When it comes to smartwatches, Apple rules the roost. The Apple Watch (Review) has been selling the maximum volumes quarter over quarter, with only Samsung as the other competitor which is releasing good looking and well-performing smartwatches regularly. On the Android side of the fence, yes, there are tonnes of WearOS sporting smartwatches that get released on a regular basis. But that has hardly put any dent in Apple Watch’s sales. The space is too fragmented and there hasn’t been a single star WearOS sporting watch yet.
Fossil is a name that keeps cropping up among the Android smartwatches. Fossil has neatly divided the Android smartwatches into various segments, at times even partnering with fashion and lifestyle brands such as Giorgio Armani to come out with stylish-looking watches. Fossil being a lifestyle brand itself, has always been about good looking smartwatches. With the Fossil Sport, it wants to appeal to fitness enthusiasts. To that effect, the Fossil Sport, which is priced at a reasonable Rs 17,995 gets heart rate sensor and GPS built-in. This also happens to be one of the smartwatches which comes with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 SoC inside it. So is this the Android smartwatch to go for? Let’s find out.
Full marks for the minimal design: 8/10
The Fossil Sport smartwatch looks beautiful. Coming in a 41 mm and 43 mm form factor, the Fossil Sport rocks an aluminium and plastic body, with silicon watch straps. I got the black and grey watch for review, but you can select from a range of colours and straps when you buy one. I quite liked the silver-coloured frame on my watch.
The three-button layout is pretty standard Fossil fare with a textured rotating crown in the centre surrounded by two push buttons on the top and bottom which can be customised according to your preference. Between the top button and the crown dial is the microphone hole, there’s no speaker on the Fossil Sport though. All buttons are quite responsive and have a subtle clicky sound.
Turn the watch around and you will find the heart rate sensor located inside a circular globule placed between the charging rings in a plastic frame. The aluminium and plastic build of the watch doesn’t weigh too heavy on the wrist. It has a 12 mm height, which isn’t too thick either. The silicone watch strap comes in 18 mm and 22 mm widths and is water and sweat resistant. You can replace the strap with any third party strap.
The Fossil Sport I tested came in the 43 mm form factor. Coming from a square Apple Watch 44 mm for factor to a circular 43 mm form factor, took a couple of days for me to adjust. But the OLED display on the Fossil Sport made things easier. The 1.19-inch display with 390 x 390 pixel resolution is bright, crisp and I didn't notice any pixelation from an arm's length. The blacks are deep, colours pop. There’s really nothing to complain here.
Wear OS is the proverbial Achilles Heel: 6.5/10
The reason Apple Watch is so popular is that the hardware and software integration with the watchOS is so damn good. WearOS, in comparison still has lots to be done. The Wear OS on the Fossil Sport is compatible with Android devices with version 4.4 and higher and iOS version 9.3 and higher. Android Go isn’t supported. I tested the Fossil Sport by pairing the watch with my Pixel 3a XL.
The issues with WearOS started showing up in the first week of testing, with the Fossil Sport hanging randomly. Only on a hard reset did the watch resume functioning. On two occasions, I was fooled by the time the watch display had frozen on. After three or four hard resets (by holding the crown and bottom button for more than five seconds) the Fossil Sport started functioning properly. These are the kind of teething troubles most Fossil smartwatches have shown in the past as well. But, I didn’t face as many Bluetooth connection drops as experienced on other Fossil smartwatches, especially the Explorist.
Even though the Fossil Sport comes with the Snapdragon Wear 3100, the improvements over the Snapdragon Wear 2100 aren’t significant. I handed over the Fossil Sport to a colleague who has reviewed Snapdragon 2100 SoC sporting smartwatches in the last couple of years. According to him, while Fossil Sport was quick, the difference wasn’t much. In fact, according to him, even the Fossil AX Connected which had the Wear 2100 performed comparably. Bottom line: Till Google decides to leverage the architecture improvements in Wear 3100, it won’t be a significant speed upgrade.
While apps opened fast, I felt that the dial could have been better utilised for navigating (by rotating the dial) as well as for selecting (by pressing it) options. But on a lot of apps, I had to use the touch interface to interact with the apps. The wrist-twisting to pull up the notifications, as well as access to the quick settings menu is a bit clunky and doing too much of it, can give you a muscle ache. Google Assistant was quite slow to respond and many times my phone would buzz the moment I said ‘Hey Google’ while the Fossil Sport was still processing my question. Since there is no speaker on the watch, the Assistant results aren’t readout.
Fitness tracking is on point with a +/- 5 percent in tracking data as compared to the Apple Watch Series 4 which I use to track my runs. GPS locking was generally quick. But here again, the default Google Fit app is quite limiting, especially if you are a fitness enthusiast. Things such as interval training aren’t present. At most, it can give you a quick easy to follow fitness tracking regimen, but if you are training for the marathon, I’d not recommend this watch — opt for a Garmin Forerunner series or FitBit Versa or an Apple Watch instead.
Battery life is disappointing: 5/10
One of the features of the Snapdragon Wear 3100 is that its battery saver mode turns off the Wear OS and only shows you the time. The Fossil Sport activates this mode by default when the battery drops below 15 percent. In this mode, you can just see the time along with a Fossil logo. Kept in this mode, the watch can continue showing you the time for a month, according to Fossil. The good thing is you are not wearing a paperweight on your wrist once the battery is depleting.
While this may sound good, the overall battery life of the Fossil Sport without any activity barely lasts a day. When out on a run with the GPS and music on, I found the battery to have depleted within 12 hours. For a fitness-focused smartwatch, this battery life is terrible. Long-distance runners should especially stay away from Fossil Sport.
Verdict and Price in India
The Fossil Sport is a good looking smartwatch and is priced reasonably at Rs 17,995. The Wear OS, though functional, still comes with a lot of shortcomings which makes the overall experience lacking. The software aspect is Google’s lack of innovation on the WearOS. But that brings the Fossil Sport experience down as well. The promised Sports Mode on the Snapdragon Wear 3100 is not yet activated, so that’s another handicap.
If you are looking for a WearOS sporting watch, but are not a hardcore fitness enthusiast such as a long-distance runner or aspiring to be one, Fossil Sport is a good watch. If you want a minimalist but stylish smartwatch, Fossil Sport is again a good choice among the WearOS watches.
For fitness freaks, there are better options in the market such as the Garmin Forerunner 235, FitBit Versa, among others
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