When it comes to picking out a Wear OS watch there are many factors worth considering, whether you're prioritizing the look of the physical watch or are interested the kind of display it has or the processor it uses. Watches can have near the same specs, but have nowhere near the same performance. It's not difficult to see how that affects the comparison between the Ticwatch Pro 4G/LTE and the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle, which are two watches that exemplify the phrase "more than the sum of their parts."
So much is the same, but still so different
Google, for the most part, keeps pretty tight reins on the Wear OS platform when it comes to customization from each manufacturer. This is unlike Android, where each OEM has a different skin that they apply to the OS as well as different tweaks as to how the system operates. With the Carlyle, Fossil has been able to add some subtle changes to the software to better utilize the hardware it chose to implement, namely its battery profiles, which take advantage of the keystone feature of the Snapdragon 3100.
At its core, the 3100 is really a Snapdragon 2100 with a co-processor to handle low power tasks aimed at improving battery life. What Fossil did was introduce the Extended and Time Only mode to directly target that co-processor. When you choose either of these two options the system will shut down various connections, or smart features, to try and eek out a few more hours of usage from the battery. These are different from the full smart mode, or normal modes, on the watch.
It's more than just a processor that separates these two watches.
TicWatch approaches the all important battery life battle differently. It made the choice to continue to use the dated Qualcomm Snapdragon 2100 in the device and add a secondary display. We first saw Mobvoi — the company responsible for the TicWatch — use this technology in the original TicWatch Pro. This added layer, called an FTSN LCD, essentially reflects ambient light in a way that enhances the text on its layer for high visibility. This is on by default to and uses very little power to run. When it's not engaged the LCD display is completely transparent showing you the OLED screen underneath.
|Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle||TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE|
|Dimensions||44mm x 12mm||45mm x 12mm|
|Colors||Black silicone/steel,Dark Brown/black steel, Smoke stainless steel||Black|
|Watch housing||Stainless steel||Polyamide & glass fiber, stainless-steel bezel, aluminum back cover|
|Display||1.28" AMOLED 416x416px||1.39" AMOLED (400 x 400 px) + FSTN LCD|
|Chipset||Snapdragon Wear 3100||Snapdragon Wear 2100|
|Operating System||Wear OS 2.4||Wear OS 2.8|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth smart v4.2 LE
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
|Bluetooth smart v4.2+ BLE
WiFi IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
Preloaded 4G/LTE SIM
|Water resistance||3ATM waterproof
Military Standard 810G
Heart Rate Monitor
Ambient Light Sensor
|PPG heart rate sensor
Ambient light sensor
Low latency off-body sensor
There is plenty to like about both watches from a spec standpoint. Both watches are rocking 1GB RAM, which quite possibly is the best stat on this sheet since more RAM vastly improves the usage of Wear OS watches. There is double the amount of storage on the Carlyle over the Pro, although unless you plan on off-loading songs or downloading a lot of apps, it may not mean much to you. We get water resistance on both, though a fair bit more on the Fossil timepiece. The TicWatch beats Fossil on durability with their 810G military-grade certification, although that durability may come at the cost of its physical footprint.
For a good number of folks, fashion over function is paramount. Each person has their own style and you'll likely want one that is versatile. The Carlyle is the more typical/classic looking watch of these two. Its stainless steel case, which comes in more than one color option, along with its two buttons flanking a rotating crown, will likely fit into most indivduals' styles. The TicWatch Pro definitely has a style all of its own. It's a chunky angular watch and it has the durability to match. There's no rotating crown, though you do get two buttons, with one being programmable to launch a function of your choice.
When it comes to smartwatches the battery life is a key feature that can make a watch winner or loser amongst users. Both watches do have their own way to combat this as mentioned previously. Fossil uses some software tricks to take advantage of the Snapdragon 3100s co-processor, and TicWatch implements a low-power secondary display.
The Carlyle, on normal usage, suggests around 36 hours of use before it's going to need a charge — though real life is more like 20 hours. The Pro, on the other hand, can get around three days normal usage, but it was closer to two if I used sleep tracking. It should be noted that I got that battery life on the TicWatch while using it tethered to my phone or Wi-Fi. Should you utilize the cellular connection and forgo the phone on a day trip, then you are going to be looking at the charger before your day is over.
The screen on the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is a blessing if you spend time outdoors.
Both of these watches have a very nice AMOLED display that is colorful and does well in most environments. Something I think that is often underappreciated is an ambient light sensor in the watch. Each of these devices employ one and it makes using a smartwatch more enjoyable, saving you from constantly making manual changes just to see the what's on your display.
However, even on its brightest setting the Gen 5 Carlyle becomes almost unusable in daylight. To see your screen, especially when in always-on mode, you'll need to cup your hand over the screen. This is where the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE has a huge advantage with its secondary display. The technology used on this screen makes viewing the time and other basic information in the brightest of light crisp and clear. The downside to this screen is that in low or no light settings you can't see it at all. This is when you need to go to display settings and switch on the always-on display to then have the AMOLED be active.
Which one should you get?
If you're looking for a watch and can handle a larger case size then it's really hard to go wrong with either of these two options. A lot will come down to style and how you want to use your watch. If you prefer a slimmer more classic style watch case, the newest processor, and more storage then you may be more inclined to go with the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle. If you want a watch with longer battery life, high durability, a screen that is easy to read outdoors, and you want the option to leave your phone behind and use the cellular connection on your watch then the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE might be for you.
Both watches allow you to swap out the bands for a standard 22mm strap, but you will be stuck with an all-black watch body on the Pro. The Fossil watch gives you a few other case color options to choose from. Each device offers great performance and features that can handle almost every user.
With the price so close between the two smartwatches, I think that if you can handle the style of the TicWatch's case, then its flexibility to work across more situations makes it the pick here. From its dual-display option, cellular connectivity, long battery life, and durability, it's going to be the watch that gets you through from your morning hike to your night out and then some.
The two in one
A big case full of features
TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE and its cases look may be too large for some, but it's not without its merits. You'll get 1GB of RAM and while its older Qualcomm 2100 processor is long in the tooth, it makes up for it with a fantastic secondary display. Put those things in with the ability to have standalone connectivity and much of the style can be forgiven.
It was so close
The new kid
Fossil's Gen 5 Carlyle is a wonderful watch that will undoubtedly make you happy. It has the great build quality and performance that you'd expect from a device running the latest wearable processor from Qualcomm, but it's hampered by a lackluster screen when it comes to outdoor usage and less than stellar battery life.
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