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Fossil’s new Gen 6 smartwatch already feels old

  • October 16, 2021

Pros

  • It’s a good-looking watch

  • It works with iOS and Android

  • Solid fitness tracking

Cons

  • Setup isn’t seamless

  • Not enough apps

  • It isn’t running the latest wear OS

It’s an attractive smartwatch with plenty of options for different faces and bands, plus robust health-tracking options, and it doesn’t lock you to one manufacturer or platform. In some cases, such as connectivity, that flexibility comes at the cost of convenience. But Fossil’s Gen 6 is still a decent watch with enough smarts for most people, and it works across Android and iOS.

About the Fossil Gen 6

  • Display: 1.28-inch Color AMOLED with a 416 x 416 resolution and 326ppi
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100+
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 LE, GPS, NFC SE, WiFi
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Altimeter, Ambient Light, Compass, Gyroscope, Off-body IR, PPG Heart Rate, SPO2
  • Water resistance: Up to 30 meters (3 ATM)
  • Audio: Microphone and speaker
  • Battery: Size not given. Fossil advertises “24 Hr + multi-day Extended Mode”
  • Memory and storage: 1GB RAM + 8GB Internal Memory
  • Extras: None

What we like

It’s a good-looking watch

The Gen 6 is a good-looking watch that doesn’t draw too much attention to itself.

Smartwatches are as much a fashion statement as they are a health-tracking gizmo, so they should look good enough to flaunt on your wrist. That’s not a problem with the Gen 6, which sports a 44mm stainless steel case that looks good without drawing too much attention.

The Gen 6 has three buttons, located to the right of the display, used to navigate Google Wear OS. The top button takes you to a fitness dashboard, where you can see your daily metrics for things like activity, sleep, heart rate, and blood oxygen level. Below that is the main button, which takes you back to your watch face and serves as the watch’s dial. The bottom button is dedicated to NFC payments, which are all done through Google Pay.

It’s available with a variety of bands, including stainless steel links or mesh, silicone, and leather. Most won’t add to the price of the watch, aside from the stainless steel link band, which adds $20 to the Gen 6’s $300 price tag. Aside from the camo band, which is fine if that’s your jam, all the options look stylish and should accompany your outfits just fine.

Cross-platform compatibility

One of our biggest frustrations with Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4, as we noted in our review, was its incompatibility with iOS and non-Samsung Android devices as well as its use of Bixby instead of Google Assistant.

Fossil made no such blunders with the Gen 6; it’s compatible with both iOS devices and non-Samsung Android devices, so it’s a good fit for those who like to switch up platforms from time to time. Even if you’re not likely to jump ship any time soon, it’s nice to know that your watch isn’t yet another expensive wall keeping you inside one company’s garden.

There’s also the added benefit of being powered by Google’s Assistant, which is far more robust than Samsung’s Bixby, by way of being able to search the internet to answer questions like “When is the Stanley Cup?”

Unfortunately, if you’re on iOS, some commands on the Gen 6 won’t translate over to your iPhone. For instance, if you enable Do Not Disturb on your watch, iOS won’t have any way of detecting that and switching your Focus mode to DND (something you can do with the Apple Watch). This isn’t a knock on Fossil, though, as that’s an issue with iOS’s system permissions and integrations with third-party hardware, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re going in expecting seamless integration.

A healthy amount of data

Despite some hiccups in connectivity, the Gen 6 serves as an adequate fitness tracker.

If you’re looking for a watch that’s good at logging your workouts, the Fossil Gen 6’s health-tracking (by way of Google Fit) works pretty well. In a side-by-side test in tracking a cycling workout against the Apple Watch Series 6, the Gen 6’s results came pretty close to Apple’s information. The average heartbeat for the rides we tracked differed by under 20 bpm, while calories burned had a difference of about 35 calories. Meanwhile, the average speed was nearly identical between the two watches.

Ultimately, those differences are fairly negligible, as the metrics are more useful for tracking changes over time than they are for measuring the raw data of an individual workout. So, as long as you’re tracking all your workouts with your smartwatch, rather than bouncing between that and using your phone or another tracker, the results should be fairly trustworthy.

One thing to note: in our testing, we weren’t able to get the Fossil Gen 6 to automatically detect movement and initiate a workout, as the Apple Watch can do. If you’re prone to dismissing those notifications anyways, that’s not a huge deal, but tracking walks and runs requires a bit more agency on your part.

What we don’t like

Setup has some missing links

All the Gen 6’s buttons reside on the right side of the display. You can use them to go back to the watch face, scroll through menus, activate Google Pay, and access your fitness dashboard.

Setup will vary depending on whether you’re on iOS or Android. If you’re using iOS, you’ll have to download at least two apps from the App Store to get things running: the Wear OS app, as well as Google Fit. After you’ve configured both apps to your liking, with the health tracking and watch face settings you prefer, you should be ready to start using your watch.

Things aren’t quite that simple, though, at least not when paired with an iPhone. Throughout a day’s worth of testing, we found we had to re-pair the Gen 6 with our iPhone 12 Mini multiple times by going back into the Wear OS app and waiting for a connection to be re-established. Again, this might be more related to the way iOS interacts with third-party hardware than anything Fossil has done on their end, but it makes using the watch daily significantly less convenient than, say, an Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch.

There’s also the issue of getting the bands set up just right. If you’ve opted for a leather or silicone option, you’ll have no issue wearing the watch right out of the box. On the other hand, if you pick the stainless steel link band, you might have a bit of trouble.

Our review unit needed to have three links removed to be worn comfortably, and doing so required a trip to a local jewelry shop to have the links removed. Fossil doesn’t provide any tools to do so yourself, and the nearest Fossil store was nearly 30 miles away. . The band itself looks and feels great, but it provides another inconvenient hurdle to start using the watch.

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Not enough apps

Whether you’re using it with an iPhone or an Android device, the Fossil Gen 6 simply doesn’t have access to as many apps as an Apple Watch. While the staples, such as Strava, Spotify, and Google Maps can all be accessed when paired with an Android phone, you won’t be able to use them at all when paired with an iPhone, as you can’t download third-party apps to Wear OS from iOS, so you’re limited to what’s installed out of the box.

Even when you do have access to the Play Store’s library of watch apps, the pool is pretty shallow. You might be able to find one or two health-tracking apps that suit your needs better than Google’s options, but there isn’t much room for experimentation.

You’re somewhat limited on watch faces, too. Although the available options, including a seasonal face that currently displays an AirStream-like illustration alongside the time and a utility-geared face with four spots for health metrics, are nice, the 18 faces you’re presented with are all you can choose from. Most of them look pretty good, but some options look a little tacky and tough-to-read, especially in direct sunlight.

Among the greatest, but not the latest

While Fossil’s embrace of Google’s Wear OS is a welcome change over Samsung’s mishmash of proprietary and third-party integrations, the Gen 6’s software has a glaring issue of its own: it’s running an outdated version of Wear OS. As of this review, the Gen 6 is running Wear OS 2.32, while the Galaxy Watch runs a later version of Wear OS 3.

That might not seem like a huge issue, but Wear OS marked a notable improvement in battery life, as well as a standalone version of Google Maps that doesn’t require close proximity to your phone to operate. The update might make it to the Gen 6 later next year but until then, you’re paying a premium price for an outdated watch with the Gen 6.

According to this report from The Verge, that’s more on Google, as Wear OS 3 won’t be available for other smartwatches until later in 2022, an entire year from now. Still, the best-case scenario would mean your watch won’t be receiving the latest software any time soon, and even that is far from a guarantee.

Should you buy it

Maybe, but only if you’re a dedicated platform-agnostic

Fossil’s Gen 6 smartwatch is platform-agnostic, so you won’t have to buy a new phone to use it.

While it wasn’t the case a few years ago, a smartwatch purchase can be as much of a commitment to a given platform as a smartphone. Both Samsung and Apple’s offerings, to varying degrees, require pairing with the company’s phones and software, while Fossil’s Gen 6 works with both platforms while maintaining a reasonable price and attractive design.

Despite that flexibility, the Gen 6 fails in some key categories: it’s running outdated software, it can’t run as many apps as some of the competition, and its connection can be spotty on iOS. While some of these faults may be out of Fossil’s hands, forgoing them to the tune of $300 isn’t an easy ask, especially when the competition is so steep.

For a little less, you could get a Galaxy Watch 4, which may not offer the same cross-platform compatibility, but it’s up-to-date on Wear OS and it’s easier to set up. On the iOS side, you could pay a little more for the Apple Watch Series 7, which comes with the power of Apple’s App Store, along with seamless integration into iOS.

That said, if you’re looking for a capable smartwatch that won’t lock you down to a single company’s products, the Gen 6 is your best bet, since it’s the most likely to get an update to Wear OS 3 next year. It’s not too pricey, there are enough band options to match it with any of your outfits, and its health-tracking works pretty well. While not the latest and greatest, the Gen 6 provides a good blend of features and compatibility without hiking up the asking price.

The product experts at Reviewed have all your shopping needs covered. Follow Reviewed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest deals, product reviews, and more.

Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

Meet the tester

Jordan McMahon

Staff Writer, Electronics

Jordan has been writing about and reviewing technology since 2017, with products ranging from tablets and apps to fanny packs and home office gear.

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