Suunto’s latest smartwatch is gorgeous, integrates well with the Google ecosystem, but has some serious training flaws.
- Price: $500
- Weight: 70g
- Sport Modes: Swim (open water and pool), Bike (speed, distance, HR), Run (pace, distance, HR)
Basics: The Suunto 7’s color touchscreen displays tons of lifestyle info and workout basics.
Pros: Google/Android integration via WearOS should have Apple watching its back.
Cons: No triathlon mode, no multisport (E.g., brick, swimrun, etc.) mode, no support for external sensors
Warning: There are a lot of functions missing from the new Suunto 7 that prevent it from being an amazing watch for triathletes. It’s important we review products that are great for multisport, and it’s important that we review ones that aren’t there yet. There are a lot of very cool functions in the new Suunto 7 that we love, but there are a few that would make it a struggle for serious triathletes who use lots of devices or those who use it as a single device for racing or brick training. Read on for more, but it’s important that I address this early in the review to prevent the type of mean social media comments that make me cry at night into my pillow.
Over the last few years, the smartwatch market has slowly diverged into two different types of smartwatch category “strengths”: The first is a smartwatch brand that is made for very serious athletes—people who analyze their data very carefully, are connected with online training platforms, use multiple sensors like power meters, and expect a high level of accuracy along the way. These same people are generally willing to overlook connectivity and interface bugs when it comes to basic lifestyle smartwatch functions like calendars/messages/music/etc. Think: Garmin, Suunto (generally), and Polar. The other category of smartwatch is angled more towards lifestyle. While the GPS’ may not be super accurate or elevation is a little off and there is no way to customize screens for various types of sports, your messages and reminders and connected apps work super well, all the time. Here, think more like Fitbit, Apple (in some ways), and Samsung—among many others.
While Garmin, Suunto, and Polar up to this point have done an ok job of making a watch that’s “just as at home in the gym as it is in the boardroom,” the lifestyle-specific brands like Apple are light years ahead in terms of daily smartwatch use and integration. With the 7, Suunto is taking a stab at straddling that serious-lifestyle gap to mixed results.
Suunto 7: What’s The Big Deal?
All of this isn’t to say that the Suunto 7 is a bad watch. In fact, there’s a reason I have it on my wrist right now as I type this out. It checks all of the boxes that some major “athlete-serious” smartwatch brands miss badly: Gorgeous color touchscreen, a big screen without a monster footprint (yes, triathletes with small wrists, hear that), a nice “all day” design, and killer smartphone/app integration—particularly with Google products.
And it’s this amazing Google connectivity, via WearOS, that makes the Suunto 7 a big deal. While Apple’s integration with iOS devices is so seamless it’s almost scary, other smartwatch brands basically have to create their own ecosystem—with varying degrees of success—for their apps and other lifestyle stuff to live in.
WearOS is effectively Google’s answer to iOS that works amazingly on Android-based systems, plus does a really really good job of working with iOS devices like an iPhone. Unless you’re some crazy power user/engineer, don’t even THINK about trying to get an Apple Watch to work with an Android device. That said, the Suunto 7 absolutely crushes other athlete-focused smartwatches when it comes to doing things like receiving and checking messages and emails and doing cool tasks like using Google Assistant to turn on your smart home devices with your voice. The other upside to being a part of the growing WearOS ecosystem is that there will likely be a lot of other cool functions and features added as it grows.
Suunto 7: What About Triathletes?
So in the 7, Suunto has created one of the better performing lifestyle watches that is heads above other similar brands, but can triathletes truly use it all day to train? Not really. Yes, there are 70 built in sport modes, which may seem excessive, but are actually pretty cool. Unfortunately, there are some severe limits for multisporters. While the Suunto 7 can handle open-water swimming and pool swimming, the cycling functions are limited only to speed, distance, wrist-based heart rate and the things that come with it like average speed, etc. Because there is no connectivity to external devices aside from a smartphone, there’s no way to connect to Bluetooth or ANT+ gear like a chest-strap heart-rate monitor, power meter, or external speed/cadence sensors. The same also goes for running—no external HR, no footpod/power meter. Of course, this all could change with a software update, as even the Suunto 9 (which is now on sale, by the way) could do those things.
Not only that, but of the 70 sport modes, there are no modes for triathlon. Most athlete-focused watches have some sort of multisport function that allows you to hit lap and change from swim to T1 to bike to T2 to run and finish; same thing for bricks and swimrun. This missing feature seems like a very easy software fix, but it’s still not in there as of this writing.
Suunto 7: Other Good Stuff
Tri-limitations aside, there are a lot of other non-WearOS capabilities in the Suunto 7 that make it a great watch for lots of people. We loved the very cool offline mapping functions that allowed you not only to download regular GPS maps, but also SUPER cool heat maps indicating the most popular routes (among Suunto users) in a given area as you run or ride. This is a big deal for anyone who travels and trains, as it removes a lot of the guesswork and annoying research that often accompanies trying to work out outdoors in a new area. We also liked the WearOS app for connectivity and integration and the new Suunto app for workout management, but it wasn’t all gold. More on that later.
Suunto 7: Challenges
In the context of a watch like the Apple Watch, the battery life on the Suunto 7 is very admirable. Given the full-color touchscreen and all that it does, two days on smartwatch mode with a medium workout or two thrown in there is not bad. Though it advertises 40 days in battery saver mode, that’s probably not what most people will be using the 7 for, so in the context of other athlete-focused watches, the nightly charging may take some getting used to.
The only other struggle we found with a watch that is meant to focus on integration and connectivity (aside from the abject lack of connectivity to external devices…) was the fact that you basically need to use two apps to get everything out of this watch: The WearOS app for smartphone connection/Google services, and the Suunto app for workout logging/mapping/sports stuff. Not a huge issue, but another little quirk that takes some getting used to.
Suunto 7: Conclusions, I’ve Got Some
The Suunto 7 is probably one of the better lifestyle watches I’ve used from an athlete-focused brand. Suunto also brings some serious cred to the table with their accuracy and navigation knowhow. That said, it’s very strange that Suunto would leave off functions like external connectivity and multisport modes—things they actually had on their Suunto 9—in a new watch. If they add this stuff in an update, I’m all in. The WearOS features and functionality truly is very impressive, even on an iOS device like an iPhone. It integrates super cleanly to a smartphone and has had only a few connectivity hiccups along the way. In that same vein, this is a watch I wear around and train with, unless I’m doing something that requires a power meter or chest-based heart-rate sensor. Suunto’s super close on this one, but for triathletes who love data and want it all, right out of the box, it might be worth waiting.