New Gadget Fun – Fossil Hybrid HR Collider
June 2020 Update: After about 6 months of daily (or at least nightly) use, the hour hand of the watch appears to have failed. Re-calibrating and resetting the watch doesn’t help; the hour hand is stuck at 2:00 (and occasionally moves to 11:00 for some reason). The minute hand does appear to still keep time. I opened a ticket with Fossil and they’re advising me to send it in for what I hope is a free warranty repair. It appears to be free, but they wouldn’t guarantee that. So, not a great sign compared to how well my past Fitbits have held up.
The Armdog Reviews score and review I wrote has also been updated to reflect this issue: https://armdogreviews.com/fossil-hybrid-smartwatch-hr-collider/
Although you wouldn’t know it by looking at the last year of posts, this website is actually also devoted to tech and data-related interests. My last tech post was back in December of last year, when I discussed my quest to find a new smartphone. Since then, it’s been pretty much wall-to-wall art, outside of some discussions of digital drawing tablets…which is still technically art I suppose. Anyhow, I finally have something to discuss again on the tech-side of things due to a recent purchase. This week, a unique hybrid smartwatch was released called the Fossil Hybrid HR Collider.
I am probably an odd demographic in terms of smartwatches. I like the idea of a smartwatch, but I am heavily resistant to having to charge another device everyday. I already have my personal phone, work phone, and a tablet to maintain. The thought of adding a wrist device to that plugged rotation has always been unappealing. So, near the top of my hypothetical priority list would be long battery life. Unfortunately, that’s a lot to ask for in the current world of smartwatches. From what I’ve read/heard, the Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch, and various third party Google Wear OS options all require a daily charge. Some even need the wearer to disable features to last through one day of use. Fitbit (Rest In Peace maybe, after their purchase by Google) is a bit better. I used a Fitbit Versa for about a year and typically got 3-4 days use before needing juice.
Another major want for me is tight integration with Google Fit. It’s become my preferred fitness app, mostly due to the passive tracking my phone provides and the simple interface. Even if the battery life was good, that sort of drops Apple for me. And this has always been my biggest complaint with the Fitbit Versa and the Charge 2 before it; I just didn’t like Fitbit’s app. Because of these two big wish list items, I’ve done some hybrid watch browsing. The problem with most hybrids I’ve seen, though, is poor notification and metric display.
A few months ago, some rumors were circulating about Google paying Fossil like $40 million to develop some new smartwatch technology using e-ink (like the Amazon Kindle e-reader). The project had the codename DIANA; I believe a mash-up of DIGITAL and ANALOG, and the watch was supposed to be called Collider. I’ve been watching for this one, because it sounded to be right in my wheelhouse. Well, about a week ago, Fossil suddenly released this thing out of the blue! It was pretty surprising, because they didn’t just announce that it was available soon or anything – they just literally said, “okay you can buy this mystery object now.”
Because I had long since stopped using my Fitbit Versa for anything aside from the silent vibrating alarm, I decided to give this thing a try. The rest of this post will be my review of the Fossil Hybrid HR Collider, with some comparisons to the Fibit Versa for reference.
We’ll talk about some basics first. I bought the black silicone band version of the Collider, which cost me $195. Fossil offers some opportunities for 25% off coupons, but unfortunately I was told all smartwatches are exceptions. It seems like a fair price to me, right about in line with what I paid for the Fitbit Versa if I remember correctly. It’s significantly less expensive than high end fitness watches and the Apple Watch. So, this Fossil Hybrid seems like a good value.
You can read the feature list on Fossil’s site, but it’s got most of what I’m looking for. Heart rate monitoring, notification display, exercise and step tracking…and it tells time! Like a watch, you know? It does not allow you to respond to messages, make phone calls, or have a voice assistance. All of those things are not important to me, but of course your mileage may vary. It’s also important to note this smartwatch does not have GPS. I have read that it doesn’t have connected GPS like Fitbit does…but I have to question that. When I tracked a run using the Collider HR, I didn’t touch Google Fit, yet accessing Google Fit later showed me a GPS-mapped run associated with the Fossil app.
Another thing to point out is that this smartwatch does not have a touch screen. You interact with it using three assignable buttons on the side. I’ve found the buttons to be pretty intuitive so far, and haven’t missed the accidental touches I had with my Fitbit Versa. But if you need a touchscreen, this is also something to keep in mind. And despite the screen not being LCD, the notifications look great. Unlike some other hybrid smartwatches, you don’t really have to scroll to see content. Quite a fair amount of information is displayed all at once using the e-ink; enough to get the gist of most text messages I received.
The Watch’s Look and Interface
In terms of looks, I absolutely love what Fossil did with the HR Hybrid Collider. It looks like one of Fossil’s normal watches! I’ve never been a fan of the “rounded square” look popularized by the Apple Watch. The size is pretty good from my perspective, not too bulky, not too small. I’ve included some photos of this watch on my arm and next to the Fitbit Versa; to give you a reference point, I’m about 6’3″ 220ish lbs. Despite it not being tiny, it really doesn’t feel very heavy when I’m wearing it. It seems like it will be easy to forget it’s on sometimes.
Regarding the face, it’s better than I expected. I wasn’t sure how e-ink would look on a watch, but it blends very well. Just glancing at it, the e-ink just seems like a natural part of the watch. Normally, with phones and smartwatches, being outside hinders your vision of the screen. But with this one, it actually looks even better in natural light! When I went for my first run with this, I was amazed at how clearly I could see it. Indoors, it’s visible but not super bright. I really haven’t had to use the built-in backlight at all yet.
Normally, the watch band would be an afterthought. But I wanted to say a few things about the HR Collider’s band. It’s got a unique texture I was not expecting; it has a slight softness to it which feels really good on my rest. Compared to the band on my Fitbit Versa, this subjectively seems a notch higher on the quality scale. According to Fossil, this smartwatch is also compatible with all of their 22mm watch straps. I’m not sure that I’ll explore that realm, but it’s nice to know there’s some flexibility.
The watch’s interface is very good. As you can see from images of the watch, you’ve got four metrics (I think watch people call them “complications”) visible on the watch face. These are customizable with some additional choices via the app. You can double tap the face with your finger to activate a backlight, and flick your wrist to temporarily move the watch hands to get a better view of the metrics. I’ve found the wrist-flick and double-tap to both be somewhat finicky.
The Collider HR pairs with your phone using Fossil’s own app. I’d never used it before, but this was another area that surprised me. Their app is very clean and well-designed. The tracking data is organized effectively and the watch customization area is very easy to use. You can designate which apps you want to receive notifications from, which mostly centers around Google-related apps and some of the bigger social media players (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). It’s not a huge list, but covers most of what I was looking for. The connection to Google Fit is pretty seamless; I’ve had no trouble getting all the data this watch collects right over to Fit.
With Fossil’s app, I feel like everything is useful and designed to provide easy-to-access information. With Fitbit’s app, two out of the four tabs are completely useless (Discover and Premium). It’s one of the reasons that, even when I regularly wore my Fitbit Versa, I stopped using their app and tried to find workarounds to use Google Fit. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I don’t anticipate the same issue.
In terms of the app and app/watch connection, I should also mention I’ve noticed a couple of odd issues so far. Minor things, but hopefully these bugs will be squished at some point. First, with text message notification, I keep receiving messages on the watch telling me “you are connected to Messages” (something like that) – it’s the same message I usually see when connecting Android’s SMS app Messages to my computer’s browser. Also, although I’m using U.S. measurements like feet, miles, and pounds, in at least one place in the Fossil app, it still shows kilometers.
Also, something interesting if you play Pokemon Go. This watch apparently plays very well with Adventure Sync, because while I was sleeping the first night wearing this, I somehow got credited 3 km of walking. I don’t know all the in-and-outs of how Adventure Sync works, but I think it works directly with Google Fit and Apple’s default equivalent.
The battery life, as promised, has been top notch. Fossil advertising about two weeks depending on usage. And one of the few reviews available early in the Collider HR’s release indicated they’d lost about 10% per day, landing them right around 10 days. As of the original publish date of this write-up, I had worn the Collider HR during one active Saturday (not including sleep at night), with bluetooth connected and including one jog, and only lost 3%. I had worn it about about 11 hours at the time. Charging was very slow during the last 5%, so maybe battery decline is similarly non-linear? I’m not really sure why it’s been so much slower than other reports.
Extrapolating that 3% in 11 hours over a longer time period, it seemed like a 6.6% loss in a day, 46% loss in a week, and 100% drain after just over 16 days. As an update to this post, at the 24 hour mark of constant use, the device was at 95%. After 4 days and some change, I had 74% remaining on the charge. So my watch, which has been connected to my phone via bluetooth almost constantly, has been losing about 6.1% per day. I still seem to be roughly on track for 15-16 days of constant use, which I’m really happy with.
I’ll also mention, this thing charges really quickly. I didn’t time it, but when I received the watch I immediately plugged it in. I glanced back at it after what felt like a very short time, and it was already almost completely charged. That last 5% seemed to take as long as the increase from 70-95%.
Tracking Steps, Exercise, Heart Rate, and Sleep
Now, on the tracking metrics. As I said, I haven’t had a ton of time with it yet, but so far step tracking seems roughly similar to Fitbit. On a normal day that included a run, my Fitbit steps would typically end around 8,500-10,000. By about 8:00pm of the first day with the Collider HR, it was sitting right at 8,500. On a normal run, Fitbit usually landed those steps somewhere around 4,000. My run today with the Collider HR hit right at 3,950. I actually expected a bit more of a difference in step counting.
Comparing runs, overall they’re very close as I mentioned above. But that’s not uniformly true. For example, the corner stop sign that typically represents the 1 mile mark with both Google Fit and Fitbit tracked runs was very close to where Fossil indicated. But the 1.5 mile mark was three or four houses different. I’m guessing since the Collider HR doesn’t have GPS, this represents a difference in stride length as the run goes on. Although maybe that doesn’t matter, because as I mentioned previously, it does seem this smartwatch automatically piggy-backs onto my phone’s GPS using Google Fit.
I honestly don’t know much about heart rates, but I suppose Fossil and Fitbit are similar. Fossil is telling me my resting heart rate is 67 bpm, and my last measurement in Fitbit was 65 bpm. Fossil’s app says during my run, my max heart rate was 188 bpm, while the last run I have logged in Fitbit had a max of 170 bpm. To be fair to Fossil, I hadn’t run in a couple weeks and was definitely feeling that fact as I wheezed down the road. Heart rate trends might be something I have to keep an eye on over time.
In terms of sleep, as I mentioned previously, I will have to update this post with details as I’ve use it more. Sleep tracking was pretty solid with Fitbit, so we’ll see how Fossil does. I’ve used it to track one night of sleep so far, and it seems fine from what I can tell. I had what felt like a good night’s sleep, with a couple of brief semi-waking up moments. The Collider HR’s sleep tracking captured when I was asleep pretty well.
If it isn’t completely obvious already, so far I’m really liking the Fossil Hybrid HR Collider. It’s got a really nice overall look to it, and the extra battery life provided by the e-ink display is a game-changer. I do not know if I am a niche consumer, or if there are others out there striving for maximum battery life and a subtle device look. I guess Fossil is betting that people like me are not outliers, and that there are others who will find this offering appealing. I’m hoping this one does well for them, because want this device to have a future.
If you want something you don’t have to constantly keep charged, and you only use the basics in a smartwatch, this thing might be worth a look. Bonus points if you like Fossil’s standard watches because this hybrid smartwatch certainly does a good imitation of that look.
I bought my watch directly from Fossil’s store, which offered free shipping on the purchase. I’ve read you can also get these directly from Fossil’s store. As of this post, it is also available on Amazon, but the listing indicates it won’t be released until the end of November. Maybe Fossil gave themselves a retail head start?
One Month Update: It’s been a good month with the watch. I still love the way it looks and the battery life is still amazing. I have run into a couple of issues though, one of which is pretty significant. I’ve discussed some of these things in the comments section, but here’s what I’m seeing that needs work:
- I lost one entire day of tracking (HR, steps, exercise, sleep). I opened a ticket with Fossil, they can’t seem to figure out why. It only happened once – the data just disappeared as I was syncing the watch to the app in the evening. If it happens again, this issue may actually be a deal-breaker for me. I used FitBits for years and never had something like that happen. Fossil support, which I had always heard was pretty good, appears to have given up on my issue. I can’t reproduce it, and they closed my ticket with a “if it happens again” message.
- I keep the watch connected via bluetooth pretty much all the time, and it disconnects from the app about once a week. Don’t know if that’s related to the above issue or not. To fix, I have to turn off bluetooth, close the app, turn on bluetooth, reopen the app, tap connect.
- Limited app connections. Would really like to see some additions like WordPress, Reddit, Amazon, eBay, some others that I commonly get notifications on my phone about. They have a lot of the basics, but most people will probably have some they miss.
- Although the screen is amazing in outdoor light, it’s very hard to see at dusk. Around sundown, the backlight does not help (plus it is hard to trigger). So, going for a run at that time can be tough with this watch.