Fossil Q Explorist review: A great looking Android Wear smartwatch

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Fossil Q Explorist

As crazy as it may be, this really was my first experience with an Android Wear smartwatch.

TA-ratings-95As the Managing Editor of Techaeris, I know this might be a bit hard to believe, but up until quite recently, I’d never used an Android Wear smartwatch. Back in the day, I really felt odd if I weren’t wearing my (decidedly not smart) wristwatch. I grew out of that in roughly high school, but the idea of smartwatches has always intrigued me. How does the Fossil Q Explorist 3rd Gen Android Wear smartwatch work for a relative smartwatch noob? Keep reading this review to find out.

Specifications

  • Notifications: Social Media / Text / Email / App Alerts / Multiple Time Zones / Alarm Clock / Calendar Alerts
  • Functions: Personalize Your Dial / Control Your Music / Voice Activated Google / LED Flashlight / Google Maps Enabled / Interchangeable Watch Band
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth® Smart Enabled / 4.1 Low Energy, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n – Powered by Android Wear™
  • Compatibility: Android™ Devices 4.3+ and iOS 9+ / iPhone 5+
  • Multiple Time Zones: Keep track of the local time and the time in another part of the world.
  • Control your music: Control your music with your phone’s selected music player whether it’s Spotify, Pandora, Soundcloud, Google Play, iTunes or Apple Music.
  • Wireless Charging: Effortlessly charge your Fossil Q by placing it on the inductive charging magnet. No plugging or unplugging of cables required.
  • LED Flashlight: Illuminate the interior of a carryall or small area with the LED flashlight.
  • Activity Tracking: Track your everyday accomplishments: steps, distance (select styles only) and calories burned.
  • Customizable watch straps: Match your Fossil Q to your look in seconds with interchangeable straps.
  • Alarm clock: Set an alarm for wake-ups and workouts (and every reminder in between).
  • Microphone: Use the built-in microphone to do a variety of tasks on your smartwatch using just your voice.
  • Wireless syncing: Automatically syncs to your phone so you can keep tabs on your activity and notifications without ever pushing a button.
  • Auto-update time/date: When traveling to another time zone, your Fossil Q automatically updates to the correct local date and time.
  • Customizable watch faces: Customize the face of your Fossil Q Touchscreen Smartwatch anytime you want. Simply choose a Fossil or Android Wear™ design, adjust the colors, then assign your favorite apps to the dial.
  • Touchscreen functionality: Emails, calls, messages—right at your fingertips.
  • Speaker: The speaker allows you to set audio alarms, make calls and hear sound effects and notifications from apps.

What’s in the Box

  • Fossil Q Explorist 3rd Gen smartwatch
  • USB-A to Wireless charging cable
  • Quick Start guide
  • Warranty information

You don’t need much to get started, and it’s all in the box.

Design

The Fossil Q Explorist has a very classic, rugged, circular design. The bezel is scalloped and looks as though it could rotate (as some bezels do), but it does not. The crown, on the other hand, does rotate, which opens up navigation and use options that I’ll discuss more in the following sections. The crown has the Fossil diamond logo embossed into the center, and has a ridged exterior to facilitate its turning.

Flanking the crown are two buttons which can be configured to open apps via the watch settings. By default, the bottom button is set to open Google Play while the top opens the Fossil Q watch app. There is also a Fossil Q app for Android/iOS, but that is only compatible with non-touchscreen Fossil devices including hybrid smartwatches, fitness trackers, etc. Between the top button and the crown is a small hole for the microphone, while the other side of the watch includes five holes for a speaker. The bottom of the watch has the Fossil logo and name mark, and has a black centered circular area where the wireless charging puck attaches magnetically.

Watch detail.

The case comes in several finishes with several different band, including a stainless steel case with brown leather, luggage leather, or stainless steel band, a rose gold case with a navy leather band, or a smoke stainless steel case with smoke stainless steel band. My testing was completed using the smoke stainless steel, and the watch really just looks fantastic.

The stainless steel band includes a pushbutton deployment clasp that locks tight but opens easily with a light press. I was lucky in that the watch fit my wrist nearly perfectly out of the box (it is maybe just slightly too tight, but not uncomfortable), though one thing to keep in mind particularly with the stainless steel band is the weight. Sure, 12oz may not sound like too much, but it’s a little bit different when you’ve got ¾ of a pound swinging around at the end of your arm, especially if you’re not accustomed to wearing a watch. I was able to adapt pretty quickly, but the initial shock was memorable.

Stainless Steel watch band detail

My only real complaint about the design of the phone comes from wearing it on my left wrist. I mentioned that the watch fits maybe just slightly too tight, so it sits pretty securely on my wrist. Pressing on the crown will turn on the screen, while a long press on the crown will invoke Google Assistant. I would find Assistant popping up frequently when I would bend my wrist, or press my hand flat against a surface because the button would get pressed up against the top of my hand. Once opened, Assistant is listening, but you won’t be talking directly to it, so I found I’d occasionally have some unusual Assistant results on my watch face out of nowhere. Your mileage may vary, and a simple swipe is enough to clear Assistant from the screen so this was not a huge dealbreaker for me by any means.

Software/Ecosystem

The Fossil Q Explorist, surprisingly, is my first foray into Android Wear territory, so while I can’t speak to the myriad improvements that I hear Android Wear 2.0 has over the earlier releases, I can say that I found Wear 2.0 to be very easy to navigate and full of features. Everything from binding apps to the available hardware buttons to catching incoming notifications at a glance, to customizing your watch faces in many ways, Wear 2.0 is very smooth.

Included are your standard Wear types of apps, including Alarm, Calculator, Flashlight, Timer, and others. There are several games included as well, Bolt Bot, and Maze. The Fossil Q app allows for increased customization for Fossil watch faces, as well as adding the ability to create and accept Sharecodes, which let you share your setup or receive the setup of someone else to use on your watch.

Ease of Use

At its most basic, using the Fossil Q Explorist 3rd Edition is as easy as looking at the time on your wrist. I can’t imagine anybody buying a smartwatch simply to tell the time, so clearly we’ll have to delve deeper here. Connecting the watch to your phone is simple using the Android Wear app, and moving on from there is pretty straightforward as well.

If you’re new to Android Wear (as I was) there will be some trial and error, but most everything is pretty easy to get at. Settings come with a swipe down from the top of the display, notifications are pulled up from the bottom, and watch faces are changed by swiping either to the left or right from the main home screen. If you’re one who isn’t a fan of fingerprints or smudges on your touchscreen, the rotating crown allows for vertical scrolling through menus, notifications, and other areas where vertical scrolling is available.

New watch faces can be installed via Google Play (on the watch), and many watch faces allow for additional customization whether it be different colors, or newly added complications, which let apps display information on the watch face. On their own, these complications aren’t quite as helpful as they could be, though there are apps available — including Wearable Notifications by our friend and smartwatch enthusiast John Burke — that make complication notifications quite a lot more informative. Complications are still a nice addition to Android Wear, but it’s also nice to be able to get even more out of this system.

The watch conveniently fits large wrists without issue.

You can make phone calls via the Explorist, though by default that ability is turned off. You can enable phone calls in the watch settings under Settings > Connectivity > Bluetooth > Play phone voice call on watch.

Performance

For the most part, everything here works really well. Interacting with the UI is responsive, the always-on display was easy to read in its low energy mode in most lighting. Flipping your wrist up (in a manner consistent with looking at your watch) will automatically turn on the screen and give you a brighter look at your watch face. I found that more deliberate movements worked better than quick twists, though there really weren’t any instances when I wasn’t at least able to tell the time at a quick glance.

When notifications come through, they automatically pop up on the screen, and are very easy to read. You can interact with these notifications with a tap, or dismiss with a swipe. You’re able to input text via voice, or a miniature Google Keyboard. The keyboard really works surprisingly well, though I wouldn’t recommend it for anything more than a quick response. In most notifications, you’re also given quick reply options that will send with a tap. Some are more useful than others, but it’s nice to have those options if you’d like to use them.

I mentioned using the watch for voice calls earlier, though that’s really kind of hit or miss. I found that the mic didn’t always pick up my voice right away — especially for Google Assistant calls — so using the watch to answer calls may not be the best use of this watch. It’s neat as a kind of a gimmick, but probably not anything that will get used regularly.

Battery Life

As with any device with a battery, your mileage will obviously vary based on your usage, watch faces, and other settings. Fossil simply says that you should be able to get a day’s worth of battery life out of the Fossil Q Explorist, and I believe that’s a pretty accurate assessment. I tend to get a lot of notifications, so this watch was buzzing and lighting up pretty frequently, and even with pretty heavy use I could get through an entire day — from 7:30 am until around 11:30 pm — and still have anywhere from 10 – 20% battery life left using the default digital watch face.

This is a really nice looking smartwatch.

If I turned the watch off after I got home from work (when I can more easily just look at my phone for any incoming notifications all the time) I could get two full work days between charges. As I stated up at the top of this section, your mileage may vary, but this watch should have no problem making it through a full day.

Once the watch hits 15% it goes into low power mode, which dims the screen slightly and doesn’t react quite as strongly as notifications come in. Once you’re ready to charge, the included wireless charging puck attaches magnetically to the back of the watch, and as long as you’re not jostling the watch around it should stay connected without issue. You’ll be able to recharge in a couple hours, so I usually just charged overnight.

Price/Value

The Fossil Q Explorist 3rd edition smartwatch starts at $255 USD, though I’d personally really recommend spending the few extra bucks ($275 USD) for the stainless steel band. I really love the way it looks, and the performance of the watch is pretty great too. You’re going to get a good looking smartwatch with a battery that will last you all day. There’s definite value here.

A Google+ post notification resulted in Watchception…

Wrap Up

As crazy as it may be, this really was my first experience with an Android Wear smartwatch. The Fossil Q Explorist 3rd Gen really was a great way to break into the smartwatch scene though. It’s a solidly constructed smartwatch with great looks, and Android Wear 2.0. After a long stretch off leaving watches off of my wrist, it’s gotten to the point of feeling odd when I’m *not* wearing the Fossil Q Explorist.

*We were sent a review sample of the Fossil Q Explorist (3rd Gen) for the purposes of this review.

Fossil Q Explorist

$255+ USD
Fossil Q Explorist
9.5

Design

10/10

    Software/Ecosystem

    10/10

      Ease of Use

      10/10

        Performance

        10/10

          Battery Life

          10/10

            Price/Value

            9/10

              Nailed it

              • Excellent design
              • Quality build
              • Android Wear 2.0 is very smooth
              • Rotating crown

              Needs work

              • Invoked Google Assistant entirely too often when simply bending my wrist
              • Mic didn't always pick up my voice commands immediately
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