Fossil’s New Smartwatches Pair Down Size and Price

This one definitely doesn’t look like an Apple Watch

Key Takeaways

  • Fossil’s new Gen 5E line of smartwatches feature a price drop, but also lack some gizmos the competition offers.
  • The watches run Google’s Wear OS and cost $249.
  • The Gen 5E models have a smaller design and a range of different styles that look more like an old-fashioned timepiece than some smartwatches.
Fossil Gen 5E tracking your sleep
Fossil

Fossil’s latest generation of smartwatches is aimed at penny-pinching consumers who don’t necessarily want a clunky timepiece on their wrist.

The Gen 5E is similar to last year’s Gen 5 series, but at a lower price point and a new, smaller 42mm size. The watches still run Google’s Wear OS and now cost $249, a $50 drop from the previous model, but the question remains whether it can compete with the Apple Watch or other watches in the growing smartwatch field.

The Gen 5E watches include the same sleep tracking, battery saving, and fitness features that rolled out to the Gen 5 via a software update this summer. Users can activate Google Assistant or make calls by tethering an Android phone or iPhone. The watches also include heart rate and activity tracking, but not the ECG heart-monitoring or blood oxygen health features that Apple is touting on its latest models.

"It’s an average smartwatch with an average price."

"Visually, the watch is beautiful, and unlike most smartwatches, it has the look and feel of a classic watch," George Pitchkhadze, a consumer product expert and CMO for Thrive Cuisine, said in an email interview. "However, the watch doesn't have the advanced features we see in top smartwatches like the Galaxy Watch 3 or Apple Watch 5. There's no standalone GPS functionality, no blood pressure, no ECG. [And] the speaker is weak."

A Watch That Doesn’t Look like a Smartwatch

The Fossil line may be smart, but they don’t scream tech. And that’s a good thing, some observers say.

"Many of my clients look for the benefits of sleep tracking and activity monitoring, but don't want the square face of other smartwatch options," Giorgio Cuellar, menswear designer and founder of fashion label Giorgio Verdi, said in an email interview. "The fact that this one now comes in a smaller size makes it an elegant alternative (the two-tone 42mm looks classy and understated with a suit)."

The Fossil Gen 5E with rose gold strap and flanked by two watch faces
Fossil

Fossil is dropping the 5E in a variety of shapes and sizes with matching straps in-box. For users who feel the urgent need to customize their watches with their outfits, the options include black silicone, rose gold-tone stainless steel mesh, black stainless steel, two-tone stainless steel, rose gold-tone stainless steel, brown leather, and blush silicone. The new 42mm size has smaller bezels to keep the same 1.19-inch OLED display.

"Visually, the watch is beautiful, and unlike most smartwatches, it has the look and feel of a classic watch."

Aside from its sleek looks, some observers are giving the new Gen 5E a solid 'meh.'

"It’s an average smartwatch with an average price," Jeremy Harrison, founder of the website Hustle Life, said in an email interview. "Its features don't really stand out like other brands."

Less Storage and No Compass

Along with the price cut, the Gen 5E models cut back on some components. Instead of the latest Wear 4100 processor, the 5E sticks with an older Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip. Storage was reduced from 8 GB to 4 GB, and it’s also missing the altimeter, compass, and ambient light sensor. However, as is standard with smartwatches these days, the Gen 5E does include Bluetooth 4.2 LE, NFC, and Wi-fi connectivity.

On the plus side, Google is steadily working to improve its Wear OS and Fossil is adding its own software enhancements. 

"As with the previous Gen 5 release, Fossil has added more to Google's standard smartwatch operating system, Wear OS, with its own additional software update to support advanced features that make their offerings more competitive with Apple Watch, including enhanced sleep and fitness tracking features," Brett Atwood, an associate professor at Washington State University who focuses on new consumer and entertainment technology trends, said in an email interview.

"The watch doesn't have the advanced features we see in top smartwatches like the Galaxy Watch 3 or Apple Watch 5."

In a competitive market that ranges from a Fitbit that cost less than $70 to an Apple Watch Series 6 for more than $800, the Gen 5E models are taking the middle road. 

"It’s hard to find the best fit for everyone," Atta Ur Rehman, a digital content marketing executive at Gigworker, said in an email interview. "However, this watch has the potential to make its place, especially among young buyers such as college students and Generation Z."