When you picture a Wear OS watch, you’re probably thinking of a Fossil, or one of the many designer brands under the company’s umbrella (Kate Spade, Michael Kors, etc.). So of course when Google and Samsung announced they had teamed up on an overhauled Wear OS platform, it was only a matter of time before Fossil released a new watch. Well, the wait is over. Today, the company announced the Fossil Gen 6, and while it seems like a solid upgrade, the timing could be better.
The Gen 6 will be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 4100+ platform, which will enable faster performance and a host of overdue features long absent from Wear OS. These include an SpO2 sensor, a speaker for taking calls, an always-on display, faster charging, and automatic syncing. It’s great that we’re finally seeing some of these features on an Android-friendly smartwatch other than a Samsung, but the 4100+ chip isn’t exactly good news at this point.
First off, the 4100+ chip is already more than a year old, and Qualcomm is rumored to be coming out with a new platform within the next year. There’s good reason to believe that the chip isn’t optimized for the new Samsung-Google Wear OS, called Wear OS 3. The new Wear OS isn’t coming to the Gen 6 until mid-2022 at the earliest, so if you buy this watch when it launches, you’ll be using Wear OS 2 for several months.
The Gen 6 looks like your typical Fossil watch. It comes in 42mm and 44mm case sizes, with a 1.28-inch color display. It’s got 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, which is fairly standard for Fossil watches. In addition to the new SpO2 sensor, it also has built-in GPS, continuous heart rate-monitoring, and is rated water resistant up to 30 meters. Fossil says the new watch’s battery life can charge up to 80% in 30 minutes, and lasts at least 24 hours on a charge. That’s not wildly impressive, but it’s better than the old Snapdragon Wear 3100-powered watches.
Altogether, the Fossil Gen 6 feels like a transitional smartwatch. It’s not that you’re not getting upgrades. You are. The 4100+ platform is a significant bump up in processing capability from the 3100 chip, which has powered all of Fossil’s watches since 2018. But Samsung’s excellent Galaxy Watch 4 lineup is also here, already has the new Wear OS, and runs on a processor that’s much more powerful than the 4100+. The $250 40mm Bluetooth Galaxy Watch 4 is also cheaper than the Gen 6, which will cost $299-$319 depending on which version you get. None of this quite adds up.
Fossil doesn’t dictate when Wear OS 3 will be ready to run on its hardware, nor does it decide when a more powerful wearable chip that can handle the new Wear OS comes out. It’s working with restrictions put in place by Google and Qualcomm. Fossil’s last watches, the Gen 5E and the Gen 5 LTE were both watches that seemed to be stalling for something better to come along. The Gen 6 might meet a similar fate.
But the Gen 6 is one of the few Android watches that have been confirmed to be receiving Wear OS 3. That at least makes it an alright buy for anyone still stuck on a 2100-powered smartwatch (which, yikes). We’ll have to test for ourselves to see how well the watch functions—both with Wear OS 2 and Wear OS 3 when it’s available.
The Fossil Gen 6 will come in seven colorways—four for the 44mm version and three for the 42mm—and will feature interchangeable straps. It’s Fossil, so there are a zillion different accessories as well. You can preorder the watch on Fossil’s website starting today.