. My phone is always on my person so I’ve never felt like I needed another way to look at texts, and using a fitness tracker once led me down a lovely rabbit hole of orthorexia and compulsive exercising. I was scared of how I might react to using an Apple Watch, to tell you the truth. I don’t want to say that I spent hundreds of dollars on a watch mostly because I had FOMO over my friends messaging in the Activity app, but realistically — okay, yeah, that was it.
So, it happened: I caved and bought myself an Apple Watch Series 7 during Prime Day, when it was $400, its lowest price ever. I chose the Starlight model in 45mm — the larger of the two options — with both GPS and cellular capabilities. All in all, it cost about $130 less than it would on a regular day, and now that I’ve had a chance to use it, I feel comfortable saying it’s worth buying at full price.
Once my watch was fully synced to my phone — more on how long that took below — I started to play around with its features and functions. Of course, one of the first things I did was share my activity with my friends so we could cheer each other on, but I also learned how to record workouts, customize my screen and sync my watch to my Peloton app — I have a Peloton Bike in my apartment that I use regularly, so this last feature is especially great. By far my favorite thing about the watch has been the ability to send and receive texts — the Series 7 has a full keyboard for typing out messages and the talk-to-text function is surprisingly accurate most of the time.
The Series 7’s battery life has proven to be pretty long-lasting: I’ve been using my watch since 7 a.m., and it’s still at 66% as of 3p.m. And though I haven’t put the IPX6 water- and dust-resistance rating through strenuous testing, I’ve worn my watch during numerous sweaty workouts and haven’t had any issues.
I’ve been especially vigilant about how the Apple Watch impacts my relationship with the gym given my history with fitness trackers, but so far, I’ve felt like my watch has been more encouraging than pressuring. I don’t love that the watch alerts me every hour to stand up — I’m working, relax! — but I do love that it will ask me if I want to track a workout when I’m simply strolling through the neighborhood to grab a morning coffee. I’m redefining my relationship with exercise, and I’m getting some fresh air in the process.
As for the downsides, they mostly popped up at the beginning of my journey. When my watch came, I was disappointed to find that it didn’t come with the power adapter it needs to charge (though it did come with the MagSafe charging cable). This wasn’t entirely surprising, though, given that Apple also stopped shipping new iPhones with the power adapter to be more environmentally friendly. My iPhone 12 Pro uses the same adapter, so I’m just using one adapter for both devices for now.
Setting up the watch took a bit more time and effort than I had anticipated. Getting the watch to sync with my phone was painless, but it took several days to successfully connect my watch to my AT&T plan. I spent hours on the phone with AT&T support trying to fix the issue, but they weren’t able to connect it either — after two days of trying, I checked the app on a hail mary and it had somehow connected successfully. Numerous internet searches tell me that this isn’t an uncommon problem, so be prepared for some potential hiccups if you opt for GPS + cellular.
If you’re looking for a watch compatible with other types of operating systems or you want something catered more specifically to exercise, we rounded up a few other smart watches to consider.
If you’re using your smart watch specifically to track your runs and don’t care as much about the social functions, you may want to consider the Garmin Forerunner 745 with a 30.4mm screen. Certified strength and conditioning specialist Kristina Jennings said that Garmin’s watches “[are] known to accurately track mileage the best” and noted that you can stream music while you run via Spotify, Apple Music or Deezer. Like the Apple Watch, this watch tracks metrics including heart rate, VO2 max, blood oxygen saturation, sleep and more.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch4 is a popular pick among Android phone users (older models can be paired with iOS devices, but the newer Watch4 can’t). It’s available in two sizes — 42mm and 46mm — and features a more traditional round face that can be customized with different designs. According to Samsung, the watch can track your workouts and measure metrics like ECG, sleep quality, VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use while exercising), heart rate and more.
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Morgan Greenwald is a senior editor for Select on NBC News.
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