A smartwatch is an accessory you don’t really need, but it can be convenient. Without having to pull out your smartphone, you can see and respond to notifications, change music tracks, and glance at the next turn when you’re hurriedly stomping to the nearest coffee shop to warm yourself up in the winter chill. If it becomes annoying to use, then you may as well have just thrown money in the bin.
Unfortunately, that was my experience with Fossil’s new Gen 6 Wellness smartwatch. It’s laggy, plain and simple. It’s not the leap I was hoping it would be, considering this is Fossil’s first Wear OS 3 smartwatch. Sure, it looks nice, but that can only get you so far.
First things first. This smartwatch runs Google’s Wear OS operating system. The company largely left it by the wayside over the years as Apple dominated the smartwatch market, but a few companies like Fossil devotedly continued to build smartwatches for the platform. Last year, Google debuted Wear OS 3, a new version that promised a new look, better performance, more extensive health tracking, and longer battery life. The company also committed to improving the sorely lackluster app selection.
The results are not as impactful as Google may have wanted, but Wear OS is certainly in a better place now with watches like Samsung’s Galaxy Watch5 and Google’s new Pixel Watch. They operate smoothly, have more apps than ever—including a new Google Home app to control your smart devices—and are reliable when it comes to tracking basic health metrics like heart rate, SpO₂, and even electrocardiograms. Sadly, you can’t give Fossil’s Gen 6 Wellness the same plaudits.
It’s powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 4100+ chipset (with 1 GB of RAM), which isn’t the latest processor, but in a meeting, a company spokesperson enthusiastically reinforced how it’s a newer chip than what Google’s Pixel Watch uses. Alas, much like Draco and the Slytherins flying the newer Nimbus 2001 broomsticks in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, that doesn’t really mean anything.
Google’s Pixel Watch is leagues more fluid. It’s not choppy at all, unlike the Gen 6 Wellness. There are moments when it performs well; it’s one of those things that’s near perfect when someone’s looking, and horrid when it’s just you alone. Every time I try to reenact its sluggishness at home, it seems to cooperate and work fine. Out and about when I need it the most? Suddenly, it’s slow. Thankfully, I have an eyewitness! When I was at lunch with a friend, I got a notification on the watch and tried to check it. My friend saw me interact with the Gen 6 Wellness and commented, “It’s laggy, huh?” Yes, yes it is.
It’s odd—I’ve used other Gen 6 smartwatches like the Fossil Gen 6 and the Skagen Falster Gen 6, which have identical specs, and have not seen this kind of poor performance, so there’s likely some optimization issue with Wear OS 3 here. There’s a chance it will get better over time after software updates.
Perhaps the most annoying problem I have with this watch is the ghost that apparently accompanies it. No, really. Every few hours, it magically decides to turn functions on or off against my will. For example, I don’t want the Gen 6 to ping loudly whenever I get a notification so I have the ringer set to vibrate only. Yet every so often … ping! The same rings true for the Battery Saver mode, which seems to randomly turn on and cripple some of the watch’s functions. Even the Always-On Display, which I’ve tried to turn off, seems to turn back on after every night, and I have to constantly toggle on tilt to wake again too. It’s frustrating.
For Better or Worse
I don’t want to be too negative. There are some niceties this smartwatch has to offer. There’s NFC, and I’ve used it to pay for my subway fare here in New York City. The 1.28-inch AMOLED screen is also bright and colorful, and the whole watch is 3 ATM water resistant, so it’ll be fine in the rain.