Smartwatches haven’t really taken off as much as I think companies expected them to, mainly due to the limited range available and also Google’s Wear OS (formerly know as Android Wear) hasn’t been the most reliable platform and has been known to be buggy. However in 2015 Apple launched their own smartwatch and this has been doing fairly well, but this left Google on the back foot. However, this is all beginning to change as more manufacturers bring out newer smartwatches based on the Wear OS platform and Google have also updated the operating system vastly to help improve known issues. I previously bought the Motorola smartwatch when it was first released in 2014 which at the time I thought worked well, until it started running slowly, the battery would last around 2 hours and eventually it gave up and just wouldn’t turn on. That was all in the space of a week so there was definitely something not quite right with the operating system at the time. I still liked the idea of a smartwatch and think they are a really handy gadget to have, so last month after hearing that Google had improved Wear OS I bought myself the new Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch. But is it any better and can it finally improve the reputation of Wear OS?
- Compatible with Android and iPhone.
- Connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth.
- Displays notifications from your phone and reply to them using your voice.
- Built in speaker and microphone for Google Assistant and notifications. You can also use it to have a phone call.
- Includes Google assistant so you can ask it questions the same way you would on your phone, like “What’s the weather going to be like today” and it will also show you what your schedule for the day is with any reminders and events. This is accessed by either saying “OK Google” then asking your question or swiping right on the screen to view a summary from Google Assistant like the weather today, upcoming events and time it will take to travel to work.
- Google Maps for walking directions on your watch.
- Records statistics on workouts and exercise. It also records steps and can read your heart rate.
- A range of other apps tailored specifically to work on Wear OS.
- Last but not least, it is actually a watch so you can tell the time 🙂
- There are lots of settings you can customise on the way you use the watch. You can have an always on display to show the time all of the time, but I have gone with the tilt to show time setting, so normally the screen is off, but when you tilt your wrist to see the time the screen turns itself on.
- The way that the watch works is really great. It vibrates and plays a sound when you get a notification, and the majority of the time you can deal with notifications through the watch without even needing to open your phone. For example, if you receive a text message you can reply to it using your voice through the inbuilt microphone and it has never misunderstood what I’m saying to it. It also shows reminders for upcoming events and key information like ticket numbers.
- You would think a small screen would be cumbersome and hard to read but it really isn’t, the screen quality is amazing and I’ve never found myself struggling to see it. It also has auto screen brightness and you can still see the watch face clearly in bright sunlight.
- It is also really customisable, in terms of the watch face and straps. There are a range of straps available including black silicone, leather, and metal links. They are also easily interchangeable. I went with the black silicone and have found it really nice, it is really comfortable to wear too. Then you can also customise the watch face using the Wear OS app and there are loads to choose from including classic watch styles to digital clocks. I’ve gone with the classic Fossil watch face. You can also customise the main tiles that you can access by swiping left on the screen with the apps you would like to see the most.
- With previous watches the main issue was the battery, but I can happily report that I have been getting 3 full days use out of 1 charge which is really impressive. If you want it to last even longer the watch allows you to customise the battery usage like turning off certain features which is really good. Also it only takes 1 hour to charge up which is impressive.
- When I first got the watch the speaker quality was terrible, it sounded really distorted and crackly. After a notification finished or Google Assistant had answered a question the speaker would continue to make a crackling noise too. However I’m glad to report that a few days after I got the watch it ran a system update and since then the speaker has been fine, although don’t expect super high quality sound – after all, it is a small device.
- It currently doesn’t have built-in LTE for mobile/roaming data connection. So if you just wanted to use the watch on it’s own you can only use it with a WiFi connection. Otherwise you would have to have your mobile phone with you when you are out and about to use the internet connection through that. Although I’ve never found this a problem as I always have my mobile phone with me anyway.
- Not exactly anything wrong with the watch or specific to this one, but using it to call someone feels a bit cumbersome, although you can have a clear conversation easily it doesn’t quite feel natural talking into your watch while having a phone call. I’ve only ever tried this out once and now just tend to use my phone to call as normal.
- When replying to a notification it gives you the option to reply using voice or keyboard. Now, I’m not sure what Google were thinking when adding a keyboard but unless you are a child you will never select the correct letters when typing. Your best bet is to reply using voice recognition as I’ve never found there being any issue with it not being able to understand what I’m saying.
Overall I have been really impressed with the new Fossil Gen 5 and do personally think it is a turning point for Google’s Wear OS platform. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a smartwatch.