Over the past few years the smartwatch segment has become so big that now the specialists have started coming in. Finnish equipment maker Suunto, which is synonymous with pocket compasses, is launching its smartwatch in India now aimed at the segment that prefers the outdoors over everything else. Here is my experience of having used the Suunto 7 on and off for a few weeks.
The Suunto 7 doesn’t really look like a smartwatch at first glance. It looks like a timepiece from the Casio G Shock school of thought, a watch that has outdoors written all over it.
In other words, the Suunto 7 is a large watch. It is not that heavy, but you will certainly feel the watch on your wrist all day long. It has a large touchscreen watch face with one button on the left and three on the right. The strap is a soft rubber material and is quite comfortable to wear for long hours and won’t be a hassle in the rain or when it is just very humid.
The Suunto 7 is essentially an Android watch at the core, running Google’s WearOS. But it is not plain vanilla WearOS as Suunto has added apps and layers of its own. But this means you need to log in to the Google Fit and Suunto apps running on your phone simultaneously. However, one good thing about Suunto is that the apps use Wi-Fi to connect directly to the net and don’t need the phone for this.
I don’t really want to delve into the parts of this watch that are common to any Android smartwatch. But yes, you have access to all the Google Fit apps as well as apps like weather, etc. Also, like other smartwatches, the Suunto 7 too showcases all notifications, call alerts, and music controls as you would expect and even takes voice command with Google Assistant. So it is a pretty effective smartwatch even before we get to the exclusive stuff Suunto has added.
And it is the Suunto apps that make this smartwatch different. Let’s start with the watch faces. The watch faces draw on the Suunto legacy of having created products that help people out there in the wilderness, be it in the sea or a trek in the mountains. These watch faces have a marine instrument feel to them. But my favourite was the heatmap which puts a dial on your location. A simple swipe on the watch face takes you the data that matters like your step and calorie count, heart rate, weekly fitness, etc.
On the watch, there is a dedicated button that takes you to the Suunto app that lets you start an exercise or trek. Once this is activated, you will see the watch face change to the data that matters like distance, elevation, lap time, and the like. This can be customised to the sport you are engaging in. I was happy that there was even the option of adding a treadmill view, which is the closest I have been to the outdoors in many months, with the windows open, of course.
Where the Suunto watch comes to its own is with its real-time GPS data. So on the watch, you can see where you are exactly and where all you have been. In fact, you can use the Suunto app on the phone to preset the route you want to take on the map and get directions as you run or trek. This is a great feature also because the Suunto maps — on the watch and the phone — are the best I have seen with the kind of details a Google Map can’t offer. This is also why the Suunto 7 becomes the ideal watch for those going for treks where they might not have access to GPS signals.
The data counts on the Suunto watch are top-notch. I matched them with the Apple Watch and there was hardly any margin between the two. Also, the data is very detailed with real-time heart rate tracking to go with your steps and trend mapping over the days to give you an idea of your progress.
Though this is a tough watch to wear to sleep, the Suunto 7 gives very detailed sleep data which kept telling me I was not getting enough quality sleep. Not that I needed any prompting on that count. Also, powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform, the watch does not lag or slow for even a second.
The one issue I faced with the Suunto 7 is that it takes a while to find your way around this smartwatch with its four buttons. It will take you a week to come in sync, if you are not using other watches that will confuse you. Also, there are times when the watch needs you to use the buttons and not the touchscreen, such as to end a workout, which I did not find very natural. Then you have to wait a bit at times to see the workout or sleep data synced to the app and might even need to initiate a manual sync. These are minor irritants though and with time you will get used to figuring out how to optimise this smartwatch has to your lifestyle.
The watch charges on a proprietory dock, which is also when it latches on to the Wi-Fi for updates to the systems and maps — I found this to be a very good feature. The charge lasts about 24 hours and there is a low power mode you can switch to if you are not near a power source with the juice about to dry up.
The Suunto 7 is ideal for those planning to isolate themselves in the wild, or those who go on regular treks and hikes. Given that this is a premium watch with a price tag of Rs 36,999, I would not recommend this to regular users, especially those who don’t have a significant outdoor life, with or without the pandemic. But if you are one with nature, then there is no better option out there now.