While writing on tech for 9 years, one thing I learned is that marketing and building a product are two separate things. Finding a balance between the two can be complex but sometimes how you amplify your message and build a narrative can help the product from being totally neglected in the marketplace. That’s exactly the case with the Fossil Gen 6, a WearOS smartwatch aiming to fit in between the OnePlus Watch and Apple Watch. The emphasis is not on exclusivity or fitness as a selling point but rather on how the smartwatch is packaged. I spent a week with the Fossil Gen 6, and here’s my take on the WearOS-powered smartwatch.
Fossil Gen 6 price in India: Rs 23,995
Fossil takes a particular design approach with its watches, and the same sensibilities go into the Gen 6. A round screen, metal exterior, and physical controls make the Gen 6 a good looking smartwatch. The model I tested had a gunmetal stainless steel case with a brown leather band. For a smartwatch that cost half the price of the Apple Watch Series 7, achieving this level of quality and sophistication is commendable. The watch is available in 42mm and 44mm sizes, with black only in 44mm.
The watch is rated for 3ATM, so you can swim with it. The Gen 6, however, isn’t officially waterproof. The Galaxy Watch 4, in comparison, is rated at 5 ATM with an IP68 dustproof/waterproof rating, as well as MIL-STD-810G compliance.
The Gen 6 is comfortable to wear all day. The 44mm version, which I got for review, uses 22mm straps. The quality of the leather strap is premium. Additional straps are available from Fossil.
The watch uses a 1.28-inch circular AMOLED screen with a resolution of 416 by 416 pixels. The always-on display is bright and colourful. I had no trouble reading WhatsApp messages under the sun. There are two buttons on the right side, flanking the digital crown. When pushed in, it wakes up the screen or takes you to the app list.
The button above the crown displays your fitness statistics such as steps taken, calories burned, recent heart rate and blood oxygen level, while the button below accesses your Google Pay cards for NFC payments. The two buttons can also be used to open any WearOS app. My only issue with the watch’s design is that often Google Assistant accidentally activates all of the sudden when I bend my wrist; it’s annoying.
Inside, the Gen 6 is powered by a Snapdragon 4100+ processor with 1GB RAM and 8GB of storage. The specs are good enough for running apps and storing music on the watch. Thanks to the Snapdragon 4100+ processor, apps never crashed, and the user interface was always snappy and fluid.
For connectivity, the watch supports Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi, NFC and GPS. The watch boasts of several sensors, including an accelerometer, altimeter, ambient light meter, compass, gyroscope, IR presence sensor, PPG heart rate sensor, and blood oxygen sensor. You will also find a microphone and speaker to use Google Assistant. It’s always handy to receive and make calls from the watch. I particularly find this feature useful when I am out for a walk or in the middle of a crowded place.
In terms of battery life, Gen 6 can last up to a day. This also applies to both the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Apple Watch Series 7, two of the most popular smartwatches in the high-end segment. However, in my testing, the Gen 6’s battery falls short a few hours of the Apple Watch. Yes, you can use the watch’s power-saving model to extend the battery life for a few more hours, but I tested the Gen 6 in normal mode.
Battery life takes a hit when you track your sleep at night or when GPS is turned on. Continued heart rate tracking also sucks the battery life at a faster rate. Thankfully, the watch charges quickly, taking about 30 minutes to reach 80 per cent battery life.
The Gen 6 uses Google’s WearOS platform, which is not a bad thing but it’s running the older version 2.3 and not the latest WearOS 3.0. Fossil says the Gen 6 will get WearOS 3 sometime in 2022, but right now the watch is stuck on WearOS 2.0. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 also runs on WearOS, but it uses a customised user interface on top of WearOS 3.0. The only thing that favours the Gen 6 is that I can use the watch with both Android smartphones and the iPhone. The Galaxy Watch 4, on the other hand, doesn’t support iOS and is only limited to the Android platform.
I paired the Gen 6 with my iPhone 13 mini through the Google Wear app, and every feature available on Android also works on the iOS version. I had no trouble getting notifications, or controlling music playback on the Gen 3.
The first thing I did after setting up the Gen 6 was change the watch face. You can change the watch face by pressing the screen and there are 10 Fossil customisable watch faces preloaded on the device. I feel the native watch face selection is flat and intuitive. But don’t worry. You can always download more watch faces from the Google Play Store or else use the Facer watch face marketplace, which comes preloaded on the watch itself. Let me tell you in advance that if you go for always-on watch faces, they drain battery life much faster.
The WearOS is familiar but the interface is cluttered and a bit confusing. Swiping up on the watch face shows notifications, swiping right brings up Google Assistant along with the current weather displayed. You can also use Google Assistant by pressing and holding down the crown. Swiping left on the watch takes you to pinned tiles, which you can arrange in any order. They include phone access, Amazon Alexa, a 20-second hand-washing timer, etc. Swiping down on the face of the watch brings up a quick settings menu with buttons for Airplane mode, Silent mode, Do Not Disturb mode, Theater mode, and battery and brightness options.
Basic smartwatch functionalities are guaranteed on Gen 6. These include getting notifications, reading important emails, critical alerts, text messages, phone calls, etc. You can check your agenda for the day, access contacts, use a stopwatch on the watch itself, without needing to take the phone out of the pocket. These features are also available on non-Wear OS watches from OnePlus and local Indian brands.
Third-party apps are also supported on Gen 6. Spotify, Calm, Strava and Shazam, to name a few. To get apps on your wrist, you can either browse the Google Play Store on your Android phone or the web or use the Play Store app on your smartwatch. The problem comes in finding these apps on the watch, and that to me is frustrating. Because apps are separate from tiles, the only way to access them is by pressing the crown which brings up the installed apps. There is no quick-launch menu or tile for those apps.
Speaking of fitness, it’s a mixed bag and is no way near to the Apple Watch. The watch covers the basics like heart rate, blood oxygen (SpO2), and sleep tracking features, as well as standard step counting and workout functions. But the watch misses on advanced fitness tracking and health features like automatic activity tracking, meaning every time I have to manually start each workout session with the watch. The main issue with the Gen 6 is that I have to rely on Google Fit or third-party apps for advanced fitness features which should be natively baked in the watch.
Also, I feel Google Fit is not at par with Apple Health in terms of features. With Apple Watch, I get access to my fitness stats in one single place and that is missing on the Gen 6. The watch has a SpO2 sensor, which allows you to check your blood oxygen level. But checking your blood oxygen level isn’t hassle-free. I have to constantly tap and then wait to see if the tap actually worked. I tried twice and failed to check my blood oxygen level. The third time, it actually worked and the results were comparable to a finger-clamp-style pulse oximeter.
Fossil’s emphasis on pitching the Gen 6 as a lifestyle smartwatch is understandable. It’s nowhere close to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 or Apple Watch Series 7 and I think Fossil is also aware of where the Gen 6 is lacking. That’s not to say the Gen 6 is a bad smartwatch. Even if it is running an old version of WearOS, the watch is still superior to the OnePlus Watch in every aspect. If you are someone looking for a smartwatch that’s more on the traditional side, the Gen 6 can be considered. Before you shell out Rs 23,995 from your pocket, just make sure to check out the Galaxy Watch Series 4. It costs Rs 26,999 for the 44mm model but offers the full experience of a Wear OS smartwatch. Not only is the interface more intuitive but the watch also supports Google services and a range of third-party apps. From a fitness and health perspective, the Galaxy Watch 4 is a better deal any day.