Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

The Fossil Gen 5’s custom WearOS enhancements stand out from the crowd

Google has been notoriously slow at sending out meaningful software updates to WearOS, so Fossil has taken things into its own hands and delivered its feature update to the Gen 5 range of smartwatches. Fossil calls them “enhancements,” and there are five to look out for: A Wellness app, sleep tracking, VO2 max data, a new phone app, and a new set of extended battery modes.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

But wait, didn’t Google buy Fossil’s smartwatch division? Indeed it did, and while the details around what Google actually purchased are confusing, there’s a chance what we’re seeing on the Gen 5 smartwatch is a part Fossil, part Google endeavor.

The question is, does it make WearOS on these watches better than before. And is it a reason to buy one?

The features

I’ve been using the Fossil Garret HR smartwatch with the new enhancements onboard. If you’ve used a Fossil smartwatch you’ll know they come with some pre-installed apps from the brand already, and the Wellness app is another to add to the collection. Wellness is a Google Fit alternative, and includes a basic indoor or outdoor workout tracker, a sleep tracker, and a VO2 max report.

Fossil’s Wellness app when it tracks a workout Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

As a workout tracker, it’s considerably more basic than Google Fit, but it’s the changes made to the way the watch handles fitness tracking that are more compelling. The Wellness app has been adapted to use the Snapdragon 3100’s co-processor to handle heart rate and movement tracking, which in theory lowers the demand on the main processor, and lessens strain on the battery.

WearOS smartwatches have always had trouble with battery life, and although advancements have been made recently, lasting a full day was often impossible. On its own, there doesn’t seem to be a big difference in battery performance, but if you use it with the new Custom Battery mode, you just may get a noticeable improvement.

Fossil’s Custom battery mode Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Custom mode joins the existing Extended and Time Only battery modes, and it lets you turn off the features you don’t use and keep the ones that are important active. On my watch, I used the Always-on screen, tilt-to-wake, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and location. I deactivated NFC, always-listening mode for Google Assistant, sounds, and touch-to-wake. This suits my use now, and I like being able to toggle location (a serious battery hog) on and off accordingly. It’s accessed quickly through the swipe-down Settings menu, and it’s simple to use, with clearly marked toggles.

Combine this with the Wellness app, and moderate battery life increases should come — but don’t expect big changes. For me, it seems to last a little longer than it did before the update arrives. I’m talking about up to an hour, rather than an extra day.

I saw more noticeable benefits on the Suunto 7, which uses a similar technique to manage fitness tracking, after Suunto worked closely with Qualcomm to send some of the fitness tracking duties towards the co-processor. It seems Fossil’s approach hasn’t replicated that success.

Fossil’s VO2 Max monitoring Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

What else do you get in the Fossil update? There’s now VO2 max tracking, and a new sleep tracking feature.

Which smartwatches will get the update?

Fossil says all Gen 5 watches will receive the new features in an update. This includes the three Fossil-branded Gen 5 smartwatches, the Julianna HR, the Carlyle HR, and the Garrett HR, plus watches based on the same platform from designer brands including Micheal Kors. The software was first sent out to compatible smartwatches in August, but paused soon after while a bug was squashed. It has since restarted and should be available on the above watches now.


Fossil’s enhancements aren’t going to win anyone over who wasn’t a fan of WearOS before. We do see value in using the new Custom extended battery mode and the Wellness app together to increase battery life, even if it’s a very moderate improvement so far. But WearOS owners are starved of attention, so anything is better than nothing.

Fossil’s new features aren’t a reason to buy a Gen 5 over an Apple Watch, or a more focused health watch like the Suunto 7. But if you’re weighing a Gen 5 against another lifestyle WearOS watch, then they are more compelling, if only for their greater level of control over battery life.

What WearOS watches really need is Google itself putting these features into WearOS, so smartwatches not made by Fossil can also benefit. Google has announced a WearOS update for the fall, and while the promised setup improvements and app speed increases will be welcome, there’s no indication the Gen 5 changes will also be included. However, because Google’s update will come to Fossil smartwatches, the Gen 5 will still be one step ahead of the competition.

Editors' Recommendations

Andy Boxall
Senior Mobile Writer
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
The best Wear OS apps for your Google-powered smartwatch
Looking at a smartwatch using the Wear OS.

Some of the best smartwatches run Wear OS , and there are loads of apps that add all sorts of handy capabilities. A great Wear OS app does more than just send notifications to your wrist -- they entertain, track your fitness and health, help you to stay organized, and can indirectly save your phone's battery life, as you're checking your wrist rather than your phone's display.

With all of that in mind, here are our picks of the best Wear OS apps. Most of these apps still rely on a partner app on your smartphone, but a few offer stand-alone functionality. Either way, they're all must-haves for your Wear OS smartwatch.

Read more
Disappointingly, Wear OS 3 won’t be saving Android smartwatches for a while yet
Galaxy Watch 4 Classic on the wrist.

It all started out so well. Google working with Samsung and Fitbit on an updated version of Wear OS that would be faster, provide longer battery life, and enable more apps was exactly what we wanted -- an injection of effort, investment, and excitement into a piece of software that had stagnated for too long.

“It’s not just for Google and Samsung,” said Google’s Sameer Samat about Wear OS 3 at Google I/O 2021, putting our minds at rest, “it’ll continue to be available for all.” Excellent news, but what he actually should have said is, "available for all, eventually," because the software we hoped would be the Android smartwatch’s savior in 2021, won’t really be doing much saving for a while yet.
What’s the problem?
Wear OS 3 is available on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, and that’s the way it looks set to stay until the second half of next year. There’s an argument to be made that it’s right for Samsung to benefit from the software platform it co-developed first, but that’s not the impression Google gave, and not really the idea behind any of Google’s software generally. Android has always been for everyone, while Wear OS 3 isn’t just yet.

Read more
Upcoming Fossil Gen 6 swartwatch won’t run Wear OS 3 until 2022
fossil gen 6 specs leak

Fossil this week unveiled its next-generation smartwatch lineup, called the Fossil Gen 6. While fans were excited for the launch, the company revealed that the much-anticipated Fossil Gen 6 will be launched with Wear OS 2 rather than the new Wear OS 3 seen on the latest Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic and Watch 4. This is a surprising and disappointing revelation about the new hardware. 
Users eager for the OS 3 update will have to wait till 2022, when it will be available after a full factory rese is performed, which is something we haven't typically seen required for an OS update. The Gen 6 will also be the first device to have the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 Plus Platform, unlike the new Galaxy Watches, which use the Exynos W920 processor. The company says the new chipset will offer a 30% performance boost compared to Gen 5 devices and more efficient power consumption. 

A notable addition is the SpO2 sensor, which monitors blood oxygen levels with an “upgraded heart rate sensor to allow continuous tracking and improved signal accuracy.” The Gen 6, like its predecessor (the Fossil Gen 5), offers a microphone and speaker functionality for Android and iOS, so you can take calls and use Google Assistant on the go. The Gen 6 also lets you access the Google Play Store to download Google-based apps like Google Pay. You can also download third-party apps like Spotify, which recently started supporting offline playback for Wear smartwatches. This could be a key feature for runners and music lovers who enjoy working with custom playlists. 
Along with the Gen 6’s upgraded features, users can enjoy 8GB of storage and 1GB of RAM with super-optimized battery life (up to 24 hours) for an improved experience that will likely be boosted by the aforementioned Snapdragon Wear 4100+ improvements. It is said to charge twice as fast, “reaching 80% in only a little more than 30 minutes of charging.” The company says this feature is helpful for tracking your sleep, as users can have a fully charged device ready within minutes of waking up after a full night’s use.
The Fossil Gen 6 features a 1.28-inch, AMOLED touchscreen display with 3 ATM water-resistance, making it safe to use when swimming. The Gen 6 comes in two sizes: A 44mm case offering a choice of four colors and a 42mm case offering three colors for added variety and style options. Users also have the option to customize dials and buttons for a more personalized look. 
The Gen 6 is priced starting at $299 and $319, which seems to be consistent with Gen 5 and other Wear smartwatch prices. You can pre-order the Gen 6 on Fossil’s official website, and the company says your order will ship around the end of September if you order now. 

Read more