The Suunto 7 September 2020 Update: Always-on Sports Display, FusedTrack, Routes!

The Suunto 7 continues to be the most interesting of WearOS smartwatches made to span daily life and sports – and especially as this September 2020 update gives it interesting new abilities.

Of course, a WearOS smartwatch is not the device for serious athletic training or long-time outdoors adventures; there are other, better, watches for that.

For getting on top of a busy schedule (or getting a push to get stuff done while on lock-down), quickly dealing with notifications without hanging on one’s smartphone, and then dealing with the stress and doing something for fun and fitness through some sports and/or outdoors pursuits, unencumbered by worry about HR straps and to-the-heartbeat training plans, it is great.

The fun was a bit limited by battery life and by the lack of a routing ability – and Suunto has been working on both.

Route Display on the Suunto 7 Map Screen

First off, the Suunto app on the Suunto 7 no longer shows “only” maps of one’s surroundings (and one’s track, once moving and recording), but also routes.

Just switch the “Sync route to watch” in the Suunto (smartphone) app to on, and the route is transferred to the Suunto 7.

That is not everything about it, though.

The routing on the watch does lack direction arrows, so you do have to know which way you want to go sometimes, when/where it’s unclear. Having both maps and the route line (and one’s own previous track) shown on the watch is tremendously helpful with that.

Picking a Route

When choosing a route to use in the sport mode startup, routes are displayed as little map tiles with their course outline, names and distance.

They are shown in the order of distance from the current location. This is fantastically nice for not having to scroll through a long list.

It is all the nicer as the Suunto (smartphone) app has been developing very nicely, including in all the ways to find and create routes it now offers.

Routes and Offline Maps Download

Before that, when the Suunto 7 is on the charger and on WiFi, and routes are synced to it, there is no longer only a download of local offline maps.

No longer is it necessary, if going somewhere soon, to download a custom offline map (picking an area to download manually) – though this capability remains.

No, the maps for routes synced to the Suunto 7 also get downloaded automatically so that they are ready for use.

“Okay” GPS with FusedTrack on the Suunto 7

Battery life is and remains an issue with WearOS, and that very much includes the Suunto 7. Well, Suunto has taken their FusedTrack and brought it to WearOS now.

On the Suunto 7, it is designed as a mixture of GPS readings every 10 seconds, with tracks in between based on data from compass, gyroscope, and accelerometer.

The resulting tracks have a tendency to be a fair bit wobbly, if looking at them closely, but they give a good to very good impression of the paths taken, anyways.

Distance recordings are very good; autolaps come at very nearly the same points as on a watch with best GPS, and notifications about waypoints (or having gone off route) come in good time, too.

FusedTrack Battery Experiences

All that while the battery savings can be really good:

I have had a run using FusedTrack, using map display a lot (which consumes more battery) and in rather tough conditions, in which the watch used so much battery, it looked like it would not have lasted longer than four hours like that. – That’s not ideal.

I’ve also seen the Suunto 7 last long enough, with best GPS and route navigation pretty constantly in use, notifications active, at least half the time in the worst possible conditions for GPS (in the old town paths through Florence which offer as good as no view to the sky) for a 10 km, 1 hour, morning run.

In this case, it would also have lasted for a total of around four hours of sports recording only, though – again, not ideal.

In both of those cases, though, the watch had enough battery left to get through the rest of the day. And, such short(er) runs are not ideal for looking at the battery estimate.

So, I also went for something more appropriate:

I have also gone out running, notifications still on (and a few received), looking at the map display when necessary, okay GPS with FusedTrack active… and the Suunto 7 lasted for the nearly 50 km, more than 5:30 hours, with battery to spare for another 4 hours of sports tracking!

That is much more like it 😉

It’s the Usual WearOS Issue…

As always, WearOS makes things very strongly dependent on the exact settings and conditions; the Suunto 7 is still not the watch for mountain ultramarathons.

Good (FusedTrack) GPS, little use of the map display, and airplane mode (and not the brightest display setting, if possible, etc.) should be able to take it to a battery life *in sports recording* that’s longer than even your atypical smartwatch user would want (or be able) to run.

For “Sports and Life, Combined” this has really got somewhere. (And we’ll be having a closer look at how navigation works, how to go more extreme, and more, soon.)

FusedTrack and Route Navigation?

A note here on something I myself was confused about (because it is similar-yet-different from the Suunto 9):

The Suunto 7 keeps using 10 seconds GPS (and displays these GPS points, but not the FusedTrack tracks in between), even when switching to the map screen.

Route navigation still works well, most of the time.

Be aware, though, that it could take 10 seconds to get the next location fix (and thus, a bit longer if there are reception issues, until the location fix is good).

(The whole FusedTrack-using tracks will be shown in the Suunto app on the smartphone after sync, but not on the watch screen.)

Always-On Displays in Suunto App Workout Recording

While in sports recording, the Suunto app on the Suunto 7 now also behaves differently from before: It no longer goes into battery-saving blank displays until woken up with a wrist gesture or a tap (as set up).

Rather, the sports displays now function through always-on displays that continue to show data, just through the lower-power processor of the chipset.

The battery draw of that is slightly higher than that of the purely blank screen (with only hints of the data), but this is hardly noticeable, thus well worth the trade-off.

Only the map screen still goes into its blank state.

Power saving features (where FusedTrack GPS setting can also be found) have an option to keep the map screen always on, but that is a true battery drain.

One Thing to Note: AOD and Notifications

One thing you should be aware of regarding the always-on displays here, though: They prevent notifications from automatically popping up.

There is still the vibration and/or tones for them, if the watch is set up to use those, but you’ll have to twist your wrist or even tap on the display (again, depending on your setup) to actually get the notification to show.

Sometimes, this seems to have odd effects, where e.g. an autolap notification was still active behind the always-on display, and gets shown when twisting the wrist to check some data.

As everything WearOS, these small things take some getting used to and seeing what works for oneself (and how). I have to admit, it went to the point where I thought wrist gestures for notifications were broken – until I found that a software update had disabled them again and I hadn’t thought of checking their setting. Duh!

WearOS System H MR2

For completeness’ sake, I should mention that this update also includes the WearOS system version H, in its MR2 stage.

This system version has*

  • Update to battery saver mode which only displays time when battery is below 10% (which I think is actually not used on the Suunto 7, at least if you use a power saver watchface from Suunto, which has basically the same effect all day… and also, there is a dedicated low-battery watchface from Suunto, anyways)
  • Better efficiency of the off-body behavior: when the watch is just lying somewhere, after 30 minutes it goes into a deep sleep mode, saving battery
  • Smart resume for apps, which should start them where last used
  • Power-off (or restart) shortcut, holding the power button. (That’s the upper left button. Hold it for a second to start Google Assistant; hold it a bit longer and the quick menu to ‘power off’ or ‘restart’ appears)

This system also includes the handwashing timer (also available as a watch tile), and the new Weather tile*.

(*Or so, it is said to be.
There’s also supposed to be a new, easier, pairing/on-boarding process, faster app startup, “more intuitive controls” – but most of those don’t yet seem to be there – just as the new Weather tile is still missing as of now, beginning of September.
Still, this *is* the H MR2 system, (in) the version that Google recently announced as coming…)

“The best of Android 11” is supposed to come to WearOS, and Qualcomm would have a new chipset which promises longer battery life again. No word yet on what will happen in this regard with Suunto, but let’s see what more will come!

In the meantime, let’s focus on what we have and how to make the most of it! Videos and articles of route navigation and FusedTrack experiences coming up!

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2 Comments

  1. Jeff Tillack

    I’m really interested in your views of the Suunto 7. It looks like a really great watch for non-ultra activities and certainly much nicer than an Apple Watch!

    • I have an article on how/why I love it – but it helped a lot that I traveled with a Casio ProTrek Smart (first WSD-F20, then F30) before the Suunto 7 came out, so I was already aware of the fun and the fails of the WearOS system. It’s a tough balancing act between aggravating issues and amazing functionality… which is why I find it hard to communicate it, too (especially when people come to it now, reading “Suunto” and expecting everything from any other Suunto 😉 )

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