Apple’s software feature exclusivity on the Watch 7 is disappointing, especially after the scrapped redesign

Apple’s software feature exclusivity on the Watch 7 is disappointing, especially after the scrapped redesign

Apple revealed the all-new Apple Watch Series 7 along with the iPhone 13 lineup and new iPad models in mid-September. The announcement was made during its California Streaming virtual event. Apart from not releasing the rumored AirPods 3rd Gen, I was disappointed by a few other things. I was frustrated the most by the fact that we didn’t see a Series 7 redesign, as the rumors had suggested.

Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 with bands crossed

I get it — the technologies we use every day have matured, and there is not much manufacturers can do new year after year. On both software and hardware levels, we’ve reached a point where almost all main rivals offer the same set of features. Products are not 100% identical, but they’re similar enough to keep the competition going.


We’re in a phase where the next big innovation in this field is going to be big, as we can see a lot of Big Tech side projects take better shape. How long it’ll take for them to actually release these side projects as the Next Big Thing remains unknown. But we’re almost certain that the glass slab mobile devices we use nowadays are going to eventually get replaced by a more advanced technology. Until then, we are going to face yearly release cycles of almost nothing mind-blowing. I miss the times when hardware and software announcement events actually had some original and groundbreaking ideas. Now — and I say this as a tech enthusiast who looks forward to WWDC more than his own birthday — they bore me. My colleague Adam echoes my thoughts — smartphones and mobile devices are indeed getting boring, but he argues that to be good for the customer.

I acknowledge that there’s not much Apple and others can do. However, that doesn’t change the fact that their releases are disappointing a significant portion of their loyal customers. There’s really nothing they can do about it, until the next brand new technology is ready for the public. But one thing they can do is not make certain features exclusive to newer devices, even though older ones fully support them.

Hardware innovations that create inevitable software exclusivities should be what drives customers to buy a new device

Not that it matters to Apple, but it makes me lose respect for them when they switch to software exclusivity on newer device models. Hardware innovations that create inevitable software exclusivities should be what drives customers to buy a new device. Locking certain features — even though there are no hardware barriers on older models — is a sign of deficiency in original ideas.

You reach a point where you’re just re-releasing the same devices with a few tweaks here and there. And your only selling point? Adding arguably gimmicky features in hopes that they’ll lure people in. This is one of the reasons I was very frustrated by the Apple Watch Series 7 reveal.

Technical Specifications and Compatibility

Apple Watch Series 7 keyboard

What mostly bothered me about the software exclusivities on the Apple Watch Series 7 is the illogicality behind them. Apple argues that the new watch faces and QWERTY keyboard are limited to the new models because of their bigger displays. However, the 41mm Series 7 has a smaller display compared to the 44mm Series 6. So, technically, the 44mm Series 6 is large enough to support the new keyboard.

My frustration is fueled by Apple copying features from third-party developers, banning their apps, and then exclusively baking them into newer models to push sales

It’s worth noting that third-party QWERTY keyboards have existed on Apple Watches before. That was until Apple banned them from the App Store for baseless reasons. So even the 38mm Series 3 could actually support this new Apple keyboard. My frustration is fueled by Apple copying third-party developers, banning their apps, and then exclusively baking them into newer models to push sales. Third-party developers are helpless because there’s not much they can do, apart from suing Apple and hoping for the best.

And don’t get me started on the watch face exclusivity. Apple limits its Watch users to a set of faces and complications. So if you’d like to design your own face or use professionally designed ones, you simply can’t. While there’s a custom Photos face that allows you to choose certain images from your library, there’s not much you can do to customize it. You’re stuck with the clock hands and the fonts Apple chooses, although an argument can be made that you know what you are getting when you sign up into Apple’s closed wall ecosystem.

So understandably, there are users who wait all year long for the new watchOS version to try new faces. Apple only added two this year with watchOS 8’s release, one of which is an over-glamorized version of the existing Photos face. I find it limiting when Apple decides to include exclusive watch faces for the Series 7, when theoretically they can be ported to and optimized for older models, if they really wanted to do it.

This is why I was very underwhelmed by the Apple Watch Series 7 announcement. Not only did it not bring notable changes and new features, but it also restricted older models from receiving some useful additions. While I don’t actively type on my Apple Watch SE, I would’ve welcomed an extra input method for when I actually need it.

The leaked flat-edged Apple Watch

Apple Watch Series 7-red-green-blue

For months, before the California Streaming event, concept images from reliable leakers were surfacing on the web. Those images were based on renders that portrayed a flat-edged “Apple Watch Series 7” that adopts the new design language Apple has been using on several newer products. Apple first started using the flat edges on the iPad Pro. Now the newer iPhones also follow this style, and it’s rumored that upcoming MacBooks will follow suit.

So, where did the flat-edged Apple Watch disappear? It's hard to tell.

So, where did the flat-edged Apple Watch disappear? It’s hard to tell. The leak was corroborated with many different leakers with different sources, so the flat Watch 7 was on the cards at some point at least. But something happened along the way that forced Apple to go with this implementation instead. There’s a chance that it could’ve been an impromptu decision affected by shortages that led Apple to reuse Series 6 parts in the Series 7. However, only some of the internals are shared between these two Apple Watch generations. The chassis is brand new, considering the larger displays, but it’s still rounded, instead of flat-edged.

Apple watch se vs series 7 case dimensions

The Apple Watch 7 comes with a different chassis (compared to the SE here, which had the same chassis as the Series 6), so it isn’t just a mere Series 6 rebrand

Many of us wonder about the leaked design and the mystery behind its disappearance. I can think of some possible explanations to how these renders ended up online, assuming they weren’t made up by someone:

  1. They were initially planned for the Series 7, but Apple decided to hold back till the Series 8. So they had time to settle for the rounded design, but the leakers didn’t receive the information accurately.
  2. They were initially planned for the Series 7, but Apple has decided to scrap this plan altogether, for whatever reason.
  3. They were planned for the Series 8 in the first place, but the leak failed to mention that. So that led to the assumption that they were Series 7 renders. So we could still see a redesign in the future.

To be fair…

Apple logo with customers

Image: Reuters

Apple is a business. Its aim is growing and making more money — plain and simple. They’re aware that the Apple Watch Series 7, when it comes to new hardware upgrades, doesn’t have much to offer. Boosting sales is what they care about, even if that is done by marketing exclusive software features that they could’ve implemented on all (or most) models. They’ve done their research on how the sales would be affected by including or excluding the software exclusivities. Had it been a losing move for them, they wouldn’t have done it. But clearly, they won’t be losing any (significant number of) customers by playing this card, even if they lose their respect. Balance sheets don’t have a line item for “respect from enthusiasts”, so that’s going to be okay.

As for the leaked renders, the flat-edged Apple Watch set certain expectations for tech enthusiasts. We had higher hopes and were almost certain a redesign was happening this year. Then reality hit when Apple revealed the rounded ones that lack any major changes. It’s true, I wouldn’t have been as disappointed had I not known of the flat-edged renders in the first place. It would’ve been a boring segment of the keynote nonetheless. So it’s not really Apple’s fault that we set high expectations which weren’t meant to be met this year.

There is not much tech manufacturers can do right now regarding releasing innovative products. They have to keep on finding ways to market and sell their new releases, even if these ways are controversial. Ultimately, growing further is all they care about. Personally, I hope we see the long-lost, flat-edged Apple Watch next year because I believe a hardware redesign is long overdue.

What do you think of the Apple Watch Series 7 and its software exclusivities? Will you be upgrading to it, or are you waiting for the Series 8? Let us know in the comments section below.

About author

Mahmoud Itani
Mahmoud Itani

Mahmoud is an Istanbul-based Beiruti who has always sought freedom through writing. His hobbies include keeping up with tech news, writing articles about Apple devices & services, crocheting, meditating, and composing poetry. You’ll likely find him jogging with his dogs at a park, swimming in open water, brainstorming at a coffeehouse, or merely lost in nature. He can be reached on Twitter @Mahmoudzitani or via [email protected]

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