Fossil’s Gen 5 and its numerous spinoffs have been around since 2019, making them old hands in the smartwatch world. Clearly, then, the Wear OS device is due for a replacement. But just what will the follow-up look like, and will it be a worthy upgrade given changes in the market? Here’s what we’d like to see, along with a few clues as to what to expect.
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A new processor
Ask most Gen 5 owners what they dislike — or most Wear OS watch owners, for that matter — and they’ll likely point to the aging Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip inside. It felt old and sluggish in 2019, let alone now. Fossil needs to update Gen 6 with modern processing power if it’s going to compete with the Apple Watch and more recent Wear OS devices like the Ticwatch Pro 3.
Thankfully, that upgrade seems quite likely. The Snapdragon Wear 4100 has been available for a while and would be an obvious upgrade for Fossil Gen 6 between its much-improved performance (up to 85%, Qualcomm claims) and extended battery life. These wouldn’t just improve the overall experience — they could be crucial to making the most of features like sleep tracking.
A software overhaul
The software on the Gen 5 is outdated, to put it mildly. Google hasn’t done much with Wear OS for years, and Fossil’s customizations can only do so much to improve the experience. If Fossil Gen 6 is going to fare well against the competition, it needs a thoroughly modern interface that competes with the best from Apple and Samsung.
There’s a real chance we’ll get that wish, and it’s not hard to see why: Google and Samsung are teaming up for a Wear OS overhaul. It should deliver visual upgrades, a new “experience,” an improved app ecosystem, and upgrades to health and fitness (with Fitbit’s help). While it’s too soon to say if this will work well in practice, it’s comforting to know a revamp is underway — even a modest improvement could make Fossil Gen 6 more compelling to Wear OS skeptics.
More sensors and wireless tech
Wear OS watchmakers haven’t strayed far from a recognizable mix of sensors and wireless connections. You’ll frequently find a heart rate sensor, NFC for tap-to-pay services, and increasingly aging versions of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. You’ll occasionally find an LTE model if you’re lucky. That’s been fine for a while, but Fossil Gen 6 needs to move on if it’s going to live up to its potential as a smart, fitness-savvy wearable.
Health sensors could stand the largest upgrades. You can find blood oxygen sensors on wristwear like the Apple Watch, while the Fitbit Sense even has an electrodermal sensor to measure your stress. Future watches might add glucose monitoring to help people with diabetes keep their blood sugar levels in check. While Fossil Gen 6 doesn’t need all of these to succeed, it would be easier to justify if it could keep track of your health and even warn you of potentially life-threatening conditions.
The Fossil Gen 6 doesn’t need the best health sensors to succeed, but it at least needs improvements over the Gen 5.
And yes, Fossil ought to modernize the wireless connectivity in Gen 6. That seems likely if there’s a chip upgrade, but it’s important all the same. Even relatively well-established technologies like Bluetooth 5 and Wi-Fi 5 (we wouldn’t expect Wi-Fi 6) could improve reliability, performance, and battery life, particularly for demanding tasks like music streaming. We’d also like to see faster data on cellular models, although 5G is unlikely given how it still demands a lot of power.
Variety in case sizes and designs
Fossil has been more accommodating of various genders and fashion tastes for its smartwatches, thanks in no small part to wearables from sub-brands like Kate Spade, Michael Kors, and Skagen. However, Fossil still has a lot of design work left if Gen 6 is going to appeal to everyone.
Most notably, Fossil ought to bring a wider range of case sizes to Gen 6. As women and other thin-wristed people will tell you, smartwatches are often too large to look fashionable. The smallest Gen 5 and 5E watches have a 42mm case — that’s enormous for some wearers. Although screen sizes and battery life will indeed dictate a certain minimum size, it’s clear Fossil ought to take a cue from rivals like Apple and make smaller watches that look at home on more wrists.
We’d add that the designs themselves are, frankly, lackluster. As many cases and strap styles as Fossil offers, the Gen 5 line is fairly predictable. Even brands like Michael Kors and Skagen haven’t veered that far from familiar concepts. You have to spring for Diesel’s transparent Fadelite to get an exciting Fossil design, and that won’t do if Gen 6 is going to stand out.
Don’t expect a whole lot of variety on launch. Fossil executives recently revealed that they planned a lone “premium” Gen 6 watch under the brand, with sub-brands offering something similar. We’d like to see the company be much more ambitious, though. It could introduce more case styles and materials (ceramic or titanium, anyone?), bolder colors, and fanciful bands that aren’t just the usual leather straps and steel bracelets. If Apple can work wonders with a braided loop, a veteran watchmaker like Fossil can surely innovate.
Fossil Gen 6 release date and price
As to when will Fossil will provide a release date for Gen 6? That’s a tough call. Rumors have pegged a launch as early as July 2021, but we wouldn’t count on that with Google’s Samsung collaboration on the horizon. Fossil might wait until the new software is ready to compete with rival Wear OS watches, not to mention third-party rivals.
The price of Fossil Gen 6 might be more predictable. Gen 5 debuted at a reasonable $295, and we wouldn’t expect its sequel to cost much more unless there are pricier case and strap choices. The smartwatch world is fiercely competitive, and a good value is crucial if Gen 6 is going to stand a chance.