Fossil Gen 5 - Wear OS smartwatch is too expensive

The Fossil Gen 5 is the best smartwatch with Wear OS software, but that doesn't mean we recommend this smartwatch to everyone. Find out everything about the smartwatch in our Fossil Gen 5 review.

Fossil Gen 5

Price € 299,-

Colors Black and silver

Display 1.28 inch OLED (328 ppi)

Format 4.4 x 3.8 x 1.2 cm

Weight 48 grams

Processor Quad Core (Snap Dragon Wear 3100)

RAM and storage 1GB and 8GB

OS Wear OS

Connectivity GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC

Other optical heart rate monitor, water resistant, 22mm strap

Website 6 Score 60

  • Pros
  • Beautiful design
  • Suitable for calling
  • wearing comfort
  • Negatives
  • Wear OS now and later
  • Too many battery saving modes
  • Pricey
  • Limited heart rate monitor
  • Battery life under normal use

If you want to buy a smartwatch, you can choose from several well-known operating systems. Apple sells the Apple Watch with Watch OS, which is only compatible with the iPhone. Samsung offers Galaxy watches with Tizen that work with Android and iOS. Huawei's Watch GT smartwatches run LiteOS (Android and iOS) and then there are a number of brands that use Wear OS (Android and iOS) from Google. Fossil Group dominates the latter market and has been installing the operating system on watches from its own and partner brands Fossil, Misfit, Skagen Denmark, Michael Kors and Emporio Armani for years. Nice and nice, but in general the market for Wear OS watches is not very good. The smartwatches from Apple and Samsung in particular are more popular. The new Fossil Gen 5 (not the best name, if you ask me) should change that. Can you manage that?

Beautiful design

The design is largely convincing. The Gen 5 looks suspiciously like a traditional watch. It has a round metal case (44mm diameter) which is 12mm thick on the thick side, and has three buttons on the right side. We'll come back to that in a moment. The watch has an average weight and is comfortable to wear if you have a normal to thicker wrist. Those who have a thin wrist will probably find the smartwatch too bulky. The entry-level version of the Gen 5 comes with a 22mm rubber strap, which you can change within ten seconds. Useful. A more expensive model has a metal strap. The smartwatch is limited water resistant. You can keep it with sports, washing hands and in the rain, but should not go swimming or showering with it.

You can easily change the 22mm strap

At the bottom of the watch is a heart rate monitor. For it to work properly, the smartwatch must be close to your skin. The heart rate monitor is unfortunately limited: it regularly shows your heart rate, but does not warn you when you have a very high or low heart rate and also lacks the ECG function to make a simple heart video. Apple watches can.

Three buttons and a screen

To return to the three buttons: they are quite handy. With the middle, largest, button you activate the screen and open the list of apps. By turning the wheel, you navigate through the apps that are on the watch. The top and bottom buttons open an app of your choice, configurable via the Fossil app (Android and iOS). For example, I start the timer with one touch and view my Todoist tasks.

The 1.3-inch OLED screen produces beautiful colors, looks sharp and is perfectly readable indoors and in autumn sun. On a sunny day, you have to hold your hand diagonally above the screen to read text. In the settings there is a mode that temporarily increases the screen brightness, but you have to click and press a few times for that; not useful if you have a bad view of the display.

More memory for better performance

Smartwatches with Wear OS have had two major problems for years: the software does not run smoothly and the battery is usually empty after one day. Fossil tried to address that last pain point before by using a new Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor. It is more energy efficient than previous chips. In practice, the difference was unfortunately minimal. The Wear 3100 is also in the new Fossil Gen 5, along with an innovation that should solve the first point. Fossil has equipped its watch with twice as much RAM than other Wear OS smartwatches (1GB vs 52MB). The software should run better due to the extra working memory. That's right: the watch is smoother and fast enough. Still, I find Wear OS less responsive than competing smartwatches from Apple and Samsung. They simply feel a bit faster, for example when starting up apps or processing a voice command. I also wonder how smooth the Fossil Gen 5 will be in two years, and some software update beyond that.

Chances are you'll need to charge the watch every night

Battery life

To return to the battery life: it is not special with the standard mode. Over the past week, I just couldn't get the battery to empty in one day (07:00 to 23:00) and I still had about twenty percent left. So I had to charge the watch every night or morning. If you want a longer battery life, you can activate a more economical mode. Think of the 'extended' mode, with which the smartwatch lasts a few days, according to Fossil, because battery-intensive features are only switched on when you need them. You can also create a custom mode and turn various features on and off. Nice that it is possible, but the Fossil Gen 5 then does much less and therefore loses its value as a smartwatch. If the battery is almost empty but your day is not yet over, you can activate the mode where the screen only shows the time. This stretches the battery life for a few hours.

You charge the smartwatch by placing it with the bottom on a magnetic charging station (net). It doesn't matter how you place the watch. The charging station cable is one meter long. The charging method works fine: within an hour the Gen 5 goes from 0 to almost 80 percent. However, it would have been nicer if you could charge the watch wirelessly via the qi standard, the way more expensive smartphones, Samsung smartwatches and the AirPods 2019 also charge. Now you are dependent on a charging method developed by Fossil, which is extra annoying because the watch only lasts one to two days with normal use. When I unexpectedly didn't sleep at home one night, my watch was almost empty in the morning and I couldn't charge it. You can buy an extra charger and put it in your bag, for example, but then you are thirty euros poorer.

It is quite striking that the Fossil Gen 5 has a built-in speaker and microphone. You can call up the Google Assistant by saying "Hey Google" or by pressing a button, then saying your question or command. The watch then gives a spoken answer and tells you, for example, how old that one artist is or what the weather is like. Playing music is also possible, for example via Spotify. The watch has 8GB of internal memory for storing apps and music. It works and the volume is quite loud, but I have no idea when I would like to use it.

Calling with your watch

The smartwatch is also suitable for making calls, as long as it is connected to your phone via bluetooth. It doesn't matter if you have an Android device or iPhone. The latter is special, because previously the Apple Watch was the only watch that can call via an iPhone. The calling works, but the call quality is significantly less than when you normally call. I tested it at different times and locations for a week and each time my conversation partner sounded far away and I heard noise and crackling. Calling via your watch works well with earplugs in, but it is often not useful on the speaker. After all, other people don't need to hear what you discuss with someone. Those people usually don't need that either.

More convenient is that the watch has its own GPS. If you go running or cycling, you don't necessarily have to take your phone with you: the Gen 5 keeps track of the route.

Using Wear OS

The Wear OS software is easy to use. You will have mastered everything within an hour. Much attention is paid to Google services; understandable because Google Wear OS is developing. From Google Fit and the calendar to the contacts: whoever is in the Google ecosystem can do a lot. The watch also has standard apps such as a flashlight (which lights up the screen and is of little use), stopwatch, timer and alarm clock. You can install additional apps via the Play Store app on the watch. This also applies to dials. You will already find quite a few different dials on the watch and in the accompanying Wear OS app.

Conclusion: buy Fossil Gen 5?

With the 299 euro Gen 5, Fossil wants to compete directly with the Apple Watch and Galaxy watches from Samsung. This is possible with the design and functions such as the GPS, the storage of music and the hands-free voice assistant. In other areas, the Gen 5 is less impressive. The screen is less legible in direct sunlight, the heart rate monitor is limited and the battery is usually empty after a day. Competing smartwatches last about a day and a half. The Wear OS software works fine, but feels - despite the improved hardware - less smooth than Apple's and Samsung's software. It's clear that the Fossil Gen 5 is the best Wear OS smartwatch, but the competition isn't that big on that front. The question is: is the Gen 5 a better buy than, say, the new Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2? (also 299 euros) I don't think so. The Active2 has more and better features, a longer battery life and more refined software. Last year's Apple Watch 4 also performs a bit better than the Gen 5 in many areas, but costs 399 euros and only works with the iPhone. We have not yet tested Huawei's new Watch GT2 from 229 euros. All in all, the Fossil Gen 5 can be an interesting choice, but I don't just recommend it because of the price.

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