Wearables

Versatile watch with classic style

For those undecided between getting an analogue watch or a smartwatch, the Fossil Hybrid HR smartwatch is for you.

It looks like an analogue watch with its hour and minute hands, and the three buttons on its right.

However, its watch face has a round e-ink display that shows information and notifications such as incoming messages and social media alerts.

As implied by its HR moniker, it has a built-in heart rate monitor, on top of being able to track daily physical activities such as steps taken, calories burnt, active minutes and sleep.

The smartwatch comes in two models: Collider and Charter. The Collider has a black watch case, with three designs featuring different straps and bezels of darker colours. The Charter has a rose gold watch case with pink silicone or rose gold metallic straps. I tested a Collider with a black silicone strap.

Unlike some smartwatches that are platform-specific, the Hybrid HR supports both iPhones and Android smartphones via the Fossil Hybrid app.

The app allows users to customise the functions of the smartwatch's buttons. For instance, you can set the top right button to activate workout mode, the bottom right button to control music and the middle button to bring up the wellness dashboard that shows your fitness stats for the day.

With the app, you can change the type of information shown on the e-ink display. However, you can show only four sets of information at most, which are displayed in circles and called complications.

There are nine types of information - from the chance of rain to the battery level - to choose from for each complication.

You can also change the background of the e-ink display. I chose the Liverbird background to show everyone my allegiance to the Liverpool football club.

  • FOR

    •Classic analogue look

    •E-ink display shows information all the time

    •Customisable watch face

    •Long battery life

    AGAINST

    •Suspect heart rate monitoring

    •Sleep tracking could be better

    •No built-in GPS

    TECH SPECS

    PRICE: From $349

    WATER RESISTANCE: 30m

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth

    WEIGHT: 63g (with silicone strap)

    RATING

    FEATURES: 3.5/5

    DESIGN: 4.5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

There are a number of niceties that Fossil has included. One is the illumination of the e-ink display by double-tapping the watch face, so you can see it better in the dark.

Another is that the hour and minute hands will move to the nine and three o'clock positions when there is a notification, so you can read it more easily.

But it is a bit of a hassle to press and hold the middle button to get the smartwatch to revert to normal. With other smartwatches, it usually takes a single press of a button to do so.

The Hybrid HR has no built-in GPS. Instead, it uses your smartphone's GPS to track runs, so you need to have your smartphone with you when running. It tracked around 100m more than the distance of my usual 5km jogging route.

In terms of step tracking, it tracked around 6 per cent more than my calibrated Apple Watch Series 4. Not bad.

For sleep monitoring, while it breaks up sleep into "awake", "light sleep" and "deep sleep" phases, it could not pinpoint the time I slept or when I woke up in the middle of the night. In fact, I think I had many "awake" periods, which might have been the result of too much tossing in my sleep.

I also find the heart rate monitoring to be suspect. There were times when the smartwatch registered my resting heart rate to be as high as 192 beats per minute. I do not even hit that mark during workouts.

 
 
 

The best part of the Hybrid HR is its long battery life, which is rated at more than two weeks on a full charge.

I found this to be true during the review. After wearing it for 13 days - even to sleep - while paired with a smartphone and with two 5km jogs clocked in, the Hybrid HR's battery level dropped to 12 per cent.

If you are looking for a smartwatch with long battery life and notifications, the Fossil Hybrid HR Collider might fit the bill. But if you want one for fitness use, look elsewhere.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2020, with the headline 'Versatile watch with classic style'. Print Edition | Subscribe