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Fossil has announced its fifth-generation Wear OS watch, which is called, appropriately, the Gen 5. And with this new device, Fossil isn’t giving us quite the same song and dance from previous years.
Aside from some welcome spec improvements, which I’ll get into below, this is the first Wear OS watch that will be able to take calls from a tethered iPhone. (The feature is already available for Android phones.) Countless Wear OS watches before have been able to alert iPhone users that a call is inbound, but Fossil’s latest will actually let you listen to and answer calls through the watch itself. Unfortunately, this functionality will be missing on the August 5th release date; according to Fossil, it will arrive OTA in the form of a proprietary app sometime this fall. According to a Fossil spokesperson, “No action is required from your iPhone. The watch becomes another way to take your call via Bluetooth.” It’s not iMessage support, but it’s something.
Fossil is also focusing on longer battery life, with new modes that it claims will let the watch last for multiple days on a single charge. An “Extended Battery Mode” setting allows multiday battery life while keeping notifications and heart rate monitoring active. “Time-Only Mode,” which displays just the time, can be switched on when the battery is running low or just to avoid distractions. Fossil hasn’t specified how long the Gen 5 watches will last on this mode. Most users, however, are expected to keep their watches in “Daily Mode,” which enables everything, including the always-on display.
The Gen 5 watch runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 3100, the wearable chipset that was said to improve battery life and general performance in Wear OS watches when it launched in late 2018. If last year’s Fossil Sport is any indication of what it is (or rather, isn’t) capable of, you might want to be skeptical of these claims (at least, until The Verge has a chance for a hands-on review).
Fossil will offer six color options for the Gen 5. Three of them fall under the “Julianna HR” moniker and are pretty flashy, with a golden ring surrounding the watchface. The other three, called the “Carlyle HR,” are more muted in their appearance. It’s a little confusing, but both have the same overall look and dimensions, including a 1.28-inch AMOLED screen (328ppi) inside of a 44mm case that’s 12mm thick. Every Gen 5 watch is compatible with 22mm straps.
Some other highlights include 8GB of onboard storage and 1GB of RAM (both specs are around double the norm). The Gen 5 watch has NFC for contactless payments via Google Pay, a heart rate sensor, standalone GPS, and a speaker for taking calls or listening to music. It’s built with waterproofing that Fossil says will cover you up to 30 meters deep, so you won’t have to take this smartwatch off before you jump in the pool or the shower. These are features that most manufacturers have managed to fit in a smartwatch but no typically all at once, which is a pretty neat trick.
Fossil’s Gen 5 smartwatches seem like a good step forward, especially if the call-answering feature on iOS pans out. Otherwise, I’m not sure if adding a competent Wear OS watch to the market (at $295 each, no less) is enough to stir things up for Google’s stagnant wearable platform. But perhaps Google will soon have something more impressive to show for its $40 million acquisition of Fossil staff and technology.