February 19, 2016
by Bilal Khan
In late 2015, Fossil launched their foray into the smart watch and connected device market with their Android Wear-powered Q Collection. To find out if they are any good, we are looking at the two wristwatches from this collection of wearables, the Fossil Q Founder and Fossil Q Grant, respectively. The question here is not whether the Fossil Q could convince any hardcore watch lover to fully replace any of their trusted mechanical pieces, but rather if the Qs work well at their very competitive $195 and $295 price points as your affordable smart watch option.
First, the differences: the Fossil Q Founder, as seen above, is more like a “true smart watch” in that it uses a touch screen to let the user interact with it when syncing the piece with their phone, using apps, tracking their fitness program, getting notifications, et cetera. The plan was to create a solid Android Wear device that, while not doing anything new, provides a fun, practical, and useful smart watch experience for a price $250 less than the cheapest Apple Watch. With that, it is in line with the competition from brands like Motorola and Samsung.
By contrast, the Fossil Q Grant, with its hands and chronograph sub-dials, is a traditional analog watch that syncs to your phone and functions as a connected device with a focus on fitness tracking and notifications. I spent time with both of them, and while there is a lot to discuss, in a nutshell, I can say that although neither are perfect nor quite innovative, both the Fossil Q Founder and the Fossil Q Grant offer great budget-conscious options and are a good first effort into the smart watch field from Fossil.
As I stated, the Fossil Q line uses Android Wear, is compatible with Android and iPhone devices via Bluetooth, and can sync up with the leading fitness apps like the Apple Health app, Up by Jawbone, Under Armour, and Google Fit. It’s compatible with Android OS 4.4 or higher and iOS 8.2/iPhone 5 and above. There will be some compromises when it comes to the Fossil Q Founder’s compatibility with iPhones though, such as not being able to download any third-party Android apps, and replying to texts or messages.
The touchscreen-equipped Fossil Q Founder is pretty big at 47mm wide, with a 1.5-inch-wide screen, and a hefty 13mm thick on the wrist. Even with those specs, it’s not very heavy at just under 72 grams. Like with some other smart watches, there’s a crown which you can touch to “wake up” the watch and press to go to the main app screen. It’s got an IP67 water resistance, meaning it can be one meter underwater for half an hour. That means that you should be able to take a shower with it on and have it be okay, though I didn’t try that out. Aesthetically, despite first impressions, it actually is pretty sleek with its clean lines and uninterrupted use of steel throughout the case and bracelet – with the exception of the Fossil- and Intel-branded plastic case back, that is.
The Fossil Q Founder has a 400mAh battery that Fossil claims averages around to a full 24 hours of use, though I sometimes found it just about dead near the end of the day. Obviously, variables depending on the wearer will help or hurt battery life, such as use of more energy-hungry functions, apps, and screen brightness. Both of the Fossil Q watches come with a sleek white charger base that has a depressed circular area that fits the case back, lighting up red when charging. It’s nice, but if you travel a lot, it could be a bit inconvenient to carry that thing around.
The battery’s 400mAh is on the verge of what is possible with battery technology today when we are talking about such small sizes, so it will require a joint effort both from the battery manufacturers to get more juice out of their products, and also from processor unit manufacturers to create more energy-efficient computing units. With all that said, on a recent trip to nearby Montecito, California, I forgot the charger at home and didn’t feel confident enough to use the alarm function without killing the battery. So even though it was my mistake, that was a bit of a bummer – and I am looking forward to smart devices lasting at least a few days.
At 360×326 pixels on the 1.5 inch screen, you get a crisp and vibrant display. What you will immediately notice and hate, however, is the ambient light sensor that cuts off a bit of the bottom part of the dial, creating an aptly named “flat tire” look. It’s a real “first-generation” detail that dates the watch in comparison to some newer offerings like the Samsung Gear S2 or the TAG Heuer Connected (which is, of course, in an entirely different price bracket), while the new Motorola Moto 360 2 still has the flat tire.
Like in the TAG Heuer Connected, there is an “Always-on Screen” option that allows you the option to have the watch face remain on. In some of the photos, you’ll notice the face is black, which is the watch in the “off” setting for this feature, which I often had to use due to battery life concerns. In the above two photos, you can see the “classic” watch face with the lower image showing how the face looks when you’re not using it.
Android Wear’s different face options is one of the most fun parts of having a smart watch, and I love being able to have a “different watch” depending on the mood I’m in. Different looks like digital, chronograph, “aviator,” and even more that you can download. My favorite moment, though, was when I found the Adidas Y-3 face that matched the shoes I was wearing. Nothing new, but still fun nonetheless.
Like with any Android Wear watch, the Fossil Q Founder has “wrist gestures.” Slowly turning your wrist away from you and then quickly flicking back towards your body causes the screen to scroll down, while flicking the wrist away from you and slowly rotating back causes it to scroll up. It’s good to know if you don’t have a free hand or if you’re Buster from Arrested Development, but otherwise, I just did not find it preferable to simply swiping. Good to have, but I keep the setting off.
The Fossil Q Founder has a voice control function for things like Google searches, and it usually registers what I say really well, unless I am somewhere with a lot of background noise. Setting alerts and reminders are pretty seamless, but the voice function I used most was Google, where I could quickly look up produce I know nothing about at Whole Foods without having to take my phone out of my pocket. Any search result longer than a sentence or two prompts you to a notification to your phone, so that kind of takes away from it a bit.
All in all, my main use for the Fossil Q Founder centered around call, text, and email notifications, along with the fitness tracker to measure my steps – although there is no heart rate sensor. The battery life leaves something to be desired, since even the one day estimate seems a bit soft to me.
Moving on to the Fossil Q Grant, the more affordable Fossil smart watch option presents an enticing choice for those looking for an analog watch with connected features. The version in for review looks more like a ladies’ watch than anything else, but Fossil makes a total of six different versions, with black and black-blue dial options, as well as black cases, which make it considerably more masculine than the champagne-gold combo of our piece here.