In 2019, it’s fair to say Google’s numerous Wear OS partners adopted a much sportier approach to smartwatches. Tag Heuer launched a golf edition of its Modular Connected smartwatch and even Michael Kors had a Wear watch designed to be a better fit for the gym.
2020 it seems will see that trend continuing. After sports watch maker Polar entered the Wear OS game with the M600 way back in 2016, Finnish counterpart Suunto is now joining the proper smartwatch game too.
The Suunto 7 is the company’s first ever smartwatch that’s priced at $479 and is squarely aimed at casual fitness folk.
Sitting in between the Suunto 5 and the Suunto 9, the 7 runs on the latest version of Wear OS and is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset. It comes packed with those crucial sports tracking sensors including built-in GPS, a barometric altimeter and an optical heart rate monitor that can be used with 70 sports modes.
With Google’s own software on board, you’re also getting features like Google Pay, Google Assistant and Google Fit. Suunto has sought to make its presence felt here too adding some unique features that you won’t even find on other Suunto watches.
I had the chance to have an early play with the Suunto 7 to find out what you can expect from the sporty smartwatch.
Surprising good looks
Like Garmin and Polar, Suunto is playing catch up as far as making its watches the kind you’d want to wear all of the time and not just when you’re working out. It’s been adding more color options, nicer bands and including bezels that help to create that more eye-catching look.
That progress on the the design front can certainly be seen in this watch that’s for sure. This is definitely one of the nicest looking watches Suunto has ever made.
There’s five designs in total and all feature nice, big stainless steel bezels that surround the touchscreen display that really dominate that overall look. On the wrist, the 7 feels similar to the Suunto 9 in terms of stature, but it’s slimmer than Suunto’s top end sports watch. It also weighs in around 10g lighter and it shows.
The strap holding that watch case in place is interchangeable and uses a similar pin mechanism featured on other Wear OS watches, for when you want switch in something new. Suunto has opted four physical buttons, with the three on the right of the watch case offering the same kind of functionality and control as Suunto’s current crop of sports watches.
The solo button on the left of the case seems largely reserved for accessing smartwatch features like launching the app drawer and launching Google Assistant.
Suunto has slapped it with a waterproof rating that makes it fit for the water at up to 50 metres depth. It’s not clear though whether it will offer swim tracking in line with other Suunto watches.
The touchscreen display is lovely too. It’s big, bright, colors really pop and those deep blacks are a sure sign that this is a high quality AMOLED screen in place here.
Google’s Wear OS does of course run the software show, but a quick swipe through watch screens, it feels like Suunto has had a big say on including some of its own UI touches that already appears on its other sports watches.
Elements like the app drawer, Tiles, the Google Fit watch face and settings menu all live in the same place as they do on most Wear OS smartwatches. Health and fitness data like heart rate readings and workout summaries though very much feel like Suunto features.
The 7 will be compatible with Suunto’s recently redesigned mobile app and it will place nice with Strava letting you fire over your workout data to the third party fitness platform.
The big question is whether the combination of Google and Suunto software features work to make this an operating system that’s easier to use. WearOS on its own still has some clunky elements, so throwing in something new into the mix could be a good thing or a bad thing.
One of the most interesting features Suunto included on the 7 centres around mapping. It’s offering the ability to download color maps that can display contours and trails. It’s including 8GB of storage, which means there’s a decent amount of space to play with and more than you get on your average Wear watch.
It’s also taking its Movecounts heat maps, which has been available for Suunto users for a while now, to inspire you to explore new places to run, ride or even hike.
Those heat maps show the tracks frequently used by Suunto users whether that’s road running, trail running or even cycling routes. When you visit a new country and drop your watch on its charger, it will automatically detect you location and download maps based on those heat maps that you can view offline.
It takes those routes from a 50km radius giving you a sizeable amount of space to find some decent sized routes.
The Suunto 7 is an intriguing move from a company that’s having to compete with a rapidly growing army of Garmin watches that are more smartwatch and sports watch hybrids than ever before. Polar’s watches are improving on that front too and its pricing clearly puts in line with the likes of the Apple Watch too.
Up close, Suunto seems to have a got lot right on the design front. Its software extras will no doubt set it apart from other sporty smartwatches and place less reliance on making use of the flaky Google Fit.
One element of the Suunto 7 I haven’t spoken about though is battery life. Suunto’s watches are renowned for delivering big battery life. The 7 can muster up 48 hours in smartwatch mode and 12 hours with sports tracking features in use. That’s some way short of what other Suunto watches can offer.
When you consider what the Garmin Venu and the Fitbit Versa 2 can offer, particularly on the sports tracking and battery front, those Suunto extras are going to have to really impress to make it worth picking up over something like the Venu or the Versa 2.