Saturday, February 24, 2024

One of the biggest smartwatch makers just gave up on Wear OS

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Fossil Gen 5 watch face.Corey Gaskin / Digital Trends

The first smartwatch I recall buying from a lifestyle outlet, and not a smartphone or multi-branded electronics store, was the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle. It was a conscious decision, as I didn’t want to wear a Fitbit or the Apple Watch to parties or family events like some frumpish tech nerd. Those days are officially over, as Fossil has decided to quit the smartwatch business.

The global fashion brand tells The Verge that the Fossil Gen 6 — which got a Wellness Edition refresh in 2022 — was its last smartwatch. “As the smartwatch landscape has evolved significantly over the past few years, we have made the strategic decision to exit the smartwatch business,” Fossil COO Jeff Boyer told the outlet.

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The company says it will continue supporting its existing Wear OS smartwatches portfolio for the “next few years.” Unfortunately, “existing” and “few” are rather flexible terms here, and not necessarily in a good way.

Fossil

A Fossil flagship store executive tells Digital Trends that the current-gen, Gen 6 will get software updates for two years. When asked to clarify whether that includes annual Wear OS updates or just security-centric updates, the executive declined to offer any more details.

On inquiring about the older-generation Fossil Gen 5 smartwatches and whether they will also get the same treatment, we were told that they are awaiting more clarity on that. However, it’s a bleak picture. The Fossil Gen 6 (with the Snapdragon Wear 4100+ chip inside) is already a generational laggard in Qualcomm’s portfolio, while the Fossil Gen 5 series relies on an even older Snapdragon Wear 3100 silicon.

A sadly predictable demise

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Notably, it seems that Fossil wants to offload its inventory of Wear OS smartwatches, and that the signs of Wear OS shuttering had been communicated internally well in advance. At least two Fossil Exclusive retail stores told Digital Trends they have been running a healthy 50% discount on a handful of Fossil Gen 6 smartwatch models.

As far as warranties go, we were told that if a customer purchases a Fossil Gen 6 smartwatch today, they will get a hardware warranty worth one year. That’s the standard warranty policy for major markets, including the United States. However, Fossil appears to be sweetening the deal for its last-ditch-effort loyalists.

Digital Trends was told by the brand’s exclusive outlets that if you buy a Fossil Gen 6 unit at a 50% discount but the smartwatch runs into an issue within the first year of purchase, you will get a store credit worth the original non-discounted retail price and that it can be used to buy any other Fossil lifestyle and fashion accessory on the shelf.

But the software update situation is a bit tricky. Because OS updates tend to target a certain baseline in terms of processing power, it’s hard to imagine that the Fossil Gen 5 lineup will get the same two-year update treatment as the relatively newer Gen 6 smartwatches.

Find me a noun-Fossil smartwatch that looks as luxuriously decadent as this one. I dare you! Fossil

However, since the Fossil Gen 5 has been discontinued officially, you will only be getting the newer Gen 6 at retail outlets. But the writing has been on the wall for a while now.

Fossil hasn’t released a next-gen smartwatch since the Gen 6 family’s arrival. Qualcomm launched the Snapdragon Wear 5 (or W5) and its Plus variants midway through 2022, but Fossil didn’t release a new product based on the fresh Qualcomm wearable silicon.

It’s a shame that Fossil has had to exit the smartwatch world, especially at a time when the Wear OS + Tizen OS merger gave a new life to the Android smartwatch ecosystem. But more importantly, Fossil was the only brand that made stylish and fashionable smartwatches that didn’t look like a boringly mainstream must-have gizmo serving as a tech statement.

Or, at worst, a thick wristwear with a screen that was seemingly pulled from the Ben 10 universe!

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