I’m giving the Fossil Sport a hard pass
I have a lot of feelings right now, so I’m just going to dive right into this review without the usual opening fluff. I’ve been shopping for a new fitness/smartwatch for a while, and was having a bit of a crisis whether to go with a Garmin (which I’m familiar with and like) or something on Google’s WearOS platform. A couple weeks ago I finally pulled the trigger on the Fossil Sport, which runs on WearOS. On paper, it ticks all the boxes I wanted to be ticked:
- Steps & heart rate tracking
- Music storage
- Standalone GPS
- Latest hardware
- Nice-looking & not huge
Aside from the last one, ‘on paper’ is the only place those things exist. And I will say this for the watch: it’s super cute. I got the pink one (of course) in the 41mm size, and it’s no bigger than the regular watches I normally wear. If we were talking about looks alone it would be fantastic.
I also love all the neat stuff you can do on the Google platform. I could spend hours making custom watch faces, using Tasker to do home automation stuff, getting turn by turn walking directions without my face buried in my phone. I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the cool stuff that can happen.
Heart rate monitor
Ok, so this is partly my fault. When I got my left arm tattooed, I didn’t really consider the impact it would have on optical heart rate sensors. The one on my Garmin watch would go a little wonky sometimes but nothing crazy. On the Sport though, it loses my heart rate a lot more frequently. I could maaaaaybe live with that except for one thing. Google Pay (very reasonably) requires a lock screen. The screen stays unlocked until you take off the watch. And on-wrist detection is controlled by… oh. Yes, the heart rate sensor. The practical effect of this is I had to put in my pin every single time I woke up the watch. I tried wearing it on my right wrist for a couple days and the heart rate sensor did work a lot better. I’m right-handed though, and ultimately it was just too difficult to use left handed. I wound up turning off the screen lock and accepting that if I want to use Google Pay I’ll have to use my phone.
This isn’t a problem with the watch per se, but having the whole google ecosystem at my fingertips was a big draw. Unfortunately, app developers – even the big ones – haven’t entirely kept up. I happily started installing apps only to find out some of the most important ones are buggy or crippled. Google Keep (aka, my grocery list machine) has a bug where it gets hung up on the initial sync so you have to quit and restart. Spotify doesn’t have offline playlists. Runkeeper doesn’t let you use your interval workouts. Gotta do that Couch to 5K!
Being able to listen to music while I run without taking my phone is really important to me, and that whole plan just got blown out of the water. I mean, I could theoretically (more on that in a sec) load mp3’s onto it like a mid-00’s iPod but I feel like we should be past that. Am I crazy? And I technically could use another running app. Unfortunately all the ones I tried either sucked or limited interval training to paid subscriptions.
I’ve read mixed reviews about performance on WearOS watches so I wanted to go with something that has the latest hardware. That pretty much means the Sport since there are only a few options out there running on the Snapdragon 3100 chip, and the Montblanc Summit 2 ($995) is way more than I’m willing to pay for a watch that I’m going to wear while working out. Alas, the measly half gig of RAM in the Sport isn’t nearly enough. Most of the apps take a second or two (as in, the unit of time) to load, and it hangs up more than I’d prefer.
This was first and biggest issue that made me really doubt this purchase. I was prepared to not get 4+ days of battery the way I did on my Garmin. I was not prepared to get under 15 hours. Worse, the battery life has been hard to predict. Some days it’s needed to be recharged by the time I got home from work, others it still had ~20% left when I went to bed. If I’m going to pay a couple hundred dollars for a smartwatch, I want to be able to actually use it without worrying it’s going to die in the middle of whatever I’m doing. Like it did the last time I went for a run. Another fun fact – I charged up the watch to take photos for this review, but I got busy and didn’t get a chance. By the next evening it was dead again, and I wasn’t even using it.
But this. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Remember how I said I could theoretically load mp3’s onto my watch like some sort of caveman? I went to do just that, and figured out that of the 4GB of storage, 2.38GB of that is used for the OS and whatever bloatware Fossil installs. Once you take away the storage space used by apps, I had a whopping 526MB left for anything else. I’m not sure how many songs that is, but I’m going to say a) it’s not nearly enough and b) I thought we also were past having to carefully select music based on how much storage space is left.
Now, some of those things are OS related. Some of them are hardware related. Either way, it makes for one very unappealing package.
My rule of thumb is if I use the word ‘unfortunately’ in a review enough times that I need to go back and change some of them (and I did), then it gets returned. I definitely would not recommend this to anyone.