For better or worse, Fossil makes the bulk of Wear OS smartwatches on the market thanks to its huge stable of designer brands. (Seriously, it’s not a trade show without 5,000 Fossil smartwatches that all kind of do the same thing.) But this fall, instead of launching a Gen 6 smartwatch, Fossil announced today it’s launching the Fossil Gen 5E.
The Gen 5E is basically the Gen 5, but now with more sizing options and a cheaper price tag of $250. As in, women and smaller wristed folks can now opt for a smaller 42mm case with 18mm straps. There’s also a 44mm version with 22mm straps. All in all, there are three new styles in the 44mm and four in the 42mm. If you guessed that the new 42mm options are iterations of rose gold and blush colorways while the 44mm opts for more masculine colors like... black, then congratulations. Ya nailed it.
The guts are mostly the same with some small differences. Like the Gen 5, the Gen 5E also has a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip and 1GB of RAM. The main difference is the Gen 5E only has 4GB of storage compared to the Gen 5's 8GB. It also opts for connected GPS instead of built-in GPS, and lacks an altimeter. As for the display, the Gen 5E also sports a smaller 1.9-inch touchscreen. Otherwise, you get the same features like NFC payments via Google Pay, the basic heart rate and motion sensors, a built-in speaker and microphone for calls, 3ATM water resistance, and pre-installed apps (i.e.g, Spotify, Noonlight, etc.). The Gen 5E also includes some of the updates the Gen 5 got over the summer, including an optimized activity tracker, sleep tracking, cardio fitness tracking, and phone app updates.
This sort of feels like Fossil is taking a page out of Apple’s book—the Apple Watch SE, Gen 5E... you connect the dots. That said, the Gen 5E doesn’t deliver quite as much in savings, as it’s only $45 cheaper as opposed to the $120 you save with the Watch SE. Instead, this is most likely a bit of a cheaper, “filler” watch as vendors get ready to switch over from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip to the new 4100/4100+ platform.
Fossil did something similar the last time Qualcomm introduced new hardware, back in 2018. At the time, Fossil’s Gen 4 flagships kept the old Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip and the company introduced the Fossil Sport, a slightly cheaper watch with the then-new 3100 chip.
However, this all means we likely won’t see say a Gen 6 sporting the new 4100/4100+ chips until Spring 2021. This, in turn, means Wear OS will likely lag even further behind Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit when it comes to newer smartwatch features. That’s not to say that other vendors aren’t already putting out 4100-powered watches. A little over a week ago, Mobvoi announced its $300 TicWatch Pro 3 would feature the 4100 chip—as well as a host of other health features, including blood oxygen and noise level monitoring. But, that’s one watch from a lesser-known brand (though, that’s not a knock on Mobvoi’s TicWatches, which are generally among the better Wear OS watches available). It just means that Wear OS’s biggest vendor won’t have an army of 4100-powered smartwatches out this holiday season—meaning at least some people will opt for more advanced competitors that are available now.
This isn’t surprising, per se. Wear OS has generally lagged behind its competitors for years now, even as it’s made strides with regard to the interface, battery life, and digital assistant integration. It’s just continually frustrating to watch as non-Samsung Android users also deserve the option of a full-featured cellular smartwatch—and we’re still waiting on that.