Fossil Q Founder review

Fossil's Q Founder puts style before smarts

Fossil’s stunning Q Founder smartwatch made us believe in love at first sight.
Fossil’s stunning Q Founder smartwatch made us believe in love at first sight.
Fossil’s stunning Q Founder smartwatch made us believe in love at first sight.

Highs

  • High-class style
  • Strong build quality
  • Looks like a mechanical watch
  • Competitive price
  • IP67 protection rating

Lows

  • Screen doesn't fill watch face
  • Charging pillow is impractical
  • Lacking high-tech features

It’s conventional wisdom that smartwatches are a letdown because they’re a piece of tech first, and a fashion accessory second. In 2015, the landscape started to change, thanks to stylish watches like the Huawei Watch, Apple Watch, and second-generation Moto 360. Even so, these were smartwatches made by tech companies – not fashion designers. Enter the Fossil Q Founder, a smartwatch that’s way ahead of the game, because it puts style before smarts.

The Fossil Q Founder is my current favorite Android Wear smartwatch, and I recommend it to anyone who wants a great looking watch that also shows notifications from your smartphone via a Bluetooth connection. If that sounds like a rather clinical summation of the review that’s about to follow, it is, but there’s a very good reason for the summary — the Q Founder is technically unremarkable, but really fantastic looking.

While the Fossil Q Founder may be my favorite Android Wear watch, there simply is no strong reason why it should take that honor – besides the fact that it looks fantastic. It doesn’t have a wide range of unbelievable features, the strap isn’t made of dried phoenix wing or something truly unique, and the software can be bothersome. It just happens to make my heart flutter when I catch sight of it on my wrist.

The Q Founder is the first reasonably priced Android Wear watch a lot of people will actually want to wear. However, the Q Founder isn’t perfect. While I may be prepared to accept its shortcomings, that may not be the case for everyone – especially tech geeks. Let’s take a closer look.

Heavy metal

Fossil’s Q Founder feels like a real mechanical watch. The body has a huge amount of weight, and it feels heavier in my hands than just about any other Android Wear smartwatch. Put it on, and the weight soon disappears. What’s left in its place is the impression of a solidly built watch. Even with the steel strap attached to the watch, the Q Founder won’t weigh down your wrist too much. The slightly cheaper leather strap model will be lighter — but less attractive, too.

The stainless steel strap is thick and strong, but it’ll need adjusting by a professional (or an amateur with the right tools) before it properly fits your wrist. Bracelet-style straps can often be uncomfortable for men with hairy arms, but it didn’t cause me to shriek in pain, nor did it get too sweaty under normal use. It’s not a sports watch, and therefore would look out of place in the gym. It’s a smart casual watch, and looked at its best peeking out from a shirt cuff.

Slide the Q Founder over your wrist, snap the clasp shut, and stretch out your arm. It’ll all make sense. This is a beautiful watch, and it makes you feel special with it on. The build quality feels higher than any other smartwatch we’ve worn, and the finish is superb. That’s a strong recommendation for a regular watch, let alone a smartwatch.

This is a beautiful watch, and it makes you feel special when you wear it.

The Q Founder will absolutely look odd on a small wrist and it definitely has a masculine feel. It’s a bold watch, and although it suited my average sized wrist, the women who did try it on thought it looked ungainly and repeatedly commented on the weight. Perhaps the leather strapped model — which has more air between the body and the strap for a daintier look — would be better on a woman’s wrist, but with the metal strap, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than a man buying it.

Examine the body more closely and you’ll see the Fossil branding on the clasp, the circular face nestling in the tray-like body, and — disappointingly — the plastic back where you won’t find a heart rate sensor. We told you Fossil put the watch before the tech. It’s not a huge loss, because the Q Founder isn’t sporty at all, and it definitely doesn’t need the additional strain on the battery.

However, Fossil’s decision to seal the Q Founder up does have a bonus effect. The watch boasts an IP67 water and dust resistance rating. This means it’ll withstand a dip in up to a meter of water, and won’t suck in dust particles either.

Tech doesn’t come first

We’ve mentioned technical shortcoming number one — no heart rate sensor — and now it’s time to talk about shortcoming number two. The 1.5-inch circular screen has that divisive flat tire look just like the Moto 360. Yes, it lets the ambient light sensor do its job, but it’s not pretty. The flattened circle does its best to ruin the sleek custom watch faces that come installed on the Q Founder. Functionality isn’t affected, but it’s impossible to deny a completely round screen would be a visual improvement. The 360 x 325 pixel resolution is acceptable, but don’t expect Huawei Watch-level detail. Like the flat tire design itself, the resolution could be improved upon.

[specifications product_id=”909449″ align=”left”]

Most smartwatches have a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 512MB of RAM powering them. The Q Founder has an unnamed Intel chip and 1GB of RAM. Does that turn it into a rocket ship? Not really, but using complex apps like Google Maps was fluid and speedy, particularly when zooming in and out, where the maps rendered quickly with an above average signal on the phone. Sliding through apps and notifications saw no delays, and everything was smooth and attractive.

Issues came from the Android Wear software itself. Dismissing endless notifications is still a pain, and the Q Founder would sometimes get confused and not bother dismissing them at all. Voice control’s the same environment-dependent feature it always was. Talk to the watch in a relatively quiet place, and it’s fine. Busy streets cause problems, but it doesn’t really matter, because talking to your watch makes you look silly. All this is the state of Android Wear in general, and the experience is the same regardless of whether you spend $100 on an aging first-generation model, or $1,500 on a TAG Heuer Carrera Connected.

For the first week, I used the Q Founder with an iPhone. Android Wear has limited functionality with the iPhone, but I like smartwatches that only give me notifications. It does that very well, and the iOS app has improved considerably since release. The watch connected easily, and stayed that way. Swapping to Android, I connected the watch to the Blu Pure XL, running Android 5.1. This also meant I could use the Fossil Q companion app, for all it was worth.

Fossil Q Founder smartwatch
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

You get quick access to Fossil’s special watch faces, plus a feature called Q Curiosity. It’s a weird challenge-based life tracker, where my first task was to take a picture of what was in my bag. I did. That was it. Other odd, random challenges followed each week. Perhaps it’ll be of interest to some people, and the idea is fun, but it isn’t worth installing the app for. No wonder Q Curiosity wants to send you reminders to use the feature each day.

Charging pillow

It seems to be impossible to get charging right on an Android Wear watch. The Fossil Q Founder doesn’t have any ports, nor does it have those pins for a magnetic charging plate. Instead it comes with a fancy, but entirely impractical, charging pillow that’s also a stand. An Apple Watch-style charge disc is built into the pillow, and the watch sits on top to charge, while the strap keeps it tightly in place. A Micro USB cord plugs in the back, and it charges up in about an hour.

Fans of Fossil’s traditionally chunky looks will love the Q Founder.

It looks fantastic on a desk, and the setup les you see the display at all times. Except when I go away, I don’t want to carry a massive charger with me. It just gets in the way. It’s not like leaving it at home is an option either — you’ll get 24 hours of medium use out of the Q Founder before the 10-percent charge warning comes up. The charging pillow may keep the Q Founder comfy at home, but it’s completely impractical. If I had the ability to unclip the charging plate and slip it into a travel bag; that would make it perfect.

Warranty

Fossil covers the Q Founder with a standard warranty that lasts for two years after the date of purchase. You can read all about it here.

A smartwatch for people who like watches

The Q Founder is big and a bit heavy, it doesn’t come packed with high tech features, and the software is the same Android Wear interface you’ll find on any Android Wear smartwatch. And yet … I really like it. The steel strap is the right size and thickness for my wrist, the case isn’t covered in stupid, ostentatious design details, and there is a crown on the side that looks like a proper watch crown, even though it’s just a button.

It looks damn smart worn with the right clothes, and is a world apart from toy-like smartwatches such as the early LG G Watch and the Pebble. It’s a watch, and it looks like one. It goes with everything, tells the time, and then also helps out with notifications, step count, and navigation. Anyone who complains that smartwatches don’t look or function like mechanical watches should take a long look at the Fossil Q Founder and shut up.

The DT Accessory Pack

It’s also well priced, provided you live in America. At $295, it’s cheaper than our other favorite Android Wear watch, the Huawei Watch. Personally, I think it’s better looking, but I prefer the Huawei Watch’s stunning screen. The dainty-of-wrist will also gravitate towards the sleeker Huawei model, and it has a heart rate sensor, which will matter to some. Fans of Fossil’s traditionally chunky looks will love the Q Founder. In the U.K., it’s £280, and that’s a lot more than the Moto 360 2nd Generation — a watch that has more features, and the same flat tire display.

In what will surely be an irritating conclusion, the Fossil Q Founder comes recommended almost solely because it performs the basic functions of an Android Wear smartwatch without issue, and looks fantastic on the right wrist. The fact that it’s not the most technically capable is moot. It’s a fabulous looking watch made by an established watch maker, and like the TAG Heuer Carrera Connected, it will be exactly what watch fans who want some tech cool in their lives have been hoping for. However, unlike the TAG watch, it’s not so expensive that no one but collectors will buy it. The Q Founder is the device the smartwatch industry needs, but sadly, anyone who puts tech first will find it simplistic.

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