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Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition Review: Wear OS 3 is supposed to be better than this

From 9to5google.com


Wear OS has a lackluster past, but things are finally starting to look up with Wear OS 3. Fossil’s first smartwatch running that platform out of the box is the Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition, a $300 Wear OS 3 smartwatch that’s, well, disappointing.

The Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition is a smartwatch based on the same hardware platform as last year’s Fossil Gen 6 smartwatch. It has a similar, but more sporty design compared to the standard Gen 6 watch and the same underlying specs: a 44mm case size with a circular AMOLED touchscreen, two buttons and a rotating crown, core health sensors including a heart rate monitor, and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 4100+ processor.

In terms of the hardware, it’s a pretty simple offer. The watch is designed to be lighter; the chassis as a whole feels that way. I quite like the subtle matte black look. The rotating crown is also exceptionally smooth. Plus, it uses traditional spring pin bands, which is something I can definitely appreciate after spending far too much money on overpriced bands for Google’s Pixel Watch.

Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition Review: Wear OS 3 is supposed to be better than this

It’s a solid core package for a Wear OS watch, but the big difference compared to last year’s release is the software. Out of the box, the Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition runs on top of Wear OS 3, the latest and greatest version of Google’s smartwatch platform. It’s the same underlying software that powers the Pixel Watch, the Galaxy Watch 4/5, and the Montblanc Summit 3.

Wear OS 3 is faster, better on battery life, and has fewer rough edges compared to prior versions. Fossil’s customizations to the platform are minimal too. You’ll find orange accents throughout, Fossil’s special battery-saving modes – more on battery life later – and some preloaded apps such as Amazon Alexa, Cardiogram, and Fossil’s Wellness health suite.

Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition Review: Wear OS 3 is supposed to be better than this

The overall experience is remarkably similar to that of the Google Pixel Watch, and for that matter, many older Fossil smartwatches. A swipe down from the watch face has settings, a swipe up shows your notifications, and a swipe in either horizontal direction now goes to a list of “Tiles†(widgets). Pressing the crown opens the app drawer and the top button now shows recent apps. The bottom button is customizable to open the app of your choice.

The unfortunate thing is that, while the software is an improvement overall, the performance isn’t any better. The first two days running the Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition were rough, to say the least. Apps were slow to load, the interface as a whole was a laggy mess, and I was just not at all happy with the experience at all. I even had to reset the watch at one point because it decided it was paired to my Pixel 7 Pro, but my phone disagreed, and I was in an endless loop of the watch asking to connect. That’s a bug I’ve encountered on Wear OS before, mostly on Fossil watches, and I’m really disappointed it’s still floating around.

The performance got better after a day or two, but it’s still the choppiest experience I’ve had on Wear OS 3 to date. The Pixel Watch is much smoother, as is the Montblanc Summit 3. With Fossil’s watch only being equipped with 1GB of RAM, it’s easy to see why the Pixel Watch is a better performer, but Montblanc’s better performance goes to show that this seems to come from optimization issues.

Is the performance a deal-breaker? I don’t think so – it’s not quite that bad. But still, Wear OS 3 is supposed to be better than this.

Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition Review: Wear OS 3 is supposed to be better than this

The other hiccup on the software side of things is with Fossil’s “Wellness†suite, the namesake of this smartwatch. Frankly, it’s just not very good.

The Wellness app can track steps, heart rate, sleep, workouts, and other core stats. All of that data is synced with the Fossil app on your phone, which is what you’ll be using to pair this watch to your phone – the old Wear OS app is dead. The data presented is fine and seemed to be roughly on par with my Fitbit Sense 2 on the other wrist, but it’s a very limited subset of information. You get more with Google Fit – which currently isn’t natively compatible with this watch – and Fitbit, even on the latter’s free tier.

Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition Review: Wear OS 3 is supposed to be better than this

For a smartwatch that pulls its name from this suite of wellness data, it’s a really disappointing experience. It’s good for a quick glance at your stats in real-time, but it does the bare minimum in terms of helping you find trends in that data, which is what that data is actually useful for. Luckily, there is Google Fit integration in the Fossil app, so you can sync that data with other devices if you choose.

Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition Review: Wear OS 3 is supposed to be better than this

Not to pile on, but the other problem I had here was with the watch faces. I normally love Fossil’s watch faces, but choices are super limited on this product, and few of them really fit my style at all. The one face I did come to like, “Fitness Digital,†didn’t even work properly. It showed the time and my heart rate correctly, but my steps, calories, and miles walked all got stuck one day and took several days to finally update, even through reboots. Again, Wear OS 3 is supposed to be better than this.

Let’s talk battery life now. It’s fine. While I had some early days where I could kill the Wellness Edition in just a few hours, I’ve been consistently getting 18-24 hours of battery life with the always-on display turned off on this watch. Turning on the AOD seems to easily kill the watch in around 12 hours in my testing. That’s not good battery life, but it has one saving grace.

Fossil’s pin-based charging method is so much faster than the wireless options being used on the Galaxy Watch 5 and Pixel Watch. Plus, this new generation of Fossil’s system solves the previous issues of the charging rings falling out on older smartwatches.

Fossil claims a charge of 80% in 30 minutes, and that roughly lines up with my testing thus far. I’ve settled into a rhythm of charging once for 15-30 minutes in the morning and once, if needed, before bed to get my sleep tracking. Even while traveling, I only had one day where the battery gave out on me, and it turned out to be because I was using a dead USB port at the hotel. Again, the battery life here isn’t good, but the charging more than makes up for it. I wish Google and Samsung would use a similar system.

My biggest problems with the Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition are familiar ones for a new Fossil smartwatch. The brand bases its smartwatches on various brands around the same base platform and software experience and sticks with that for at least a year or two. As such, this Wellness Edition smartwatch is being held back from what it should be. If Fossil already had a Gen 7 platform, it’d be relatively safe to assume this smartwatch would be based on the faster and more efficient Snapdragon W5+ chip, which might have led to better battery life and performance.

As it stands today, the Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition is a decent smartwatch, but I can’t think of a reason anyone should invest in it at its full price.

Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition Review: Wear OS 3 is supposed to be better than this

The $50 price difference with Google’s Pixel Watch isn’t worth the downgrades on the fitness/wellness experience or the lack of core features like Google Assistant. And if you are looking for a more affordable watch, the Galaxy Watch 5 undercuts Fossil’s pricing with better hardware. Mobvoi probably soon will too, and with that aforementioned newer chip, to boot.

Had Fossil released this six months ago, it would have been another story entirely. But as with everything else in Wear OS’ history, the timing just didn’t line up as it needed to.

That said, the Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition is available now for $299 from Amazon, Fossil.com, and other retailers. It’s not a terrible product – it’s just arriving at an awkward time. This sets the stage for what’s next for Fossil in Wear OS, and it could certainly be a worse foundation.

The story changes dramatically, though, when you look at discounts. For Cyber Monday, the Fossil Gen 6 Wellness edition is down to $199 in its black color variant, and $259 for other colors. That makes this watch a steal, and makes it a solid alternative to a full-priced Pixel Watch.

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