I have been working for over a year on the way Google's smart OS platform, Wear OS, works – and I am far from alone. That's why I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed using the Fossil Carlyle smartwatch. It is one of the two so-called "Gen 5" Wear OS watches that Fossil recently started selling for $ 295.
Pleasantly surprised, but not at all convinced that this watch is worth investing in, not to mention this platform. I give Fossil the honor of resolving two of my biggest complaints with Wear OS. The first solution includes a relatively simple internal change to give the watch more memory, while the other unfortunately is a very complicated set of battery options.
Android users who want a smartwatch must choose from various mediocre options. Fossil & # 39; s Gen 5 smartwatches don't really change that comparison, but at least they make one of those options a little better.
The Fossil Carlyle looks like a typical Wear OS smartwatch, which means that it has a round OLED screen with a fairly large bezel. Although it is available in a small variety of styles, they all have a 44 mm case with three thick buttons that protrude from the right side of the watch. I use the all black model and I think it looks very smart, but I also often wear watches that are about that big. If you have a smaller wrist, it is likely to dominate it.
I have no complaints about the 1.3-inch AMOLED screen when I view it indoors – it is perfectly round without a chin and responds when I tap it. However, it can be difficult to see outside – especially in direct sunlight. Fossil has added a "Sunlight boost" option, but I think it takes a while to realize that it's needed. I spent that second staring at an almost black screen and wondering if something was broken.
The watch uses 22 mm straps that are fairly easy to change and that should give you a wide range of replacement options. Underneath is a heart rate sensor – it does nothing about the irregular heart rate detection that the Apple Watch does and that Samsung promises to come to its Tizen watches, nor does it have an ECG function.
I especially like that the contacts for charging the watch are two complete rings, so you don't have to place the charger. It's not as nice as a straight inductive charger like the Apple Watch, but it's functionally the same.
None of the above is especially new or remarkable for Wear OS watches. What is different this time – and what makes these watches probably $ 50 more than the Fossil Sport – are the internal specifications. Fossil doubled the usual RAM of Wear OS watches, from 512 MB to 1 GB.
In theory, Wear OS should work fine with the usual memory – after all, that's what it's meant for. In practice, double the memory seems to be exactly what Wear OS missed. What used to be slow is now responding. Apps are not loaded exactly fast now, but they charge within a reasonable time – fast enough to meet my three-second rule for smartwatch interactions.
This watch also has the newer Snapdragon 3100 processor, which turns out not to be that much faster, but is supposed to help with the life of the battery. Previous tests on other watches with the 3100 have not really supported those claims, so on the Gen 5 watches Fossil reaches the battery life in a different way: with ridiculous settings.
Tap the battery saving icon in Wear OS on the Gen 5 watches and you must read through different screens of information explaining what each different option means. There are & # 39; Daily & # 39 ;, & # 39; Extended & # 39 ;, & # 39; Custom & # 39; and & # 39; Time Only & # 39 ;. In the first three of them are a dozen (literally) options that you can adjust to extend how long the watch lasts.
You can adjust NFC, location, whether it should listen to a keyword, or the screen lights up when you lift your wrist, if you want an always-on screen, and so on.
Most users simply choose "Daily" or "Extended" and are ready – but the "Extended" mode turns off way too much while the Daily mode stays on too much. The result is that everyone will constantly try to switch those check boxes.
In a sense, this doesn't matter, because the "Daily" mode with almost everything to me still provided a battery life of about 20 hours – at which time it offered to switch to "Extended" and it went all the way through morning. The battery life is therefore reasonable, but not as good as the last generations of the Apple Watch and (of course) not nearly everything you can get with a hybrid smartwatch.
But in reality, if you offer a dozen different switches to adjust the battery life, you are sure. I don't blame Fossil here either, it's just the best of making a bad situation created by Qualcomm and Google.
Fossil has also done a good job of offering a wide range of watchfaces – which is good because finding the right one in the Play Store is a test. The two side buttons that flank the rotating crown can be assigned to whatever you want. By default they go to the completely unnecessary app for monitoring the watchface repository, so definitely map them again.
I was also happy to see a speaker. You can use it in a pinch for a call (as long as it is connected to your phone), but it is none good loudspeaker and you don't want to listen to music. You can get spoken answers to questions you ask the Google Assistant, which is more convenient than speaking and then staring at your watch and waiting for it to respond.
The user interface of Wear OS has improved somewhat in the past year. My favorite new feature is called "Tiles," although that word does not explain anything about what it does. If you now swipe to the left from the dial, you can swipe through a series of information screens: the weather, Google Fit or your next calendar appointment. It's nice, but it also seems to be limited to Google's own functions.
These are the watches that Fossil wants you to think works well with iPhones – including for calling. I'm just going to tell you that I haven't really tested that. If you have an iPhone and want a smart watch, you have to buy an Apple Watch.
The Fossil Gen 5 watches last a day, look good and run much better than previous generations. I wouldn't have a hard time making the Fossil Carlyle my daily watch. However, I have problems suggesting that someone buys one – not for $ 295.
Although Wear OS works well on this hardware, I am not so confident that it will continue to do so in a year or two. Past experience has shown that this software is growing to fill the available memory and ultimately to slow it down.
More importantly, I still think that Wear OS needs some major refurbishment, at least from a hardware perspective. The software is so well advanced that it is coherent and usable, but the basic shape and life of the battery of current watches has not significantly improved in at least two or three years.
If that doesn't bother you and you don't mind spending nearly $ 300 on a touchscreen smartwatch that works with your Android phone: godspeed. If all this is the case, take a look at Samsung & # 39; s Tizen-based Galaxy watches.
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