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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

I tried Fossil’s Gen 6 Hybrid for a week, and it’s the anti-smartwatch I have been looking for

The ‘herd’ mentality of copying a trend and building a product around it is nothing new. In fact, certain brands are built entirely by cloning a hit product and selling it under a new name with minimum changes. But the new Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid does not belong to the “clone” club. It’s a smartwatch that takes an entirely different approach compared to traditional smartwatches, including the Apple Watch.

With its hybrid analogue-digital design, an e-ink display, built-in ‘smart’ features and two weeks of battery life, the Gen 6 Hybrid is a fresh take on smartwatches. The attempt here is to make an anti-smartwatch for those who don’t like computers on their wrist and want a classic timepiece instead. Does it make sense to purchase the Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid in 2022? Are there better alternatives? We look to answer all these questions below.

The Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid looks like a regular traditional watch but has an e-ink display. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid price in India: Rs 18,495

The classic design

I am not a big fan of smartwatches. Except for the Apple Watch, almost every smartwatch feels like a forced attempt to impose a digital screen on your wrist. For me, my bag or wristwatch defines my personal style. I still get compliments for a Titan watch I bought 17 years ago. The Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid watch has a very classic appeal to it and it goes with everything from your official engagement to your morning walk. My review unit came in the 41mm rose gold case made of stainless steel and had a high-quality black leather band.

The Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid watch has a very classic appeal to it. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

It looks like a regular traditional watch but has an e-ink display (more on that later) — the same type of display you will see on Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader. It’s a high-impact watch, balancing form and function, and available in a range of sizes and band options. There’s also the option to swap the band of your own choice. The three navigation buttons are on the right-hand side of the case. You can use the Fossil app to turn them into shortcuts for different features. The Gen 6 Hybrid has a 3ATM rating meaning it’s splashproof but not fit for swimming or diving.

The E-ink display is convenient

Unlike most smartwatches that either use LCD or OLED colour displays, Fossil’s Gen 6 Hybrid uses an e-ink display. The benefits of e-ink displays are manifold, including superior battery life (more on that later) and outdoor readability. With an e-ink display, the comparison between traditional smartwatches and the Gen 6 Hybrid immediately ends. That display is simply used to show the basics, like the weather, notifications and some fitness options.

The watch tracks my heart rate, and exercise, and even measures blood oxygen levels with the SpO2 sensor.

The watch’s display isn’t lit up automatically. You need to double-tap the display to see the time in the dark. The e-ink screen blends nicely with the watch faces, something I like about e-paper displays. Remember the Gen 6 Hybrid has analogue elements to it as well. The physical watch hands and number marking around the bezels aren’t there for decorative purposes. They never obstruct, the hands automatically move to the three and nine positions when scrolling through menus and the information is displayed above and below them. However, every little bit of information ends on the screen which is annoying. Worse is the slow refresh rate of e-ink displays.

Don’t call it a ‘dumb’ smartwatch

The way you interact with the Gen 6 Hybrid is different from any smartwatches I have used. The watch uses its own in-house operating system that is made for hybrid smartwatches like these. The interface takes a little time to adapt, but you get used to it. Upon pressing the crown, on the main screen, there are small icons displaying things like the weather, music, notifications, heart rate, step count, etc. You can customise different button configurations and watch faces in the smartphone app, which is clean and rich and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

The watch uses its own in-house operating system that is made for hybrid smartwatches like these. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

There’s no NFC for mobile payments, no microphone or speaker for calls, GPS or LTE connectivity. I guess this omission makes sense for a watch like this, which isn’t trying to be a full smartwatch. Of course, you can view notifications but the display is too small and you can’t reply. The ability to control music playback from the watch comes in handy when I don’t feel like holding my iPhone in the park. Alexa support is also there, in case you want to interact with the watch using the smart assistant.

For me what really works is the minimalist “smart” features the watch comes with. As I said in the beginning, I don’t want a computer on my wrist all day. I am fine glancing at the notification on the watch. If I feel like it’s an important one and I need to reply to a WhatsApp message, then I will take out my phone and do it. I am fine with this arrangement.

I see no point in having apps on smartwatches as I don’t use them much. I am happy if the smartwatch I am using monitors health and fitness. The Gen 6 Hybrid does that well. It helps track my heart rate, exercise, and even measure blood oxygen levels with the SpO2 sensor. The watch tracks heart-rate readings and step count and I can confirm that they are accurate (smartwatch heart rate scanners aren’t 100 per cent accurate). There is no need to open the phone and look for statistics. The built-in dashboard is a good way to see the progress you have made in the day. For sleep, it did a pretty decent job but somehow I feel the sleep data was reflected better in Google Fit.

Long-lasting battery

With most smartwatches, including the Apple Watch, shorter battery life is a big issue. Fossil claims the Gen 6 Hybrid can go two weeks on a single charge on average use, and while for some it may seem like exaggerations, I believe in what the company claims. I have had the watch for a week and have charged it once though the device is still sitting at 56 per cent.

Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid review: Should you buy it?

So, after using it for a few days, the Gen 6 Hybrid, I have to admit, is no pushover. There’s always apprehension about using a device that does not ‘fit in’ the traditional scheme of things. For me, the Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid is made from a different thread altogether. This hybrid smartwatch is for average users but has a niche feel to it. I can wear it 24×7 and still find it acceptable for what it offers.


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