Fossil Sport review

The first affordable smartwatch packing Qualcomm's new tech

Google’s entire Wear OS smartwatch platform is in the midst of an upgrade. A new chip from Qualcomm is starting to make its way into new smartwatches, and Google just paid a cool $40 million for secret Fossil tech that will… do something. We’re not quite sure yet. Point is, it feels like Wear OS is finally moving again.

The Fossil Sport is the first affordable Wear OS smartwatch to come running that aforementioned new Qualcomm tech (unless you consider Montblanc's $995 Summit 2 affordable). It’s also a new watch that comes straight from the Fossil Group's mothership rather than one of its licensed brands such as Michael Kors or Kate Spade.

Read next: The best Wear OS smartwatches

With NFC, GPS and a heart rate sensor, the Sport is also poised for just about any activity you can throw at it – at least on paper. While all of this might position the Sport as Fossil’s first serious play against fitness watches like the Apple Watch, Fitbit Ionic and Samsung Gear Sport, these same features can be found in all the latest Fossil smartwatches.

So what makes the Fossil Sport the sportiest of them all? And at $255, is it a better option than the rest? Let us explain.

Amazon: Fossil Sport - Save $75
Amazon: Fossil Sport - Save $75

Fossil Sport: Design

Fossil Sport first look: A sporty smartwatch that doesn't forget about keeping it stylish

The Fossil Sport comes in two sizes: 41mm and 43mm. I’ve been using the 41mm in testing, but the 43mm isn’t a huge leap in heft. Lug to lug, neither watch will look ridiculous on small or large wrists in my opinion.

The Sport also comes in a range of fun colours. I opted for the red case and red silicone band, but you can pick it up in a handful of case-band colour combinations with light blue, grey, neon yellow, black and gold all in Fossil’s palette. Your choice may also depend on how “sporty” you want to go; the blue case and blue band give off major gym vibes, while the gold case comes with a grey band that makes for more of a wardrobe chameleon.

Fossil Sport first look: A sporty smartwatch that doesn't forget about keeping it stylish

In all models the case is actually a hybrid of aluminium on top and nylon underneath, a two-tone design that might divide opinion. I like it, but it’s less attractive than the Fossil Q Explorist HR (although slimmer and lighter).

This keeps the Sport both light and fortified against sweat and water. It’s one of the most comfortable Wear OS smartwatches I’ve worn – Fossil says the Sport weighs in at around 36-40g. This is what really earns the Sport its name: this is meant to be a smartwatch you’d be happy to work out in, and to that end Fossil has succeeded.

Fossil Sport first look: A sporty smartwatch that doesn't forget about keeping it stylish

On the side of the watch are three buttons, the middle of which also functions as a rotating crown for scrolling through menus and notifications. A push of the middle button takes you to the main Wear OS menu; a long push brings up the Google Assistant.

The other two can be assigned as shortcuts to your most-used apps – if you’re going to make use of the Sport’s NFC and set up Google Pay, you’ll probably have it set to one of them.

There’s a handful of watch faces pre-installed to the Sport, but as ever you can delve into Google’s Play Store and search for more. If you’re an Android phone user you can do this using the Wear OS app on your paired smartphone, but iOS users can only go through the Play Store on the watch itself, which is a little more of a fiddly process.

Many of the faces are customisable too, often letting you add widgets for your favourite apps. Maybe you want your heart rate displayed at all times, or you want an easy shortcut to start tracking a workout.

Fossil Sport: Wear OS and features

Fossil Sport first look: A sporty smartwatch that doesn't forget about keeping it stylish

Wear OS is more enjoyable to use since the latest redesign. It’s still not where we’d like it to be; Apple, Samsung and Fitbit offer operating systems that feel much more tightly baked in with the hardware. In Google’s case, Wear OS still feels like it’s coming together. Sometimes it works great, sometimes it can be a pain in the rear end.

Read this: Best Wear apps to download first

With the Sport you’re getting Wear OS with most of the latest features (there's another update on the way which we'll get to later), but Fossil hasn’t stacked much on top of the stock experience. While that’s par for the course with the Fossil family of smartwatches, you might have expected at least a proprietary sports and fitness app. Nope. You’ll still need to use Google Fit, or download a third-party app such as Strava or Runtastic. If you're an iPhone owner who wants to keep track of their workouts, you don't even get that choice as Google Fit doesn't offer a lot for iOS users.

Fossil Sport hands on: A sporty smartwatch that doesn't forget about the style

There are a couple of new pre-installed goodies in the latest version of Wear OS however, the major one being Spotify. There’s also Noonlight, an app that can send alerts to emergency services.

The Sport has a built-in mic for talking to Google Assistant, but this has proven to be one of the more frustrating elements. For some reason it’s just really bad at getting my requests right, or it just gets stuck halfway through. I found talking to the Google Assistant much better on the Skagen Falster 2, so I’m not sure why it’s sometimes just completely non-responsive on the Sport.


At this point you might be wondering why this doesn't sound like a next-gen Wear OS experience. That's because the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 is almost entirely focused on enhancing battery life. It’s actually using the same main processor as the 2100 – it’s just doing so more efficiently. The Sport lags and crashes apps more often than it should, and what's most annoying is that I'm not surprised when Wear OS is unresponsive, knowing that the new chip isn't really doing much to help it. It's partly the result of pressure from companies like Fossil that have been asking for improved battery life above all else, and partly Qualcomm refusing to put smartwatches on a higher priority.

Fossil Sport: Health and fitness

Fossil Sport first look: A sporty smartwatch that doesn't forget about keeping it stylish

Considering all of the latest Fossil watches comes with GPS and a heart rate sensor, there’s not an awful lot for the Sport to differentiate itself as a more fitness-ready watch beyond the design.

How does it actually perform as a fitness smartwatch? Sadly not as well as you might hope. As we expected, the Sport performance follows what we've seen in Fossil's other fourth generation smartwatches. GPS tracking does fine, but the heart rate sensor left plenty to be desired in testing. Similar to Mike's experience with the Diesel On Full Guard 2.5, the heart rate reading was higher on the Sport than the Polar H10 chest strap we tested it against.

Fossil Sport first look: A sporty smartwatch that doesn't forget about keeping it stylish

The Apple Watch Series 4, which we also used to compare and contrast, gave us an HR reading that was closer to the chest strap than the Fossil Sport. In fact, in the run you can see above, the Sport finished with an average heart rate that was 9 bpm higher than the Polar.

If you’re just using the Fossil Sport for daily heart rate tracking, the results are going to be more accurate. As a fitness companion, it’s not up to Garmin or the Apple Watch right now. I also want to take this opportunity to rant about how poor the fitness tracking is for iOS users. While iPhone owners can track workouts with Google Fit on the watch itself, there's no way of viewing them in the app afterwards. There is a web browser portal you can log into, but this only displays surface-level information about those workouts.

That means your only viable option is to make use of third-party apps, which you'll have to download from the Play Store on the watch. Then follows the fiddly process of logging into your account. In some cases the app will re-route you to the phone for this part, but some apps still require you to type in your email address and password on the watch. Google Fit might look better since its latest update, but it still sucks for the iPhone contingent.

Fossil Sport: Battery life

Earlier I said that Qualcomm’s 3100 chip was all about enhancing battery life, but sadly either we set our expectations too high, or Fossil hasn’t learned how to get the most out of it yet. The results are that it can barely stretch to two days. Certainly if you're doing any workout tracking and/or Wi-Fi downloads on the watch, you're going to need to charge it the following night.

There is, however, a new “H” update coming to Wear OS. This will introduce an upgrade to the battery saver mode that will squeeze even more juice out. It will also put the watch into a sleep mode after 30 minutes of inactivity.

The update has already hit some watches including the Fossil Explorist HR, Diesel On Full Guard 2.5 and Skagen Falster 2. It’s expect to arrive on the Sport some time in the first quarter of this year. Don’t expect it to radically change anything, but hey, every little helps.

Amazon: Fossil Sport - Save $75
Amazon: Fossil Sport - Save $75


Fossil Sport
By Fossil
The Fossil Sport is a good showcase of what Wear OS can do, but it's not the fitness companion we were hoping for. What's more, it lays bare the reality of Qualcomm's new tech, which isn't doing a lot to galvanise Google's wearable platform. The battery will improve in time (once the next update rolls out) and the Sport is certainly a fun, good looking smartwatch. There are just some familiar problems that make it feel stuck in the past.

Hit
  • Quirky, customisable design
  • HR sensor, GPS and Google Pay
  • Two sizes to choose from
Miss
  • Battery isn't much better
  • HR sensor not great
  • More work for iOS users


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3 comments

  • Maryland_USA·

    I'll probably stick with my one-year-old Fossil Explorist Gen. 3, with its stainless steel band. It has a larger face, and it recently received two updates: first to Wear OS 2.0, then to Wear OS 2.1.

    Even so, I was getting only 14, maybe 15, hours of battery life.

    But recently I made two small tweaks:

    1. In my third-party watch face (Minimal & Elegant), I changed the "time on" brightness from 20 seconds to 6 seconds.

    2. I changed the brightness level from Auto to level 3 of 5.

    Now my battery is lasting 18 or 19 hours.

  • AaronCarmen·

    Really wish watchmakers would trim the thickness down. Phone manufacturers have been so misguided in their quest to make smartphones thinner (that nobody really asked for), that they've forgotten to apply that same ingenuity to smartwatches.

  • badsoden·

    I really like my Fossil sport. I get enough out of the battery for my needs. One thing I am missing though is the system H update and the improvements it's supposed to bring to the 3100 chip performance and battery savings. Does anyone have any info on when they will finally release that for the Fossil sport?