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Fossil Hybrid HR review

For the purists

(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Fossil Hybrid HR is a breath of fresh air which explores the underserved middle ground between smartwatches that bite off more than they can chew and fitness trackers that look like toys. It has a very cherry-picked feature set, which will appeal to some users. For those specifically looking for a hybrid, this is one of the best new options.

For

  • Classy design
  • Reliable 15-day battery
  • Novel e-ink display

Against

  • Notifications can't be interacted with
  • Not the most intuitive

The Fossil Hybrid HR is the company’s first attempt at creating a hybrid from the ground up, including the software side. It is squarely targeted at those who want a smartwatch experience but do not want to sacrifice on the design or battery reliability that we’re used to expecting from traditional watches. Considering that, it is a pretty good first attempt at creating a new platform that deserves to have more generations in the future.

For Android users, smartwatch options either come from Samsung or the Fossil group. While they have matured a lot over the past few years in the absence of competition, the experience often fails to justify the price tag. Moreover, as counter-intuitive as it may sound, adding more features and capabilities have done little to turn the tide of Android smartwatches.

With that knowledge in mind, the Fossil Hybrid HR ventures with a different approach to the wearable game; one that interestingly doesn’t aim to replace your smartphone. In fact, one of the first things you’ll notice during the initial setup process is how unapologetically this watch is meant to just extend notifications from your phone. This is the theme that will be prevalent through this review.

Price and availability

(Image credit: Future)

The Fossil Hybrid HR is priced at Rs 14,995 in India. The variant we tested was the Hybrid Smartwatch HR Collider in the Smoke finish with a stainless steel band, which is priced at Rs 16,495. It can be purchased from Amazon and Fossil’s website. 

Design

(Image credit: Future)

Design preferences on tech products are generally subjective, but for smartwatches, the polarity is much lesser as these are part-time fashion accessories. The Fossil Hybrid HR nails this aspect with what is one of the best-looking watches we’ve seen, hybrid or otherwise. It is beautifully clad in metal on all sides with sturdy lugs and a rather comfortable band.

It looks like a conventional analog watch, which is a major factor for hybrids. The backplate has an embedded heart rate sensor that kicks in at intervals to record your pulse. There are three pushers on the right side for navigation, as the face is not a touchscreen. The size and weight, however, makes it unsuitable for people with slimmer wrists. 

Most smartwatches look too geeky for their good and are difficult recommendations to fashion-conscious people. The Fossil Hybrid HR will win many such hearts. We got unanimously positive feedback around its look.

Display

(Image credit: Future)

Coming to the most exciting bit of the watch, we have a regular watch with hands adorning the front. But, a closer look will reveal a digital display underneath. It is a 1.06-inch e-ink display for viewing your notifications and complications. This inherently brings extremely low power consumption and unparalleled sunlight legibility. Save for a few older Pebble watches, and the Fossil Hybrid HR is one of the rare wearables which implements an e-ink display. We think this trend deserves more adopters as display brightness and battery life have been plaguing smartwatches for years. They don’t need to be super colorful to get the job done that they are destined to.

Having said that, as with most e-paper panels, this one suffers from terrible refresh rates. It takes almost a second to respond to input at times. With the buttons being the only way to interact with the stuff on the screen, the slow display often made us hit the buttons more than needed, thinking that it didn’t register the push in the first try. 

Thankfully, the hands of the watch are programmed to never come in the way of the content on display and will move to the 3 and 9 positions to cover the least area. For all the other scenarios where the hands are in the way, you can just simply flick your wrist to get the hands to dance around and get out of the way for a few seconds.

The display is not backlit by default and will be challenging to view in darker environments with no direct light source. Fossil has equipped the watch with a smart implementation where four LEDs will light up the watch face from the corners with a double-tap on the glass. Once again, this sounds good, but in reality, never worked in the first try. The taps need to be really strong, almost as if you’re looking to knock on it. We hope this is something that gets addressed in the next version.