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Fossil Q Explorist HR (4th Gen) review: My entry into the smartwatch world

Picture: TechnikNews
(Post picture: © 2018 TechnikNews)

Since the release of the LG G Watch, which was presented in 2014 and was one of the first watches with Android, I've wanted an Android smartwatch. Only now - four years later - have I bought the Fossil Q Explorist HR and for it TechnikNews tested. My experience after a week.

Unboxing and initial setup

I already have the unboxing and initial setup of the watch in that post linked here documented. That's why I'm going to do these two Proonly briefly summarize here. Inside the cube-shaped cardboard box, on which some logos and inscriptions have been printed, are the Q Explorist HR and a charging puck that attaches to the back of the smartwatch using a magnet. However, this is very weak - even a slight pull on the cable could break the connection between the puck and the watch.

This is the scope of delivery of the Fossil Q Explorist HR (Image: TechnikNews, 2018)

Design, appearance and workmanship

I'm absolutely impressed with the design of the Fossil Q Explorist HR, it hasn't changed since I first saw the watch.

The case of my configuration is made of black stainless steel and is very well made, there are absolutely no defects here. I can't find any scratches or dents at the moment, although I've scratched the edges of the house several times. The diameter of the case of the watch is 45mm which is just the right size for my arms. For women or people who have slightly thinner arms, however, I recommend the Fossil Q Venture HR with a display diagonal of only 40mm.

The Fossil Q Explorist HR is a visual eye-catcher (Image: TechnikNews, 2018)

The Q Explorist HR is next to the Q Venture HR the first smartwatch from Fossil that is waterproof. It can withstand a water depth of 30m (we are talking about 3 ATM here - for everyone who can do something with this information).

Unfortunately, the size of the watch's display is unknown. It is estimated that we are talking about a diameter between 40 and 45 millimeters. The display itself is an AMOLED panel. I very much welcome this decision, as it means that the black level of the displayed image is very good. The screen is sufficiently sharp and the colors are also okay. Unfortunately, there is no precise information from Fossil about the resolution either. I noticed positively that I couldn't find a single scratch on the display glass. GORILLA glass was most likely installed here. On the other hand, I noticed negatively that it is difficult to see the content of the display in direct sunlight.

If you don't feel like scrolling through content on the touchscreen, you can also use the digital crown on the side. You can also press this, which then allows you to do several things: A simple press takes you to the clock face or the app overview. A long press on the digital crown starts the Google Assistant. This can record commands via the built-in microphone. There is no loudspeaker. However, I never really used the voice assistant.

The bracelets can be easily exchanged. Any 22mm bracelet can be attached. My strap is made of black silicone. This is very stiff, but it still feels comfortable on the arm.

Yay! A heart rate monitor! (Image: TechnikNews, 2018)

There is also a heart rate sensor on the back. This year, there is one for the first time in a Fossil smartwatch.

Bracelets and configurations

In addition to my configuration with the black silicone strap and the black stainless steel case, there are a few other variations of the Fossil Q Explorist HR. For example, the range includes a version with a gold case and a black leather strap. Then there are three models with silver housings. The first is available in combination with a dark brown leather bracelet, a variant is available in combination with a light brown leather bracelet and the third version is available with a band made of silver stainless steel.

As I mentioned above, you can attach a bracelet with a bandwidth of 22mm to each model. The prices for the configurations just mentioned are then given below.

Specifications

Qualcomm's Snapdragon Wear 2100 works in the Fossil Q Explorist HR. Before my purchase, I often read that this Prozessor has been criticized for its age and allegedly slow speed. But after my week with the Fossil Q Explorist HR, I can't subscribe to any of that. I had no performanceProproblems with my watch - apps always start relatively quickly.

Fossil states that the Q Explorist HR's battery should get the user through a day. When setting up the clock for the first time, I was unable to reach the specified time - here the clock ran empty very quickly. After a few charging cycles, I now have just over a day of use before my watch has to be recharged. It should be noted here, however, that I have deactivated the always-on display and that I always turn the clock off while sleeping.

The internal memory of the smartwatch is 4GB. Apps and the operating system are primarily stored here. You can also save music from Google Play Music on it so that you can listen to songs on the go without an internet connection. The built-in RAM is 512MB. This size is completely sufficient for a smartwatch - running apps never crashed on me.

An acceleration sensor, an ambient light sensor and a gyroscope were installed as sensors. The acceleration sensor is used, among other things, to activate the watch's display when the user raises their arm. In most cases this worked very reliably. Alternatively, you can push the digital crown on the side to wake up the watch. A navigation through the software of the watch with the help of quick movements of the wrist is also made possible by the acceleration sensor. That didn't work out so well, however.

The connection to the smartphone is established via Bluetooth. That worked fine in almost all cases. Only a few times did I have to experience that the watch and smartphone no longer found each other when I was a little further away. Opening the Wear OS app on my Moto G4 Plus helped.

For the first time, there is GPS in a Fossil smartwatch. This is used to track distances and distances during workouts and to navigate with Google Maps. My experiences with GPS in the watch can be found below.

This year, NFC is also available for the first time in a smart watch from Fossil. This chip is used for cashless payments with services such as Google Pay. Unfortunately, I could not test this because the service is not available in Austria.

Software

The Fossil Q Explorist HR runs Google's Wear OS. The version is 1.4 which is based on Android 8.0 Oreo and is currently the highest possible version. I myself have perceived Wear OS as an extension to the smartphone - the operating system proSo it doesn't try to replace the smartphone, which is very often the case with the Apple Watch and watchOS.

Update: In the meantime, the watch received Wear OS 1.5.

Wear OS 1.4 runs on the Fossil Q Explorist HR (Image: TechnikNews, 2018)

You can see the dial immediately when you turn on the clock. This can be changed by swiping left or right. If there is no suitable clock face in the pre-installed collection, you can download one from the Play Store. When you have finally decided what your watch should look like, you can edit individual elements of the selected style with a long press.

If you want to see your new notifications, a swipe up is enough. Individual messages can be deleted by swiping from left to right. All messages eliminated using the button at the bottom of the list of all messages. You can get to various shortcuts by dragging your finger from top to bottom on the dial.

All installed apps can be accessed by pressing the digital crown. Other apps can be downloaded from the preinstalled Play Store and some can be used independently of a smartphone. However, I noticed that you can only download one app at a time if you don't want to get an error message.

All in all, my first own experiences with Wear OS are consistently positive. The operation is simple and quickly becomes part of the blood. In addition, things like the controls for playback are a practical feature, as you can often leave your smartphone in your pocket.

Record sports

In order to record sports with the Fossil Q Explorist HR, Google Fit is already preinstalled. Because Android and Wear OS are two very open systems, you can also use third-party apps to track your workouts. Here, for example, Runtastic or Strava are recommended.

I've always used Google Fit though. There is mainly one reason for this: you can control your music while tracking is running. It is also possible to use the GPS of the smartphone and the GPS of the watch in combination to record routes. As a result, it hardly takes five seconds until Google Fit has found the starting position before the workout and you can start. I noticed positively that all routes were recorded with almost no errors and that the battery consumption of the watch is only very low when using the GPS of the smartwatch and smartphone in combination.

But you can also leave your smartphone at home and only use the watch's GPS. The tracking is then exactly as just described. However, it takes longer to find the starting position and the battery consumption is noticeably higher.

Summary and Conclusion

Admittedly, I was quite skeptical before buying the Q Explorist HR. Unfortunately, very little good has been heard from the predecessors. After one week of use, however, I have to admit that the pessimistic thinking was in vain beforehand.

I can't fault the design and workmanship of the watch at all. Looking at it, you can easily tell that Fossil has been in this business for several decades. In my opinion, the good workmanship can also be attributed to the latter. I currently don't have a single scratch on my watch. I also think it's good that Fossil has opted for a universal change option for the bracelets. For the most part, I was also very satisfied with the display. It could only be a bit brighter so that information on the screen can be seen well even in direct sunlight.

Then I noticed the very consistent performance positively. I never had to experience jerks and apps always start quickly. I have mixed feelings about the battery life achieved. If you look at the competition, the battery life could be a little better, but the usage time of just over a day that is usually achieved is okay.

I very much welcome the fact that GPS, NFC and protection against water are now on board. Thanks to the built-in GPS, I no longer have to take my smartphone with me when I go running. I applaud less than that a few times ProThere were problems establishing a connection between smartphone and smartwatch.

All in all, I think the Fossil Q Explorist HR is now the perfect smartwatch for a great many people. On the one hand it is hardly noticeable in everyday life due to the simple design, on the other hand you can now use it proeasily use for workouts. However, if you're not a fan of the Snapdragon Wear 2100, you should wait until watches with the upcoming Snapdragon Wear 3100 are introduced by Qualcomm.

Prices and availability

The Fossil Q Explorist HR is available from Fossil itself, from Amazon and from several smaller retailers. The two models with the stainless steel bracelets cost 299 €, all other configurations are available for 279 €.

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David Haydl

David lives in Graz and has been there for around half a decade TechnikNews, also editor-in-chief for some time. He regularly provides the site with news, test reports and the like TechnikNews Weekly, which was his idea to launch. He likes to spend his free time outdoors, listening to a lot of music (and clearly too loud) and some podcasts on all kinds of topics, and also likes to go running. He enjoys the time that remains with his charming girlfriend or in front of the TV.

David has already written 1115 articles and left 104 comments.

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Gerald

Hello, I have the Explorist gen 3 das ProThe problem is the middle button is pressed when the wrist is bent. That bothers animals. Does the HR gen 4 have that Proproblem solved?
Greetings Gerald

Lasse Zinkler

Hi Gerald, I have the same watch and it bothers me extremely, because the Google Assistant is always activated. I wish there was an option to turn this off!
LG Lasse

Mark L

Thanks for the contribution.
I already had a fossil (the Q Marshal) that had a pixel error in the display after 1 year and 10 months.
After I gave the watch to customer service (warranty case), the answer was that I can choose the new Explorist because they cannot repair my display.
I'm already looking forward to my Explorist (with significantly more features than my first generation Fossil) and hope the customer service will continue to be as good!
You simply buy the complete package from Fossil

LG.

dragon-tmd

Unfortunately, the watch has a pointless, almost 2mm border around the actual display. With that, almost all watch faces look really strange. Because the bezel starts much later. Visually, this is imho a fail. The Qualcomm 2100 is too slow for more complex watch faces, the whole watch then lags extremely. Simply install the Watchmaker app.

Battery life: with always-on and gestures (out of the box): 11 hours. If you deactivate this, you get just under 2 days. The battery loses almost 30% overnight, so activate flight mode, charge the battery or switch it off!

David Roeser

The clock does not have a loudspeaker.

Jannik

Will it be as warm as its predecessor when setting up, installing apps, etc.?

Jannik

That's what I call a quick response. Which Wear OS version is currently on it?

David Roeser

Also wrong. I have the same watch with version 1.5.

David Wurm

At the time of Jannik's comment, wear OS 1.4 was the most current version for the Fossil Q Explorist HR.