AMSTERDAM: IT'S ONLY been in the past few years that Fossil has established itself as a competitor in the smartwatch space. Since the mid-80s, it's been known as a more traditional watch company - you might even say it's the, er, 'fossil' of the smartwatch market.
Dad jokes aside, one way in which this experience serves the company well is that it knows how to make watches that people actually like the look of. Unlike Garmin or Samsung, for example, Fossil kind of knows what it's doing when it comes to design.
As a result, the firm's latest smartwatch - the Fossil Sport - is not just a fitness tracking gadget, but it's a rather handsome looking timepiece (something that a lot of tech firms should take note of).
While the Sport isn't too dissimilar from the Gen 4 'Explorist' that Fossil revealed at IFA earlier this year, it does tout some quite exciting new internals, especially if you're an Android buff. It's based on Qualcomm's brand new Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip, which is made especially for devices just like this, promising to bring better efficiency and thus battery life.
While we couldn't test how long the battery fares over an extended period, we got some hands-on time with the watch at an event in Amsterdam.
As we mentioned earlier, Fossil knows what it's doing when it comes to design, and that's pretty obvious with the Sport. The first thing you'll notice about it is that it's quite minimally put together, which we're guessing Fossil has done on purpose as the display is nice and big, and capable of displaying a lot of information. This means the watch doesn't look too busy when you're scrolling through reams of text, and will also go nicely with whatever you decide to wear with it.
In terms of construction, the Fossil Sport has a brushed aluminium bezel, which comes in different hues depending on the colourway you're going for. And because it's aluminium, it feels super lightweight; we don't know how light it is exactly (Fossil were keeping tight-lipped about this) but it's impressively dainty and comfortable to wear as a result. It's also rather thin, with its case measuring just 11.5mm thick. All these factors help make it an impressively designed smartwatch in our opinion.
If we were to pick out a negative, we'd have to say the light weight of the watch does feel a little cheap. And at £249, that's quite disappointing.
Nevertheless, its silicon strap is really comfortable. This, added with how lightweight and stylish it is, makes it a pleasure to wear.
When it comes to the display, the Fossil Sport doesn't disappoint. It boasts an AMOLED 1.2in screen with a respectable 390x390 pixel resolution, which is vibrant, clean and really really bright. While we didn't have the opportunity to see how well this eye-popping screen performed under direct sunlight due to the event being indoors, we can imagine it would fare very well.
It didn't disappoint when it came to performance, either. The screen responds really well to every touch and swipe you throw at it, and with all text being displayed clearly and with apps opening up instantly. This is probably down to the inclusion of the Qualcomm Wear chip, which we'll come to next.
Performance and software
As mentioned in the display section, the Fossil Sport has no problems handling everything you throw at it. We were really quite impressed by the wearable's overall responsiveness, which is no doubt a result of the Qualcomm Wear 3100 platform that powers it.
But - and it's a big but - while touting one of the most powerful chips on the wearables market right now, the Fossil Sport can only offer enough power to last you just one day between charges.
In theory, the new Snapdragon Wear chip should make the Sport one of the most power efficient smartwatches on the market. This is because the processor uses quad-core A7 processors, has ultra-low power co-processors, and is thus able to reduce power usage with low-power functions, including music playback, GPS tracking, and voice commands.
However, it doesn't seem to be offering much in terms of extended battery life here. As baffling as it sounds, the Sport offers the same amount of battery life as touted by the Sport's younger sibling, the Fossil Explorist, which is powered by the previous version of the Qualcomm Wear chip (the 2100).
And the confusing thing is that Fossil is even making the 24-hour life a marketing statement, promoting it as one of the Sport's key features - almost as though it's a groundbreaking feat.
Anyone who has owned a smartwatch in the last few years, or knows just a little about them, will know that most of them can last at least double this time, so why Fossil is boasting about a "24 hours" battery life on its brand new smartwatch seems a little crazy to us.
Putting that small (read: massive) flaw to the side for one moment, the Fossil Sport does have an excellent selection of software features. It'll power all your standard activity tracking needs, for instance, heart-rate monitoring, alongside NFC payments and GPS tracking. It's also swim-proof up to 5ATM. Sadly, we weren't able to test all these features out on the demo floor where we got our hands-on but we'll be looking forward to trying it out when we get a unit for full review.
And one last thing, in case you were wondering, the Sport is compatible with all smartphones running Android 4.4+ or iOS 9.3 and newer.
Overall, we are really big fans of the Fossil Sport. It's stylish, it's comfortable and the screen is awesome. It's just a shame about it's one big flaw; a 24-hours of battery life. Saying that, we're willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and see how well it works out during a full two days of use. It might just surprise us. Until then, we're dubious... µ