Over the past two years, I was lucky enough to test and review a lot of technology. This included about a dozen different smartwatches and fitness trackers from a variety of companies.
I tested fitness trackers from Fitbit, Polar, and Diesel, along with smart jewelry from smaller startups. I also have smartwatches, including the Moto 360 Sport, Sony Smartwatch, Samsung Gear, Timex IQ+ Move, and Huawei Watch.
These smartwatches mostly have cutting-edge technology inside them. But the only one I've ever used for any extended period of time is the Fossil Q Grant.
It's part of my personal collection. This is because it outperforms all other smartwatches I tried. There are two simple reasons for this.
1. The Fossil Q Grant is an analog mechanical watch with smart features. That means they simply added sensors to their classic watch designs. This is why it outperforms more expensive smartwatches like the Huawei Watch.
2. The Fossil Q app actually works. Its functionality sets it apart from other hybrids like the Timex IQ. Timex Connected is a buggy app that rarely worked or connected.
This hands-on experience was invaluable to me. Reading about the technology online, it seems the Huawei Watch and Apple Watch are hands-down favorites from tech reviewers.
These reviewers live in ivory towers and don't understand the reality the rest of us live in. Here's why.
Downfalls of digital smartwatches
I don't mean to pick on Huawei Watch. It's the cream of the crop among digital smartwatches. Released in 2015, most reviewers still consider it the premiere smartwatch on the market.
When I discuss the downfalls of this watch, it's not meant as knock on Huawei. It's meant to point out why digital smartwatches fail to gain mainstream acceptance.
The smartwatch industry grew year-over-year since 2014. Only 5 million were sold worldwide in 2014, while approximately 75 million have been sold in 2017. The Huawei Watch is a major reason for this, although Apple leads the pack.
1. Pricing is too high.
An Apple Watch Edition will set you back $1300, whereas a Samsung Gear or Huawei Watch are only $300. You can get a Huawei Watch in rose gold that'll cost $800, but that's as high as they go.
Meanwhile, a Fossil Q hybrid smartwatch only costs $155-$175.
But cost isn't the only concern. Digital smartwatches running Android Wear are highly customizable. They play games and can run apps similar to your smartphone. Most digital smartwatches these days let you leave your smartphone at home.
Doing so requires a separate data plan, and they have limited storage. So, while you can stream Pandora or Spotify on some, you can't always.
But that's not the biggest problem with these digital watches. The biggest problem is these digital smartwatches simply won't last long.
2. Digital screens fade over time.
Most digital smartwatches use an AMOLED screen. These are rated to last between 60,000 and 100,000 hours in perfect conditions. That equates to approximately 7-12 years.
Of course, that estimation is great for your LED TV. You keep your home at a steady temperature, and it rarely (if ever) gets hit with direct sunlight. Your smartwatch, however, is constantly worn outdoors, where it's exposed to the elements.
Both the heat and ultraviolet rays from sunlight can damage an LED screen. Your TV sits in a comfortable 70-80 degrees with very little temperature change. You're wearing a smartwatch in freezing temperatures during the winter and scorching heat during the summer.
You also have it pressed up against your body, where body heat is affecting it. These drastic changes in temperatures will deteriorate the screen much faster.
You can expect your digital smartwatch to last a decade, but that's not what watches were meant for.
3. Digital Smartwatches will become obsolete before they break.
Even if you don't wear your smartwatch during runs and other high-intensity workouts, it's going to become obsolete much quicker than a decade.
Of course, not wearing it at those times defeats the purpose of the fitness tracking. Fitness-related functionality is the most widespread usage of smartwatches on the general market.
You don't still use your cell phone from 2008. That's the era of BlackBerrys and mechanical keyboards. The original iPhone was barely released in June 2007, and Android was initially released in September 2008.
Think about how many smartphones you've bought over the past 10 years. Do you think your smartwatch will outlast those phones?
And good luck installing Android Oreo, or even Lollipop on your original Android phone from 2008. While the Huawei Watch lasted since 2015, the Huawei Watch 2 was released in 2017, two years later. Neither is likely to last a full decade.
Digital smartwatches aren't precious heirlooms
A Rolex is considered timeless. It's among the most well-known luxury watch brands, and you can expect to pay $2,000-$50,000 on a Rolex watch.
They're not smartwatches - they're jewelry meant to be passed down through the generations. Watches are precious heirlooms to many families.
Watch this famous scene from Pulp Fiction.
Christopher Walken went through a lot of trouble to get this watch to Butch. That's because the watch is going to last a lifetime.
As an adult 30 years later, Butch freaks out when his watch goes missing. It's a major catalyst of the movie that leads to several important scenes.
Do you think Christopher Walken would have hidden a digital Android Wear watch for all those years?
It certainly wouldn't still be working by the time Butch reached adulthood.
Calculator watches were very popular in the 1970s and 1980s. You don't own one, but manufacturers still make them today.
Nintendo's Game & Watch was a popular toy in the 1980s. They're collector items for Nintendo fanboys and hipsters, but they require screen replacements on their simple e-reader screens.
This is where the Fossil Q hybrid truly shines. A digital smartwatch is a niche product. It doesn't have the longevity of the classic wristwatch. Adding smart capabilities to a classic watch design is the key to these wearables going mainstream.
Hybrid smartwatches are the future
Do you remember Google Glass?
In 2013, Google believed it was the future of wearable technology. An HUD on your face feeding smartphone data seemed like a no-brainer.
But nobody bought Google Glass, and ABC discontinued it in 2015.
It re-released the product in 2017 for enterprise customers, but it still hasn't caught on to the mainstream. That's two wearables that have thus far failed to catch on over the past five years, despite having impressive technology.
That's because these wearables require a complete lifestyle change. Hybrid smartwatches like Fossil Q are different.
The Fossil Q is a mechanical watch. It has physical dials. This means you can't change the face. You can't play games. You can't use it to listen to music without your smartphone.
But do you really use those features?
What it does do is look and act like a regular watch. It still shows notifications. It has Bluetooth and sensors built in. There's an app that tracks your fitness and can sync with other platforms, even Android Wear.
But it looks like the classic watches we're all used to wearing. Google Glass proved style is just as important as functionality.
While a digital Android Wear smartwatch is a great niche product, it's still a small niche. It's a gimmick that will only ever appeal to a small audience.
The mass market will always appreciate the classic design of a mechanical watch.
That's why I love the Fossil Q hybrid and believe it'll outlast all other smartwatches.
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