Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid analog smartwatch review: bling, not zing

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The primary time I noticed Fossil’s hybrid analog smartwatches was in a backroom at IFA 2019. I’d simply seen a small army of smartwatches from Fossil — and each different designer model below its umbrella. I keep in mind feeling weary. Most of these watches had been mainly completely different flavors of the identical smartwatch. However when a spokesperson confirmed me the Fossil Hybrid HR, I perked up. A hybrid smartwatch with an E Ink show? That was a uncommon sight after Pebble’s untimely end, and I used to be intrigued to see what it might do. Three years later, I’ve obtained the $229 Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid ($249 as examined), and whereas it’s saved the identical DNA as the unique, I can’t assist however really feel that Fossil’s gotten forward of itself.

The Gen 6 Hybrid retains the E Ink display, customizable watchfaces, and primary health monitoring. Its analog arms nonetheless cleverly transfer out of the way in which if you’re navigating the dashboard or studying notifications. It provides the power to measure blood oxygen, a brand new coronary heart charge sensor, Amazon Alexa, and a redesigned dashboard. Fossil’s companion app has additionally been refreshed — however barely. Oh and, uh, Fossil has gone in a barely new path with the design.

Fashion could make or break a hybrid analog smartwatch, particularly in comparison with different wearables. Let’s put it this manner: the Gen 6 Hybrid with a silicone strap prices the identical because the Fitbit Versa 3 however doesn’t have a touchscreen or almost as many options. Which means you’re paying further for fashion, so it had higher look the half. Beforehand, Fossil made a powerful case for paying a premium for a stylish hybrid analog. This time… not a lot.

The watch has two variations: the 45mm Machine and the 41mm Stella. As quickly as I unboxed my Stella overview unit, I knew this watch was not for me. That is the form of watch I envision Kim Kardashian sporting in a luxurious fragrance advert, her darkish eyes piercing your soul as she whispers, “I’ve costly style.” It’s not that the watch is hideous; it’s extra that the 150 hand-placed Czech crystal pavé setting and hyperlink bracelet ooze of ostentatious glitz. I want I might say I want the Machine, however that watch has a very masculine vibe with very aggressive knurling that didn’t swimsuit my way of life, both. I additionally don’t love how the show appears a lot smaller although it’s the identical measurement as its predecessors. After all, these are my private preferences, and from perusing the SKUs, it’s extra of a difficulty with the Stella fashions than the Machine fashions.

The Withings ScanWatch, Fossil Hybrid HR, Skagen Jorn, and Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid side by side

For some cause, the Gen 6 Hybrid’s display appears smaller although it’s the identical measurement. From left: Withings ScanWatch, Fossil Hybrid HR, Skagen Jorn, Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid

What bothers me in regards to the Stella design is the way it considerably pigeonholes your fashion. The Stella is for glamorous ladies, and too unhealthy when you’d like a extra versatile unisex design for on a regular basis put on. That’s disappointing: the unique Fossil Hybrid HR and the Skagen Jorn (Skagen’s model of the watch) had extra versatile case designs. You can get a pavé setting or not. There’s solely one non-pavé version of the Stella, and if it doesn’t fit your style, you’re out of luck. Living proof: my partner would moderately clear the litter field than put on this Gen 6 Hybrid, however they wore my Hybrid HR overview unit for a number of weeks as a result of it was light-weight and match their vogue sense. And the kicker is that the Gen 6 Hybrid is noticeably heavier than each its predecessors.

As a smartwatch, the Gen 6 Hybrid will get you all of the fundamentals — and a few fashionable options you may not anticipate. As an illustration, you’ll be able to set timers and stopwatches, test the climate, ring your cellphone, view notifications, and management your music, however don’t anticipate to answer to textual content messages or take calls in your wrist. That’s all you really want from a hybrid analog, however Fossil’s additionally added Alexa and SpO2 spot checks to provide the watch a bit extra oomph. That’s cool on paper, however in actuality, the brand new options don’t actually add a lot.

The Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid’s sensor array

The Gen 6 Hybrid has a brand new coronary heart charge sensor and SpO2 sensors as nicely.

The Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid with an Alexa query displayed on the screen

Alexa is likely one of the new additions to the Gen 6 Hybrid. However you may as well see how cramped the display seems when studying notifications.

SpO2 monitoring — whether or not it’s measured passively in your sleep or on demand — is an more and more widespread function as extra wearables concentrate on restoration and sleep. The Gen 6 Hybrid does the latter. Taking a studying on the watch is simple sufficient. You simply place your hand flat on a floor, hold nonetheless, and wait. However throughout a number of of my makes an attempt, the method was interrupted by notifications, and I needed to restart the method. My outcomes had been on par with a pulse oximeter, however that’s not likely a cause to have this function. (Reminder: it is best to by no means ever use smartwatches in lieu of a pulse oximeter for medical causes. They’re not cleared for that goal and are not a diagnostic tool of any sort.) Passive SpO2 monitoring throughout sleep can not less than provide you with a way of your respiratory charge or when you often expertise respiratory disturbances. There’s not a lot you are able to do with the data from spot checks.

In the meantime, including Alexa is extra of a celebration trick than a great tool. It may be first rate when you use Alexa to manage your good house, however it’s not so good as Google Assistant or Siri relating to answering queries. (It is higher than Samsung’s Bixby, however that’s a low bar.) Plus, the Gen 6 Hybrid has a 0.94-inch show with a decision of 254ppi. No matter solutions you do get barely match throughout the show and are on the earth’s thinnest, tiniest font. And that’s when you get solutions. Many instances once I tried utilizing Alexa, I obtained a message saying it couldn’t join and that I ought to transfer nearer to my cellphone to strive once more. A couple of of these instances, I used to be in the identical room. That defeats the aim of getting a digital assistant in your wrist!

A close up for the Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid’s dashboard

The round dashboard jogs my memory of Samsung’s Galaxy Watches. It makes navigating menus a lot simpler than earlier than.

A extra significant replace is the streamlined dashboard. It’s now a round menu, very similar to what you see on Samsung’s Galaxy Watches. That makes it a lot simpler to scroll and discover which function you wish to use. I additionally respect that Fossil made it clearer which button to press to return to a earlier menu, begin, cease, or pause a exercise, and return to the homescreen. Navigating menus on the Gen 6 Hybrid could be a ache in comparison with the Apple Watch, however it’s a notable enchancment from earlier variations.

The E Ink show hasn’t modified a lot, which means it nonetheless has the identical issues as its predecessors. The refresh charge is much like a Kindle, which is to say sluggish for a smartwatch. That makes studying your notifications a bit annoying as it’s a must to scroll down, wait a beat for the display to refresh, after which repeat the method two seconds later. The small font measurement can be inconceivable for studying metrics mid-exercise. I respect that E Ink doesn’t trigger as a lot eye pressure, however I might’ve preferred the notifications to be extra readable as nicely.

The Gen 6 Hybrid additionally has the identical health monitoring points as earlier fashions. Whereas coronary heart charge monitoring was inside 5 beats per minute of my Apple Watch Sequence 7, it’s not an excellent device for coronary heart charge zone coaching. Once more, the E Ink refresh charge is ill-suited to real-time exercise monitoring. Likewise, distance monitoring is unreliable. On a 2.08-mile stroll recorded by my Apple Watch, the Gen 6 Hybrid logged 1.5 miles. On a 3-mile run, the Sequence 7 logged 3.0 miles, my working app clocked 3.02 miles, and the Fossil watch recorded 3.8 miles. I anticipated much less accuracy because the Gen 6 Hybrid depends in your cellphone’s GPS to document your runs. However as you’ll be able to see, my working outcomes wildly differed on my cellphone and the watch. (That stated, each recorded correct route maps. Go determine.) Sleep monitoring was broadly correct, however I didn’t get a lot context past sleep phases and period.

Usually, I’d say outcomes like these are a deal-breaker, however that’s not the case right here. Nobody anticipating detailed health monitoring can buy a watch like this. Personally, I’d by no means run or work out with this watch apart from testing functions. Not solely is cleansing pores and skin crust and sweat from stainless-steel hyperlinks gross but in addition it’s too heavy to run with. This watch is significantly better suited to general wellness and ensuring you’re getting in your steps. The Gen 6 Hybrid is a smartwatch that can observe health however wasn’t made to trace health.

The Fossil Smartwatches app on an iPhone next to the Gen 6 Hybrid

You possibly can simply customise your watchface within the Fossil Smartwatches app. I selected an image of my canine.

Extra disappointing is the Gen 6 Hybrid’s shortened battery life. You get an estimated week on a single cost, whereas the Hybrid HR and Skagen Jorn obtained about two weeks. I’m unsure why that’s, however it seemingly has to do with the brand new options and sensors. After all, battery life is at all times depending on utilization. It’s been over every week since I charged the Gen 6 Hybrid, and I nonetheless have over 70 % battery. Although, admittedly, I haven’t used this fairly as closely as different watches I’ve examined.

Fossil made good selections right here, however it additionally made some unforced errors attempting to make things better that weren’t damaged. On the one hand, the round dashboard made the consumer expertise higher and addressed one of many extra annoying issues about earlier Fossil hybrid analogs. On the opposite, nobody wanted on-demand SpO2 or Alexa, particularly not on the expense of every week of estimated battery life. Including a greater coronary heart charge sensor is sweet, however its profit is muted due to unreliable GPS monitoring. In the meantime, Fossil threw out a unisex design with plenty of choices for a extra luxe watch with a particular look.

The Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid on a wrist

Not my normal fashion. It goes with precisely nothing in my wardrobe.

What actually holds the Gen 6 Hybrid again is its worth. If it had been extra reasonably priced, I might simply look previous its shortcomings, as I did up to now. However the model I examined prices $249, and for a similar worth, I might purchase the 40mm Samsung Galaxy Watch 4. In the meantime, the Apple Watch SE begins at $279. Each of those smartwatches will get you far more bang on your buck. As for hybrid analogs, the Withings ScanWatch prices $279.95 and has FDA clearance for ECGs and monitoring sleep disturbances. The Garmin Vivomove Sport is simply $179.99, trendy as hell, significantly better at health monitoring, and most significantly, it nails the right combination of type, perform, and worth. Until you actually love the Gen 6 Hybrid’s design, there are such a lot of higher choices.

The Gen 6 Hybrid isn’t a horrible watch. It does what it’s purported to for its target market. That may’ve been sufficient in 2019, however in 2022, that’s simply not going to chop it.

Images by Victoria Tune / The Verge

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