Fossil Q Founder Review

The first generation of smartwatches was made by companies with tech backgrounds, like Samsung and Motorola. Now, with devices such as the Fossil Q Founder, well-known watchmakers are getting into the game, and that's a good thing. With its stainless-steel frame, the Q Founder is arguably the best-looking Android Wear watch to date, but its beauty is little more than skin-deep.

Design

The Fossil Q Founder is arguably the most attractive smartwatch yet ─ and that includes the $1,500 Tag Heuer, too. I loved its stainless-steel bezel and band, as well as the crown on the right, which, when pressed, will bring you back to the home screen.

Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideThe only thing marring the experience was the "flat-tire" touch screen. Like almost all other smartwatches with round faces (such as the Moto 360), a small portion of the bottom of the display is flattened

Be warned, though: this is one substantial watch. While its 46mm case diameter is on a par with the Moto 360, at 12.6mm, the Founder Q is more than a millimeter thicker than the 11.4mm Moto 360. Even with a number of links removed to accommodate my thin wrist, the Founder weighed 5.3 ounces. Its larger size will most definitely limit its appeal.

Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideAs much as I liked the look of the Q Founder, there's no competing with the customization options you get with the Moto 360. With that watch, you can choose different color options for the bezel, case and band, as well as an etched pattern for the bezel itself. But you'll have to pony up: If you wanted a Moto 360 that looked similar to the Q Founder, it would cost $399.

Display

The Fossil Q's 1.5-inch 360 x 326-pixel display is on a par with the Moto 360 (360 x 330) and sharper than the Apple Watch (272 x 340) and the LG Urbane (320 x 320) — which doesn't have the flat-tire look — but no match for the Huawei Watch's 400 x 400 screen.

Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideI was able to easily read the screen in broad daylight, and appreciated the Q Founder’s automatic brightness setting. You can also set the watch's screen to Always On, which dims the display but shows the time, so you don't have to wake the device to know if you're running late for an appointment.

Features

Compared with other smartwatches, the Q Founder is short on features. Unlike the Moto 360 and Apple Watch, it lacks a heart-rate monitor, so you can't check your pulse, and there's no built-in GPS, so you'll need your phone for accurate directions. However, it does have Wi-Fi, so you can use it even if you're not tethered to your Android phone via Bluetooth.

Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideFossil offers 18 different watch faces (20 if you're using Android) with the Q Founder; one of my favorites was the whimsical "Fred," which has a cartoonlike character move his hands to show the time, and his foot taps to count off the seconds. I ultimately used the Classic watch face, which has three subdials that I could customize to show the battery level of the watch, the weather, or my step count. I could also change the color of the dial and the hands.

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I liked the Always On feature; this kept the time on the screen at all times, and when I woke the watch, displayed more detailed information from the Classic watch face.

Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideFossil has its own smartwatch app, called Fossil Q (for both Android and iOS), that's really not worth your time. You still have to pair the watch initially with the Android Wear app, and the Fossil Q app doesn't offer anything you can't get with the Wear app. A tab called Q Curiosity gives you random challenges such as "Wrap your favorite object in paper and make it pretty." I’ll pass, thanks.

Performance

The Fossil Q Founder is the first Android Wear watch to use a low-power Intel Atom processor. In my day-to-day use, the watch proved as responsive as those with Qualcomm processors, with one exception: When I dismissed a notification, it would take a second longer when connected to an iPhone compared with an Android device.

Fossil has its own smartwatch app, called Fossil Q, that’s really not worth your time.

Regardless of what phone it was connected to, the Q Founder responded instantly to voice commands via Google Now. When I asked it "What was the score of the Eagles game," it displayed the results of the Philadelphia-Buffalo NFL game from the day before. I then followed that query with "Who do they play next," and the watch showed that the Eagles were going to play the Cardinals next week.

I liked that, when I was driving and using Google Maps as my navigation tool, the watch would display the next turn about 2 miles before I reached it.

Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideCredit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideYou'll miss out on a few features if you pair the Q Founder with an iPhone instead of an Android. For instance, you won't be able to use the watch's built-in Wi-Fi to connect to a network when you're out of Bluetooth range from your phone. You'll also miss out on two watch faces, Find My Phone, Google Hangouts and Google Maps on the watch, to name a few others.

Regardless, the Fossil Q is still hamstrung by Android Wear's clunky interface. You're going to get a deluge of notifications on your wrist, and you'll have to do a lot of swiping to get rid of them. The Q Founder lets you dismiss notifications by flicking your wrist, but depending on how many emails you get, you might feel like an ulnar fracture is imminent.

Battery Life

Fossil estimates that the 400 mAh battery in the Q Founder should last you about a day, and in my experience, it did just that. After taking the watch off its charging cradle in the morning, I found I had about 35 percent battery life remaining around 11 p.m. That's about typical for most Android Wear watches, though we were able to get about two days out of the LG Watch Urbane.

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The Q founder charges wirelessly using a Qi charging cradle that comes with the watch. While the cradle is attractive ─ it's wrapped in white leather, and glows red or blue, depending on the charge level ─ it's too bulky. If I'm packing my bag to go on a trip, I want something a lot smaller
than this 2.7 x 2.6 x 2.1-inch accessory. Fossil does not have any current plans to release a smaller charger, either.

Bottom Line

Watches are as much a fashion statement as they are a timepiece, and in that regard, the Fossil Q Founder succeeds better than other Android Wear devices before it. However, its massive size and clunky charger will turn off some, and its lack of GPS or a heart-rate monitor will most likely turn off the rest.

If you're looking for an Android Wear smartwatch in the same price range, the Moto 360 is nearly as attractive and offers more customization, both in  hardware and software. Fossil makes some great-looking timepieces — and the Q Founder is one of them — but as a smartwatch, it's not worth the investment.

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