Wear OS has a lackluster past, but things are finally starting to look up with Wear OS 3. Fossilâ€™s first smartwatch running that platform out of the box is the Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition, a $300 Wear OS 3 smartwatch thatâ€™s, well, disappointing.
The Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition is a smartwatch based on the same hardware platform as last yearâ€™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 Qualcommâ€™s Snapdragon 4100+ processor.
In terms of the hardware, itâ€™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 Googleâ€™s Pixel Watch.
Itâ€™s a solid core package for a Wear OS watch, but the big difference compared to last yearâ€™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 Googleâ€™s smartwatch platform. Itâ€™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. Fossilâ€™s customizations to the platform are minimal too. Youâ€™ll find orange accents throughout, Fossilâ€™s special battery-saving modes â€“ more on battery life later â€“ and some preloaded apps such as Amazon Alexa, Cardiogram, and Fossilâ€™s Wellness health suite.
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 â€œTilesâ€ (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 isnâ€™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. Thatâ€™s a bug Iâ€™ve encountered on Wear OS before, mostly on Fossil watches, and Iâ€™m really disappointed itâ€™s still floating around.
The performance got better after a day or two, but itâ€™s still the choppiest experience Iâ€™ve had on Wear OS 3 to date. The Pixel Watch is much smoother, as is the Montblanc Summit 3. With Fossilâ€™s watch only being equipped with 1GB of RAM, itâ€™s easy to see why the Pixel Watch is a better performer, but Montblancâ€™s better performance goes to show that this seems to come from optimization issues.
Is the performance a deal-breaker? I donâ€™t think so â€“ itâ€™s not quite that bad. But still, Wear OS 3 is supposed to be better than this.
The other hiccup on the software side of things is with Fossilâ€™s â€œWellnessâ€ suite, the namesake of this smartwatch. Frankly, itâ€™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 youâ€™ll be using to pair this watch to your phone â€“ 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 itâ€™s a very limited subset of information. You get more with Google Fit â€“ which currently isnâ€™t natively compatible with this watch â€“ and Fitbit, even on the latterâ€™s free tier.
For a smartwatch that pulls its name from this suite of wellness data, itâ€™s a really disappointing experience. Itâ€™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.
Not to pile on, but the other problem I had here was with the watch faces. I normally love Fossilâ€™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, â€œFitness Digital,â€ didnâ€™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.
Letâ€™s talk battery life now. Itâ€™s fine. While I had some early days where I could kill the Wellness Edition in just a few hours, Iâ€™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. Thatâ€™s not good battery life, but it has one saving grace.
Fossilâ€™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 Fossilâ€™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. Iâ€™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 isnâ€™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, itâ€™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 canâ€™t think of a reason anyone should invest in it at its full price.
The $50 price difference with Googleâ€™s Pixel Watch isnâ€™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 Fossilâ€™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 OSâ€™ history, the timing just didnâ€™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. Itâ€™s not a terrible product â€“ itâ€™s just arriving at an awkward time. This sets the stage for whatâ€™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.
More on Wear OS:
- Google Pixel Watch review: Expect disappointment, and youâ€™ll never be disappointed
- Review: Montblanc Summit 3 is a stellar Wear OS 3 watch thatâ€™s probably not for you
- Galaxy Watch 5 Review: Wear OSâ€™ best gets just a little bit better
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