Suunto 7: Android’s new benchmark for situational awareness
Warning: Horribly bleeped mild swearing and unrealistically fit people in advertising video attached.
There is a long list of foods I can't eat. We won't go into details but I react harshly and rapidly to almost everything I don't make myself. So when a well-meaning loved one told me they'd cooked me something I could eat, I only took the first mouthful because they're smarter than me.
Being a paranoid type, I waited to see if I'd react to the mouthful.
I chatted for a few minutes before casually checking Suunto's new smartwatch for my pulse. I already felt a little off, so I wasn't surprised to see my heart rate spiking. I took the appropriate medication, avoided the rest of the meal, and avoided the worst of what would have been a hospitalising reaction.
"But most smartwatches come with heart rate sensors these days!" the imaginary reply said.
True, but what makes the Suunto 7 stand out, in this case, is that I hadn't had a chance to charge it that day. I hadn't had a chance to charge it in so long even my phone had nearly died on me that afternoon.
The Suunto 7 is about maintaining the situational awareness afforded by smartwatches when you need it. This focus on endurance comes from the folks behind the watch, Suunto Oy, a Finnish brand known for battle compasses and associations with people so extreme they face death beating their own extreme records.
Such is their dedication to adventure that a key feature of the watch is detailed maps of most of the planet that are stored locally on its memory, not the internet. When do you need maps the most? When you're out of internet range. This watch's maps have you covered. It also has the most accurate compass on a digital device I've seen (that wasn't a Garmin).
So yes, the battery lasts a very long time. How long? They claim 48 hours of normal smartwatch use or 12 hours in GPS tracking use. In reality, I wasn't able to kill it without contriving a completely abnormal situation. I had to leave it on with everything switched to "full tilt" for far longer than I would ever need to before it spattered out on me.
One neat situation arose when the suspiciously thirsty Didi rideshare app drained my phone's battery during a long trip. No worries, I'd stored a dirty-big playlist of music on the Suunto 7 and Bluetoothed it directly to the also preternaturally-long-lasting 1000X m3 Sony Headphones I had on me.
I hate wearing watches and I hate chatting with strangers after a long day at work, but I'm rethinking the former. This watch looks classier than it should for a sports watch, feels lighter than it should for a full-functioning android wearable, and got me out of having to talk to someone who didn't want to talk to me either.
So I salute it so far.
Also, I thought paying for groceries with my wrist (Google Pay) would feel awkward. Oddly enough, it feels more James Bond than James Belushi.
The Suunto 7 is a larger watch at 50mm, but it only weighs 70 grams so anyone active enough to be wearing it is likely to put it in the 'comfortable' category of watches.
The case material is glass fibre reinforced polyamide, which must be the technical term for "doesn't make me sweat and want to tear my arm off after 20 minutes", the reason for my now-extinct hatred for wearing watches. The bezel itself is stainless steel and the watch face is the same sweet, sweet Gorrila glass you'll find on high-end smartphones.
When you get the chance, watch a documentary on Gorilla glass. It's a serious piece of kit and there's a reason they use it to protect expensive technology.
The strap is a 24mm wide silicon piece designed to fit wrists between 125mm and 230mm around. Again, I'm unusually prone to sweating and itching under watch straps - not with the strap that comes standard with the Suunto 7. I don't know enough about watch construction to say why this is the case, I'm just reporting two weeks of observations.
The operating system is the full Wear OS by Google. Under normal circumstances, a sports watch with this kind of battery life might be expected to cut back on the features list to stay alive long but no, Suunto's engineers got tricky with their choice of hardware and found a way to make it work. Again, I'm not an expert in watches so when it was explained to me it sounded a lot like one of the NASA scenes from Apollo 13.
The watch can connect via Wi-Fi (2.4ghz only, not 5ghz in testing) and Bluetooth, and sports NFC so you can make transactions with the watch using Google Pay.
The Suunto site lists a long list of sport and location features it supports both natively and through specialised apps in Google's Play store, the most important of which is probably Strava.
On the downside, the connector for charging the Suunto 7 is a special one-of-a-kind charger and isn't USB-C, which for me is close to a deal-breaker. There's no excuse in my mind for a watch this size not being able to charge via USB-C.
That's the only negative I encountered in two weeks of wearing the Suunto 7. I love the idea of watches, and until the Suunto 7, I couldn't stand wearing one for more than an hour. This one has changed my mind about getting one in the future.
When I can afford $799 for another gadget.
Kieran Bicheno is a former satire writer who couldn't keep up with modern politicians' capacity for self-satire.