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 beneath its umbrella. I keep in mind feeling weary. Most of these watches have 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 fundamental health monitoring. Its analog fingers nonetheless cleverly transfer out of the way in which once you’re navigating the dashboard or studying notifications. It provides the flexibility to measure blood oxygen, a brand new coronary heart price 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 route with the design.
Type 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 practically as many options. Meaning you’re paying additional for type, 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 carrying 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 an excessively 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 dimension as its predecessors. After all, these are my private preferences, and from perusing the SKUs, it’s extra of a problem with the Stella fashions than the Machine fashions.
What bothers me concerning the Stella design is the way it considerably pigeonholes your type. The Stella is for glamorous girls, and too unhealthy should 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 might 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. Working example: my partner would quite 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 trendy options you may not anticipate. As an illustration, you possibly can set timers and stopwatches, verify the climate, ring your telephone, 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 actually need 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.
SpO2 monitoring — whether or not it’s measured passively in your sleep or on demand — is an more and more frequent characteristic 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 have been on par with a pulse oximeter, however that’s probably not a cause to have this characteristic. (Reminder: it’s best to by no means ever use smartwatches in lieu of a pulse oximeter for medical causes. They’re not cleared for that function 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 price or should you incessantly expertise respiratory disturbances. There’s not a lot you are able to do with the knowledge from spot checks.
In the meantime, including Alexa is extra of a celebration trick than a great tool. It may be respectable should you use Alexa to manage your sensible residence, but it surely’s not so good as Google Assistant or Siri in the case of 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 this planet’s thinnest, tiniest font. And that’s should you get solutions. Many occasions after I tried utilizing Alexa, I obtained a message saying it couldn’t join and that I ought to transfer nearer to my telephone to strive once more. A number of of these occasions, I used to be in the identical room. That defeats the aim of getting a digital assistant in your wrist!
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 characteristic 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 is usually a ache in comparison with the Apple Watch, but it surely’s a notable enchancment from earlier variations.
The E Ink show hasn’t modified a lot, that means it nonetheless has the identical issues as its predecessors. The refresh price is much like a Kindle, which is to say gradual for a smartwatch. That makes studying your notifications a bit annoying as you need to scroll down, wait a beat for the display to refresh, after which repeat the method two seconds later. The small font dimension can also be unimaginable for studying metrics mid-exercise. I respect that E Ink doesn’t trigger as a lot eye pressure, however I might’ve appreciated the notifications to be extra readable as effectively.
The Gen 6 Hybrid additionally has the identical health monitoring points as earlier fashions. Whereas coronary heart price monitoring was inside 5 beats per minute of my Apple Watch Collection 7, it’s not a great instrument for coronary heart price zone coaching. Once more, the E Ink refresh price 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 Collection 7 logged 3.0 miles, my operating app clocked 3.02 miles, and the Fossil watch recorded 3.8 miles. I anticipated much less accuracy for the reason that Gen 6 Hybrid depends in your telephone’s GPS to report your runs. However as you possibly can see, my operating outcomes wildly differed on my telephone and the watch. (That mentioned, each recorded correct route maps. Go determine.) Sleep monitoring was broadly correct, however I didn’t get a lot context past sleep levels 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 except for testing functions. Not solely is cleansing pores and skin crust and sweat from chrome 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 monitor health however wasn’t made to trace health.
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 undecided why that’s, but it surely possible 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 per week since I charged the Gen 6 Hybrid, and I nonetheless have over 70 p.c battery. Although, admittedly, I haven’t used this fairly as closely as different watches I’ve examined.
Fossil made sensible selections right here, but it surely 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 per week of estimated battery life. Including a greater coronary heart price sensor is nice, however its profit is muted because of unreliable GPS monitoring. In the meantime, Fossil threw out a unisex design with numerous choices for a extra luxe watch with a particular look.
What actually holds the Gen 6 Hybrid again is its value. If it have been extra inexpensive, I might simply look previous its shortcomings, as I did up to now. However the model I examined prices $249, and for a similar value, 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 way more bang in 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 just $179.99, fashionable as hell, significantly better at health monitoring, and most significantly, it nails the correct mix of kind, operate, and value. Except 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 presupposed to for its target market. That may’ve been sufficient in 2019, however in 2022, that’s simply not going to chop it.
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