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Fossil Gen 5 LTE Review: Rehashing last year’s hardware

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It’s been hard to find Android-compatible wearables that are worth the asking price, but Fossil usually comes through. Over a year ago, we reviewed the Fossil Gen 5 and it was one of the best Wear OS smartwatches at the time. Since then, very little has happened in the Wear OS world. That’s why the Fossil Gen 5 LTE is exciting: it’s one of the few LTE-enabled Wear OS devices on the market, and LTE on watches can be a real game-changer, in my experience.

However, it doesn’t bring anything new besides LTE, and while that LTE is useful, it doesn’t really make up for the old hardware, continued Wear OS bugs, limited carrier support, and high price tag.

Design, hardware, what’s in the box

The Fossil Gen 5 LTE comes in one style and two colors, gold, and black. That’s far less than the three styles of the Bluetooth model. The Fossil Gen 5 LTE only comes in a 45mm size, slightly larger than the 44mm case of the Fossil Gen 5. It is pretty big but the black model Fossil sent me does look fashionable and fits my wrist well.

The body of the Fossil Gen 5 LTE has two buttons and a rotating crown on the right side. The crown is used for scrolling through the UI and activating Google Assistant with a long press. The two buttons flanking the crown are used for shortcuts and can be customized to launch any app on the watch.

Just like the Bluetooth Fossil Gen 5, the Gen 5 LTE uses pin charging with a magnetic connector. The watch charges quickly, going from empty to full in around an hour. The watch comes with a standard 22mm silicone band, which is comfortable and durable. However, I expected something less sporty and more refined considering the style of the watch. Fossil does sell a pretty good leather band for $40, but I would have liked to see that included instead of the silicone band.

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The Fossil Gen 5 LTE is powered by the two-and-a-half-year-old Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. These specs are identical to the Fossil Gen 5 without LTE, launched over a year ago. I would have liked to see the Fossil Gen 5 LTE running newer silicon, like the Snapdragon Wear 4100 or 4100 Plus, but that’s probably reserved for Fossil’s next-gen watches.

One of the most noteworthy parts of the Fossil Gen 5 LTE is the LTE itself. With a dedicated mobile connection, the gen 5 LTE allows you to take phone calls and access all of your apps even if you’re outside of Bluetooth range. If you use apps like Spotify, you can just connect your earbuds to the watch and stream your music while tracking your run at the same time. It’s all just freeing and useful — I love LTE on watches, and this one has a rock-solid connection.

Software, performance, battery

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The Fossil Gen 5 LTE runs the latest version of Wear OS with all the Google goodies. There’s really nothing special here when it comes to this specific watch. It is identical to Wear OS on the Bluetooth Fossil Gen 5. For a more in-depth look at what that includes, you can check out our Fossil Gen 5 review. There are, however, a few things that bear mentioning.

First off, Google Assistant. Having access to Google Assistant and Ok Google support is fantastic, though the latter is broken and has been for months, but Google’s working on a fix. There were countless times I was using my watch to change my lights or just ask about the weather, and I don’t have to worry about where my phone was or even if it was charged. Always having access to the Google Assistant is just a huge bonus of this watch.

The fitness tracking and health features on the Fossil Gen 5 LTE are also fine, but lacking compared to the competition. It has the usual heart rate monitoring and manual fitness tracking. It’s about what’s expected on most watches. While it does use Google Fit, the lack of automatic workout detection for Google Fit does make it feel quite worthless for anything more than step tracking.

With LTE, you also get number sharing on Verizon. All calls that go to your main Verizon number will be forwarded to the watch. This doesn’t mean your watch and phone share a number, though. Verizon gives the watch its own phone number for calls and text and just forwards calls only to the watch. If your phone is turned off, you won’t receive any text on your watch unless it’s sent specifically to the watch’s phone number. It’s an all-around convoluted system that works best if you’re mostly using it for a data connection instead of calls.

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Performance on the Fossil Gen 5 LTE is pretty good, even with generation old silicon. I didn’t really notice any slowdowns or stuttering through the UI. It was all pretty smooth. The 1GB of RAM and Wear OS 2.23 on System version ‘H MR1’. Basically, it’s on the latest version and up-to-date.

As for battery life, it was fine. I could easily make it a day on LTE with the always on display enabled, but that would be about the extent of it. If I shut off the AOD and used Bluetooth, I could probably make it to two days, but that hardly seemed worth it. Fossil does have 4 different battery modes if you want to push it a bit more. Daily has everything but the AOD enabled. Extended disables all radios and features except Bluetooth and requires you to press the side button to check the time. Time only turns the smart watch into a classic digital watch and only displays the time while custom lets you select each feature and control the battery yourself.

Should you buy it?

Probably not. This watch is one of the better Wear OS wearables, but it’s running a last-gen wearable chip. It’s snappy enough for basic usage, but the numerous issues in Wear OS are still on display. I also worry Wear OS will not age gracefully on this watch.

At $350, it is one of the few LTE-enabled Wear OS devices, but being locked to Verizon is a huge downside. If you switch carriers, you’ll have to either use the watch with Bluetooth only or get a different LTE watch. If you want the Fossil Gen 5 LTE and aren’t on Verizon, sorry, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

If you aren’t looking for LTE, the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 has the latest hardware and costs $50 less. Outside of the Wear OS ecosystem, you’ve got both Samsung and Fitbit watches that do almost everything Wear OS does and more. The LTE Galaxy Watch Active2, for example, is $50 less and works on all carriers. Fitbit even has Assistant on the Sense and Versa 3. Although there’s no LTE option on the Fitbits, and I do love LTE on watches. I just wish this one was better or cheaper (or both).

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Buy it if:

  • You are on Verizon and want an LTE watch.
  • You like Wear OS and are willing to trust this year-old hardware.

Don’t it buy if:

  • You’re on T-Mobile or AT&T.
  • You want the latest and greatest hardware.
  • You don’t want another device to charge every day.

Buy: Verizon, Fossil

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