There were very few, if any, traditional watch manufacturers that jumped onboard the Android Wear bandwagon when Google released it in 2014. 2015 didn’t see much of a change from that, although there were many rumours about different watch manufacturers joining the Android Wear party. 2016 seems to be the year where the watch manufacturers are moving into the smartwatch segment of the market. Ultimately it may even be the make or break for Android Wear. If current watch manufacturers are successful at it, we will undoubtedly see many more join in the future.
Fossil is one of the watch manufacturers who has released an Android Wear watch in 2016, in fact it has released two, the Fossil Q Wander and the Fossil Q Marshal. Fossil are making a decent sized push at this smartwatch thing with the Fossil Q stand being large and front and centre the second you step inside the store at Westfield Doncaster. Fossil sent us the Fossil Q Wander to review, which wasn’t my first choice, judging by the photos on the website. After opening the box of the Wander and seeing the Marshal in person at the Fossil store I’m glad they sent me the Wander. Let’s find out why I liked the Wander so much.
Design and build
The Q Wander is a polished silver look and as such looks amazingly classy and upmarket. When you look at it sitting on the wrist, you can see the difference between a tech manufacturer’s smartwatch and a traditional watchmaker’s smartwatch. This was Google’s vision I believe, to bring the watchmakers into the fold and I can see why.
The Q Wander is a thick watch at 13.5mm, slightly thicker than the Huawei Watch but approximately the same thickness as the Moto 360. They are all within a millimetre or so of each other so once they are on the wrist there is no real difference in how they feel nor how they look with respect to thickness.
There is a single button on the side of the watch that looks like that on a traditional watch but this one is not a winding button of course but the standard function button included on Android Wear watches. The button, just like the rest of the band make it look stunningly beautiful.
The watch face on the Q Wander is decently sized, bigger than that on the Huawei watch. The casing itself is 45mm wide and the display is 1.5 inches in diameter with a resolution of 360 x 360 pixels. When using the watch the difference in size from the Huawei watch is noticeable with the size of the Fossil being a big positive.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room — the flat tyre. It is the only downside I can find in this watch, but boy is it a big downside. Is it a deal breaker? It may well be.
I have long been a big opponent to the flat tyre on smartwatches and I remain so. It breaks the look and feel of the device. With the way that Android Wear notifications arrive at the bottom of the device it also is a big negative making the experience less pleasant than that of a pure, full, round face. Sure the overall watch face is larger in diameter but that look of the non-circular face is not very pleasant on the eye.
Will the flat tyre look stop me buying this watch? If there was a watch that was similar but with a full round face available for a similar cost then yes it would. We all understand why they have done it with ambient sensors etc located there but it is done at the expense of style and design in my opinion.
The display itself is very usable in bright light, probably because of the excellent ambient sensor in the flat tyre. It is mounted stylishly above the bezel which may not be the best if you are rough with your watches as there is no bezel to protect the face from scratches. There are screen protectors available for smartwatches though if you want to protect the watch face. It may not be very good for preventing scratches but the setting of the display above the bezel looks amazing and adds to the amazing style that Fossil have done in designing this watch.
There doesn’t seem to be much disparity when it comes to the hardware of Android Wear devices. The Fossil is no different, housing an 800MHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100, 4GB of storage and 512MB of RAM. There is Wifi support along with Bluetooth 4.1LE. The watch is IP67 (water resistant) but is NOT waterproof.
Inside there is also a speaker, with holes in the side of the housing allowing for what was astounding sound to come out of the watch. The sound produced was actually better than many phones I have tested in the past.
The holy grail of smartwatches for me is the ability of the manufacturer to get the charging solution correct. Fossil have come very close with the Q Wander by using Qi charging, the same solution Motorola employ for the Moto 360.
The inclusion of Qi charging accounts for the slightly thicker casing, having to include the Qi charging coils within it but the ease at which it charges is perfect. There is no struggling to try and get it to sit correctly on pogo pins ala the Huawei watch but instead you just pop the watch onto the included Qi charging plate and it charges. The USB plug for the charger has an LED in it that lights up to signify when charging is occurring — very handy indeed. My only issue with it is that it is obviously not the fast Qi charging as included in some phones but the slow Qi charging. Charge it overnight and it’s not an issue but if you need a quick top up during the day it won’t be a fast process.
There is one notable exclusion from the Q Wander — a heart rate monitor. In my opinion this watch is not designed to be used for sports and it definitely does NOT look like a sports watch so it is not required. I can count on one finger the amount of times I have used the heart rate monitor on the Huawei Watch so this exclusion does not affect me in the slightest. This is not the sort of watch I would wear while exercising.
The Q Wander has a 360mAh battery which seems to be on a par with most smartwatches. I was able to get my usual two days of battery life out of the watch, using it from around 845am until 530pm and turning it off in between. If this is insufficient for you then it may be important to keep in mind the slow charging of the Q Wander as having to charge it during the day is time consuming.
Due to Google’s stranglehold on Android Wear and it’s UI there really isn’t much watch manufacturers can do to customise the experience on their devices apart from the obvious — watch faces.
Fossil have included some of their own watch faces that look stunning. The amount of choice they offer is great and there is customisation within many of the watch faces with respect to tapping different areas of the watch face and also what each area displays. In future I’d like to see more of their brilliant mechanical watch faces converted to digital watch faces and included on their Android Wear watches. Until then there are a plethora of watch faces available on Google Play if the ones included on the watch are not to your liking.
The Fossil Q Wander is aimed at those more discerning individuals who love a good looking stylish watch. It isn’t a rugged watch you would wear to the gym or out hiking but it is not mean to be. The watch has an amazingly beautiful look with the combined recessed bezel/raised display and the well designed metal band that fits well and is comfortable. The Qi charging solution is near perfect as well as the battery life.
The only thing that prevents me from giving this the two thumbs up is the flat tyre on the display. You normally either love it or hate it. I am normally a hater but even with the flat tyre the stylishness of this watch has me considering it in favour of the Huawei Watch which has a perfectly round face. For those on the fence I would say you could get over it, those who don’t mind the flat tyre go for it and those who hate it go and check it out and decide for yourself.
The Fossil Q Wander retails for $479 online with any type of band from the Fossil website but instore I was told the price was $499 for the metal banded Q Wander and $479 for the silicon band version. I would recommend you go and check it out at your local Fossil store before purchasing — it could well be worth it.