The Fossil Q Founder is the fashion powerhouse's first ever Android Wear smartwatch, joining Tag Heuer as traditional watchmakers aim to show Apple, Samsung, Motorola and the rest how it should be done
The stainless steel Founder at £279, is significantly cheaper than the Tag Heuer Connected, falling in line with the second generation Moto 360 (£229), the LG Watch Urbane (£259) and the Huawei Watch (£289).
You can also pick up a Founder with a brown leather strap for £259 if a metal band is not your thing.
So is it the best Android Wear watch you can get your hands on right now? Let's take a look...
Fossil Q Founder: Design and Build
In 2015, it's fair to say that smartwatches in general have learnt a thing or two about what it takes to make a good-looking watch. I wouldn't say they've quite nailed it, but it's certainly going in the right direction.
The Founder firmly falls into the pretty pile. It's like one of its Chronograph watches but with a touchscreen. It's big though. Weighing in at just under 72g, it's the biggest Android Wear watch I've had to live with. There's a giant 46mm sized case that's technically the same size as the mens version of the new Moto 360 but, unlike Motorola's watch, the Founder is a couple of inches thicker and it shows. This is not a watch built for small wrists but some will like the big statement it inevitably makes peeking out from underneath your sleeve.
On the subject of size, I had to make a visit to my local watch repair shop to get some of the links removed from the 22m strap. The good news is if you don't like the industrial metal look, you can swap the strap out for another one. £6 and five links off later, the Founder could finally sit comfortably on my wrist and I learned to love the bulky nature of this attractive watch.
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The next big talking point is the screen. I'll get onto quality later because there's one thing that design flaw you cannot ignore here. It doesn't take very long to notice the big black tyre at the bottom of the screen just like you get on the Moto 360. The reason it's there is a similar reason to its appearance on the Motorola smartwatch. It's where the ambient sensor lives to help adjust screen brightness depending on the lighting in your environment. While it's certainly a useful addition it's an eyesore to look at and you just wouldn't have to put up with that on a traditional Fossil watch.
Other than that, the only other redeeming feature is the crown, which like the one on the Tag Heuer Connected doesn't twist. Give it a press and it'll simply turn the screen, a firmer press will jump into the app home screen. There's no optical heart rate sensor resting on the back, which you can find on other Android Wear watches although, for a fashion-focused smartwatch, I'm not all that surprised that it's been omitted.
There's a small microphone tucked away on the left of the watch case to support voice control and it's IP67 dust and water resistant so it's safe enough for a shower as I've found out but I wouldn't recommend taking it for a swim.
Fossil Q Founder: Display
I've already said my piece on the ugly black tyre, but that aside, the Founder's screen is pretty solid for glancing over at Google's user interface.
Fossil has opted for a 1.5-inch LCD display with a 360 x 326 resolution and 240ppi pixel density. That's roughly the same screen specs as the second generation Moto 360. It's sharp and bright making it a breeze to view at night. It lacks the same punchy colours and vibrancy you get with Samsung's AMOLED displays though.
My one minor gripe is that it suffers from some of the same warping you get around the edge of the screen on the Moto 360. It's nowhere near as prominent, but up close you'll notice it.
Fossil Q Founder: Android Wear
The software glue that holds everything together is Android Wear. There's apps for Android and iOS although using it with an iPhone is a more restrictive experience. So it doesn't let you do things like reply to texts or access Google's Android Wear apps.
Fossil also has its own Q companion app, but it's an entirely different prospect to use compared to when it's paired with Fossil's activity tracker. You can still access the pretty irritating Curiosity feature, which I've covered in my Reveler review. It's also where you'll find a handful of Fossil's own watch faces. These can be customised from the app letting you adjust background colours. There's some surprisingly nice additions here, but most are sadly ruined by that horrible black bar at the bottom of the screen.
Everything else including notifications, accessing apps and setting up the Founder is done from the Android Wear app. It's a familiar story if you've picked up an Android Wear watch before. It requires a lot of swiping through tutorial screens to get going. Once that's all done, phone notifications will begin to stream through in their numbers and so do the Google Now cards. Some of those cards appear at more useful times than others and it still feels like its takes time to really deliver the more contextual notifications when you really need them.
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Voice control plays its part here courtesy of Google's voice search but it feels more of a hinderance than a help a lot of the time. Most requests tend t0 push you back to your smartphone. It's worth taking some time getting accustomed with the prompts that really help save you time. Microphone responsiveness and accuracy is fine in isolation but if you want to go full Dick Tracy in public where there's more noise our while you're out for a run, then it's more of a challenge.
As for apps, well, I've had my say on what I think about smartwatch apps on the whole. Living with the Founder hasn't altered that view. Travel apps like Citymapper are well implemented but I'd rather go on my phone to use it. Native apps offer similar results as they do on Android Wear watches. Google Fit and the new Google Challenges feels more involved than Apple's approach to fitness but it's by no means groundbreaking. Android Wear still feels like it there's work to be done to get it to a place where it actually feels useful and that includes core features like notifications.
Fossil Q Founder: Hardware & battery life
There's not much to separate the Q Founder and the pretty much every other Android Wear when you compare specs sheets. It's packing 1GB of RAM with 4GB of internal storage, which can be used to put your music on via the built in Wi-Fi support. It doesn't have GPS on board like the Moto 360 Sport or the Sony SmartWatch 3 to double as a running watch.
It's powered by the same Intel Atom Z34XX processor as the Tag Heuer Connected, breaking away from the Qualcomm processors packed into most other Android Wear watches. There's no difference in performance to really make note of though. Swiping through screens is similarly very slick and there's no signs of lag either.
Covering the motion tracking bases is a3-axis accelerometer alongside a 3-axis gyroscope, although the fitness tracking features you get with the Reveler are missing in action on the Fossil Q app. But you can still collect the data in third party apps and Google Fit. I put it up against the Jawbone UP2 and it was generally 200-300 steps off the Jawbone's reading but largely in the same ballpark.
Step tracking compared: Fossil Q Founder (left) and Jawbone UP2 (right)
Where you shouldn't expect marvels from the Founder is in the battery department. There's a 400mAh battery packed into that chunky stainless steel body. That should get you 24-hours of battery life, which does unfortunately mean you'll need to charge it every night.
No Android Wear watch so far has managed to break the 2-day mark for stamina and it's no different with the Founder. On most days the Founder was down to around 20% by about 10.30pm. Tinkering with the screen brightness to the auto setting, restricting the number of notifications that make it to the watch and disabling Wi-Fi and it'll make it to around 40% at the end of the day.
It's not a particularly rapid charger either. It'll need an hour and a half lying on top of its charger to get back to full power from 0%. A 30-minute charge will get you up around the 40% mark if you've forgotten to do it during the night. It's a similar looking charging dock as the one packed with the Reveler activity tracker, although the extra weight means you need to make sure it's sitting properly on the dedicated charging spot.
It does use the QI wireless charging standard so you should be able to use it with third party chargers. Good luck trying to wrap that industrial stainless steel strap around one that's not designed like the one in the box though.
- Stylish, industrial stainless steel design
- Comfortable to wear, despite chunky body
- Nice collection of Fossil watch faces
- Ugly black bar at bottom of the screen
- Struggles to make 24-hour battery life
- Big, bulky design won't be for everyone