(Pocket Lint) – It seems to be some time since the fashion brand, Fossil, first entered the smartwatch market. In some ways, it was almost seen as the savior of Google’s Wear OS operating system. Along with several of its brands – including Diesel, Skagen and Michael Kors – Fossil Group released smartwatches that actually looked like proper watches. Unlike those launched by most major tech manufacturers.
In 2021, however, the narrative has changed somewhat. Google has partnered with Samsung to create a better operating system that includes features more on par with the Apple Watch than any other previous Wear OS version. The problem for Fossil, however, is that it does not have it running on its latest watches. So can Gen 6 watches really compete with an older version of Wear OS?
- 44 mm stainless steel housing
- 22 mm zipper strap
- 3ATM waterproof
It is in design that you will see the only real tangible difference between the different models in the Fossil Gen 6 series. Because all watches essentially use the same hardware components – such as monitors, heart rate monitors, batteries and chargers.
Our special review unit is the standard Fossil Gen 6 watch in black, which has a black silicone band and a black anodised aluminum case. Other color options are available, including one with silver case and brown leather strap. Whichever model you go for, however, there is no obstacle to choosing your own strap.
As has become the norm for most modern smartwatches, the Fossil Gen 6 has a 22mm strap with quick release that is easy to jump out and replace with any other that can take your taste.
The pins that hold them are rounded and compact, so do not leave a large space between our wrists and the metal. It is combined with the sleek cabinet to make a watch that is relatively compact and low profile. As a result, the watch never feels as large and bulky as some of the manufacturer’s previous models, so it looks great on most wrist sizes.
A shell edge surrounds the bevel on the front, giving the watch a bit of extra texture, while three buttons sit on the right edge – the middle one also acts as a rotating crown. These buttons are perfectly fitted and click nicely when pressed. The top one launches a health image by default, while the bottom button is for quickly launching GPay for NFC-based contactless payments. As usual, the middle button / crown is to launch your app list and return to the home screen.
However, there is one complaint about the buttons: they are too easy to press accidentally. We would regularly find ourselves accidentally activating Google Assistant when we e.g. Bend our wrists back.
Display and software
- 1.28 inch round AMOLED screen
- 416 x 416 resolution (326ppi)
- Carry OS from Google
When the clocks go by, the AMOLED panel on the Fossil Gen 6 is very good. It has really deep, ink-colored blacks that come to light when one of the darker clock surfaces is selected or when the display, which is always on, is activated. The black panel blends in with the black frame around it to form a seamless dark surface.
Some of the surfaces – like the Hombre face shown below – have a color that matches the black background. It makes it look like frame, screen and color are all intertwined.
In some ways, it is the dials that are Fossil’s strong point. There are quite a few options you can choose right away without having to go to the Play Store to download more. And in lots of different styles, many of which have a surrounding, always-on face that is activated after a few seconds of inactivity.
If there is one weak point, it is the lack of adaptation. But much of that limitation is on the complexity of the fossil dials. Many of them have quite complex gradients, layers and shadows, and so when you need to customize them, you only get a handful of different colors to choose from. That’s one thing that may change when Fossil finally offers the latest version of Wear OS (the one that at the time of writing is only available on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4).
That said, part of the joy of Wear OS is that you have the ability to browse the Play Store and install one of hundreds of third-party watches, many of which have more detailed customization so you can change the dial background color, accent, and complications.
Otherwise, the standard Wear OS affair, with Google’s Discover feed on the left of the Home screen, gives you snapshot updates and tin screens / widgets on the right of the Home screen. You can add / remove the ones you want – so whether you want to quickly look at the weather, your upcoming schedule, daily activity or start a workout, it’s all available.
You can pair with Android or iPhone, but the experience with the latter is much more limiting. Android pairing means you can read and reply to messages and messages from messaging apps, while a limitation with Apple’s iOS means you can only see messages rather than answer directly from the watch.
Performance and battery life
- Snapdragon Wear 4100+ processor
- 1 GB RAM and 8 GB storage space
- Bluetooth 5.0 LE, NFC, Wi-Fi
- 24 hour battery life
Fossil Gen 6 is among the first smartwatches with the Snapdragon Wear 4100+ processor, making it faster and more responsive than its predecessors. There is a noticeable difference when comparing it with older Wear OS models.
Loading the apps list is more instantaneous when you tap the middle crown, while searching for and installing apps from the Play Store is also faster, while on-screen animations look smoother. There is not the slight delay we would sometimes see in Gen 5 or older generations.
Add it to its feature list and the Gen 6 feels like a really useful smartwatch. Google Pay, for example, is really convenient. After setup, just press the bottom button and then hold the clock near a contactless terminal to approve a payment.
You do not have to enter your PIN every time you start it, as long as you have entered your PIN when you turn on the clock in the morning. It detects when it was taken off your wrist if you (or someone else) removes it, and asks for your PIN again next time.
There is Wi-Fi on board to help download apps, content and updates, and a standard Bluetooth audio connection so you can use your watch to answer phone calls from your paired watch. All in all, it is a solid feature set.
If there is one area that can be improved, it is battery life. We were still struggling to get much more than a day’s use out of a full battery. So if you want to use the watch to track your sleep every night, you are going to spend some time the next day with the watch on charge.
If you go with this option, fortunately you do not have to wait as long as you used to refill it. When empty, the Gen 6 can reach an 80 percent charge in just 30 minutes, which is a huge improvement over the older generations. The charging method is still a fairly inexpensive magnetic charging disk with contact points in it.
If you do not want to track sleep or wake up with a low battery in the morning, you can just resort to the defacto charge-it-overnight setting, making faster charging superfluous.
Fitness and health tracking
- GPS, altimeter, gyroscope and compass
- Heart rate monitor and SpO2 sensors
- Wellness app, Google Fit
Being WearOS means you can download and install any number of fitness tracking apps on your watch, whether you want Strava, Nike Run Club or another, there are many options to choose from. But for every day, tracking all day, there are two routes to go down.
Fossil has its own wellness features pre-installed on its modern watches, offering a decent range of features such as basic workout tracking, step counting, sleep tracking and heart rate measurement. The only problem: this data does not go anywhere, it just stays on your wrist. So as useful as it is to have on your watch, you cannot view this data on your phone or sync it with another service.
The more secure effort is to use Google Fit instead, which requires a bit of hassle with the software, removing Wellness widgets from the widget screens and replacing them with similar features from Google. This way, it syncs with Google Fit on your phone when you track your daily activity.
For this type of tracking, Gen 6 works quite well. It will give you a decent overview of how active you are and use a heart point system, where it measures how intense your activity is and tries to motivate you to reach a weekly average goal, rather than hitting the daily goal every single day . But for those who want to track down specific activities like running or cycling, there are better options out there.
We found that the Gen 6’s GPS performance was poor compared to other watches we have tested over the last few years. Even at short intervals of 3.5 km, it was far from the mark and often measured 300-500 meters longer than our watches from Garmin, Samsung and Huawei.
Looking at the route map afterwards, it became obvious that the location tracking was inconsistent, with straight roads showing route lines that meandered all over. It is certainly not a watch we would recommend for serious outdoor activities.
Fossil Gen 6 is a step forward compared to its predecessors and delivers a beautiful watch that is now faster and more responsive thanks to the latest Qualcomm hardware on board.
But while the hardware is here, the latest Wear OS software is not. You don’t get the all-singing, dancing operating system you find on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 — at least not yet.
You also do not get the most advanced fitness tracking – and the GPS is inaccurately based on our use – so if you are looking for a fitness watch, we would suggest looking elsewhere.
As a proper smartwatch, however, the Fossil Gen 6 brings together attractive design at a decent price point. The fashion is quite here, but the software is only almost there.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
For a full smartwatch experience with good fitness tracking, there is no better watch for Android users right now than the new Galaxy Watch. It does all the important things right and has the new version of WearOS.
Written by Cam Bunton. Edited by Mike Lowe. Originally released on .