These Are the Wearables That Stood Out at CES 2021

Illustration for article titled These Are the Wearables That Stood Out at CES 2021

Graphic: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo, Image: Skagen, Fossil, AirPop, Morari Medical

Usually, when people think of wearables, their mind conjures an image of a smartwatch. Fair! But at CES, wearables are a much, much broader category. They include everything from “hearables” and smart rings, to futuristic proof of concept devices that may never actually see the light of day.

While CES 2021 was an all-digital experience, that doesn’t mean we didn’t scour the digital booths for the wearable tech you should definitely know about. On top of smartwatches, this year we saw some cool smart glasses concepts, tons of weird smart masks, and, uh, even a patch meant to be worn in an extremely delicate area. In any case, here are our picks for the wearable tech you should know about from CES 2021.

Fossil Gen 5 LTE

Illustration for article titled These Are the Wearables That Stood Out at CES 2021

Photo: Fossil

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Finally, a cellular Wear OS smartwatch that people might actually use! (RIP LG Watch Sport.) While we’re disappointed that this latest Fossil watch isn’t sporting the new Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 chip, this is still a big step forward for Fossil and by proxy, Wear OS. True, it’s limited to Android users on Verizon, but if Wear OS is going to make any strides in catching up to Samsung and Apple, cellular capability is a must.

Skagen Jorn

Illustration for article titled These Are the Wearables That Stood Out at CES 2021

Image: Fossil

Hybrid smartwatches aren’t new. Hell, hybrid watches from a Fossil brand aren’t even new. That said, the Skagen Jorn is just a gorgeous watch and its e-ink display gives us some nostalgic Pebble vibes. Fossil has also added some new features, including competitions and challenges and a do-not-disturb mode.

Mudra Band

Gif: Wearable Devices Ltd.

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This $180 Apple Watch strap has a unique thing going for it: It lets you control the watch just by making hand gestures. On the inside, there are a series of sensors that can detect electrochemical signals from your brain. Those signals are then run through an algorithm that can detect your individual finger movements. So, for instance, you could pinch your fingers to answer a call from the wrist, or fold your thumb to skip a music track. There are some simple use cases for everyday life, but this tech has plenty of accessibility applications too.

JLab JBuds

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Image: JLab Audio

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We’ve seen open-ear headphones built into eyeglass frames before. (Hello, Bose Frames!) But the cool thing about these JLab JBuds is that they’re not actually built into the frames themselves. They’re $50 clip-ons that let you turn an existing pair of sunglasses (or regular glasses) into a pair of “smart” glasses. We love an affordable, accessible option for some fancy-pants tech!

AirPop Active+ with Halo Sensor

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Image: AirPop

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So maybe Razer’s RGB smart mask is flashier, but it’s also a concept device. This thing is an actual product that exists and is pretty smart to boot. The mask itself has a Halo sensor in the mask that then connects over Bluetooth with your phone. The mask can track breathing data, as well as give you real-time insights about air quality and location. It can even tell you what types of air pollutants the mask has blocked via an app. It’ll also remind you when to change your filter, and can be used in an “Active Mode” to track breaths per minute, per pace, etc. while you’re exercising. It uses a coin cell battery, so you don’t actually have to charge it either, and works with iOS and Android. The device comes with four filters and is expected to be available in January for $150.

Vuzix Next Generation Smart Glasses

Vuzix has been in the smart glasses game for a while now. These particular glasses, however, are notable because they don’t look like something that came out of a sci-fi flick—but still contain some neat tech. The glasses incorporate “waveguides with holographic optics,” laser and micro-LED display that can be used indoors and outdoors, open ear audio, and noise-canceling microphones. Vuzix says they’ll be capable of combining “most smartphone and smartwatch capabilities” and expects the glasses to be available later this year.

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Lenovo ThinkReality A3

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Image: Lenovo

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On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, this AR Lenovo headset is leaning in on the whole “glasses of the future” vibe. Are they stylish? Hell no. Are they meant for regular consumers? Absolutely not, this is more for enterprise customers. But it’s impressive that it can handle up to five stereoscopic 1080p displays, sports an eight-megapixel RGB camera, and dual fish-eye cameras for room-scale tracking. It can also plug into your PC or certain Motorola smartphones. These will be available in mid-2021.

Quantum Operation Inc’s Non-invasive Glucose Monitor

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Image: Quantum Operations

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This Tokyo-based startup says it’s created the world’s first non-invasive glucose monitor that’s capable of continuous, real-time measurement. The company says it uses “patented spectrum sensing technology” to measure a person’s blood sugar via the wrist. That’s huge for diabetic patients, who traditionally have to prick their skin with needles to get accurate blood sugar readings. It also has major implications for doctors, as it might help them monitor patients remotely—especially if they live in rural areas or aren’t able to travel often. While this isn’t a device that’ll be on the market in the next few weeks or months, it’s cool to see this kind of tech is in the works.

The Taint Bandaid

Gif: Morari Medical/Gizmodo

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I have written many words about the taint bandaid, but here I am, writing a few more. It’s technically a wearable patch designed by Morari Medical that’s meant to zap your netherbits with some gentle electroneurostimulation. To help with premature ejaculation. We saw this last year, but back then it was literally a bandaid on a smooth Ken doll mannequin. This year it is real, the design has been updated, Bluetooth has been added, and real people have used it. Morari Medical is aggressively aiming to bring this to market by the end of this year. Count this as one of the more memorable devices to ever come out of CES.

We’re live from our couches covering CES 2021! Click here to read our complete coverage.

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The Watchy Is an Open-Source Smartwatch for Those Who Miss the Pebble

There are gadgets you like, and then there are gadgets you love. For many, the Pebble smartwatch fell into that latter category. It was simple, affordable, and the first smartwatch that made everyone realize smartwatches weren’t just a gimmick. The company deserved better than having its corpse picked apart by Fitbit, and if you still have a soft spot for the Pebble, the hackable Watchy could fill that hole in your heart.

As a former Pebble devotee, I’ve come to appreciate the Apple Watch experience as it’s freed me from having to carry my phone with me wherever I go. But at times it feels a little over-ambitious, and a little too much like Apple tried to create a wrist-worn version of the iPhone. That, and I have to charge it every night, which is a pain. The Pebble, by comparison, was bare-bones feature-wise, but did everything I really needed a smartwatch to do, including serving up notifications for days and days before needing a charge.

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The Watchy appears to take a similarly Pebble-like approach to smartwatches. Instead of a fancy full-color OLED display, it opts for a monochromatic 1.54-inch electronic paper screen with a resolution of 200 x 200 pixels which, like the Pebble, is probably a low-power LCD instead of actual E Ink. It gives the Watchy excellent viewing angles, even in direct sunlight, but it doesn’t appear to include a backlight or sidelight, which means that in the dark you’ll need to reach for a flashlight to check the time.

Built around an ESP32 board, the Watchy comes mostly assembled (all you really have to do is connect the display and the battery to the mainboard and use some sticky tape to hold the components together) and ready to accept a watch strap. As with any open-source creation, the smartwatch can be customized with 3D-printed enclosures so it looks like less of a hack and more like something airport security wouldn’t bat an eye at.

Although it lacks fitness-tracking features like heart-rate monitoring and you’ll never want to get it wet, the Watchy does include wifi, Bluetooth for wirelessly connecting to a smartphone, a vibration motor for haptic notifications, a clock, four physical buttons on the side, and a 3-axis accelerometer that allows the smartwatch to detect gesture motions. For just $45, it’s fairly well-equipped, but as with most open-source products, the real value of the Watchy is its potential.

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Using the Arduino integrated development environment, users comfortable with coding can make the Watchy do anything they want—and not just create their own completely custom watch faces, which is something the Apple Watch doesn’t even allow yet. The creator of Watchy, a company called Squarofumi, promises extensive documentation through its website, including watch faces that can be downloaded and designs for 3D-printed cases, but the content is sparse at the moment. The Watchy might not be for everyone (I can’t imagine my parents being comfortable trying to customize it) but it’s as good an excuse as any to try your hand at coding, even if you never fell in love with the Pebble years ago.

This Nifty Strap Lets You Control the Apple Watch With Gestures

Illustration for article titled This Nifty Strap Lets You Control the Apple Watch With Gestures

Image: Mudra Band

Controlling an object with a hand gesture sounds more like Jedi wizardry than a real-life possibility. But after watching a CES 2021 demo of the Mudra Brand, I have to admit that perhaps this tech isn’t as far-fetched or gimmicky as I previously thought.

The Mudra Band looks pretty much like any smartwatch band would, except that the inside lining has several square-shaped Surface Nerve Conductance (SNC) sensors. These sensors measure something the company refers to as “biopotentials”—basically, the electrochemical activity produced by your nervous system. Fundamentally, this is the same concept used by more familiar tech like ECGs, albeit for a much different purpose.

Gif: Mudra Band

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This definitely sounds cool, but so far gesture tech has been a bit wonky. Normally, it involves waving at a camera or IR sensors, much like Google’s Project Soli (which powers the gesture features on Pixel phones) or the LG G8 ThinQ. Gizmodo got to compare both, and while the Pixel was much more reliable, neither were really game-changers. Likewise, Samsung quietly introduced control gestures on its Galaxy Watch 3 but in practice, I found them hard to use and gimmicky.

Given all this, I was skeptical going into the Mudra Band demo. The pitch is if you move your fingers in a specific way—say, pinching your thumb and forefinger together—you can single-handedly control the Apple Watch. The band supposedly picks up your neurological signals and then relays that to the smartwatch over Bluetooth. There are a lot of ways this could go sideways, and I had questions. Like, how sensitive were the sensors? Could it differentiate between intentional commands and accidental movements? How long did you have to wait between doing a gesture and it registering on the watch? What sort of applications and use cases would work with this thing?

Guy Wagner, the president and chief scientist at Wearable Devices Ltd (the company behind Mudra), demoed the device to me over video (due to the pandemic, of course), and it was actually impressive. On the Mudra app, I could see how the band was able to identify specific gestures, as well as detect in real-time when those gestures were made. More astonishing was the fact that if Wagner used his other hand to move a finger, nothing registered at all.

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Illustration for article titled This Nifty Strap Lets You Control the Apple Watch With Gestures

Image: Mudra Band

“I have to do it intentionally,” Wagner explained. “If I move it mechanically, nothing will happen. It’s the intention to do a movement. It’s not me thinking about making a phone call to someone or answering or dismissing that call.”

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So it’s not mind-reading in the way we normally think of it, but watching it, it seemed pretty damn close.

Obviously, this kind of gesture tech would be very useful in a pandemic, where touching things willy nilly is not the best idea. It could also be helpful from a hands-free perspective. Personally, I would love it if I could skip to the next music track while running by simply curling a finger instead of having to slow down, view my surroundings, and then swipe through a screen. In the demo, I watched Wagner use the gesture tech to scroll through several movies in a streaming app, and even select one. He also used the band and some finger waggles to draw a picture within an art app. Right now, however, that sort of functionality is a bit further down the line. Wagner says that the focus is first on answering and dismissing phone calls, followed by media controls, and then whatever the customer base thinks is most relevant.

Wagner also thinks this tech could be useful for AR and VR. The problem right now is that there isn’t a particularly elegant way to navigate within a virtual space. You generally need a type of control, be it sticks, gloves, or ring-like cursors. The Mudra Band, or devices like it, could be a more intuitive way to interact with smart glasses or VR headsets.

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At the moment, the Mudra Band isn’t available just yet, though the company has raised more than $200,000 on IndieGogo. You can also preorder the Mudra Band for $180 on the company’s website. Wagner says the first round of straps is currently in production, and that he expects to ship to backers sometime in March this year.

We’re live from our couches covering CES 2021! Click here to read our complete coverage.

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The Taint Bandaid Is Real Now

I have no words.

I have no words.
Image: Morari Medical

Last year, nestled among the booths at CES Unveiled, an untouched veggie platter, and hordes of tired tech journalists, I stumbled upon the taint bandaid.

At the time, the taint bandaid was more concept than actual product—as are many gadgets shown off at CES. Morari Medical, the company behind the taint bandaid, had a fairly minimalistic booth. There was a computer running a slideshow about premature ejaculation, and a penis-less mannequin with what appeared to be a regular bandaid on its perineum.

We had several questions. Would it hurt? At the time, Morari Medical CEO Jeff Bennett assured us that no, it would not. But still, what would it feel like? Would slapping a patch and sending an electrical current to “inhibit the nerves of the penis, thereby delaying an ejaculation” really work? Would brave souls sign their taints up to be guinea pigs in this research? Would this taint bandaid really ever hit shelves, or was it doomed to be yet another CES oddity?

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It’s been one year since I first laid eyes on the taint bandaid, and friends, I have done my due diligence as Gizmodo’s wearables nerd to exhaustively answer as many of these questions as humanly possible.

While the taint bandaid still doesn’t have an official name yet, if Morari Medical’s press release is any indication, it has embraced the taint bandaid moniker. Over the past year, the company has tested the patch on real people during beta testing, resulting in a new prototype design.

“We realized we had to make a couple of modifications to the product from a design perspective,” Bennett told Gizmodo over the phone. “Last year it looked more like a bandaid, a rectangular product. While the stimulation was working, it just wasn’t adhering and holding to the skin as good as we wanted it to.”

Bennett says clinicians were consulted as to what would stick to the taint, a unique piece of human anatomy, which resulted in the new butterfly-shaped design. He also emphasized the company took great pains to make sure the patch would not hurt anyone’s sensitive giblets. The new prototype has also added Bluetooth connectivity, so users can adjust the intensity level via an app.

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“Each person is a little different in terms of the energy study we did to get that sensation, and that’s where Bluetooth comes into play,” Bennet says. “We’ve got a working prototype with Bluetooth that will communicate with the product so that when you’re in the heat of the moment, you don’t have to worry about putting your finger down there to try and feel where the button is to increase or decrease stimulation.”

But how does it feel? It’s not that I didn’t trust Bennett when he said they’d figured out a way to make the taint bandaid, well, taint-friendly. But still, I wanted to hear from someone who’d actually tested it for themselves.

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“It’s like a small tingling,” says Don (a pseudonym), one of the patch’s beta testers. “If you’ve ever had any experience with a TENS unit, it’s basically a mild, mild tens unit.” TENS units employ transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation—it’s basically an adhesive patch that sends a mild current through your skin—to reduce pain.

Don confirmed that the patch was not painful to remove and that he and his wife had used it roughly four or five times as part of Morari Medical’s study. But even if it wasn’t painful, there’s one big money question here. Did it work?!?!?

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“It definitely helped increase the time between penetration and uh, ejaculation. Which you know, was what it was really meant to do,” Don said. “I was happy with it and with the results.”

Taint bandaid 2.0 with accompanying app

Taint bandaid 2.0 with accompanying app
Image: Morari Medical

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Now, Don is only one man with one taint. There are many taints out there in the world, and as Morari Medical notes in its press release, 30% of men experience premature ejaculation—a condition many are embarrassed to talk about publicly. For those folks, one man’s experience may not be enough to go off of.

According to Bennett, after beta testing the patch, the company found that after trying it for the first time, people adapt to the sensation to the point where they no longer feel the patch. “It’s similar to getting into a hot shower. If you crank it up too hot and you jump in right away, you’re like ‘Whoa! That hurt!’ But if you gradually, you know, work the temperature up, that same temperature won’t feel as hot anymore.”

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OK, now that we’ve received extensive assurances that the taint bandaid will not destroy your taint—what’s next?

Right now, Bennett says the company has completed enrollment for a feasibility study for couples dealing with premature ejaculation. The study has been given the OK by the Institutional Review Board, and Morari Medical expects preliminary results by the end of Q1 2021. The company is also aggressively moving toward a consumer-ready patch by the end of this year.

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This only left me with more questions. Is this a one-time use patch? Do you…reuse the taint bandaid over and over again, until your dead skin and sweat make it impossible to stick? How much will an electrical zappy taint patch cost? Did Morari Medical discover anything…surprising during its beta testing? What about privacy? Will the app collect data on your escapades? The connected sex tech space—fondly dubbed the internet of dongs—has proven time and time again to be somewhat lacking when it comes to privacy and security.

To his credit, Bennett did not flinch in answering my questions.

Simply put, the taint bandaid will work like razors and razor blades. You keep the electrical component, which will be “encapsulated in a soft material.” This part will also feature a rechargeable battery. However, the adhesive part will likely be a single-use. While pricing isn’t final yet, the reusable electronic component might be in the $100-$200 ballpark, with each single-use patch costing about $25. As for privacy, Bennett says the company will collect no identifying data—the Bluetooth is there merely to control the patch itself.

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As for whether Morari Medical discovered anything unexpected during its beta testing, Bennett was cryptic. “We did, and it’s something that we aren’t willing to disclose yet. We’re going to try and confirm it in the study that we’re doing right now. If we can confirm it, it’ll be a very, very good thing.”

We’re live from our couches covering CES 2021! Click here to read our complete coverage.

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Are Wearables Accurate at Detecting Calorie Burn?

Illustration for article titled Are Wearables Accurate at Detecting Calorie Burn?

Illustration: Angelica Alzona/Gizmodo

Giz AsksGiz AsksIn this Gizmodo series, we ask questions about everything and get answers from a variety of experts.

It’s easy to attribute omnipotence to one’s devices. I’d hate to know what my iPhone knows about me. That said, there are still aspects of existence that Silicon Valley has yet to quantify (though not, I’m sure, for lack of trying). Calorie-burn might be one of these. While countless apps/devices profess to track it with rigor, it’s not at all clear how accurate their efforts actually are. For this week’s Giz Asks, we sought clarity on this issue with a number of relevant experts.


Michael Snyder

Chair of the Department of Genetics and Director of the Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine at Stanford University

In some cases yes, in others no.

These things work reasonably well, but not that well. And they’re not going to measure the effects of activities that don’t involve accelerometers. They might pick up on calories burned while running on a treadmill, but less so on calories burned while lifting weights. But, in my experience, even the best wearables aren’t perfect on this front, and so much of calorie burn has to do with your intrinsic metabolism, which a wearable wouldn’t be factoring in.

If you’re doing something that’s elevating your heart rate, these devices will probably pick up on it. What they won’t do is distinguish between calories burned the way you’d want to to burn them (an elevated heart rate through yoga, say) and calories burned the way you wouldn’t want to burn them (an elevated heart rate through stress).

For these devices to provide detailed calorie-burn information, they’d need to calibrate for each individual wearer—they’d have to know how much energy you burn when you do this or that specific exercise. With more sophisticated equipment, you can sort of standardize this to yourself.

We’ll get better at measuring these sorts of things in the future, because the devices are getting more and more sophisticated around things like respiration, which can help to signal different kinds of activity. But it’s still pretty early, in my opinion.

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Albert Titus

Professor and Chair, Biomedical Engineering, University at Buffalo

Our bodies expend energy continuously. The term “energy expenditure” can also be thought of as “burning calories” in this context. The amount of calorie burn, or how much energy we expend doing tasks like walking, running, swimming, or just sitting, is important as we look at overall health. This information can indicate how efficiently the body is using nutrients (food), and to know if you’re using more calories each day than you’re taking in.

Among other things, wearables have the ability to provide information on how many calories a wearer burns.

Determining calories burned is not a direct measurement; it must be calculated based on a number of parameters, many of which vary from person to person. Studies indicate that the energy expenditure reported by all wearables deviates from “gold standard” measures of energy expenditure by significant amounts. And generally, whether wearables under-estimate or over-estimate the amount of calorie burn depends on the wearable, the activity, and rate of that activity, which further confounds things.

So, wearables are not at a level of sophistication that allow them to be used for critical measurements, such as precisely monitoring energy expenditure for medical reasons or for significant athletic training purposes. If someone is interested in a general gauge of their calorie burn for trends over time or for daily comparisons, then a wearable is an acceptable tool. And one should not overlook wearables as motivators to getting people moving.

However, one should not rely on exact numbers reported.

We expect wearable devices to get better, and indeed, newer versions of wearables allow you to input even more types of activities in an attempt to improve the accuracy of the built-in algorithms. And the more customizable the wearable is to the individual user, the better the calculation should be. As newer wearables come onto the market, more studies are needed to determine if they are better at measuring calorie burn than the wearables we’ve studied in the past.

Edward Sazonov

Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Alabama, whose research interests span wireless, ambient and wearable devices, and methods of biomedical signal processing and pattern recognition

The accuracy of wearable devices that measure energy expenditure (“calorie burn”) varies greatly.

The key defining factors are the sensors and algorithm used. The most prevalent sensor to date is an accelerometer: a device that measures motion, most frequently the whole body’s movement. The accelerometer is used, for example, to recognize when someone is walking or running, and to count steps.

The problem is that not all types of physical activity register well on the accelerometer. Strength training often targets isolated muscle groups, and even rigorous exercise does not register on the accelerometer if it remains stationary during the workout. Imagine doing push-ups or pull-ups with a wrist-worn activity tracker. Hence, the second most frequently used sensor is a heart rate sensor. By monitoring heart rate, it is possible to obtain a more accurate picture of the exercise intensity and energy expenditure.

Research-grade energy expenditure monitors may include additional sensors, such as body temperature, air temperature, temperature flow, perspiration, galvanic response, barometric, and other sensors. These sensors paint a more complete picture of the activity being performed and potentially improve the accuracy of the monitor.

The next key contributor to accuracy is the algorithm used to convert sensor measurements to the energy expenditure. These algorithms may be extremely simple (more steps you do, the more calories burned) or extremely complicated. For example, the algorithms that we develop and test in my lab may include recognition of the physical activity as the first step (such as sitting, standing, walking, cycling, driving, etc.) and then the estimation of the energy expenditure using a model specific to that physical activity. For consumer-grade wearables, these algorithms are often a black box owned and carefully guarded by the company. Over the past years, several research studies have shown that the accuracy of wearables varies dramatically in comparison to a highly accurate reference measurement. And, of course, one should be keenly aware of no-name monitors that frequently fake both the sensors and energy expenditure calculation algorithms. In my lab, we tested many devices that show completely unrealistic readings, such as a banana demonstrating a heart rate.

In summary, there is no universal answer on accuracy claims. The accuracy depends on the device, the type of activity being measured and the algorithms used. That said, the accuracy is gradually improving through the inclusion of new sensors and the development of more advanced algorithms. In comparison, the accuracy of physical activity measurement by a modern wearable is much higher than the accuracy of measuring when, what, and how much we eat (measuring energy intake). In my lab, we develop new solutions to tackle both problems and perform an accurate measurement on both sides of the energy balance equation.

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Do you have a question for Giz Asks? Email us at tipbox@gizmodo.com.

Fossil Dependably Brings a Bunch of Smartwatches to CES, But Not the One I Want

Behold, the Gen 5 LTE.

Behold, the Gen 5 LTE.
Image: Fossil

In the before times, you could always count on Fossil to bring a massive amount of smartwatches to any trade show. Were most of them gussied up versions of Fossil watches for other brands under their umbrella? Yes, absolutely. But after a year of ups and downs, it’s nice that even a pandemic can’t seem to throw Fossil off its CES traditions.

The big announcement this time around is Fossil’s first cellular watch, the $350 Gen 5 LTE. If you’ve got a good memory, however, this shouldn’t come as a surprise—recent FCC filings hinted that this was coming back in December. The good news is this means Wear OS finally has a cellular watch. The bad news is it’s powered by the last-generation Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip. This is a bummer, as LTE is a notorious battery guzzler, and the 3100 didn’t really extend battery life on Wear OS watches that much.

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The Gen 5 LTE also has quite a few limitations. For starters, the Gen 5 LTE is limited to Android users who have Verizon. It’ll work via Verizon’s Number Share plan, which means you’ll have to buy an additional data plan. Whether it’ll eventually include other carriers isn’t clear right now. Also, iOS users won’t be able to use the cellular features on the Gen 5 LTE. That means they should absolutely not opt for this watch over the regular Gen 5, as it’s $50 more. Another bummer is that at launch, the recent Gen 5 updates will not be available. Finally, the Gen 5 LTE is only launching in the U.S.

Illustration for article titled Fossil Dependably Brings a Bunch of Smartwatches to CES, But Not the One I Want

Image: Fossil

Specs-wise, the Gen 5 LTE is alright. It has the same 8GB of storage and 1GB of RAM as the Gen 5, a 1.3-inch display, NFC payments, continuous heart rate-monitoring, built-in GPS, and a speaker. It’ll also come in two colors (black and gold/pink), though with its 45mm case, it’s on the larger side. And though it doesn’t come with the updated Gen 5 features, it does have smart battery modes. Again, LTE is a huge battery guzzler and you’re not going to get a whole lot of mileage out of the Gen 5 LTE—it’s only got an estimated battery life of 24 hours with typical usage. Adding extended battery modes will at least help you eke out as much juice as you can out of a single charge.

Fossil owns a bunch of other brands, and this year its Skagen line has a new watch: the Jorn Hybrid HR. It’s not that the watch itself is that interesting—it’s basically a reskinned Fossil Hybrid HR under the Skagen brand name. But damn if they aren’t good-lookin’ thanks to Skagen’s Danish minimalist vibe.

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Illustration for article titled Fossil Dependably Brings a Bunch of Smartwatches to CES, But Not the One I Want

Image: Fossil

It is nice to see more of the Fossil hybrids. When we reviewed the Fossil Hybrid HR, we found the e-ink display incredibly easy on the eyes even if the app itself was a bit wonky. The Jorn Hybrid HR comes in five colors and two sizes: 38mm and 42mm. (Yay for the petite-wristed!) Like the Fossil Hybrid HR, you can also customize the e-ink display. The new Skagen also sports a continuous heart rate monitor, connected GPS, basic activity-tracking, and two weeks of estimated battery life. That said, it seems like Fossil’s added on a social feature to its hybrid watches—you can now invite friends to 72-hour challenges. (Neat, but how many of your friends have Fossil watches?) These will retail for $195, which isn’t too terrible given the feature set.

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See what I mean? Posh Spice.

See what I mean? Posh Spice.
Image: Fossil

And if the Skagen Jorn is a repackaging of the Fossil Hybrid HR, then wait ‘til you get a load of the Michael Kors Access Gen 5E smartwatches. I’ll give you exactly one guess as to which Fossil watch these are based on. (Ding ding ding! The Gen 5E!) They come in a couple flavors: the Gen 5E Darci and the Gen 5E MKGO. If these watches were the Spice Girls, the Darci would be Posh Spice and the MKGO would be Sporty Spice. The former costs $350, is sparkly, and has a 7-link metal bracelet. The latter is $250, slightly less sparkly, and has a two-piece rubber strap. Specs-wise, they have the same 43mm cases, 4GB of storage, connected GPS, 1.2-inch AMOLED screens, and run Wear OS. The Darci comes in three colors (silver-rose gold, rose gold, and gold), while the MKGO comes in four (two rose gold options, a gold option, and a black version).

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MKGO, the Sporty Spice.

MKGO, the Sporty Spice.
Image: Fossil

I’ll admit it. I’m disappointed that none of these watches are powered by the new Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100/4100+ platform—which is the actual smartwatch I want from Fossil. I’ve been banging on this drum ever since Qualcomm announced the chip this past summer. This processor won’t magically solve all the issues we have with Wear OS, but it could potentially do a lot to bridge the gap and bring the platform a little closer to its rivals. Had a 4100 smartwatch materialized, that would’ve easily been the Big Smartwatch Headline for CES 2021, as right now only the TicWatch Pro 3 has the chip.

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While I am disappointed, it also makes sense. It was always going to be a long shot for a 4100-powered Fossil watch to pop up at CES 2021. After all, it’s not likely that Fossil would launch its very first 4100 watch on one of its designer brand offshoots. So we’ll continue to wait. Perhaps later this year will bring a must-buy Wear OS watch. One can hope.

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This Smartwatch Is the Definition of Overpriced

Illustration for article titled This Smartwatch Is the Definition of Overpriced

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

Smartwatches have only gotten more affordable in recent years, and budget options under $200 can be surprisingly full-featured, especially if you don’t mind sacrificing sophisticated health features. So when a $350 smartwatch like the Zepp Z debuts, it has to deliver on multiple levels to make it worth the extra splurge.

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Unfortunately, it just misses the mark.

To be fair, there’s a lot I like about the Zepp Z. It’s admittedly handsome, though perhaps better suited to a more masculine aesthetic than I personally prefer. The materials are elegant, with a titanium case and leather 22mm strap. Its 1.39-inch AMOLED display is crisp. Colors are vibrant, and notifications are easy to read. It has all the sensors you’d expect at this price range, including continuous heart rate-monitoring and built-in GPS, as well as some flashier ones like SpO2 sensors. You can enable abnormal heart rate notifications, measure blood oxygen saturation, and see stress levels based on your heart rate variation. Plus, like the Amazfit GTR 2, it features two digital assistants: Amazon Alexa and a proprietary offline assistant. Rounding things out, you get Bluetooth connectivity, 5 ATM of water resistance, a built-in microphone, and a truly impressive 15 days of battery life.

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So, what’s the problem? This sounds great! Why are you complaining?

I’m kvetching because while some of these features are legitimately excellent, others are half-baked compared to the competition and this watch’s elegant aesthetics aren’t enough to make up for it.

Let’s start with the design, actually. I can’t deny that this is one of the better-looking smartwatches I’ve tested this year. In fact, this is sort of what I was hoping the Amazfit GTR 2 would look like. But its case is large at 46mm, and this is also a hefty boy, weighing in at 40 grams. (Thankfully, the watch is on the slimmer side, measuring 10.75mm thick.) This might not be a problem if you have larger wrists, but mine are teeny tiny. Not only did this look huge on me, but the Zepp Z also wasn’t super comfortable when I was sleeping or working out. One small nitpick: Although this watch has three buttons on the right side, only the bottom two are functional. The top one is just there for looks—a somewhat baffling choice. This is clearly a smartwatch that has a greater appeal for men, but it’s 2020. Women and other petite-wristed individuals are out here wearing smartwatches and we’d like options. Plenty of other companies make smartwatches in multiple sizes, just saying.

Illustration for article titled This Smartwatch Is the Definition of Overpriced

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

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If this was my only beef with the Zepp Z, I’d call it a day. Unfortunately, I got some other bones to pick. Again, for $350, the Zepp Z is missing quite a few features that you’d expect for a smartwatch at this price. There are no NFC payments. There’s also no wifi for faster updates; you’re strictly limited to Bluetooth here. There’s also no third-party app ecosystem, meaning your music controls are limited and your health-racking options are the Zepp app and whatever integrations it supports. There’s also no on-board storage, so unless you like working out in complete silence, it’s not truly a smartwatch capable of supporting phone-free outdoor activity. There’s also no way to respond to notifications directly from your wrist—you can only view them. If you wanted to engage in social health-tracking features, there isn’t really a built-in community like you get with Fitbit, Samsung, Garmin, or Apple (though you can get Strava and Google Fit integration). And, the kicker: The Zepp app still isn’t that intuitive to use and is very much a work in progress.

The biggest problem, however, is that health-tracking is an incredibly mixed bag. Now, if this watch was just designed for looks, I wouldn’t grade it so harshly. But Zepp touts health and fitness features as major draws for this watch, even adding built-in GPS, which should be a plus here. But, hoo boy, even with GPS and the latest firmware, the Zepp Z was inconsistent. I did four test runs with the Zepp Z, my phone, and the Apple Watch SE for comparison. In all but one run, the Zepp Z was considerably off compared to my phone and the Apple Watch SE.

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Illustration for article titled This Smartwatch Is the Definition of Overpriced

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

For example, during a 5.63-mile run recorded by my phone, the Zepp Z only logged 5.19 miles and the Apple Watch SE logged 5.31 miles. This was a longer run and, generally, I expect discrepancies between control and test devices to get bigger across longer distances. However, this persisted at shorter distances as well, though not every time I ran. On a 3.88-mile run on my phone, the Zepp Z recorded a fairly good result at 3.79 miles to the Apple Watch’s 3.72 miles. But on a 3.57-mile run on my phone, the Zepp Z logged 2.91 miles to the Apple Watch’s 3.34 miles. This happened yet again on a 3.19-mile run, which the Zepp Z recorded as 2.86 miles to the Apple Watch’s 3.03 miles.

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You can see here the Apple Watch is reliably somewhere between 0.15-0.2 mile off of my phone. I’ve done hundreds of comparison runs at this point, and this is true 99% of the time for distances between 3-4 miles. It means that whatever the reported distance, I can trust there’s not too much variance day-to-day. If the Zepp Z had consistently been off by roughly the same amount, that would’ve been OK, though not ideal. Instead, it ranged from as low as 0.09 miles to as much as 0.66 miles. If I were seriously training for a race, this would be awful.

Illustration for article titled This Smartwatch Is the Definition of Overpriced

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

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Heart rate-tracking was better, with my average heart rates corresponding within 5-10bpm of both the Apple Watch SE and the Polar H10 chest strap during exercise. Steps were also consistent. Sleep-tracking, however, was hit or miss. I slept terribly on Christmas Eve, waking up several times during the night thanks to my geriatric dog. The Oura Ring logged that accurately, noting a collective 1 hour and 13 minutes that my dog kept me up. The Zepp Z said I snoozed peacefully through the night. On another night, the Oura Ring reported I’d spent 1 hour and 43 minutes in REM sleep and 1 hour and 37 minutes in deep sleep. The Zepp Z disagreed, saying I’d only spent 53 minutes in REM and 40 minutes in Deep sleep. Other nights, the sleep-tracking data corresponded within about 10 minutes for most sleep stages. However, the Zepp Z, like many other smartwatches from its sister brand Amazfit, regularly failed to catch when I was woken up in the middle of the night.

As a consolation, the SpO2 readings were at least on par with my husband’s Apple Watch Series 6. But as I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I didn’t find Zepp’s stress-tracking to be meaningful. Even though I manually took stress readings from the wrist, none of that made its way over to the app. All I was greeted with were blank screens and charts. Meanwhile, the Fitbit Sense is $20 cheaper, features an electrodermal activity sensor to measure stress, and pairs it with a really thoughtful app implementation of stress and mindfulness logging. Also, a passive stress-monitoring score doesn’t mean much. Personally, I much prefer heart rate variation presented in the context of physical recovery—much like how the Oura Ring or Whoop handles that metric.

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Alexa is here.

Alexa is here.
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

This is a glaring misstep for a $350 smartwatch. For this much, I’d expect the health-tracking to be much more accurate.

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But it’s not all bad. There are quite a few things this smartwatch does well, too.

As with the Amazfit GTR 2, the Zepp Z features an offline voice assistant. While it’s not very forgiving if you mess up the command, once you get them memorized, this is actually pretty nifty! I found it useful to start outdoor run workouts via voice, which meant I didn’t have to take off my gloves in the freezing cold. Also, in the time since I reviewed the GTR 2, Zepp has finally added Alexa compatibility. It’s easy to set up via the Zepp app and works well for answering basic queries and controlling your smart home—provided you’re within Bluetooth range of your phone.

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Also, 15 days of battery life is no joke. I only tested the Zepp Z for about a week, but during that time I did about 3 hours of GPS activity and wore it 24/7 to track sleep—and still had 49% battery left. That’s on track to hit Zepp’s estimated battery life and is far better than the Apple Watch Series 6, the Fitbit Sense, and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3.

Illustration for article titled This Smartwatch Is the Definition of Overpriced

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

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There are also a few smaller touches that I appreciate. You can easily swap watch faces and edit complications. There are quite a few widgets as well. The display is quite nice and call/text/app notifications are easy to read. The PAI system featured on Amazfit and Zepp watches is a more helpful metric than steps or calories burned for gauging whether you get enough cardio activity during a 7-day period.

But the things I like about the Zepp Z don’t put it in the same league as other watches in this price range. The Fitbit Sense doesn’t look as sophisticated, sure, but for $20 less it gets you FDA-cleared ECGs, better stress-tracking via a novel electrodermal activity sensor, a body temperature sensor, SpO2 sensors, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, about a week of battery life, built-in GPS, NFC payments, and a third-party app store. You get most of what the Zepp Z has and then some, for less money. Meanwhile, for just $50 more, you could get the base models of the Apple Watch Series 6 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. Those get you built-in GPS, SpO2 sensors, FDA-cleared ECGs, robust third-party apps, NFC payments, and even features like fall detection and guided workouts with your metrics displayed in real-time (though Apple’s Fitness+ is much more advanced than what Samsung offers). I also happen to think they look pretty nice.

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Illustration for article titled This Smartwatch Is the Definition of Overpriced

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

If the Zepp Z was priced like the $250 Zepp E, this would be a different story completely. Alas, it’s $100 more, with so-so health tracking, and it’s missing features that are common for smartwatches over $300. There are also several smartwatches—like the Fossil Gen 5E, the Fossil Gen 5, the Fitbit Versa 3, and even the Amazfit GTR 2—that give you everything the Zepp Z has and then some. With the Zepp Z, you’re really paying a pretty premium for above-average battery and a certain aesthetic. That simply isn’t going to cut it.

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README

  • Sounds nice on paper with two digital assistants, built-in GPS, SpO2 sensor and stress-tracking, a nice display, and 15 days of battery life.
  • Also, it looks elegant.
  • ALSO, IT’S 350 HONKING DOLLARS.
  • Missing wifi, third-party app ecosystem, a way to reply on-wrist to notifications, NFC payments, and onboard storage.
  • The app ain’t great. Health-tracking…also ain’t great.
  • It would be OK if you can get it on sale, but don’t buy for $350.

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Leaked Prototype Photos Offer Rare Glimpse at Early Apple Watch

The Apple Watch has become an iconic smartwatch, but things could’ve turned out very differently. Leaked images of what appears to be an Apple Watch prototype show just how far it has come since its early days in development.

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Apple prototypes are extremely rare. These particular images were posted by Twitter user @AppleDemoYT and initially reported on by 9to5 Mac. Apple also has a history of disguising its prototypes—you may recall the iPhone 4 prototype that Gizmodo of yore obtained, which was dressed up to look like an iPhone 3GS. It’s no different with this prototype Apple Watch, which is built into a bulky case that makes it look sort of like a mini iPhone or iPod.

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The case has two buttons on the side and something that resembles the old iPhone home button, and the exterior of the case appears to retain the digital crown and button we’re all familiar with. The prototype also appears to be running internal software that pre-dates watchOS, complete with a “Springboard zoom” app that demos the watchOS home screen. Another neat Easter egg is a “Lisa Tester” app, which references Apple’s Lisa computer from the ‘80s and features an adorable Lisa Simpson icon. Another screen clearly states the prototype is not approved by the FCC, and as a result, may not be sold or leased.

The first Apple Watch launched in 2015, so this testing unit likely dates back to at least 2014, or perhaps earlier. Back in 2015, Wired ran an in-depth piece detailing the history of the Apple Watch’s development. In it, there were a few descriptions of the first Apple Watch prototype, which was actually an iPhone attached to a “very nicely designed Velcro strap.” It also supposedly had a custom dongle in the form of “an actual watch crown that plugged into the bottom of the phone through the cord jack.”

It’s always neat to see what features and design elements end up in the final product and which are left on the scrap heap of history. It appears that some aspects of the prototype UI—at least the ones pictured—eventually made it into watchOS. It’s a mystery exactly how this particular prototype exists, especially because Apple is known for destroying test units and for its strong non-disclosure agreements. Recently, photos from 2007 depicting the production line for the very first iPhone also surfaced on Twitter. These leaks show a neat bit of tech history—one that gadget nerds everywhere would like to see more of.

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Wear OS Fans Shouldn’t Get Too Hyped Over an LTE Fossil Watch Just Yet

Illustration for article titled Wear OS Fans Shouldnt Get Too Hyped Over an LTE Fossil Watch Just Yet

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

My biggest beef with Fossil’s latest smartwatch, the Gen 5E, was that it felt like a filler for the holiday season—something to pad out Fossil’s extensive catalog of Wear OS watches until it could release a new army of wearables powered by the new Snapdragon Wear 4100 platform. Now, a recent FCC filing hints that we could finally be seeing an LTE Fossil watch on the horizon. Normally, this would be great news… except there’s one thing that gives me pause.

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The filing, first spotted by Android Authority, doesn’t give away much detail beyond the typical circular display and that the watch itself was tested for various LTE bands. On the one hand, the addition of LTE feels like it might be a sign that the 4100-powered Fossil watches could arrive very soon—perhaps even at CES 2021. The new Snapdragon Wear 4100+ chip promises a host of performance boosts, including the ability to support 4G LTE and Bluetooth 5.0. On the other, Fossil’s flagships have launched in late summer or fall for the past two generations. That makes sense. Most companies time their major releases around then to take full advantage of the holiday gift-buying season.

If Fossil stays with their usual launch cadence, that could mean this LTE watch is another Gen 5 variant—in which case, no thank you, sir and madam.

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I say this because the Gen 5 runs on the now-outdated 3100 chip, which is the disappointing middle child of processors. Was it better than its predecessor, the 2100 chip? Yes, but that’s like asking if water is wet. It was more like the 3100 promised good-to-great Wear OS watches and what we got was Wear OS watches that sucked less.

There’s a reason we haven’t really seen LTE-capable Wear OS watches thus far. Battery life, though improved with the 3100 chip, still isn’t great. Fossil’s 3100-powered smartwatches have to automatically switch battery modes to eke out enough juice for sleep tracking. And even then, I never really got true, multi-day battery life. LTE is a significant drain. When Apple launched the Watch Series 3 back in 2017, I distinctly remember the watch dying after just a 20-minute call. (It’s improved since then.) I have as much confidence in a 3100-powered LTE Wear OS watch as I do in politicians—none. The 4100 chip promises 25% more battery, but the only 4100-powered smartwatch available right now is the TicWatch Pro 3—and that’s GPS-only, meaning we have no idea how that extra battery life translates in a cellular watch.

This is a bummer because Android users without Samsung phones still don’t have a flagship smartwatch that neatly ticks off all the boxes for everyone. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Active2 are genuinely the best Android-friendly smartwatches—but the best features, like FDA-cleared ECGs, are limited to Samsung phone owners. An LTE-enabled Fossil watch would help Wear OS close the gap with rival platforms like Tizen and watchOS, but launching a 3100-powered LTE Wear OS watch feels like a wasted opportunity.

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Another blow is that, over the summer, 9to5 Google reported that based on Bluetooth SIG filings, these same Fossil watches would likely not run on the 4100-chip. It’s possible that was in reference to what we now know is the Gen 5E. It’s also possible that Fossil could surprise everyone and release a 4100-powered, LTE capable Gen 6 in spring 2021, instead of fall. If that happens, I’ll be the first in line to fire the confetti cannon. The sinking feeling in my stomach says otherwise.

For now, it’s speculation. We’ll have to see what Fossil brings to CES 2021—though, in years past, it’s not typically been where Fossil announces big changes to its flagship line. But if this rumored LTE watch is another Gen 5 variant, powered by the same old chip, I’m probably going to have to recommend people skip that one too.

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You Should Probably Wait for the Next Fossil Smartwatch

Illustration for article titled You Should Probably Wait for the Next Fossil Smartwatch

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

The Fossil Gen 5E was doomed from the start.

To begin, 2020 was a truly impressive year for smartwatches. Fitbit came out swinging with the Fitbit Sense and refined the Versa 3. Apple also continued to knock it out of the park with watchOS 7, the Series 6, and the more affordable Apple Watch SE. And let’s not forget about Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 3, a gorgeous, full-featured Android smartwatch that can go toe-to-toe with the Apple Watch.

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Unlike Fitbit, Apple, and Samsung, Google doesn’t make Wear OS watches—yet. Wear OS is the purview of third-party smartwatch makers, and of them, Fossil is by far the most prolific. If you’re getting a Wear OS watch, there’s a very good chance it’s from Fossil or one of the many designer brands under its umbrella. That means Fossil’s annual flagship watch is, generally speaking, a good litmus test of where exactly Wear OS is at. So it wasn’t a terribly encouraging sign that this year’s flagship is the Fossil Gen 5E, a smaller, slightly more affordable version of last year’s Gen 5.

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Don’t get me wrong. As a petite-wristed person, I’m all for smaller smartwatches, and the 42mm Gen 5E is easy on the eyes. My review unit was the 42mm in blush, with a gold case and pave bezel—not my personal everyday style, but aesthetically it’s a mini Gen 5, and, you know what, that’s fine. My main beef lies with the internal hardware components. Qualcomm launched its new Snapdragon Wear 4100 platform this year, but not fast enough for the fall smartwatch production cycle. That means the Gen 5E is sporting the same 3100 chip and 1GB of RAM as the Gen 5. Except, in making the watch smaller, the Gen 5E only has 4GB of storage to the Gen 5’s 8GB, tethered GPS as opposed to on-board, and it lacks an altimeter. Otherwise, the Gen 5E is pretty much the same as its predecessor, with Google Pay, a built-in speaker and microphone, and 3ATM of water resistance. All this would be totally fine if the cost savings were significant. They’re not.

At retail price, the Fossil Gen 5E is $250, which is only $45 less than the $295 Fossil Gen 5. For context, the Fitbit Versa 3 is $100 cheaper than the Fitbit Sense. The Apple Watch SE is $120 cheaper than the Series 6. The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 is also $120 cheaper than the Galaxy Watch 3.

I spent a lot of time wondering why that $45 difference bothered me so much. After all, for its feature set, the Fossil Gen 5E is reasonably priced. It boils down to the fact that it’s just not different enough from the Gen 5. With other brands, there’s a clear difference between expensive flagships and their more affordable cousins. It’s easier to recommend what type of person should opt for which price tier based on features, use case, or design. In this case, the best I can say is “Hey, smaller-wristed people! Would you like to save $45 because you happen to have the right skeletal frame?”

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It might sound like I hate this watch, but I really don’t. The Fossil Gen 5E is perfectly decent. Actually, a bunch of new updates to Wear OS meant it was vaguely pleasant to use the Gen 5E. But that’s not unique to the Gen 5E! Every Wear OS smartwatch gets the updates! So again, I can’t say this is a reason to get the Gen 5E over any other Wear OS watch.

No SpO2 sensors here.

No SpO2 sensors here.
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

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I appreciated the addition of native sleep-tracking, which has been a glaring omission from Wear OS until now. It’s also such a relief that Google revamped the Google Fit app so that it’s actually somewhat useful instead of a barebones waste of space. Last year, Fossil also added some much-needed features, like Cardiogram—a heart rate-focused app—to its stable of pre-loaded apps, and the free version is decently comprehensive if you want to keep track of your cardio fitness. The new Wellness app and widget are also nice and convenient to access, though a little too simplified for my tastes. For instance, via the widget, you can only choose between an unspecified outdoor exercise or an indoor activity—and in both instances, it seems to default to running metrics. That left me rather confused when trying to track a strength-training session.

The most useful update was the ability to automatically shift between different battery modes to extend the Gen 5E’s paltry battery life. Though Fossil says you get multi-day battery life, I felt like that was an overly generous description. The most I ever got was 1.5 days with regular usage, and if I had the always-on display, that fell to an abysmal 18 hours or so. However, I did appreciate that when I wore the watch to sleep, in the middle of the night it’d shift to Extended Mode, which stretches out your battery life while still delivering heart rate data and notifications. Then, when I got the chance to charge it in the morning, it’d automatically revert back to normal. Rapid charging—a feature that Fossil watches have had for a few years—also takes some of the sting out of the less-than-ideal battery life.

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Illustration for article titled You Should Probably Wait for the Next Fossil Smartwatch

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

This battery issue is an example of how the Gen 5E feels like a wasted opportunity. The Snapdragon Wear 4100 platform promises better battery life, so I’d imagine these multiple battery modes would be much more impressive on a 4100-powered smartwatch. But again, the Gen 5E is running on the now outdated 3100 chip and there’s only so much extra charge you can eke out. (The Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 is currently the only Wear OS watch with the 4100 chip on the market right now.) To be clear, this isn’t really Fossil’s fault—it’s more Qualcomm’s for consistently dragging its heels in updating the Snapdragon Wear SoC. (One could make a convincing argument that many of Wear OS’s failures can be traced back to Qualcomm.)

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As for fitness-tracking, I had a mixed experience with the Gen 5E. I’ve never seen super accurate GPS results with a Fossil watch, but I keenly felt the lack of built-in GPS. During three test runs, I hit the record button only to find out mid-run or after my run that the watch hadn’t established a good signal with my phone…and therefore it recorded nothing, or my logged data had to be thrown out. In two other instances, it seemingly connected properly but only gave me credit for 0.02 and 0.3 miles. This is despite the fact it generated an accurate map of my route, correctly recorded my workout duration, and captured heart rate data. The one time it worked as intended I got an OK result. It recorded a 4.01-mile run on my phone as 4.17 miles, while the Apple Watch SE logged 3.68 miles. This means out of six test runs, I only had one run where I felt I got adequate GPS-tracking.

While my GPS results were awful, my heart rate readings and averages were on par with the Polar H10 and Apple Watch SE. So if your main goal is to just make sure you’re getting enough aerobic exercise per week, the Gen 5E is a capable device. The same holds true for sleep tracking. You don’t really get granular insights, but accuracy-wise, it corresponded with my results from the Oura Ring. You do get some basic sleep metrics, however, such as time spent in light or restful sleep, periods when you were awake, and average sleep duration.

Aside from GPS accuracy, I only had one other issue with the Gen 5E. For the vast majority of the two weeks I tested the watch, I had zero issues swiping between screens. Sometimes programs were a smidge slow to load, but nowhere near as bad as Wear OS watches of yore. However, after charging the watch one day, the Gen 5E freaked out on me. As you can see in the brief clip above, I had some phantom swipes and none of my touches seemed to register. This bizarre incident lasted for about five minutes but cleared up once I restarted the device. It hasn’t happened since, so I’m not inclined to read too much into it. That said, it did make me wonder if the 3100 chip might be struggling with some of the newer Wear OS updates that were perhaps intended for the next-gen 4100-powered watches.

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Despite the mixed fitness-tracking results and the weird glitching, the Fossil Gen 5E really isn’t a terrible smartwatch. It’s just not a smartwatch that was set up for success. It’s coming in a year in which we saw so many impressive new offerings, on an outdated chip, without really adding anything enticing for people who might want to upgrade from a slightly older Wear OS watch. At least when the Fossil Sport—one of the first 3100-powered watches to launch—came out in 2018, it was a marked difference from its 2100-powered predecessors. The Gen 5E feels like a stopgap smartwatch, a placeholder until Fossil can produce a new flagship powered by the 4100 chip. I’ll say it until I die of asphyxiation: Android users deserve a smartwatch that delivers all the bells and whistles to every Android user. (Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 3 comes very close, but it saves its best features for people with Samsung phones.) Unfortunately, the Gen 5E isn’t going to cut it.

Illustration for article titled You Should Probably Wait for the Next Fossil Smartwatch

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

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Given that, I don’t feel great about recommending the Gen 5E at retail price. It’s probably a much better idea to wait for the inevitable onslaught of 4100-powered Fossil smartwatches. However, if you were to find it on sale, perhaps for something under $200, this is actually a decent gateway gadget for someone who’s unsure if they even like smartwatches—provided they’re not a fitness buff. Outside of this extremely specific scenario, however, my advice is to be patient and wait.

README

  • A slightly smaller and cheaper version of Fossil’s Gen 5 flagship smartwatch.
  • Your savings are only $45. That’s meh considering you lose built-in GPS, get half the storage, and axe the altimeter.
  • The Wear OS updates are pleasant!
  • Runs on an outdated processor and isn’t a great fitness tracker.
  • Feels like a stopgap until Fossil can release a Snapdragon Wear 4100-powered flagship.

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