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Fossil Gen 5 smartwatch review: Showing its age

Fossil Gen 5
(Image: © Joe Maring / Android Central)

When the Fossil Gen 5 was launched, it made the most out of a bad situation that was Wear OS. Google's wearable platform was in a questionable place, seemingly left for dead with companies like Fossil to pick up the slack. However, things are different now, and the Fossil Gen 5 has picked up a few notable enhancements since it first arrived on the scene.

While 2019 and 2020 were mixed bags for the Wear OS platform, things have started picking up with the Wear OS 3 launch on the new Galaxy Watch 4. The update represents something of a rebirth for the platform, promising performance that was unheard of on older Wear OS devices and unfortunately won't reach many of them.

While the Fossil Gen 5 can still hold its own despite its aging hardware and software, the lack of a future with Wear OS and the introduction of the Fossil Gen 6 smartwatch makes it a questionable buy in 2021.

Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch: Price and availability

The Fossil Gen 5 was announced in 2019 and since has been available from several different retailers. You can purchase the Gen 5 from Fossil's website, but it's also available from places like Best Buy, Amazon, and Walmart. Unfortunately, the price hasn't changed much since it launched two years ago, still coming in at a hefty $295 unless you purchase the device at Walmart where you'll find some discounts on certain models.

Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch: What I like

Design-wise, the Fossil Gen 5 may not stand out as anything special, but it's a good-looking watch nonetheless. The 44mm case is available in a variety of colors, including Rose Gold, Smoke Stainless Steel, and the subdued Black that I have.

CategoryFossil Gen 5
Operating systemWear OS
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100
ConnectivityBluetooth 4.2 Low Energy
Heart-rate sensor✔️
Water-resistance3 ATM
Case size44mm
Band size22mm

It's a classic design that we've seen a hundred times before, but Fossil's top-notch execution and craftsmanship keep it visually appealing.

Personally, however, my favorite part of this design is how slim and lightweight it is. The Fossil Gen 5 feels fantastic and never got uncomfortable on my wrist even when wearing it all day long. Finding a comfy smartwatch can often be tricky for someone like me with tiny wrists, but the Gen 5 is among my favorite form factors. Of course, anyone with smaller wrists may also want to take a look at the Fossil Gen 5e with its smaller 42mm case size.

On top of the Gen 5's 44mm case is a 1.3-inch AMOLED display, and minus a brightness complaint I'll dive into a little later on, it's a great panel. The silky black of Wear OS's UI shines against bright icon colors and white text, resulting in a quality screen that's easy on the eyes. Always-on-display is present as well and turned on by default. You can always disable it in the settings if you want to squeeze out extra battery life, but being able to glance down at my wrist and see the time 24/7 without having to raise the watch to my face is such a nice convenience.

Fossil also crammed in as much as it could for a 2019 Wear OS watch. A dedicated GPS chip allows you to map your outdoor runs/walks with the Gen 5 without needing to lug your phone with you; NFC enables contactless Google Pay payments; a heart-rate sensor that keeps tabs on your ticker 24/7; and now it even tracks your sleep and monitors VO2 Max. That said, it misses out on newer health metrics found in many of the best Android smartwatches like SpO2 and ECG monitoring.

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Those are all fairly standard bullet points for a slightly older smartwatch of this caliber, and the Gen 5 even has an external speaker which is handy for things like:

  • Audible notifications when you get a text, email, etc.
  • Spoken Google Assistant responses.
  • The ability to take phone calls directly on the watch.

The speaker on the Gen 5 certainly isn't the best-sounding and does have some distortion if you really listen for it, but if you're in a pinch to make a quick call or have a question for the Assistant but can't look down at your wrist, it's an incredibly useful feature to have and something.

Lastly, let's talk about the aspect of the Gen 5 that has aged surprisingly well — performance.

The Fossil Gen 5 was once the fastest around, but new competition has arrived.

The Gen 5 comes equipped with Qualcomm's aging Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor, but as we saw with the slightly older Fossil Sport, the "new" chip didn't necessarily translate to better performance. With the Fossil Gen 5, however, the Wear 3100 is paired with 1GB of RAM.

A gig of RAM might not sound that exciting considering that many newer watches like the Mobvoi TicWatch E3 now come with 1GB of RAM. However, most older watches at the time shipped with 512MB of memory, and the Gen 5 was one of the first to give you double that amount.

In testing, this has resulted in some generally good performance. Touch responsiveness is pretty decent, the rotating crown scrolls through menus with ease, and there are far fewer janky animations than what I've grown used to on Google's wearable platform. Even in 2021, where smartwatches are launching with the much newer and faster Qualcomm Snapdragon 4100, the Fossil Gen 5 still makes a decent case for itself.

Some apps take longer to open than I'd like, and the Google Assistant occasionally takes an extra second to respond to a question/command, but for the most part, the Fossil Gen 5 moves through most everything without a hitch.

Since its launch, the Gen 5 has also received a couple of updates that improved performance and gave the watch more capabilities. Despite some hiccups, the H-MR2 update rolled out with some of those improvements, including support for additional Tiles. Fossil also rolled out an update that brought its Wellness app to the watch, enabling automatic workout and sleep tracking as well as VO2 Max monitoring.

Fossil Gen 5 Sleep Tracking

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

In my experience, the sleep tracking works quite well and shows you how much time you've spent in a restful or light sleep as well as the times in between when you were awake. Automatic workout tracking is a mixed bag, but I always get a kick out of it when it does work after I've forgotten to set up my workout. The best part is that it all syncs to Google Fit to get a better look at all my health metrics in one place.

Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch: What needs some work

With all of that praise out of the way, let's now dive into some of the Fossil Gen 5's shortcomings.

There are a couple of quirks with the Gen 5 that irritate me, but the biggest issue I have with the watch is battery life. Fossil advertises 24-hours, which sounds about right, but falls short of newer Wear OS models like the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 GPS, which can go for up to three days in full smartwatch mode.

Having to charge the Gen 5 every single night gets old very quickly.

While I do get a good chunk of notifications throughout the day and have the always-on-display enabled, I very rarely use apps on the watch and only used it to track a couple of outdoor walks with Google Fit.

Fossil does include a couple of battery-saving modes to help you get more usage in between charges (Extended, Time Only, and a custom mode), but if you want to take full advantage of all of the features the Gen 5 brings to the table, expect to put it on the charger every single night.

While the AMOLED display on the Gen 5 does look good, it's not nearly as bright as I would have liked. While I kept automatic brightness enabled for the purpose of testing battery life, the max level 5 brightness option is what looked best to me indoors. Outdoors in direct sunlight, the Gen 5's screen really struggles to stay legible.

Another problem that many Gen 5 owners have is with the charging ring on the back of the watch. The ring on my unit no longer stays flush on the watch, which causes problems when trying to charge. Oftentimes, the magnetic connector won't match up just right to get a charge going, which can be quite frustrating when I think it's charging when it's really not.

The biggest bummer of all is that the Fossil Gen 5 won't receive Wear OS 3. Given the much older chipset, it kind of makes sense, even though Qualcomm stated that the chip was capable of running the update. That said, some of the newer app experiences have already arrived on the Gen 5, including the new Play Store, Google Messages, Google Pay, and Spotify apps. That said, the new Google Maps and YouTube Music aren't officially supported on Wear OS 2.0.

Fossil Gen 5E Smartwatch: The competition

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Ticwatch Pro 3 Lifestyle

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

If you're looking for a good Wear OS smartwatch, your best option would be the Galaxy Watch 4. It's the only smartwatch to run the new Wear OS 3 with One UI Watch on top of it, making it ideal for anyone with a Samsung Galaxy smartwatch. It features a powerfully efficient 5nm Exynos chip and some impressive health tracking features. There are also LTE options for those that wanna go completely untethered from their smartphones for a bit.

If you can go without LTE connectivity and you're looking for something a bit more modern with the latest hardware, the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 GPS is one of the few to be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100. It has a low-powered LCD on top of a 1.4" OLED, which offers great battery life and a smooth Wear OS experience. Even without cellular connectivity, the TicWatch Pro 3 GPS offers a superior Wear OS experience, and it'll get even better when Wear OS 3 arrives in 2022.

If you're tired of Wear OS, you can always go for something like the Fitbit Versa 3. It offers a vast amount of health tracking capabilities and plenty of smart features that continue to grow through its dedicated app and the Fitbit Premium service. The Versa 3 has a design that can fit anyone's style, built-in GPS, and supports both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch: Should you buy it?

You should buy this if ...

You want a good-looking smartwatch

The Fossil Gen 5 is not a bad-looking smartwatch. Frankly, I like that it comes in many different styles and colorways. Not only that, but Fossil tends to make its smartwatches look like actual timepieces, complete with a rotating crown, and I appreciate that detail.

You're deep into Google's ecosystem

Wear OS comes with quick access to features like Google Assistant, the Play Store, and so much more. The Gen 5 even syncs certain health metrics with Google Fit like sleep tracking to give you a more comprehensive view of your health.

You're an iPhone user

One of the best parts about Fossil's smartwatch lineup is that most of them are able to connect to iPhones. Support is fairly limited, naturally, but you'll still be able to track health metrics through Google Fit, sync notifications, and even control music from certain apps.

You should not buy this if ...

You want Wear OS 3

As noted, the Fossil Gen 5 isn't getting the Wear OS 3 update when it rolls out to smartwatches next year, so you'll miss out on some of the newer perks like performance gains and certain app experiences.

You want the latest and greatest

The Fossil Gen 5 is a pretty old device by now, having launched back in 2019. Besides, the Fossil Gen 6 has already been launched with a much newer processor, the promise of Wear OS 3 support, and a similar price tag.

You're looking for a good fitness tracking device

The Fossil Gen 5 does a pretty decent job with some fitness and sleep tracking, but it's not as comprehensive as what you'll find on other smartwatches from companies like Samsung or Fitbit.

3.5 out of 5

In 2019 and even early 2020, the Fossil Gen 5 was a fine smartwatch that clearly made the best out of what Wear OS could offer, and it was easy to recommend the Gen 5 to friends and family members.

That said, it's 2021 with newer chips and a new OS upgrade on the horizon. There's still room for improvement on Qualcomm and Google's side of things, but Fossil's somehow managed to make the Gen 5 a reasonably snappy smartwatch, considering. That's a compliment I don't give out lightly considering the general sluggishness of Wear OS and the Wear 3100 processor, but that 1GB of RAM does wonders for the end-user experience.

Add that together with a great design, GPS, NFC, and the usefulness of the extra features from the Wellness app, and the Gen 5 has a lot going for it. That said, battery performance is fairly subpar, and the $295 price tag might keep some potential buyers at bay, especially in a world where the Galaxy Watch 4 and Fossil Gen 6 exist, making the Fossil Gen 5 hard to recommend.

Review Changelog, September 2021

This article was originally published in November 2019. It was updated in September 2021 to reflect the following changes.

  • Added Price and availability section.
  • Reflected software updates provided by both Google and Fossil.
  • Added competition section reflecting the latest products.
  • Updated "Should You Buy It?" section.

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

  • As long as the battery lasts from the moment I put the watch on to when I take it off at night is fine with me. I charge my watch every night anyway.
  • The thing now they already should figured out how to extend the battery life. They probably don't want to for some reason. Smartwatch is an accessory, we shouldn't have to charge it every night + the smartphone. I've own(ed) 8 smartwatches from Sony 1st ones to most of LG's to Moto 360 2gen but man too much money for too low progress and at some point all the same. I've started using a MI Band 4 (my 1st band) a couple days ago and so far best buy for a few bucks and useful apps (for me). Now I'm getting rid of every smartwatch I have (probably keeping one at least) and use the band full time until there's a worthy smartwatch to invest in the market. At least this one runs for 15/20 days and has "all" I need for now.
  • Just not enough battery life for me. I want to like the watch, but that is what holds it back. My Garmin Vivoactive 3 is also my alarm clock, so I wear it to bed. I get 7-10 days before needing a charge. I could probably make do with 3-4 days on new watch, but no way I want to charge every night.
  • Do you have 20 minutes from getting out of bed to leaving for work/whatever? It charges something like 80% in like 20 minutes from what I have heard.
    I have a feeling until we see some big updates in the field of batteries, quick charging is going to be the only fix for the "wear it 24/7, then charge for a bit" crowd.
    But I do hear that there are some good advances in batteries coming in the next year or so. I charged every morning and night with an H1, and had ~40% left at the end of the day. I charged it while I was taking a shower at night, wore it for sleep, and charged it again in the morning while getting ready for work. Did the same with an OG Moto360. The H1 was only retired last week (bought new in Jan 2016, so 3y 7m of 2 charges a day) as it had some pretty bad gouges in the case due to a fall. It was black, and the gouges stuck out opretty badly. I moved to the Gen 5 and it has been better for the most part.
  • This is what I wanted to hear. I like WearOS better than Tizen due to my app collection. I don't use GPS for exercise and do not use always on displays so that would help my battery situation. Sounds like I can get a full day of notifications and responses. Now I just have to wait two months for the outlet to get the Gen 5. Then it will be right where I want it to be price-wise.
  • I think what holds back the fossil watches is the the chip. Hopefully with the new chip coming out and maybe this secret watch fossil & Google are working on. Could show great potential for wear os and any fossil watches in the future.
  • When you wear the watch, do you accidentally bump the middle button to activate the Google Assistant? I have the Gen 3 version of the watch and wear it on my left hand. I bump and activate the Google Assistant 30-40 times a day. Sometimes when I work out I bump it long enough to where the watch restarts on a long press. I'm intrgued by the new version, but that is so frustrating it would prevent me from buying again if they haven't fixed it.
  • I didn't have any issues like that with the Gen 5!
  • Same. I disabled by going into app permissions.
    Find the "Google" app. Disabled the "microphone" permission. This prevents it from responding when you click that button.... Keep in mind this also disables Google assists via voice and also voice to text. I don't use any on my watch so no loss to me. Battery lasts forever now.
  • I'm eager to see how good this gen5 is. I was an early adopter with the original LG g watch and in truth I liked what was happening but to me it feels like as much as Android was first to market and had the potential to outshine everything else it has allowed Apple to rewrite the script as to what it should be rather than being an untouchable extension of Google Assistant.
    Does anybody remember that first Google video to show off Android wear? I do and it's still awesome.
    I hope the watch is a great watch and hardware does the platform justice but in all honesty the success of this platform is purely down to Google and in truth if they wanted to, they could repeat that inticial video only on TV rather than just internet. Spend the money on ADs and the platform would sell because Apple Siri still can't do half the things Google assistant can.
  • I'm just tired of having crappy battery life. The watches always last a full day fine when I first get them, then after a year they struggle to finish the day. I don't use my watch for apps. It's mostly to tell time and see my notifications. I'd also like to run without my phone. So, I think Fitbit will be my next watch, maybe Garmin. With an advertised multi day battery life, they should still be okay after a couple of years.
  • I had just purchased the Fossil Sport (Gen 4.5, so to speak) and was within the 90 day window. The store manager agreed to upgrade me with a discount that Fossil e-mailed me (and probably lots of other previous customers as well). I am so glad I traded in. The Gen 5 is on-point and a great watch. Very superior to the Sport. Go get one!
  • I sent mine back. I felt duped. The screen is small and if you use an analogy watch face it looks Mickey-Mouse. And oddly enough, none of the Fossil images show the watch with an analog face. The original Huawei watch was 42 mm in diameter with a 34 mm screen. People frequently mistake it for a regular watch and double-take when a notification is display. In contrast the Gen 5 is 44 mm with a 32 mm screen. Sad. I was really looking forward to a new watch.
  • I have also had issues with the distortion and Fossil said they are aware of the issue and they are testing an update to fix it.
  • Google have to be very careful that Android watches don't go the same way as Android tablets. They need more solid devices like this otherwise Apple will own this market as well.
  • I have the Gen 3. It's been really good and the only issue I have is about 3 times a day my wrist hits the central crown and activates the Google Assistant, plus sometimes the watch runs out of power in the late evening (10pm) and it can be a bit sluggish. I had the Moto 360 1st Gen previously so have really missed a heart rate monitor, plus I've always wanted NFC on a watch. The Fossil Gen 5 combines all of this, it has the latest Qualcomm chip and hopefully it's battery addresses the short comings of the Gen 3. On top of this it also has GPS and a speaker so I can take calls on it, a feature most new wear OS watches don't have. I'd never go for a jumped up fitness tracker masquerading as a smart watch, I have a deep dislike of Apple and Tizen doesn't appeal to me with its lack of apps, so personally this seems to be the best option for me.
  • Gen 3 had a speaker. It was omitted for Gen 4 stupidly, more than likely for waterproofing. My gen 4 is excellent, just miss the speaker. Will sell both my sport, which is utter trash, and my gen 4 and get a gen 5. Yes, Wear OS needs the ram more than it needs the Qualcomm chip. My gen 4 with more ram and the 2100 is snappy and quick, much faster than the sport garbage. Also, I feel like Fossil played us by releasing the sport and the gen 4 and not even a year later releases gen 5. Could have skipped gen 4, but they needed to use up all of the 2100 chipsets. Not one update for the Fossil Sport from Fossil which tells me they aren't really committed to their existing products, more interested in selling units and the bottomline. We were told there would be enhancements as Fossil works out the bugs but that was just a lie. They know they ripped off their customers and they don't care. So long as their master (Google) is happy they don't care.
  • Since Google strategy is blocking install and use if Google Pay across Europe even if you use a German bank like N26. Ask Fossil for a discount or Fix of missing functionality?
    As for N26 goes:
    "Google Pay is only available in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Slovakia, and Spain."
    And don't even dream using Revolut (which has Google Pay in UK) can be a workaround. Again Google Pay is BLOCKED on your devices in several European countries!!!
    Stupid Google!
  • Did you ever consider that the delay is with some regulatory commission? Sure - Apple probably lined the pockets of some folks to get their approvals pushed through and Google COULD do the same but it's possible they've chosen not to...
  • Called Fossil and requested a replacement - they said I have to wait for two weeks. I said just refund it. After two weeks and barely keeping up through the day with the same settings as my old LG Urbane that actually has a brighter screen and lasts for 20-24 hours, I am fed up wit this
  • Joe Maring, how did you manage to get a reply from GA on your watch - mine didn't work for for **** with all media volumes at the highest levels Answering phone calls??? this functionality is not available yet. What kind of review is this??? Paid for by Fossil?
  • You really needed to compare this watch to the 46mm Galaxy Watch. As a long time android man I have long been frustrated with Samsung having the best hardware while Google has the best software & never the 2 will meet.
  • I own both the Galaxy Watch and Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle. Samsung's Tizen OS and software are excellent and can easily rival and in some cases surpass Wear OS. There are a few apps I wished were available for Tizen but it is not a deal breaker.
  • I own both the Galaxy Watch and Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle. Samsung's Tizen OS and software are excellent and can easily rival and in some cases surpass Wear OS. There are a few apps I wished were available for Tizen but it is not a deal breaker.
  • A checkbox checked at NFC means nothing if the smart program management at Google Pay decides you European country is not supported for whatever convoluted reasoning you cannot use Google Pay on your device not even if your bank account is with a German bank and they issue MasterCard debit cards! Google's smart management decided your a 3rd world country and you cannot use a useful features such as Google Pay on your Android or Wear OS device.
  • One thing that should be mentioned is the glass isn't gorilla glass so it isn't quite as scratch resistant as phone glasses are. Also to make up for the battery life (I haven't hit 36 hours yet either over the last week with my watch) is that it charges very fast. Paired with an old Samsung fast charger, I've gone 2% to 100% in about an hour. So topping off while showering and/or getting ready to leave the house will get plenty of battery.
  • Or just charge it over night like everyone does with mobile phones. I'm not sure why this is even coming up as an issue? It's a watch that can do about 40 to 50 different functions. How long do you expect the battery to last??
  • Just wondering if it's ok to leave the watch 'overnight' in the magnet charge cradle?
    Good for the further battery live?
  • Yeah it's fine.
  • « expect to put it on the charger every single night » Which is not a big deal unless you sleep with your watch