As I tested the new Fossil Gen 6 smartwatch, I was struck by how Wear OS has calcified into a middling software platform that really hasn’t convinced me to move away from my iOS ecosystem. I’m not saying the Apple Watch is for everyone, but it still feels like the best option out there, and I’m not convinced to switch.

Unfortunately, my opinion is largely affected by the odd territoriality of smartwatches and phone operating systems: Apple Watches only work with iPhones, while the latest Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 only works with Androids (bucking its predecessor’s trend of multi-OS compatibility). The watches that support both mobile operating systems, however, are stuck with Wear OS 2.0, which hasn’t been upgraded in years.

It’s an unfortunate reality, and one that forces consumers to pick their exclusive ecosystem in ways that are as unnecessary as they are embarrassingly retrograde. It’s never been cool for Apple to keep Apple Watch compatibility solely with iOS devices, though we can begrudgingly understand how much more seamless you can make interactions by focusing on just your in-house operating system. But locking Galaxy Watch 4 out of iOS feels like a loss, especially as it prevents the new Wear OS 3 from going toe-to-toe with watchOS.

Fossil Gen 6

(Image credit: Future)

The Fossil Gen 6 is the compromise that works with both Android and iOS devices, but unfortunately, it won’t be upgraded to Wear OS 3 until 2022. In the meantime, prospective buyers are stuck in a limbo of dealing with the current Wear OS 2.0, which hasn’t had a big refinement in years, while they wait for new features and integrations with Android 12 (like a watch face that matches your phone color palette through Material You). 

All of the Fossil Gen 6’s speed via its Snapdragon Wear 4100 Plus chipset is wasted on an aging interface – those smooth transitions are only switching between some basic downloaded-by-default apps. I also have to manually reconnect the watch to my iPhone on a somewhat frequent basis, a condition that may not extend to Android phones. And it’s not like switching to a Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is a good alternative – I’d literally have to switch phone operating systems, which is easy to do as a reviewer but a hard ask for most consumers, especially since some features are only accessible if you have a Samsung phone.

Apple Event September 2021

(Image credit: Apple)

My Apple Watch stays until I have a good reason to switch



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