The Playbook For The Modern Man

This Oversized Smartwatch Could Be The Best Apple Watch Alternative Yet

And that’s coming from an Apple Fanboy.

Think smartwatches and fitness trackers and you’ll likely think Apple or Fitbit. Both companies effectively rule the fitness wearable market, although Garmin certainly gives Fitbit a run for its money. Apple is pretty much in a league of its own.

But that hasn’t stopped plenty of other brands from hitting the scene to offer products that can assist you with your workouts, helping you stick to or achieve fitness goals, or act as a smartphone on your wrist, notifying you of phone calls or allowing you to change the music you’re listening to, to name but a few features

Suunto is one such company that wants to disrupt the smartwatch and fitness tracking space, although it’s hardly what you would call a startup. In fact, the company has been around since 1936, but with smartphones and smartwatches nowhere near being conceived at that time, Suunto started life producing compasses for explorers. While compasses still feature in the company’s repertoire today, it has got with the times and been producing fitness trackers and smartwatches in various forms for a number of years.

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The latest product, the Suunto 7, is the company’s first to run on Google’s Wear OS, the smartwatch-dedicated operating system designed to rival Apple’s WatchOS. It was announced at CES 2020 in January and is the first Wear OS watch to make clever use of the co-processor found on the main Qualcomm 3100 processor. If you understand how the internals of gadgets work, that’s exciting news.

I’m not an outdoor runner and I don’t own a bike, so the next best way I could put Suunto’s watch through its paces, was to wear it to a one hour strength and conditioning class at my regular gym. The class is designed to build muscle, before putting the body through a 20-30 minute intense cardio workout. It’s safe to say the watch came away in much better condition than myself.

Stylish Design…

As soon as I opened the box I was pleasantly surprised with the 7’s looks. Hailing from Finland, it’s perhaps no surprise that Suunto has employed a very minimalistic look. Some other smartwatches and fitness trackers on the market can look way too technical, or not like a watch at all.

…But It’s Not All Good News

Despite arriving in a fetching colour scheme of granite and rose gold, there’s no denying that the Suunto 7 is huge. Suunto hasn’t published the official size of it anywhere but armed with a tape measure, I made it out to be 48mm, putting it on par with a Breitling Bentley and a far cry from the 38mm Hamilton Khaki Field I wear on a daily basis.

It’s not uncomfortable on my wrist – thanks to a lightweight build and an *incredibly* comfortable silicone strap – and Suunto has likely made the design choice to fit the screen in. There is a rather large black bezel around the edge that seems somewhat unnecessary, and if this were to be removed, I feel the 7 would have a far greater appeal. I can’t imagine those with smaller wrists than mine would be happy wearing it.

Screen Time

As for the screen itself, I have no complaints. It’s a gorgeous 1.39-inch OLED display, meaning blacks are black and whites are white. Being able to see the screen when exercising outdoors is crucial and with the screen provided, you can see your data clearly. There’s an option to have the display on all the time, although this will eat into the battery life. Otherwise, the screen can be flicked into life when you raise your wrist, or by pressing any of the external crown buttons.

Four Is One Too Many

Speaking of external crown buttons, the Suunto 7 has four of them. Yes, four. In the regular watch world, this is a lot and the same has to be said in the smartwatch space too. In the short period I had the Suunto 7 for review, I had a hard time remembering exactly what each button did. Even though you can change the function of the middle- and bottom-right buttons, to open different apps, I left them as the default of music controls and stopwatch (I just had to check what both did before writing that) because I was much happier using the dedicated and non-changeable Suunto button instead (top right).

Bursting With Sports Modes

Suunto has already established itself within the fitness tracker space by offering customers a more comprehensive range of sports to track using the dedicated app, compared to the likes of Fitbit. While this is great and many customers may find a use for it, I personally don’t see the need. Each sport measures in practically the same way – time elapsed and heart rate – so the only real benefit I can see is that it allows you to remember how many calories you burned, or the amount of time you spent doing each exact discipline.

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Fitness Tracking Is First Class…

The way in which WearOS tracks your fitness data is similar to the way Apple does with its offering and I’d say it will come down to your personal preference of how that data is displayed that will determine which watch you go for. Yes, you can install third-party apps on both, but the default software should work for most users.

You need to wear the Suunto 7 all the time to generate any worthy data from it, instead of just strapping it on for a one-hour gym session. But since it doubles up as a smartwatch too, this shouldn’t be a problem. Once you get some data, Google’s Fit application displays it in an easy-to-understand format using a combination of bar charts, circles, and octagons.

…But There Are Too Many Apps

One thing I did notice with Suunto’s watch is that you need a fair few apps to get an overall view of the data it stores. You need the WearOS app to make changes to the watch face and get a basic breakdown of health data tracked by Google Fit. Then you need the dedicated Google Fit app to view a day-by-day breakdown of your data. Data can come from both your watch and Apple’s Health app if you use an iPhone.

And then you also need the Suunto app to view your workout data. This is data that comes from whichever workout or sports option you choose on the watch, such as the basic indoor training option I selected for my gym class. You can also use the Suunto app to watch ‘How To’ videos and gaining direct access to the Suunto store.

The Google Fit app is the one I’d recommend users install, as ultimately, it does the best job of the three of relaying your workout data. It also tells you how much more you need to move in order to complete your next goal.

Wear OS Is A Wonder

This was my first time using Google’s Wear OS software. As an iPhone owner, I have an Apple Watch – although I rarely use it anymore – so I was a) skeptical as to how well my phone would work with Google’s software and b) was interested to see how much they differ. Thankfully, the iPhone works brilliantly with the watch software. An Android device would get slightly preferential treatment, but by having an iPhone you’re not locked out of accessing the main bulk of features.

As an operating system, I found Wear OS to be quick and responsive on the Suunto 7. Swiping through the various screens and scrolling through the apps lists was a breeze, and search results loaded quickly when connected to wi-fi via my iPhone.

It has full, built-in access to Google’s Play Store of apps, so you don’t need to transfer apps from your phone – as with Apple’s Watch – instead, you can carry out the entire process from the watch itself.

However, you can’t respond to messages from the watch itself, you can only be notified before having to revert back to your phone to take any action. There’s also a lot of swiping to do to navigate through the menus, and as with the buttons, I forgot which direction I needed to swipe in to get to the menu I wanted. This is just a learning process though and I imagine with more time, I’d be able to breeze through it with ease.

Battery Life For Days*

Battery life has always been a chink in the armour for smartwatches. My Apple Watch for example barely makes it past a full day on a single charge, and that’s without even using it too much. The Suunto 7 is capable of lasting for a few days, but only if you turn the GPS tracking off, from constant to just when you’re tracking a run or cycle for example.

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After I completed my gym workout on a Tuesday morning, I took the watch off and left it on my bedside table, where it made it all the way through to the Friday before conking out. This will be dramatically reduced with extra usage, but my Apple Watch would have died out much earlier under the same conditions.

Overall, I was pleased with the Suunto 7. It has a wealth of features and the fact it can connect to my iPhone and not restrict me from accessing the vast majority of its features is a huge bonus. I would have liked it to be a tad smaller, but I imagine for real fitness enthusiasts, the legibility offered by the larger screen will be useful.

I wouldn’t wear it on a daily basis, but that’s only because I much prefer wearing a conventional analogue watch on my wrist. If I want to track my health data at the same time, I’d turn to something smaller such as a Fitbit Charge 3 to wear on my other wrist.

  • drzeller

    I’m trying to figure out the value to this review. What should we away take when the reviewer is so far outside the key demographic for the watch? Max admits to not measuring the sports the watch it targeted towards; he normally wears a watch that is smaller than today’s typically large watch; he says he no longer wears his smartwatch; you get the idea.

    The review is overall positive, but I am unsure if that is an informed positive, nor am I sure if negatives, such as excessive buttons, are valid criticisms. Are the buttons valuable to the target audience, for example?

    Anyway, it was overall well written (better than many blogs, certainly), I’m just unsure of the expertise of the author in this case.

  • Gravage Hulk

    What the heck is this review? Only used the watch with iOS, then points out that you can’t respond to messages. Duh. Wear OS is smooth and responsive? You’re literally the only person ever to say that. I use Wear OS daily and it’s anything but that. Suunto is a fitness company. They don’t care if the watch is big or stylish. They compete directly with Garmin and Polar.

  • Ben Isaacson

    No Google wear watch can ever compete with native iOS firmware . Is there even one smartwatch left that is actually trying to build a native iOS device?

  • Kevin Mogee

    A generic link to the Wear OS page (which doesn’t have the Suunto watch available), and a link to your gym of choice, but nothing for the actual product reviewed? Did your gym pay you for this article?

  • JB

    You’re an idiot and don’t know shit. FitBits are a complete joke. They don’t work right. This Suunto May be OK. Apple watches look great and do stuff but they aren’t fitness based. I’d break that shit on one expedition. The Garmin Fenix is the best fitness-based watch. Smart watches are lame. The Garmin is the choice of mountaineers. Not pussies with tech jobs who make too much fuckin money. By the way, I didn’t read your article past the I’m apple fan boy and the Garmin gives Fitbit blah blah a run for its money. Why? Because everyone knows FitBits just don’t accurately record shit. You lost all credibility after that statement. Apps on watches are for guys that regurgitate stats and shit and meet for happy hour after work with their frat buddies, not ballers but that’s another story. Get a Fenix Saphire 5X or 6 (you can find the 5X Saphire for $340 now and it will fuck this Suunto in the ass) and stop fuckin around. I may give my wife an Apple Watch because she’s woman and that’s who they are designed for. And sword fighters. But she doesn’t give a shit because she’s German and has other priorities than making sure everyone sees her with an Apple Watch. I’ve owned Suunto watches before. Overall they pretty much suck although they gave me a new one when their shit broke so there’s that. Let me ask you, what training do you really do? Do you know what the heart zones mean and how they make you a badass mutherfucker who climbs as high as you fly in your comfy airliner? This watch is trying to be a Fenix. Maybe it accurately can tell me when I’m about to break 20,000 feet on my climb like my Fenix does because it’s not an ABC watch like my Suunto was. But bitch please, FitBits and Apple watches are not comparable. Apple Watches are in a category of their own but not even the same fuckin ballpark as a Garmiin. And, why would anyone wear a Fitbit AND a watch on each wrist? To be even more lame? Come on dude.

  • AVM

    Someone that starts calling idiot someone else isn’t worth reading…
    By the way if you want to go to the Everest on one of your adventures, try a SUUNTO 9, you will forget immediately your Fénix 6…

  • JB

    An idiot is defined as a person who doesn’t know what they are talking about. As in this case. Therefore the term is more than appropriate.

  • EmBlaze

    Get a new watch, literally. With 1GB RAM.

  • Gravage Hulk

    You mean like the Fossil Gen 5 that I own? Care to try again?

  • photo_ted

    It looks like another Wear OS watch with an undersized screen. What gives? The original Huawei has a screen that fills the physical face, but all the latest round, Fossil Gen 5 being one (bought it sent it back) have smaller screens with a large black border. Not awful with the faces shown in all the marketing photos, but a full watch face looks like it’s pasted on and looks Mickey-Mouse to me (no offence to Mr. Mouse, I just don’t want that on my wrist). I’m jonesing for to upgrade my two Huaweis (I like new toys), and can’t find anything I like.

  • Chips O’Toole

    The writer does not profess to be an expert. I believe it’s a personal experience of the watch in comparison to another watch he owns or uses.

    It’s like when I drive my Ferrari 488 then jump into my BMW M5. I think the Ferrari is a much better car to drive.

    I’m happy to tell the gents down at the golf club but I don’t profess to be a car expert, no matter how many I own.

  • EmBlaze

    Don’t exaggerate too much maybe? I mean, it appears good enough for you to use it daily.

    Regardless, there are alternatives and I’m pretty sure you have a decent/good idea of them. I’d be fine with a Tizen watch as well, but chose Wear OS because it works best for me in the end.

    But yeah, I admit my snarky assumption was baseless and whatever works for you is up to you.

  • Chips O’Toole

    Angry man. Must have felt good to get this all out. Better than a mass shooting I guess.

  • Gravage Hulk

    Exaggerate? Are you for real? I have owned Tizen watches and I have an Apple Watch. That’s precisely why I’m qualified to compare them and why I stated that WearOS was not smooth, as the author insinuated. And about 98% of the professional tech reviewers agree with me. 

  • Gravage Hulk

    They can’t because Apple won’t let them. The APIs are blocked. That’s precisely why no device that isn’t an Apple watch will ever work as well with an iPhone. And that’s just how Apple wants it.

  • EmBlaze

    I never said Wear OS performed better than Tizen or Apple Watch. Just that 1GB RAM made a huge difference and it’s at least usable for most people now. I’m assuming enough for you to tolerate it daily.

    By too much exaggeration at least IMO, here are examples:
    “You’re literally the only person ever to say that. I use Wear OS daily and it’s anything but that.”
    “And about 98% of the professional tech reviewers agree with me.”

    Sure those statements aren’t necessarily untrue, but I personally doubt the literal accuracy of the claims. They probably served their attention-grabbing purpose, but I guess I just don’t like the wording. Could be semantics or w/e, but simply my opinion vs yours in the end.

  • AVM

    Obviously I’m not from there. Thank you very much for correcting my bad English. According to your definition maybe I’m an idiot writing English 😉 Maybe my bad English made me misunderstand the definition of Idiot. Here in Europe an Idiot is an Idiot and has really negative meaning.
    Have a nice day…

  • Mike416psu

    Oh look – a keyboard warrior. Or should we say keyboard mountaineer ? You ain’t fooling anyone dummy.

  • Mike416psu

    Seems you fit the bill.

  • JB

    Haha. Just haven’t wrote in awhile/stirred the pot and felt the urge. The truth is, I can generate more hits than any of you if I want. If that’s really the goal. But I don’t do it anymore. I’m too busy doing cool shit while you have to work. I get to travel the world and climb full time while raising my infant daughter and supporting my wife’s career. Because I can. I’m fortunate. But I worked hard to get to this point. Maybe one day you can be like me.

    Let’s face it. The internet has led to this. The lack of accountability for words. This isn’t a poorly written article. It’s just irrelevant and yet another example of a shitty opinion. When I was a journalist I posted my name and picture next to everything I wrote. Now I just don’t care. The truth is, my beef is with the companies who sell products that don’t work as advertised. Like Fitbit. And when I read some shit like this, I do my part to fuck everything up. Sort of. Really I was just bored and in the mood. I don’t care about another’s opinion of me. Like yours. Because it’s irrelevant. I just really felt like stretching my fingers and writing after my most recent success. This guy even mentioned that Fitbit is one of the industry leaders in fitness watches/bands. That’s proof that society is getting fleeced. That should concern us but Americans in general would rather feel better about theirselves than face the truth. Well, the sooner we face the truth (in this case, that we really aren’t walking six miles, rather more like two), the closer we get to our true selves and abilities. And once you do that, everything gets easier and better.

  • JB

    I could tell. But it’s all good. I have mastered my language so it’s easy for me to throw stones. As far as Suunto watches go, it’s hard for me to trust them after having one fail on me on the mountain. That’s a bad place to figure out shit isn’t right.

  • JB

    Haha. Love this. Not really though. Dummy? Call me something better than that. I prefer asshole or dickhead.

  • JB

    Not bad.

  • http://www.dmarge.com Luc Wiesman

    Why the fuck would a gym pay for a fitness device review, you peanut.

  • James

    If you’re a journalist I’m Edmund Hilary

  • Kevin Mogee

    I could ask why the article has been updated with a link a link to the product, and the gym name and link being removed, but I suspect I’m not the only one who questioned it.

    Also, as a rule, it’s probably not a good idea to insult your audience/readers, you twat.

  • Abraham M.

    You’re either a troll, or someone in dire need of mental health services. If it’s the latter, go get help. Before you hurt someone, or before someone hurts you.

  • JB

    I think you meant Sir Edmund Hillary.

    Believe it or not I’m even classically trained in print. With a real education and everything. Which explains why I can get all of you worked up with my words.

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