So you spent the last of your hard-earned cash on the latest Apple offering, and a decent smartwatch purchase is on hold for now?
Enter the Fossil Hybrid HR smartwatch with the biggest win of our times - iPhone compatibility, excellent battery life, functionality, and bam – you’re back in the game! It’s got the looks, iPhone compatibility, plus a good mix of style and substance, so things look positive for it in 2020.
Design & display – Sharp and full-bodied
The Hybrid HR is a sleek, traditional-looking timepiece that skips on Google’s Wear OS and goes with Fossil’s own proprietary OS. One look and you’d probably think it’s a traditional steel timepiece (we received the stainless steel strap for review) – with a chunky bezel, metal body, the three pusher buttons on the right – that is, till you pay attention to the subtle detail. Behind the watch hands lie the widgets for notifications, fitness data, weather, date, etc. that you can customise as per your liking once you start using it.
The 1.28in digital e-ink display is sharp, large enough to read with the watch hands moving out of the way when text is displayed. The analogue look works in its favour to give it a more versatile appeal for everyday wristwear.
The Hybrid HR is limited in full-blown smartwatch features, but it’s got your main bases covered. Smartphone notifications, music playback, customisable watch faces, fitness tracking and the newest addition, a heart rate (HR) monitor. The independent Fossil app lets you break away from the limitations synonymous with Wear OS and the break opens up a new territory for Fossil. The app allows notifications from over 30 apps, but that’s up to you if you’d like your wrist to be buzzing at all times. Screen customisations, fitness record, battery life display and managing your Fossil account is well displayed and problem-free.
The area where it falls short of being a proper smartwatch is felt when you want to reach out to the watch and are disappointed by the lack of a touchscreen. In its defense, it was always a ‘hybrid’ to start with. All navigation and control functions are performed by the side buttons – the top button opens the 'Wellness Dashboard,' the middle one displays notifications, and the bottom button takes you to media controls. Holding down the middle key brings you back to the watch face, holding it for a few seconds opens up the settings – which is all good when it comes to adding to the watch’s analogue appeal but falls short on everyday functionality since we’re all so used to having things a touch away.
Having fared well in the looks department, it’s time to put its performance to test. The ‘Hybrid’ tag limits the functionality on the very onset, but there are more than a few things that make it a VFM buy and a good option for a daily wear watch. Its ‘always-on’ display keeps your numbers on the screen at all times, which means all necessary info is on your screen. All you have to do is flick your wrist to look. The greyscale display of the dial saves big time on battery – the screen is actually good enough and visible even in bright light, and for when you’re in a dark room, the Hybrid HR lets you tap twice on the screen to activate a pleasant blue light.
Fitness freaks may rejoice at the addition of a built-in altimeter, accelerometer and gyroscope, along with 3ATM water-resistance. Swimming with this on, however, is not recommended. Fitness goal tracking is decent enough and is linked to its companion app. What leaves to be answered is why one would wear a stainless steel watch to workout in the first place.
The battery life is worth a special mention, because we lived over a good week on a full charge (though the makers claim up to two weeks on moderate use), and that’s another department where it sets a shining example of how a smartwatch should be. Instead of having to charge before the day ends, this one goes on for days on a single charge.
A great design coupled with limited functionality, but overall a smooth experience with an iPhone, which, till now, wasn’t the case with Wear OS. Extended battery life and heart rate monitor are pretty decent features. However, the lack of a touchscreen is felt oh-so-often. If you’re looking for a decent looking smartwatch that doesn’t look like a mini smartphone on your wrist, fares decently as a fitness tracker (though not the most reliable), and fits within a decent budget, then this is the watch for you!