Colors: Black, blush
Display: 1.28 inch AMOLED
Battery life: 24 hours
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100
Memory: 1GB RAM, 8GB storage
Water resistance: 3 ATM
Supported carrier: Verizon
What’s a company to do when updating a smartwatch? For Fossil, the answer could’ve been fitness-related, turning the fashion-first wearable into a more formidable Fitbit rival. The company could have swapped Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip for the newer Snapdragon Wear 4100, too. But instead it added LTE in a time when many people are staying home.
As Fossil's first smartwatch with independent cellular capabilities, the Fossil Gen 5 LTE Touchscreen Smartwatch ($349) is an iteration of the two-year-old Fossil Gen 5 that lets Android users with Verizon cellular plans free their wearable from their smartphone. For those who are out and about these days, this version of Wear OS’s most relevant smartwatch can take calls, send messages and use apps even when their handset is MIA.
The best smartwatches, like the Apple Watch Series 6 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, have offered LTE options for several generations now. So even if this Fossil Gen 5 LTE is a little late to the party, it’s worth figuring out whether its new feature is actually a welcome guest or simply an attempt to distract us from Wear OS’s ongoing deficiencies.
Fossil Gen 5 LTE: Price and availability
The Fossil Gen 5 LTE costs $349 for both the Black or Blush models. That’s about $50 more than the Gen 5’s original price of $295. Now you can get the non-LTE version of $199, though, making it one of the best cheap smartwatches. The non-LTE version offers a greater variety of styles and colors as well.
And when you get the LTE version, you’ll need to prepare for additional fees. With a Verizon Unlimited plan, it costs $10 per month (the same as Apple Watch and Galaxy Watch) for LTE support. You’ll also use Verizon’s Number share service, meaning the number for your companion smartphone and your Fossil smartwatch will be the same.
Fossil Gen 5 LTE review: Design
Fossil creates beautiful wristwatches, both smart and not. Keeping with the brand’s design sensibilities, the round, 44-millimeter Fossil Gen 5 LTE features sleek, stainless-steel bezels and a familiar three-button array.
It’s still oversized on small wrists, especially when worn alongside the petite Garmin Lily, but the benefit is a large and legible display.
The silicone straps of the model I tested are more conducive to working out than, say, the optional leather or steel mesh ones you can interchange. But I was cautious about exposing the Fossil Gen 5 LTE to excessive sweat or other elements: It’s rated 3ATM for water resistance, whereas most smartwatches made for activity are rated 5ATM. 5ATM means the smartwatch can withstand swimming workouts in shallow waters. 3ATM means the smartwatch is only splashproof, so take it off before taking a shower.
For some, that’s suitable. Unlike the lightweight Fossil Sport, which is made for movement, the Fossil Gen 5 LTE feels more lifestyle focused. It’s less for the runner who wants to stream music or pay for a coffee and more for the professional who needs to be reachable or connected at all times.
Fossil Gen 5 LTE review: Going phone-free
For this review, Fossil sent me an LG Stylo 5 — far from one of the best phones, but a phone that’s set up for Verizon Number Share. After I paired the Fossil Gen 5 LTE to the WearOS app on the Stylo, it was ready to operate solo. That meant I could leave the phone behind when I went for walks, to the grocery store and some other errands. It's one of the few LTE-capable WearOS smartwatches; if you want something much more luxe, check out our Montblanc Summit 2+ hands-on.
Since the number wasn’t tied to my personal contacts or messages, I didn’t receive many notifications besides Gmail. I did, however, make a few calls from the temporary number. According to the receiver, my voice sounded clear on the other end, but more distant compared to when I called on my Apple Watch with cellular.
If you have the older Gen 5, you can make calls and send texts from your wrist as long as your smartphone is nearby. Both versions offer on-board GPS, so, again, the key benefit you’re getting from the LTE version is the ability to ditch your phone for a while.
Maybe if I were going out more regularly I’d reap more of the benefits of an LTE smartwatch, but I couldn’t appreciate the freedom as much as I would’ve liked. I’m sure I’m not the only one in this position these days.
Fossil Gen 5 LTE review: Wear OS
Wear OS gets a bad rap, and I can’t say it’s not deserved. I recently wrote about how the Google Assistant voice detection feature hasn’t worked for months, and not many people noticed. Including me — when I tested the best Google Assistant commands from my wrist, I manually activated it through the Fossil Gen 5’s tile-based menus.
The menus still lack the app variety and sophistication of Samsung’s Tizen OS and Apple’s watchOS. Even the Fitbit Versa 3’s interface, which I thought seemed slow during testing, felt more responsive than the Fossil Gen 5. The Snapdragon Wear 4100-packed TicWatch Pro 3 offers a significantly improved Wear OS integration, making me wish Fossil upgraded the Gen 5 LTE’s chipset, especially for the price.
One thing that’s getting better about Wear OS is Google Fit. Health services are more competitive than ever these days, and while Google hasn’t gone as far to launch an Apple Fitness Plus rival, it has expanded the data you see in your Google Fit profile. It launched a camera-based respiratory rate reader for Pixel phone users earlier this year. When I tracked an outdoor walk, I found my step count and heart rate matched my Apple Watch’s measurements. Apple, Samsung and Fitbit all track more workout types, though.
It’s important to note that while Wear OS does work on both Android and iOS, you’ll need an Android to use the LTE capabilities of the Fossil Gen 5. You’ll also want to know that the Fossil Gen 5 LTE doesn’t ship with the latest software update, so you won’t get features now found on the regular Fossil Gen 5 like native sleep tracking or Fossil’s new wellness app. You’ll still get Wear OS apps like Pandora, Nike+ Run Club, Spotify and Google’s entire suite of programs, of course.
Fossil Gen 5 LTE review: Battery Life
Like the regular Fossil Gen 5, the Fossil Gen 5 LTE has a number of battery management tools that lets you determine how long you want your smartwatch to last. Forever isn’t an option, but based on how you use the watch you’ll experience different staminas.
You can choose from Daily, Custom, Extended and Time Only. Based on my experience Daily and Custom will get you somewhere between 14 and 24 hours, which is a little short by smartwatch standards. Extended grows that window to a few days (at the expense of most features) while Time Only turns the Fossil Gen 5 LTE into a normal-looking wristwatch.
No matter how I use it, my Apple Watch Series 6 lasts just around 24 hours. Although the consistency is conducive to a charging schedule, it would be nice if using less features rewarded me with longer battery life like it does with the Fossil Gen 5.
Fossil Gen 5 LTE review: Verdict
As the first Wear OS smartwatch with cellular support in the U.S., the Fossil Gen 5 LTE had big shoes to fill. Fossil still makes some of the best wearables in terms of both functionality and fashion, and now customers have an LTE option.
But should they take it? I wish Fossil introduced more tangible upgrades for the Gen 5 LTE, especially for the price. Since the standard Gen 5 now costs $199, the company is asking for an additional $150 for LTE support. That’s pricer than Apple’s premium for Cellular — for a watch with an aging chipset, nonetheless. If you’re looking for an affordable LTE watch, the Apple Watch SE with Cellular starts at $329. You’ll need an iPhone though.
For Android users, your best bet is still the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 with LTE. If you’re loyal to Wear OS, you might get lucky: There’s a rumor that Samsung’s watches are switching over from Tizen. But Wear OS needs a lot of work before then.