Wearable

Fossil Q Explorist HR: Watch's handsome look makes up for poor battery life

In a commentary last year, I said fashion and luxury labels will be the prime mover of the next-generation smartwatches that consumers want.

American fashion label Fossil has just shown how it is done by releasing its fourth-generation Q series touchscreen smartwatches - the Q Explorist HR and Q Venture HR.

The Q Explorist HR has a big 45mm stainless-steel watch case while the Q Venture HR has a smaller 40mm stainless-steel watch case for those with smaller wrists.

I tried out the smoke-grey version of the Q Explorist HR that runs on Google's Wear OS smartwatch platform.

The first thing that struck me is how exquisite and beautiful this smartwatch is. From far, it looks like a classic timepiece.

I like the greyish tone of this version with the colour permeating from the circular watch case to the stainless-steel bracelet strap.

It feels smooth on the skin, but exudes ruggedness.

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $489

    COMPATIBILITY: Smartphones running Android OS 4.4 and above or iOS 9.3 and above

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Near Field Communication (NFC)

    WATER RESISTANCE: 30m

    WEIGHT: 125g (with bracelet strap)

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 2/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

In addition, the smartwatch uses conventional 22mm-wide watch straps. Thus, you can easily get an off-the-shelf replacement strap.

The circular touchscreen watch face is sharp and bright. It provides great visibility even when you are looking at it under bright sunlight.

It supports the Always-On Display (AOD) feature, so you can see the time without lifting your wrist to wake the display up. The touchscreen display is very responsive to swipes and taps.

On the right side of the smatchwatch is a crown sandwiched between two buttons.

The rotatable crown serves as the home button when you press it. You can also turn it to browse the menu instead of using the touchscreen.

By default, the top button is used for activating the Fossil Q app while the bottom button is used for starting workouts. However, these buttons can be customised to start any app of your liking. For example, I used the top button as a shortcut for settings.

The smartwatch also doubles as a fitness watch, as it can count steps, monitor your heart rate and comes with built-in GPS for tracking runs.

In terms of step tracking, the Q Explorist HR counted around 12 per cent fewer steps than my calibrated Apple Watch Series 2.

When it comes to tracking runs, its performance is mixed. It took around 90 seconds to lock onto GPS signals, which is better than some dedicated GPS running watches. But it measured an extra 300m on my usual 5km jogging route.

In terms of heart-rate monitoring, though, its readings did not differ much from the Apple Watch's readings, with at most a difference of four beats a minute.

The smartwatch is water-resistant to a depth of 30m, which means you can shower and swim with it. But the native Google Fit app does not track swims, so you have to download third-party apps, like MySwim Pro, to do so.

Maybe I am spoilt by Apple Watch's intuitive native swim tracking app, but MySwim Pro is really difficult to use. I did not manage to save the swims I did with the watch, despite trying several times.

But the biggest downer is its battery life.

With AOD activated and with the watch constantly connected to a smartphone, I was left with 19 per cent battery at the end of a 10-hour working day.

With AOD deactivated, it was 30 per cent, which is still unimpressive. You probably want to charge it the moment you reach home.

• Verdict: Look beyond the mediocre battery life and the Fossil Q Explorist HR is an affordable, handsome and features-packed Wear OS smartwatch.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2018, with the headline 'Watch's handsome look makes up for poor battery life'. Print Edition | Subscribe