The Suunto 7 has just been announced – and it’s a stunner: a full-fledged WearOS smartwatch from Suunto.
A sports and outdoor watch company known for their watches’ adventure-worthiness going with Google’s WearOS is a surprise. In my opinion, a very good surprise that holds promise for both Suunto and Google’s WearOS.
Why a Suunto WearOS Watch is Promising
All current sports watches also have some smartwatch features, at least. Every company developing their own software has resulted in long development cycles, watches being released with far fewer features than they eventually have – and still limited feature sets.
A WearOS Suunto will also have its development to go through, especially where the Suunto-own features are concerned. The pros and cons will be known, however.
WearOS is not without issues. In fact, it has been a big issue in and of itself. Its adoption has been below expectations; problematic experiences from back when it was Android Wear still hold back its acceptance; a flagship device has remained missing; it’s (considered to be) not as good as the Apple watch or Samsung’s Tizen.
If you do not have an iPhone, but rather use Android, however, then the Apple watch simply does not work with your smartphone. WearOS may be limited in use with an iPhone, but in large part even works with that. And of course, it is made to work with Android, by and large agnostic of version and manufacturer.
Since I had a chance to try out – and now use – the Casio ProTrek Smart, I have been a big fan of WearOS even for sports and the outdoors. Yes, there are limits to its usefulness. But there are also decisive upsides.
Time and Tours is about learning how to make the most out of sports and outdoor technology. Not complaining the world isn’t perfect, but learning what limits and upsides there are.
So, what does the Suunto 7 offer that excites me, and who is it for?
Expectations for the Suunto 7 had been for a watch that somehow slots in between the Suunto 5 and the Suunto 9. Many people speculated that this meant it will be a Suunto 5 with barometer/altimeter, and not much more.
I found it clearer that filling this gap in the lineup meant that it would not be a top model for the ultimate Suunto user who goes on 200-mile ultramarathons in the mountains, but more than a fitness watch. More than just a Baro S5.
Obviously – or it would not be released as Suunto 7 – this watch does slot into this customer segment between the outright adventurers and the fitness folks who may go for a triathlon but also want training plans delivered by their watch.
If you look to remain fit, to progress in your fitness, to lead a healthy life – but you need to balance that with a full life of work and family, then the Suunto 7 may just be the watch for you.
Business trips to new cities… and a desire to go running in these new places without having to load a route, but certain you will find your way, know your surroundings – and know where many people have recorded their sports activities with a Suunto?
Yup, the Suunto 7 is for you.
Need to stay in touch, have your phone nearby, but decide whether you need to take it out to answer the latest notification or just to see it, reply quickly, or be safe in ignoring it?
You catch my drift, I’m sure: The Suunto 7 may well be for you.
A Multiply-Stunning Watch
The Suunto design and expertise combined with the full WearOS experience means that this watch is a stunner. In several ways.
Design and Adventure Durability
On the outside, the Suunto 7 follows the elegant-rugged-adventurous-minimalist design language that Suunto began with the Spartan Ultra. The Suunto 7 leads it to new heights, though – and I “only” have it in the version with black-lime silicone band (which, full disclosure, has become a bit duller after a few months of use, as usual). Even leather (and textile) watch straps should become available, though – and this watch with a black leather strap… Oh yeah!
Of course, it’s a tough reinforced polyamide case with stainless steel bezel and touch-enabled Gorilla glass screen, all tested to Suunto standards.
Oh yeah, waterproofness is rated to 50 m.
Electronics and Battery
Many WearOS manufacturers shy away from giving out details about the system they use inside their watches; Suunto is beautifully straight about it – and for good reason:
The Suunto 7 runs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform, which is the current top-of-line system for WearOS.
Between that and Suunto’s expertise, the watch is designed to last up to two days (48 hours) in smartwatch use and up to 12 hours in sports use. As usual with WearOS, “up to” is a bad claim to make as things differ strongly in real-world use, depending on use and conditions.
In real life, GPS- and HR-enabled sports tracking (currently) tends to run for 5-10 hours. This still means that your average workday with a training session will typically not be an issue; a WearOS watch is never meant for an ultramarathon or a weekend outing with a full day’s recording and without recharge, though.
For that, there are still watches like the Suunto 9.
Still, for WearOS, easily getting through a day, probably through a second, is a step up. Until battery technology seriously improves, that is unlikely to change – and just consider everything it offers…!
The screen is deep black when it is in a battery-saving off mode.
Turn it on, as always-on screen or through a tilt-to-wake move of the wrist, and it illuminates to beautiful full colors rendering everything crisply. And what it renders…!
Suunto’s Heatmap Watchface
The standard watchface of the Suunto 7 shows the beauty and immediately points to one of the things the watch makes good use of: maps! Among them, as seen on the standard watchface, Suunto heatmaps.
The way this works is that, first of all, the watch simply gets GPS fixes in the background and loads the heatmap to show for one’s current surroundings via the connected smartphone.
The heatmap can be set to different zoom levels:
- Nearby (2 km)
- Neighborhood (4km)
- City (8 km)
- Metropolitan (15 km)
It can also be set to show different sport’s tracks, such as “All Trails” or only those from running or trail running or even downhill.
In addition to the big digital time display on this watchface, there are also two small areas for data fields.
Here, I immediately want to point out one headline feature:
When the watch is on the charger (over night) and connected to WiFi, it also downloads maps of the surroundings (“local maps”) for offline use, so they will be available in the Suunto app even without the phone. One can also choose custom maps for such download and offline use.
This feature can, frankly, be improved. Work on the Suunto app is ongoing, though, anyways.
Offline maps means that it is not only possible to run with one’s smartphone and remain connected, but also possible to leave the smartphone at home and still have those beautiful maps.
Marine: This watchface from Suunto shows an analog watch in the style of a sailing racing timer.
(This watchface does not work with GPS, so improves battery life a little…) There are also three areas for data to set up as desired.
“Rose” has an analog time display with running seconds and the design of a compass rose in the middle, plus up to three (at the moment, at least, invisible, data fields).
“Original” just has an analog watchface with running seconds and two data fields.
Additional watchfaces can, of course, be chosen from the Google Play store.
Tiles, Daily Tracking, Google Fit
Daily tracking is, WearOS-typical, taken over by Google Fit.
The best approach to this is to make sure to have Google Fit set up right, and put it into the WearOS “Tiles” to the right of the watch’s main screen (which is what and where a WearOS watch wants you to have that, by default, anyways).
The Tiles also include ones from Suunto and for Suunto, i.e. sports tracking, data. The first one shows the current week’s training overview, the second the month’s training overview.
WearOS’s Google Assistant
WearOS of course means that there is the Google Assistant experience, left of the main watch screen…
If you don’t know what that does: It gives helpful information (and some inspiring messages) and is a direct link to voice-controlled Google services, from setting up an alarm or timer on the watch to searching the web for information.
Down from the main screen reside the notifications, same as on all WearOS devices…
And also the same, they offer lots of possibilities – however many are available from the smartphone and the (smartphone and or WearOS) app in question.
Often enough, quite a bit of text can be read, quick replies are automatically suggested… and the watch “knows” as many languages as the phone; there is no problem displaying Chinese text on a European watch, for example.
Touch and Buttons
Compared to the latest Suunto watches, the Suunto 7 looks like a return to a button-rich interaction. At the same time at which it has a touch-enabled screen that allows not only for taps, but also swiping e.g. to move a map view.
The sports expertise may have come into play here, though, and so there are three buttons on the right, one button on the upper left – and they are nice:
- The upper left button, alone there, is always for the app menu of the watch. This is where you find the Suunto app for sports tracking, or any other app that comes preinstalled or that you chose to use.
- The upper right button launches the Suunto app;
the middle button leads to media controls;
- the lower right button is mapped to the stopwatch function.
The middle and lower buttons can also be set up as desired, though, via the “Custom Hardware Buttons” setting in the “Personalization” menu.
In sports, it all becomes even better.
Sports Tracking and the Suunto (WearOS) App
A somewhat curious matter with the use of WearOS: Since you can install whatever app you like and works well, the Suunto influence on the whole watch could mainly just be on the hardware. Of course, things are never that easy with such electronics, so that alone actually implies much more input than one might think.
The Suunto 7’s main app for recording sports activities comes from Suunto, of course.
Compared to some of the features of other dedicated sports watches, Suunto or non-Suunto, the Suunto 7 running the Suunto WearOS app for tracking sports will probably disappoint those who always want next-gen watches to have any and all features of earlier models and then some. Those for whom this is not the right watch.
Looking at the Suunto WearOS app on its own merits, though, I am once again excited to see what is coming now (and will hopefully come in the future) from the synergy between WearOS smartwatch abilities and Suunto expertise in sports.
What does the Suunto WearOS app now give?
The Suunto app on the Suunto 7 gives a streamlined sports recording experience like I have not seen it yet in WearOS.
It is possible to record a plethora of sports; the full list of Suunto-recognized sports is there.
The start-up screen shows when GPS has a lock and heart rate (from the watch’s oHR) has been found, a teaser of the map, and the options for sports modes, plus a few options available (such as use of tones and vibration, as well as always-on screen).
In recording, there are screens for the data being recorded, a screen with a graph, and the map screen. In many sports modes, the screens can be swiped through or changed via the middle button (in water sports, the touchscreen gets deactivated – as it should be).
Even the battery-saver standby screens for the app’s real screens (shown if you are not using the always-on screen) are instructive; they show what screen the watch is on and what actions the buttons are mapped to.
Data recorded gets synced into the Suunto app (as in, smartphone app) so that it is right there for the analysis that provides.
From the Suunto app, of course, the data can get synced with all the Suunto partners, as usual.
So, while daily tracking data is going to Google Fit (at least for now?), which also shows the activities is has recognized, true sports data goes into one’s Suunto data, as it should.
The maps that the Suunto app shows come from Mapbox / Open Street Map, which is utterly fantastic.
Those maps are my favorites because they are available for – more or less – everywhere, with topo lines and many trails in their “outdoors” view.
They are, thus, both good looking and actually useful – and you do not have to pay for topo maps, if they are even available for your area and on your device.
This alone makes me a big fan of WearOS and an implementation like Suunto’s here!
On the maps screen in the Suunto app, one does already get a breadcrumb track of the recorded path. Routes are not available, but this may well be a “not yet.”
There is no automatic guidance from the map, no points of interest or anything like that, but frankly, I am happy it is this way.
I’ll rather have a topo outdoors map that helps but still needs me to decide where to go myself. Making oneself dependent on a map for actual routing, that’s ill advised. For the same reason, by the way, for which the heatmaps’ usefulness of course depends on how correctly the data they were based on was recorded.
Sports and Life – Combined
I don’t usually want to repeat the marketing language of a brand, but it is worth it for the Suunto 7. The claim I have seen is that it is for “sports and life – combined,” and this is indeed where it has gone.
For the next ultra, I will still take the Suunto 9 (if not a competitor’s device); there are good sides to all the sports and outdoor watches I am trying out…
In overall usefulness to daily life and work as well as sports, though, it’s Suunto 7 ftw!