Fossil Q Founder review: Maybe next time

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I’m a big fan of Fossil watches. In fact, the last time I wore a watch prior to Android Wear, I had a pair of Fossil models that I alternated between. Suffice it to say, I was extremely excited to learn that Fossil would be getting into the smartwatch space. And not just a smart fitness band or activity tracker, but Android Wear at that! The concept of Android wear inside of a solidly built watch simply fascinated me. I could no wait to get my hands on one of these.

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Backing up for a moment, this is not to suggest that other smart watches are not designed with quality components or put together with fine craftsmanship. Rather, I was looking forward to something that came from a watch brand first. To date we’ve only had smartphone makers getting into the space and trying their hands at a wearable. This, the Fossil Q Founder, would be the opposite. How does Fossil fare with its first Android Wear unit, the Q Founder?

First Impressions

Upon first removing the watch from its box I was immediately impressed with the hardware. I felt the weight of the watch and was reminded of my other Fossil watches. If you’ve never had one of these or worn one, they are heavy. And, being this is a 46mm watch, it’s big, too. Indeed, it’s a large display that feels very manly.

There is some serious weight to the Fossil Q Founder and it’s exactly what I wanted. Moreover, from the side and other angles, it looked exactly like you would expect from Fossil. On all outward appearances it mimics the look of standard Fossil models you’ll find department stores and jewelers.

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As is the case with other Fossil watches, the user, or wearer, can adjust the length and fit of the device. It is possible to remove a link or two if you need, however it is not a simple process of popping out a spring. Indeed, you may need to take this to a jeweler to have it adjusted with an ultra-small screwdriver tip.

Changing the band itself is very easy, however and can be done in a matter of seconds. If you are the type who wants to alternate between a silver metal band and a leather band then you will be pleased at how quickly you can adjust this. The same goes for a simple color change to match your outfit. Fossil does provide a number of its own watch bands but most 22mm watch straps should work.

Closer Inspection

After powering on the watch I remembered that there was a “flat tire” effect at the bottom. This would not be the first watch to future this as Motorola has included in a number of its Moto 360 models.

The reason behind the black bar at the bottom of the face is to provide an ambient light sensor. In other words, the watch face will dim and brighten based on the environment. There is no sense in having the brightest display when you’re using the watch after sundown, indoors, or at night. It is a smart idea and something I appreciate, however it starts to limit some of the appeal in custom watch faces.

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Yes you can get used to it with time, however there’s never a true circle to be found. Even faces that are designed with a round aspect are cut off at the bottom and the numbers or tick marks or obscured or missing. Again, not a deal breaker, but something to keep in mind.

Watch Faces

The Fossil Q Founder comes with a couple of custom watch faces, but not as many as you’d think. I had expected more from a watch company than what I ultimately discovered. While there are some slight customization settings in the watch faces, the overall number of face options is limited. Take a look at all of the faces that Fossil has in its regular watches and you’ll see the potential.

Honestly, I felt like there should have been at least twice as many templates included out of the box, each with various options to tweak. As compared to competitors such as the Hauwei SmartWatch, the Q Founder comes up short.

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Regardless of whether you go for a Fossil face or something else, the generous display will do it justice. It’s crisp and clear and works well in all lighting conditions. Perhaps that’s why I am left wanting one of those clever faces that appear to let me see through the glass into the working parts of a traditional watch.

Charging

Charging the Fossil Q Founder is a little bit cumbersome. Like you would find with other smart watches you will need to attach the back to a charging pad. But, because of the way Fossil makes many their watches you cannot simply unclasp the band and lay it flat. You have to pick up the pad and somewhat wrap the watch around it.

Click here to see a full gallery of Fossil Q Founder photos on Google+

The term that Fossil uses for the charging unit is a “cuff”. In describing it, I would say it is not unlike something you would find at a jewelry store to show off a watch. It’s not a simple drop and lift process but I cannot think of a better way to do it for where’s who own a continuous or circular metal band. Mechanics aside, charging is done relatively quickly and on par with other smartwatches. An hour on the pad will easily add more than 50% of life to it.

Performance

This is among the first smart watches to employ an Intel processor. How does that impact the 400mAh battery life or performance? Sadly, I found that it doesn’t benefit either of those aspects.

After a few days of use, I found that the Q Founder did not fare any better in terms of battery preservation. I played with the all-day on lighting and found that you’ll get one solid day of use. In other words, make sure the charging cuff is kept close.

Of course, you will get more life if you have the watch turn itself off after a few seconds. Sure, you can automatically turn the display on when you flip the wrist and look at it, but we want to be able to see watch face from all angles and check the time.

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I thought that initially the performance and response was a little bit laggy, however I erroneously had not removed the very thin protective film. My touches were not recongized all that quickly and navigating throughout the watch was not as efficient as I would have liked. But, upon removing the film I found that the watch did not perform all that different. The screen didn’t respond as much as it should have.

I wish I could say that the film kept it from being  speedy and snappy. Unfortunately, that is simply not the case. It’s not super slow, but when compared to other Android Wear models, we noticed a difference.

Like other Android Wear watches, the Founder Q can track your steps and monitor general movements. Moreover, it can also recognize the outside temperature, too. its IP67 rating also allows for it to get wet or take a dip (withstand water immersion between 15 cm and 1 meter in depth). But, do remember, this is not some sort of lightweight fitness-ready experience. It’s a classier design that is much more at home in a business or formal setting.

Conclusion

For roughly $300, I have a hard time recommending the Fossil Q Founder over the Huawei Watch. On one hand it’s built so spectacular and feels 100% Fossil. On the other, it doesn’t perform like other brands. The Huawei gives you a full circular display, but its band isn’t nearly as nice as Fossil’s.

I don’t know if a software update will improve performance but I can always hope. As for custom faces, that should be a no-brainer and pushed out from Fossil in some sort of maintenance release.

For now, at least, I might suggest looking elsewhere if you’re intent on spending that sort of money on an Android Wear. Or, do what I’m doing, and consider buying two standard Fossil watches for the same price. In all seriousness, I would feel much better with this one priced at $225-$250.

The brown leather Fossil Q Founder retails for $275 while the stainless steel one carries a slightly more expensive $295 price tag.

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