A smartwatch is an accessory that you don’t really need, but it can be handy. Without having to whip out your smartphone, you can see and respond to notifications, change music tracks and see what’s coming around the corner as you rush to the nearest coffee shop to warm up in the winter chill. If it becomes annoying to use, you may have just thrown money in the trash.
Unfortunately, that was my experience with Fossil’s new Gen 6 Wellness smartwatch. It’s lazy, plain and simple. It’s not the leap I was hoping for, considering this is Fossil’s first Wear OS 3 smartwatch. Sure, it looks nice, but that can only get you so far.
The important things first. This smartwatch runs the Wear OS operating system from Google. The company largely let it fall by the wayside over the years as Apple dominated the smartwatch market, but some companies like Fossil continued to devotedly build smartwatches for the platform. Last year, Google unveiled Wear OS 3, a new version that promised a new look, better performance, more comprehensive health monitoring, and longer battery life. The company has also pledged to improve the very lackluster app selection.
The results aren’t as impressive as Google might have wished, but Wear OS is certainly in a better place now with watches like Samsung’s Galaxy Watch5 and Google’s new Pixel Watch. They run smoothly, have more apps than ever – including a new Google Home app to control your smart devices – and are reliable when it comes to tracking basic health data like heart rate, SpO₂ and even electrocardiograms. Unfortunately, Fossil’s Gen 6 Wellness cannot be given the same praise.
It’s powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 4100+ chipset (with 1GB of RAM), which isn’t the latest processor, but in a meeting a company spokesman enthusiastically reiterated that it’s a newer chip than the one powering Google’s Pixel Watch. Unfortunately, much like Draco and the Slytherins flying the newer Nimbus 2001 brooms in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, that doesn’t really mean anything.
Google’s Pixel Watch is way smoother. Unlike the Gen 6 Wellness, it’s not choppy at all. There are moments when it works well; It’s one of those things that’s near perfect when someone is watching and awful when it’s just you alone. Every time I try to recreate its sloth at home, it seems to cooperate and work well. On the go when I need it most? Suddenly it’s slow. Luckily I have an eyewitness! When I was having lunch with a friend, I got a notification on the watch and tried to check it. My friend saw me interacting with the Gen 6 Wellness and commented, “It’s delayed, huh?” Yes Yes it is.
It’s weird – I’ve used other Gen 6 smartwatches like the Fossil Gen 6 and the Skagen Falster Gen 6 that have identical specs and haven’t seen this kind of poor performance, so there’s probably a Wear OS 3 optimization issue here. There is a chance that it will get better over time after software updates.
Perhaps the most annoying issue I have with this watch is the ghost that seems to accompany it. Not really. Every few hours it magically decides to turn features on or off against my will. For example, I don’t want the Gen 6 to ping loudly every time I get a notification, so I set the ringer to vibrate only. But every now and then… ping! The same goes for the Battery Saver mode, which turns on randomly and disables some of the watch’s functions. Even the always-on display I tried turning off seems to turn back on after every night, and I also have to constantly toggle the tilt to wake up. It’s frustrating.
I don’t want to be too negative. There are some niceties this smartwatch has to offer. There is NFC and I used it to pay for my subway ride here in New York City. The 1.28-inch AMOLED screen is also bright and colorful, and the entire watch is 3ATM water-resistant, so it will run smoothly in the rain.