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Fossil Gen 6 Review

Verdict

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With Wear OS 3 missing at launch and only the Snapdragon Wear 4100+ to write home about, the Fossil Gen 6 simply isn’t the upgrade I was anticipating. Nevertheless, the watch remains a capable device with a sleek design, a fast processor and impressive GPS speeds – but there just isn’t enough here to warrant buying the Fossil Gen 6 over the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4.

Pros

  • Wear 4100+ is exactly what Wear OS needs
  • Varied options to suit different styles
  • Speedy GPS tracking

Cons

  • No Wear OS 3 at launch
  • Minor upgrade over the Gen 5
  • Fossil’s fitness tracking is a letdown
  • Dull array of watch faces included

Availability

  • UKRRP: £279
  • USARRP: $299
  • EuropeRRP: €299
  • CanadaRRP: CA$429
  • AustraliaRRP: AU$499

Key Features

  • Snapdragon Wear 4100+ chipsetA power boost from the latest Snapdragon Wear processor
  • SpO2 trackingKeep tabs on your blood oxygen levels
  • Bluetooth 5Up to 4x stronger connectivity than the Fossil Gen 5

Introduction

Fossil brings its flagship smartwatch range back to the market with the Fossil Gen 6 – but does it offer a marked improvement over the delightful Fossil Gen 5?

It’s been a long time since a new entry in the Fossil Gen series hit store shelves. The Fossil Gen 5 debuted in late 2019, which, as far as the yearly cycle of tech goes, feels like a different era. This was before the much-needed Snapdragon Wear 4100 chipset made an appearance, and the concept of Wear OS 3 – which now powers the outstanding Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 – was merely a pipe dream.

Having remained active in the smartwatch space by developing wearables for other fashion brands, Fossil has clearly been paying attention to the industry movements – and the Fossil Gen 6 packs several noteworthy updates.

The only problem is that, for the time being, Wear OS 3 is nowhere to be seen on the Fossil Gen 6, with an update expected for sometime in 2022. Until that update arrives, however, does the Fossil Gen 6 do enough right to warrant an upgrade? Having put the watch through its paces, we now have an answer.

Design and screen

  • Minor updates over the Fossil Gen 5
  • Display is easy enough to read outdoors
  • Several options available to suit different styles

One of the best things Fossil has going for it in the smartwatch space is its credentials in the world of fashion. Given that the Fossil Gen 5 was already a bit of a looker, only a few refinements have been made for the design of its successor, as opposed to a complete overhaul.

There are some rather nice watch faces on the Fossil Gen 6, they're just few and far between

The top and bottom lugs have been made slightly thicker than on the Gen 5, while the rotating crown is now protected by a small layer of housing on either side. There’s also texturing around the rim of the watch itself – which, unfortunately, hints at a rotating bezel that isn’t there. This all adds up to a slightly more confident design than the previous generation device.

Unfortunately, where the screen is concerned, Fossil has opted to stick, when an update really would have helped. The returning 1.3-inch AMOLED display isn’t bad by any stretch, but next to the higher resolution and peak brightness of the Galaxy Watch 4, the Gen 6 starts to feel like less of the upgrade it needs to be in order to earn its place in 2021.

Still, the screen is easy enough to read outdoors and the rotating crown feels as premium as ever, although I will say that the Black silicone version of the watch – the one featured in this review – is probably the least eye-catching option available. So if you want something with a bit more flare, then I’d look at the other designs Fossil’s putting out there.

Features and performance

  • Wear 4100+ makes for a smooth experience
  • Wear OS 3 is a no-show at launch
  • Connecting to GPS only takes a moment

In what feels like the slowest rollout of a chipset yet, the Snapdragon Wear 4100+ has finally made its way to a Fossil watch, making the Gen 6 the first smartwatch not made by Mobvoi to include it. Compared to the Wear 3100, the newer chipset helps to show off Wear OS in its best light – even Wear OS 2, for that matter.

Jumping between multiple apps is a breeze, and I’ve rarely noticed any slowdown on the watch. From a technical standpoint, it’s a great upgrade. However, from a consumer’s point of view, this chipset is the only major feature that’s changed since the Fossil Gen 5.

The Calm app running on the Fossil Gen 6

It just seems slightly absurd that, roughly a year since the TicWatch Pro 3 hit the market as the first Wear 4100 watch, Fossil is trying to pull the same trick with the Gen 6 – even though everyone’s attention has since moved over to the prowess of Wear OS 3. If the Fossil Gen 6 had launched with both the 4100+ chipset and Wear OS 3 to boot, then it could have easily been one of the best smartwatches of the year. However, it’s only the former that’s here at launch, while the latter isn’t scheduled to arrive until late 2022.

Some people may argue that the knowledge of Wear OS 3 eventually coming to the Fossil Gen 6 is enough – but, for the time being, it means that there’s very little reason you’d favour this smartwatch over the Galaxy Watch 4. The latter device feels like it has its mindset squarely on the future of wearables, while the Fossil Gen 6 still has one foot stuck in the past – for now, at least.

It isn’t all bad, however. After a long absence of any means of downloading music to a Wear OS watch (RIP Google Play Music), Spotify has finally enabled offline music playback – and, when paired with the Wear 4100+, the updated app works like a charm on the Fossil Gen 6. I was eager to see if the same could be said for the new Amazon Alexa app baked into the watch, only to discover that it’s “coming soon”.

GPS tracking is surprisingly fast – and I mean unbelievably fast. During multiple tests, the Fossil Gen 6 was able to establish a GPS connection instantly – something I’ve never seen on any other wearable before. I’m not quite sure what witchcraft is at work behind the scenes to make this happen, but the fact that it’s happening to such a degree has me impressed.

Alexa is on its way, but it's not available at launch

The Fossil Gen 6 has also taken a leaf out of the Apple Watch’s book by adding a blood oxygen sensor into the mix. My feelings on the SpO2 craze haven’t really changed – for some people it’s a handy feature, but unless you have a medical condition that requires your blood oxygen to be in check, or you enjoy hiking every other weekend, it isn’t something you’ll rely on quite as often as a heart rate monitor.

What is a bit disappointing is the collection of watch faces available on the Fossil Gen 6. Watch faces have typically been a badge of honour for Fossil watches, leaning on the company’s sense of style to create impactful designs that leave a lasting impression. For whatever reason, the same can’t be said of the collection found on the Gen 6.

There’s an abundance of analogue watch faces to be found here, which isn’t necessarily a problem in itself – but it’s an issue here because there’s very little to set them apart from one another. When you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all. There’s a fun selection of digital faces buried under several menus, but they just aren’t as inventive as what you’d expect from Fossil, and I’d argue that none of them comes close to matching those found on the Galaxy Watch 4.

Fitness tracking

  • Fossil’s built-in fitness software is a mixed bag
  • Sleep tracking is a nice addition
  • Heart rate results are fairly accurate

To circumvent the somewhat middling fitness experience that Wear OS offers through Google Fit, companies such as Mobvoi and Montblanc have sought to install their own fitness software on top of the Wear OS experience, and now Fossil follows in their footsteps. You can tell as much from the default watch face on the Gen 6 that adorns the time with various metrics including your heart rate, ongoing workout recovery, heart rate and even your sleep.

The rear-facing sensors and heart rate monitor of the Fossil Gen 6

To see sleep tracking built-in from the get-go is great, and while it isn’t anywhere near as robust as what you’ll find on Huawei watches (there’s no written advice to go along with your sleep data), its presence is still welcome. The same goes for workout recovery, which is typically found on more expensive watches from Garmin and Coros – but its inclusion here is a helpful nod to the fact that rest and recovery is just as important as your workout performance.

What is a missed opportunity is the built-in fitness tracker itself. Broken down into two options (indoor and outdoor workouts), this exclusive software – whether intentional or not – would simply register everything I did as a run. Stints on the cycling and rowing machines were for nought – as far the Fossil Gen 6 was concerned, I’d been on the treadmill the entire time. Knowing a lost cause when I see one, I eventually swapped over to using Google Fit and found a much more accurate fitness tracking experience there.

Compared to an accompanying chest-strap heart rate monitor, the Fossil Gen 6 was able to record some fairly accurate results. For example, during an outdoor run I hit a high of 181BPM and an average of 140BPM. By comparison, the Fossil Gen 6 recorded a solid 182BPM high and a 139BPM average, while additional tests threw back similar results.

Battery Life

  • An unimpeded user experience will only nab one-day battery
  • Not quite as robust as its competitors
  • Additional battery modes do make a difference

One of the things that Fossil can be credited for is the push for better battery life across Wear OS devices. The Gen 5 brought along several battery modes to help you make the most of each charge, but in the time since then, massive strides have been made – notably by Mobvoi and the roughly two-day battery life of the TicWatch Pro 3.

The rotating dial on the Fossil Gen 6 is flanked by two push buttons

It was because of this that I wanted to see what strides Fossil had made in the two years since the Gen 5. Unfortunately, it’s not a lot. Using the ‘daily’ battery mode, which sees the watch firing on all cylinders, I was able to make it from 6:30am to 11:30pm with about 18% left in the tank. This is from having the screen at full brightness (which I recommend, since the medium setting is a just a bit too dim), tracking a workout ,and receiving a bunch of notifications throughout the day. While that was enough to get me home safely, it dashed any hopes of having a Fossil smartwatch go for gold on a two-day stretch.

If you do want to meet the two-day mark then some sacrifices will have to be made. By swapping over to the ‘extended’ battery mode, it is possible for the Gen 6 to last for two days, but it means giving up the always-on screen, tilt to wake, step tracking and other features.

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Should you buy it?

You adore Fossil Unless you’re the type of person who only wears Fossil branded products, there’s very little reason to nab the Gen 6 as your next smartwatch.

You want the best Wear OS experience Until Wear OS 3 makes its way to the Fossil Gen 6, the Galaxy Watch 4 will always be a much better alternative to almost any Wear OS watch.

Final thoughts

Fossil has always been one of the few companies prepared to carry the Wear OS torch, but with the Fossil Gen 6, it’s starting to feel like that enthusiasm is wavering. The Gen 6 isn’t an outright terrible watch – it delivers perfectly respectable performance thanks to the Wear 4100+ chip, and it has some of the fastest GPS connect times I’ve ever seen. The problem is that as an upgrade that’s been gestating for two years, there isn’t that much to write home about.

The built-in fitness overlay is a mixed experience, and there’s a distinct lack of style to be found in the onboard watch faces. The battery life has now fallen behind many of its competitors, but the egregious sin is that Wear OS 3 is nowhere to be seen. The Fossil Gen 6 might be a completely different watch in a year’s time – but until then, it just isn’t as appealing as the Galaxy Watch 4 or even the TicWatch Pro 3.

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We thoroughly test every smartwatch we review. We use industry standard testing to compare features properly and we use the watch as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.

Worn as our main smartwatch during the testing period

Heart rate data compared against dedicated heart rate devices

Side-by-side GPS comparison with our best scoring smartwatches

FAQs

Does the Fossil Gen 6 have Wear OS 3?

No, the Gen 6 doesn’t have Wear OS 3 at launch.

Does the Fossil Gen 6 work with iPhone?

Yes, you can connect the Gen 6 to an iPhone via the Wear OS app.

What chipset is inside the Fossil Gen 6?

The Fossil Gen 6 uses the Snapdragon Wear 4100+ chip.

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