Fossil – now veteran in the smartwatch market – remained virtually alone the platform of Google Wear OS in execution. Yes, there are others, but with the mix of styles, popular brand names and is relatively affordable, it is the brand to be adopted for an Android-based smartwatch.
For its Gen 5 series, Fossil included the much needed Snapdragon 3100, a heart rate sensor and GPS location tracking, as well as replacing the slow and slow wireless charging disk for a much more reliable and fast contact charging system .
Even with CES 2020 behind us, Fossil’s latest products still use that same hardware, so it’s really all about choosing your style.
You’ll find an appearance, no problem
- Stainless steel quick release mesh band
- 44 mm case (in our review unit)
If there’s one thing that Fossil knows how to do well, it’s fashion watches. So when you create smart watches, you create them in different styles, colors, finishes and with different strips and bands available.
Or the unit – called Julianna – has a 44 mm black case with a gold bezel around the dial and a black Milanese-style steel bracelet. Unlike Apple’s Milanese, which conveniently uses a magnet to ensure infinite versatility, the Fossil method uses a clasp, which you must adjust until you find the fit that best suits you.
Fortunately, this is not an excessively difficult process, as you release the zipper by lifting a part that securely holds it to one of the cutouts on the strip, sliding it and locking it back in place. You can do this with a small screwdriver or anything else with a small, thin, flat tip.
The good thing about this watchband style, which is essentially a micro-sized chainmail, is that it is as strong as it is flexible. It fits perfectly around the contours of your arm and is comfortable. If you want to change, there is a quick release system to remove it from the case. We exchanged the brown leather Fossil bracelet of the third generation of the Fossil series.
As for the watch’s casing and design, it looks thinner and more modest than some of the previous models. While watches like the Gen 3/4 Explorist had considerable weight for them, Julianna and the Carlyle Gen 5 are subtle, elegant and less bulky.
There is a small problem with Julianna: size. Originally launched to us as a watch for narrower (supposedly female) wrists, the Julianna is 44mm. This is a large watch size, and the two women who tested it for testing purposes found it too large to be worn comfortably throughout the day. Then, in the end, he reached the arm of this male reviewer. It may not be the most traditionally masculine, but with the dark brown leather strap we like it a lot.
Of course, there are other styles and colors available, so don’t let any of that take you away from the series. One version of Julianna has small, shiny imitation diamonds scattered around the frame and in the middle of the metal link bracelet.
But we like the design of the buttons along the right edge. They are small and provide a firm and pleasant spring feeling when pressed. In addition, the middle crown can be rotated to control what’s on the screen, so you can scroll up to access your notifications or scroll down to see the quick settings panel. It’s extremely nice (and useful) when you don’t want to use the touchscreen.
If there is a feature that immediately attracts buyers to Wear OS on the Apple Watch, it is indisputable that the watch has a round screen, while the Apple Watch always seems to be connected to the watch’s rectangular screen.
It can be difficult to create a user interface with text that works well on the round screen, but there is no denying that, in some situations, a round clock works best. Let’s not forget, many of the reasons why someone buys a watch are purely for appearance. Round screens are a must-have for some.
As for the actual quality of the screen, it is certainly a decent panel. It is AMOLED, so the pixels can be turned off individually, creating a high-contrast black ink appearance. It also means that you get the always-on environment mode, which uses much less power than the watch face.
The colors are vibrant and you can always see the time in standard mode. In ambient mode – as has been the case for some time – you see the time update minute by minute with minimal brightness and no animations to process. This ensures the longevity of the battery.
Really useful for exercise
In previous years, Fossil watches were not particularly adept at keeping up with their training sessions. They lacked GPS and heart rate sensors, but the latest watches (from generation 4 onwards) have incorporated them, so you can install apps like Strava to track your running sessions and get all the health data you need. want. I hope to get on a fitness tracking watch.
What we will say is that you need a third party application to make the most of it. Google’s Fit app is a bit lightweight and therefore it’s best to find another one. Fortunately, Google Play is full of options that you can install, be it Strava, Nike Run Club or another decent app.
The great advantage of having GPS built-in is that you can use these apps without having your phone at the same time, the watch makes free and unattended tracking of your smartphone owner. It seems to take a minute or two to cling to the site, and that could mean that the end result ends up being a little off.
On a 10 km running route, we compared the Fossil to the Apple Watch S4, which was consistently between 100 and 200 meters behind the Apple Watch. Another issue we saw during a test session was that the Fossil seemed to stay at 1.3 km for about five minutes, lagging far behind the Apple Watch’s distance tracking, until it seemed to return to a more accurate distance. After that, it was updated correctly, so it may have been just a small detail.
Inside, the 5th Gen Fossil is powered by the Snapdragon 3100, again an update from the previous 2100, which worked on smart watches for a long time. With the new chip, the software and the experience look considerably smoother. The animations are a little stuttering, but not massively. In addition, several elements tend to load much faster than before, either in the Play Store list of apps or in any app installed in general. It’s been a long time, but we’re happy to finally be here, as our biggest previous groan about Fossil watches has been rectified.
Charging in advance
- No more Qi wireless charging
One of the most disappointing features of previous Fossil watches – dating back generations – was the speed with which they carried. They used a wireless charging disc similar to the Apple Watch, which fitted to the back using magnets. Except that the magnetic connection was not only weak enough, but also supplied the power slowly. It would take hours to fully charge a watch, which meant that you were required to charge it overnight, every night.
With the fifth generation, things have changed. There is still a magnetic charging disc, but the magnets are much stronger and fit with a decent amount of force. In addition, it does not use wireless charging technology like Qi to supply power. Instead, there are two gold rings at the bottom of the watch case and two small pins that protrude from the charging disc that line up perfectly with the two rings.
With the combination of real contact and a decent magnet, the watch doesn’t need to be aligned – it fits easily and charges much faster than before. After 35 minutes, the plug-in can provide about 60% of the battery. So, instead of taking three hours or more to fully charge from scratch, it can be done in about an hour.
The strange part of the loading was similar to the freezing of GPS data during our run. Several times during charging, it would show the same battery percentage for a few minutes, before rising to a much higher level. It was not constantly updated in real time.
Wear OS improved, but not perfect
Fossil may be leading the charge in the smartwatch world with its plethora of styles and brands, but when it comes to software, it seems that Wear OS is missing in some areas compared to the Apple Watch. Perhaps most important is the approach to health metrics and how it deals with this data.
Gen 5 watches have heart rate monitors, so you can track HR throughout the day, you can even use Google Fit – or any number of tracking apps – to log in to your race or activity settings. However, open Google Fit on a smartphone and you will be greeted by very basic data.
You don’t get the most detailed trends, as with Garmin or Apple services. Likewise, the “Minute Moves” and the general “Heart Points” are a little simple. But then again, if your only goal is to make sure you move quickly enough, these steps are good enough. Just don’t expect to be able to deepen your running performance.
What Fossil 5 can do is display useful graphs – albeit sparse – in your sleep and your daily, weekly and monthly heart rate patterns.
WearOS works best with Android phones when it comes to interacting with your phone’s notifications. You can respond to messages from your wrist using your voice or the touchscreen. With iOS on the iPhone, you’re limited to just viewing notifications, without the ability to interact or respond to them from your wrist.Verdict
Fossil’s 5th generation smart watches solve many of the problems we had with devices from previous years: there is no smoother performance and additional functionality, such as GPS and heart rate monitoring. In addition, the battery is not slow to charge more. That’s a lot of pain points eliminated. As a result, Fossil is still the brand to follow if you are looking for a modern smartwatch and are not an Apple user.
Although we had some minor problems with loading GPS data during running sessions, there was nothing so serious that we would discourage you from buying one. In all the key elements that you want your smartwatch to perform, the 5th Gen Fossil does well. It is smooth, reliable and much faster than many other previous generation Wear OS watches.
Even if this particular model does not work for you, Fossil has a wide variety of styles and brand lines in its huge consumer brand, so there is no dearth of smartwatches with similar features but in a style more to your liking. And this is undoubtedly the joy of Fossil: it is fashion first, but now it has also made the technological side of its watches much better.