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Hands on: Fossil Q Wander and Q Marshal

Fossil is so much more than a fashion brand these days. The watch and leather goods maker crossed over into the tech world with a flurry of smart watches and smart analog watches. Among the three Android Wear smartwatches that Fossil has made so far, there’s one that’s made specifically for the ladies, the Q Wander, and two made for men, the Q Marshal and the Q Founder. Any watchmaker worth his gears will tell you that design is everything with watches. Everything from the angle of the lugs to the shape of the casing and the quality of the materials is incredibly important.

While technology companies like Samsung enlist Swiss watch designers to improve smartwatch design, Fossil is already there. Its challenge is technology. Luckily, Fossil has some help from Misfit, a fitness wearable company it bought recently, and Google, which makes the Android Wear operating system available to its partners.

We took a look at the ladylike Q Wander and the subtle, masculine Q Marshall, to see how Fossils tech is shaping up.

The Q wander: A big, bold, feminine watch

Believe it or not, the Fossil Q Wander has a 45mm casing, which is on the large end for women’s watches. It’s also rather thick at 13.5mm. When I first saw it, I was sure it’d be too big and bulky, but when I tried it on, it actually felt comfortable and didn’t overwhelm my wrist.

Related: These are the 5 best Android Wear devices right now

Fossil has used two classic watchmaking tricks to make the Q Wander look smaller than it really is. The lugs are slim and angled specifically to suit women’s wrists. And instead of having hard edges that would make it look bulky and awkward, it’s curved beautifully. The crown on the side of the watch feels very nice, too, and serves as the power button.

Android Wear 2.0 greatly improves the look and feel of the OS.

It’s hard to tell in pictures, but the Q Wander looks quite lovely on women’s wrists. It’s a bit similar to the second-generation Moto 360, which also offered a women’s version, though Fossil is larger in size. The rose gold casing and 22mm tan leather strap I tried on added to the air of femininity, and the shiny gold tone made the bulk of the watch disappear. You can use any 22mm strap you want on the Q Wander, which is great for those who change watch straps regularly.

Fossil created a number of nice watch faces for the Q Wander, which you can customize with different color schemes. The watch faces mimic Fossil’s analog watches, but there are digital options for those who want something less traditional. You can, of course, use any watch face from the Google Play Store. The colors reproduced on the screen looks sharp and bright, but it is a flat tire display, so the bottom edge is sadly hacked off.

The Q Marshal: A subtle, masculine watch

The Q Wander goes some way to fix the only major problem with the Q Founder — it wasn’t in any way suitable for skinny wrists. The Wander is distinctly feminine, but there are men who want a more subtle smartwatch too. The new Q Marshal retains a masculine style, without the Founder’s chunkiness.

In black, with a textured edge running around the face, it’s a stylish watch. And with the matte black silicone strap, it gains panther-like stealth appeal. Trying it with a brown leather band with stitched black edging gave it more of a classic Fossil look. There’s a single button on the side of the case to activate the settings menu on the device, but it’s otherwise a clean design.

Compared to the Q Founder, the Q Marshal is just a little more subtle, a little more svelte, and the slimmed lugs mean it doesn’t stand out quite so much on smaller wrists. The numbers prove what we can see. The Q Marshal’s case is 2mm smaller, and 1mm thinner than the Q Founder. Also, the twisted design around the screen calms down the style compared to the flat surface on the Q Founder. It’s still primarily a man’s watch, but has lost most of the Q Founder’s “look at me” brashness when paired with anything other than the metal link strap.

Android Wear powered by Qualcomm

Both watches are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor, which promises zippier performance to Android Wear watches, and should assist in prolonging battery life. The Q Founder used an Intel chip, so this is a considerable change for Fossil. In our quick hands on, the processing seemed very fluid, though we’ll have to test it more to be sure.

The Q Marshal’s battery capacity is 360mAh, smaller than the Q Founder’s 400mAh cell. Still, Fossil says you’ll still get a day’s worth of use from the watch. The Q Wander has the same battery capacity, which charges up wirelessly via an easy-to-use charger, and should last all day on a charge, according to Fossil.

Sadly, there’s no heart rate monitor on either. But you can track your fitness metrics, thanks to the accelerometer and gyroscope on board. Like most Android Wear watches, it connects to your phone via Bluetooth and uses your phone’s GPS. The current version of Android Wear is installed now, and an upgrade to version 2.0 will come in the near future, according to a Fossil representative.

Related: Hands on: Android Wear 2.0

Android Wear 2.0 greatly improves the look and feel of the OS, so it can’t come soon enough. The watch was in demo mode and not connected to a phone when we tried it, so it’s impossible to comment fully on the experience. But as Android Wear is almost identical regardless of the watch it’s on, we doubt it’ll be drastically different to the Q Founder.

Price and availability

The Fossil Q Wander and Q Marshal are available to buy online for $295, or $315 depending on your choice of strap and case color, which is relatively cheap for a smartwatch. Fossil sells watch bands right on its site, too, or you can check out some on Amazon (buyer beware).

Buy at Fossil

Highs

  • Attractive designs for both men and women
  • You can use any 22mm strap
  • Powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 2100
  • Decent price for a smartwatch

Lows

  • No heart rate monitor
  • Not waterproof