Fossil Gen 5E smartwatch review: old meets new

The Fossil Gen 5E runs WearOS

The wearables market has witnessed a stark growth in recent years. So much so, veteran watchmakers like Fossil are looking to solidify their position and make their presence felt too. To that note, the company has a slew of stylish, smart timepieces under its belt. Strapped on my wrist is the Fossil Gen 5e, which touts a classic design, albeit is packed to the brim with Android smarts and features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 SoC. I managed to get my hands on a unit and here is what I made of the Gen 5e after using it for a little over a week.

The Lowdown 

  • Fossil has a wealth of experience in designing grand timepieces and the company’s skilled craftsmanship shines through the Gen 5E too. I was sent the Smoke Stainless Steel colourway for review, which ships with a 44mm dial and an interchangeable three-row stainless steel band. As such, the watch feels superbly premium to wear and looks the part of a traditional timepiece from afar. So, if you were looking for a smart wearable to wear to work, or to compliment your dressy outfits, the Gen 5E is an excellent option right out the gate.

  • With that said, the wearable is a tad heavy. Consequently, if you were on the lookout for an all-day wear wearable, or one that can accompany you to the gym, then you’ll have to get the Gen 5E with silicone bands. Thankfully, the smartwatch ships with 22mm interchangeable straps, thereby ensuring buyers aren’t locked into an aesthetic from the get-go. What’s more, the wearable is water-resistant up to 3ATM and therefore, should outlast your sweatiest workouts easily. 

  • The Gen 5E’s window to the world is a 1.19-inch round AMOLED display with a PPI of 328 pixels per inch. The display is extremely sharp and offers ample contrast and true blacks too. And, since this is a WearOS watch, you can install thousands of colourful and peppy watch faces via the WearOS app or a third-party utility, like WatchMaker. Rest assured, Gen 5E’s display is a veritable feast for the eyes. 

  • What’s more, the panel’s touch response was to my liking as well and the screen picked up on all my swipes and taps in a jiffy. To that note, you can swipe left or right to go back. When on the home screen, you can use the same gestures to flip between different tiles or widgets. Furthermore, you can press the crown to open your app tray and swipe up and down to view your notifications and access the quick shortcut menu respectively. 

  • You can even use the display outdoors comfortably, as the screen gets plenty bright. That said, the device doesn’t ship with support for adaptive brightness so, you’ll have to manually tweak the same. On the bright side, the Gen 5E comes with support for AoDs, so you can check the time or notifications without waking up the screen. 

  • The Fossil Gen 5e is backed by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 SoC which works alongside 1GB of RAM and 4GB of built-in storage. Although Wear 4100 wearables are on the horizon, the Wear 3100 SoC is still plenty fast and I didn’t notice any major performance hiccups whilst using the Gen 5E – apps loaded instantaneously and animations were, for the most part, void of any stutters. The watch also comes equipped with a built-in speaker and microphone too, so you can take calls via the watch’s interface. I personally didn’t find much use for the same, as I usually take calls via my phone, or through my car’s infotainment deck (Android Auto) when I’m travelling. Regardless, it’s a nifty feature to have in your arsenal. 

  • You can also revert to notifications without taking your phone out of your pocket too. In fact, the Gen 5E gives you the option to either use quick replies, voice dictation, or even a full-fledged keyboard if you’d like to type your heart out. I, for one, resorted to voice dictation as it was quite reliable. The wearable comes with a slew of fitness-tracking features too, courtesy of Google Fit, and the device can give you insights on your step count as well as other metrics like cycling speed, etc. I primarily used the watch to track my steps and was quite content with the results. For one, the wearable doesn’t factor in ghost steps and the step tally was well within the margin of error during my testing. 

  • Unfortunately, the unit doesn’t ship with built-in GPS, although the watch latched onto my phone’s GPS in the blink of an eye. Regardless, you’ll have to carry your phone with you if you want to map your runs or cycling routes. I’d also like to add that the Gen 5E omits a SpO2 monitor and therefore, you won’t be able to get any indication of oxygen saturation in your blood. On the flip side, the unit’s PPG heart rate sensor was fairly accurate and yielded similar results to the Fitbit Versa 2, Mi Band 4, Honor Watch ES, and the OnePlus Watch. The sleep tracking could’ve been better, though. Now, credit where credit’s due, I doubt many people would wear a watch with a stainless steel band to bed. However, if you do find yourself in a similar pickle, then you should know that the Gen 5E can track your deep and light sleep cycles. 

  • The biggest gripe I’ve heard against WearOS watches is that most offer sub-par battery backup. Much to my dismay, the Fossil Gen 5E is no exception and you’d be hard-pressed to get a full day’s worth of backup on the wearable, especially with features like Always-on Display, etc enabled. Making matters worse, you’ll almost always have to charge the wearable before going to bed, at least if you want to make use of the unit’s sleep-tracking features. Now, to the company’s credit, the wearable ships with a slew of battery optimisation features and the watch’s 300mAh cell refuels rather quickly too. In fact, I could charge the wearable completely in just an hour, which is great.

Verdict 

The Fossil Gen 5E retails for Rs 18K and for the price, brings WearOS smarts and reliable fitness tracking to the table. What’s more, the device hits the nail on the head in the design department and brings new-age features to an old-school chassis. Of course, the wearable is not without its faults and offers subpar battery backup. Moreover, even if you opt for the sportier bands, you’ll still have to take carry your phone to workouts as the device doesn’t ship with built-in GPS. All things considered, the Gen 5E is a compelling option for anyone looking for a smartwatch that looks the part of, well, a classic timepiece. If not, then you’ll find no shortage of better fitness-centric wearables in the market, including but not limited to the OPPO Watch as well as the Galaxy Watch Active 2. 

Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5 

Pros: 

  • Stylish design 
  • Reliable fitness tracking 
  • Good day-to-day performance 

Cons: 

  • Subpar battery backup 
  • No built-in GPS 
  • No adaptive brightness