Thursday , January 28 2021

Fossil announces Gen 5 LTE smartwatch, but with the same old processor

Fossil is making a smartwatch with LTE for the first time, the Gen 5 LTE. As you might guess from the relatively boring name, the watch is based on Fossil’s Gen 5 Wear OS platform. That means that it has many of the same features and likely performs in the same way as Fossil’s smartwatches have since late 2019, when we first reviewed the Gen 5 platform. It will retail for $349 and be available this spring in the US either in Fossil stores or at Verizon.

The key spec to pay attention to is the processor, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 3100. For the most part, it’s fast enough to handle Wear OS’ software, but smartwatches that use it still have a difficult time getting more than a day’s worth of battery life. It’s a disappointment that Fossil isn’t using the newer Snapdragon 4100 yet. Though to be fair it isn’t too common yet — it’s mainly available on the TicWatch Pro 3. To offset the battery issues that are sadly common to Wear OS watches, Fossil’s watches offer “four battery pre-sets” that turn on or off various functions depending on your needs.

The Gen 5 LTE has sensors for heart rate, GPS, elevation, and ambient light. It has a speaker too, which Fossils calls “swimproof.” It comes in either black or rose gold, but there’s only one size, a 45mm case. It uses an eSIM and is exclusive to Verizon, utilizing with the carrier’s Number Share system for calls and texts.

Android users looking for an LTE-enabled smartwatch don’t have many good options, so this new Gen 5 LTE might be the best thing going when it arrives. It’ll be worth waiting for a review to see whether the 3100 and the battery can handle LTE on top of everything else.

If you don’t need LTE, Fossil’s other brands have some other options that might interest you. There’s another iteration of the Michael Kors line of Wear OS watches, the Michael Kors Access Gen 5E. It is $250 and comes in two models, the Darci with three color ways and the MKGO with four colorways.

Last (and for me, the best) is that Fossil’s Skagen brand is launching a new hybrid smartwatch that uses Fossil’s more bare-bones software platform. The $195 Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR has physical hands that move over an e-paper screen. The watch will come in either 38mm or 42mm case sizes and feature several different color choices.

The watch should last about about two weeks on a charge yet still be able to do basic smartwatch functions. It can detect your heart rate, show notifications, and count steps. When I reviewed the Fossil version of the HR hybrid platform in 2019 I was less than impressed with the quality of the software, but some of it has been updated since then.

Overall, Fossil’s smartwatch lineup this spring is workmanlike. Nothing truly stands out, but the company has managed to get Wear OS watches to a place where they don’t flub the basics. Doing anything more interesting than that with the software really isn’t Fossil’s job, it’s Google’s. Google’s next step on the hardware front is finishing its acquisition of Fitbit. Its next step on Wear OS and smartwatch software in general? At this point it’s anybody’s guess.

This Article was first published on theverge.com

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