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Fossil Q Founder review

When you've written reviews of as many Android Wear watches as we have — which is to say for all watches that cost less than $1,500 — you tend to look for the little things that make a particular timepiece stand out. Maybe it's a little design detail that sneaks in, or a particularly good watch face.

Or in the case of the Fossil Q Founder — one of the first Android smartwatches from an actual watchmaker — maybe the biggest difference is a faux leather charging pillow.

Smartwatch chargers aren't exactly known for being stalwarts of design. But things have taken a turn for the bulky with the Q Founder, and that actually has significantly influenced our use of the watch.

Let's get all this sorted then. This is our Fossil Q Founder review.

About this review

We've been wearing the Fossil Q Founder with steel bracelet, which we purchased from Fossil.com, on our left wrist for the past three weeks. It's on Android 5.1.1 (and Android Wear 1.3.0.2429505) and has been connected to a Nexus 6P for the entirety of or review.

Fossil Q Founder Hardware

Think back to the March 2014, when Android Wear was announced. The list of participating partners was mostly predictable, with the likes of Motorola, Samsung, LG, HTC (which has yet to produce an Android Wear device) and ASUS on board. While the Moto 360 garnered the lion's share of the early attention, also listed was Fossil — a company known for actually making watches.

Fossil does what Fossil does well with a solid, steel body.

That partnership piqued our interest because as we'd seen in a couple early models — the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live, specifically — it was all too easy (in the early days, at least) for a company to essentially strap a display and miniaturized phone on a wrist and call it a day. It might have been smart, but it was barely a watch.

As the months progressed we started seeing better and better designs from the current players. The LG G Watch R and Watch Urbane raised the bar a good bit. Huawei landed atop our list of the Best Android Wear Watches with its first entry. And now we have Fossil, with the Q Founder.

This watch falls squarely (ahem) in the almost-round category, with a 1.5-inch LTPS LCD display. (That's the same screen tech as what you'll find in the new Google Pixel C tablet, now that we think about it.) But it's also one with the "flat-tire" design, wherein the display doesn't span a full 360 degrees because of the ambient light sensor that's tucked into the bottom quadrant. For some, that's a nonstarter. For others, the ambient light sensor is a must-have. It's a trade-off, to be sure, but a curious one for a watch manufacturer.

A steel bracelet gives a complete look, but there is a slightly cheaper leather option.

If you had to compare the Q Founder to another Android Wear watch, you'd undoubtedly choose the LG Watch Urbane as the close cousin. And we'll refer you to the opening line of our Watch Urbane review — "Make a nice smartwatch. "But don't make it too nice." The Q Founder very much looks and feels like it's picked up where the Watch Urbane stopped. Angles are a little more complicated and polished. There's a little more detail. And the lugs — where the watch meets the strap or bracelet — definitely look better, especially with the metal links bracelet. The leather option ($20 less if you buy from Google) puts a little bit of air in the lugs. The steel takes up all that room and is a smart-looking fit.

Adjusting the metal links is simple enough. You'll need one of those jeweler's watch kits (they're cheap on Amazon), and from there you just hammer out the pins, being careful to do so in the direction the watch shows you. (Hint: Follow the arrows.) Fossil's using a one-way pin I hadn't seen before, but that wasn't a huge deal. Just be careful as you reattach everything.

The crown — that's the button — is nicely designed, even if of relatively limited use in Android Wear. (If you're in a movie theater, though, be sure to hit it twice to turn the display off.)

Fossil (OK, Google, most likely) changed things up a bit with the internals, going with an Intel Atom processor instead of Qualcomm's Snapdragon. And if we hadn't told you that, you'd never know just from wearing the watch. If anything it's maybe a bit more fluid moving through the menus. That may well be placebo, or it could be from doubling the RAM to a full 1GB. And it's not like we're getting three times the battery life either. You'll still not get not much more than a day off the charger with general use. Day and a half, tops.

And that brings us to the ugly part of this review. Fossil's charger.

Fossil Q Founder and charger

Charging a smartwatch has never really been elegant. There are little magnetic docks of various ilk, or Motorola's and Samsung's stand-up Qi chargers. None of them is particularly elegant, and when you take into consideration continuous metal bracelets — well, it's kind of a mess.

Fossil combats that last point by using a Qi charger that's so large the bracelet easily fits underneath it. Functionally speaking, this is one of the better charging systems we've used. A red light indicates when things are working as they're supposed to, so there's no doubt that the watch is charging. (That's something we continue to struggle with on the Huawei Watch, which fails to charge all too often.)

Sure, we've got concerns about the eggshell color, or the faux leather watch pillow padding getup. But this thing just works.

It also guarantees that we'll probably never take the Q Founder on the road. The size of the charger means it's going to take up a good bit of space in any bag — messenger, suitcase or whatever. And in our experience when traveling it's better to be able to charge anywhere at any time, and that means you need a charger small enough to carry around. And what comes with the Q Founder definitely does not meet that description. If you're madly in love with this watch you might be able to rig up some other Qi charger (it doesn't quite fit in the second-gen Moto 360 charger), or maybe Fossil will release something more svelte.

But for now, this bulky behemoth is what we've got.

Fossil Q Founder watch faces

Fossil Q Founder Software

There's not a whole lot to say about the software on the Q Founder. It's still Android Wear 1.3, and still based on Android 5.1.1. An update to Marshmallow will happen at some point, but we don't know when. (It wouldn't surprise us if there was some fallout from the cancellation of the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, which was to be the first with Marshmallow.)

Whereas other manufacturers have been touting dozens of custom watch faces, Fossil brings you four. There's Classic, Fred, Kaleido and Roulette. Each is customizable to different degrees, however. You'll have your choice of colors and styles. And in the case of the Classic watch face you'll be able to choose which complications you want added. Of course there are hundreds of fantastic watch faces out there on Google Play — you'll just have to hit the store and find one that speaks to you.

The one software feature you won't find on the Q Founder is the ability to check your heart rate. There's no sensor for that on the underside of the Q Founder, and thus no software function for it.

Fossil Q Founder

Fossil Q Founder Bottom line

So how to sum up the Fossil Q Founder? Just another Android Wear option, really. That's selling it short — it's a good option, particularly if you want something metal and a little on the large side (insofar as these watches go). Fossil definitely got the design details right given that extra size, especially with the metal bracelet.

And, unfortunately, the Q Founder also is yet another Android Wear watch that is decidedly masculine in design, and definitely in size, with no women's option available.

So the Q Founder doesn't really bring anything new to the table, except for the giant charger that will certainly be the centerpiece wherever it lies. OK, it also brings the watch faces, we suppose, along with the Fossil name. But the fact is you could have put any other name on this design and we'd be just fine with it. What the Q Founder maybe does is sort of what TAG Heuer is doing on a much more expensive scale — opening up the much wider world of analog watches to the smartwatch crowd.

Should you buy it? Sure

There's absolutely nothing wrong with the Q Founder, save for that huge charger. The leather option retails for $275, and the steel for $295. Here's where you can buy them:

Google Store (opens in new tab)   Amazon (steel) (opens in new tab)   Fossil (leather) (opens in new tab)   Fossil (steel) (opens in new tab)

70 Comments
  • The Huawei watch is much better IMO Posted via the Android Central App
  • Indeed, also $105-155 more expensive. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Could someone please tell me why people go to a car dealership and buy a top name brand car with flat tires? Note 4 {Sprint 5.1.1}, with nothing enticing to upgrade too.
  • To some people it's a worthwhile feature. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It's not a feature, it's a limitation. I have a 360, and I'm not BOTHERED by it, but the flat tire is the result of technological limitations. Yes, the mounted the ambient light sensor in there anyway, because why waste the space, but it's not there BECAUSE of the sensor.
  • This flat tire serves as an ambient light sensor, so it's not completely pointless.
  • They shoved an ambient light sensor in there because they were stuck with the flat tire anyway. They could have come up with another solution if they didn't have that. It's merely the result of a hardware limitation that they made lemonade out of.
  • it's a trade off. Without the flat tire, the bezel would've been huge.
  • You realize that costs a lot more right? So does the 360.
  • Spec/ $€£ for spec, they should not be compared as you could buy the fossil watch plus a second cheap smart watch for the watch you mentioned's price.. Posted via the Android Central App
  • There's more to a watch than specs. People pay for style. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Indeed to reach their own. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Good looking watch. I'll stick with my Zen watch, though.
  • Looking forward to moving on to another watch in the next year from my OG 360, like the look of the Q, but the current charger is an absolute non-starter for me. Having to pick that up every night and every morning to take the watch on and off, nope. Definitely like the watch though.
  • Moto 360 still the best Posted via the Android Central App
  • Moto 360 has best charging stand by far. Small, good weight, self standing, works with any band. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Any brand that uses, you know, Qi.
  • It says BAND... Posted via the Android Central App
  • Nothing like having a watch face with a cut off 6. /s Posted via the Android Central App
  • I believe you mean: "Nothing like having a watch face with two '3''s"
  • Lol Posted via the Android Central App
  • Another waste of money, like every other Android wear and the Apple watch. All of these solve non-existant problems. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have to disagree. I own have a pebble steel and when I am at work or something else where I cannot hear of feel my phone vibrate, my pebble fits the bill. I do agree that there are additional options out there to allow people to tinker, but not missing notifications is a game changer. Posted via the Android Central App
  • My $15 Mi band does that for me. Vibrates on incoming calls and notifications for selected apps. Granted, I can't check the notification from my wrist, but not worth the extra 200-400 just for that pleasure. Posted via the Android Central App
  • To you, to someone else working in a hospital, or someplace similar that has the money, it may definitely be worth the $200+ extra. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I see no value to my wrist vibrating and telling me NOTHING directly when my phone does that. The value is in your watch providing you the ACTUAL information so you DON'T need to remove your phone from your pocket.
  • What problem are they suppose to solve? Do tell Posted via the Android Central App
  • I wasn't aware that every single piece of technology had to SOLVE a problem, as opposed to providing us with new opportunities.
  • You forgot to add, "for me.". Posted via the Android Central App
  • It's implicit. Seeing as he wrote it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It really isn't. Not in the way he worded it.
  • Here's an idea... Don't get it! Wow that's hard. Posted via the Android Central App
  • For now but it's a start for wearable technology. At least we should be happy about that. Posted via the Android Central App on my Frost Nexus 6P
  • Not sure why anyone would expect other than "more of the same." Google has such strict limits on what manufacturers can do with Android Wear the differences are going to me mostly cosmetic. This is still a solution in search of a problem.
  • I think that was the point. Cosmetically it's not really anything game changing. I would have expected a couple of different finishes, multiple included bands and different sizes (and flat tire removal) since this is a company that specializes in variety in their watch lineup. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I think the fact that they all work basically the same is the idea. Differentiate in the hardware and give a consistent software experience across different watches. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'd rather see manufacturers able to innovate. Samsung's Tizen watches are superior to Android Wear in many respects. And the ability of manufacturers, and ROM developers, to innovate and extend Android on phones and tablets has led to multiple advances that Google has later incorporated into Android. Android Wear has no such fertile ground, and is pretty much going nowhere. Good is becoming more likely Apple every day.
  • Another flat tire Pass Posted via the Android Central App
  • I definitely understand. But what other negative comments do you have about all other Android wear watches? Unless you have something positive to say... Then I'll have to watch for flying pigs. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I can say something negative about all Android Wear watches in general: bad battery life. I will say that the Huawei Watch and the Samsung Gear S2 are both sleek looking watches.
  • I say positive things all the time. I am not much into wearables because it isn't part of my job but I will give you one. Wear is maturing so fast it might replace the phone in two years . the advances are tremendous! Posted via the Android Central App
  • Ok. I can understand that. I sold my 360 because of battery life. But I loved all the features. Because of my smart watch my phone lasted longer and I loved notifications on it. I've heard really good things about the 2nd gen 360, but I'm trying the urbane to hold me off till they go down in price or get rid of flat tire. Posted via the Android Central App
  • "Another flat tire" That's really all that the review had to say. Just 3 words. Many people would have stopped reading it after that anyway.
  • saw this at the fossil store, is really nice. now i get sad when i look at my gwatch R. hope Santa brings me one N5x on Fi Network here
  • The LG Urbane is my choice.
  • Good choice Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'm surprised how inexpensive it is. Posted via Android Central App
  • Thanks to the Intel SoC I'm guessing. Not that they are bad by any means, but Intel is selling them cheap to try to gain market share. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I like this watch. It looks great has an ambient light sensor. I can get over the flat tire. Kinda wish more manufacturers would go the apple route and find a way to implement the light sensor under the display, but it beats not having one. Oh and it's relatively inexpensive. It's not an impulse buy but much better price point than some of the other options out their. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Flat tire = no sale.
  • IPS display = no sale
  • Why do some smartwatch makers use IPS displays. POLEDs are the way to go with smartwatches for battery life and better blacks.
  • And always on display without sacrificing much battery.
  • Huawei watch does open a charging screen when placed on the charger. Not sure why you guys aren't aware of that. Maybe update the software? Posted via the Android Central App
  • I wish that round watch faces weren't the trend in Android Wear devices. A square face is more efficient for the purposes that AW serves, and I don't think there's any reason to put so much focus on having a smartwatch physically resemble a traditional watch. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I disagree, most of the time you are looking at a watch face or a single notification, which is perfectly fine on a round watch. Not everyone wants a rectangle on their wrist, as some care about appearances.
  • Spot on! I originally was kinda bummed that Apple Watch was a square design and really like the Moto 360, but fast forward a year and the 360's design has not aged well. Now the 360 looks very "generic" to me, and a smart watch trying to "fake the funk" so to speak makes them seem very un-genuine. These are not watches in my mind anymore, they're mini wrist computers, and they should have a looks and performance to match. Apple got it right when they focused on the square design... Though you can bet there's a round face proto laying around Cupertino somewhere
  • I like my og moto 360, but think I'd like something that looks more like a real watch. I don't mind the flat tire, and would rather not have the heart beat sensor (I don't think it's that accurate anyways). I like that it has 1 gb of ram, though I wish it had a bit more storage. I'm very interested what Intel can bring to the table with wearables, and am a bit disappointed that this doesn't work a lot better than the other watches. Overall, if I could vote with my wallet, it'd probably be a toss up between this and the new 360. The ram probably would be the deciding factor.
  • As android wear watch's go, this seems fine.
    Utilizing my Moto 360 [2015] daily , it has it's uses.
    With me being hard of hearing, it helps me picking up calls/messages.
    For a "regular" person....can't really justify the expense.
    Style accessory...i guess.
    Nice review.
  • I feel wearables aren't for everyone. Some will find benefits, others not so much and that's OK. All I can suggest is spend some time with one. You will never get a sense of it's usefulness... or not, until you spend a few days with one. I struggled for months justifying smartwatch ownership and finally bought a Pebble Time Steel. In the end it came down to notifications and 7 day 'real world' battery life. I no longer go searching for my phone, I triage notifications on my wrist and get on with my day. Or perhaps bang out a quick reply all without ever reaching for (and being distracted) by my phone. And that's the point isn't it, to detach ourselves from our devices (somewhat) and pay attention to more important things in life. Your 'mileage may vary' as they say. I seem to do pretty good. Posted via the Android Central App
  • You hit the nail on the head. Detaching one's self from their phone. When I got to my in-laws for Christmas Eve yesterday, I laid my phone down on a central end table and never let it distract me from spending time with family. I received notifications on my Pebble Time, either dismissed them outright, or let them stay on my phone to deal with them later. I immediately knew each notification was something that could be ignored or dealt with later, and never had to touch my phone. Plus, I love always having my phone on silent, no annoying notification sounds or ring tones to annoy and distract everyone around me. A smart watch is the most useful thing I never knew I needed.
  • Right now we are a generation or two away from where I think we would like wearables should be. Yes having all that functionality in a small package is great. Thing is at the current level it's still too big for many people to strap on their wrists. Now if we can get all of this at half the height you will see these take off. That's where I'm glad to see the actual watch manufacturers involved. They have the designs now we need to get the tech to fit in that space. Otherwise this looks like a great new addition. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Looks good. Will have to see in person. Still leaning towards the TAG for me next. Posted via the Android Central App
  • The TAG despite the display being lower resolution than the other far cheaper androidW based watches, it felt and looked far better on my wrist. I can understand non-conventional watch consumers not liking it but it definitely felt worth it to me. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I could never wear a watch missing a chuck of its face for a black bar. That's horrible to me. Must find a way to eliminate the flat tire. Until then I'll hand with my gear s2 I guess. Excited for Android wear,, Standalone, no flat tire device. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Very few companies are doing much in the way of softer design for smaller wrists etc. most of them look the same. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Can anyone tell me a good smartwatch I could get with an ok price (not to high ) but good quality Posted via the Android Central App
  • At this point if you just want to get in the aw space at a good price point. Then you might want to look at a zenwatch 2. Now it does have a square face and for some that is a turn off. But at the price of 150 for everything that that the 360 and founder do, you can't really beat it. If though you want round then a first gen 360 can be had for the same price on eBay. Just know it is older tech that may not have the lifespan you are looking for. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Beautiful watch but Battery issues....
    Bought this watch 6 weeks ago. The watch looks great, well made and works great, BUT.... The battery is really bad.I take it of charge at 730am and the battery is dead by 330pm (8 hours) with very very light use. I've played around with the setting, lowered the brightness, turned off the always on feature and at most I might get an extra hour of standby.I read the bad reviews about the battery before I bought this watch and thought, no no these people must be doing something wrong, I'm tech savvy, I'll have no problems with this watch... But boy was I wrong.Basically in short, there's no point having a beautiful watch that you can't use. Shame...... Also please note that the Fossil website are selective as to what reviews they publish. They would not publish this review on their site.
  • after using Samsung Pay, there is no way I'd buy any watch that doesn't have it.