There’s no doubt that confidence in Android Wear smartwatches has been shaken this year — despite a great 2.0 update, lackluster demands have tamped down demand and pushed companies like Motorola to at least temporarily abandon ship. But, we haven’t seen the market totally dry up either, this week we’re learning that one of the earliest proponents is still plugging away — Fossil is prepping two new smartwatches for the fall, and they’ll both be on the expensive side.
Preorders for the Q Venture and Q Explorist are starting this week. The Q Explorist has a more sporty look, with two physical buttons aside the center dial, which can be used to cycle through apps and navigate menus. On most smartwatches, the additional buttons are used to do things like stop and start workout tracking and control music — that’ll likely be the case here, too. The Explorist is also the thicker of the two at 12 mm, and is still going to be massive on the wrist at 44 mm in diameter. Adding to the sportiness, the watch will also be IP67 waterproof.
The Q Venture is the sleeker, more fashionable choice. It’s also Fossil’s thinnest smartwatch to date at 11.3 mm, but it’s still going to remain large on smaller wrists with a 42 mm case. For the most part, the case is more minimalist — it’s got a smooth bezel and lacks those two additional buttons on the side. That said, there’s one blinged out rose gold option for anyone looking for a bit more flair. The Q Venture is also rated IP67, so both watches can survive an accidental dip into water.
Both watches run Android Wear 2.0, which we noted earlier in the year was a big leap forward for Android Wear. It’s much easier to navigate menus and apps this time around (a lot less swiping required), and it also features Google Assistant, Google’s new AI-powered virtual personal assistant. For the most part, Google Assistant on Android Wear 2.0 lets you quickly do voice searches and set up calendar events and reminders from your wrist.
If that doesn’t sound super convincing, well, you’re not alone. Fossil is still plugging away at Android Wear smartwatches, but so far, it simply hasn’t been working out. Late last year, we noted that smartwatch sales in general were declining, with Garmin and Apple as the only winners. Things haven’t gotten better for the smartwatches or Fossil this year — Fossil’s Q4 earnings report in February indicated poor Android Wear smartwatch sales, which ended up dragging down the rest of the company.
It’s not good news for a company that has made a big bet on smartwatches, partnering with well over a dozen fashion brands to release hundreds of wearables this year. While Android Wear 2.0 is far better, it’s looking more and more likely that their hybrid smartwatches — analog watches with a handful of connected features — will end up being more promising, as they can be marketed in a similar fashion to Fossil’s traditional watches. For what it’s worth, we think Fossil’s approach to hybrid watches has been pretty impressive.
Why does all that matter? Well, for one, it makes the pricing of the Q Explorist and Q Venture a head-scratcher. The watches range from $255 to $275 depending on whether you choose a leather or stainless steel band — that’s pretty pricey for a device that has limited functionality and a two- or three-year lifespan. We don’t think the watches look bad, but with most everything remaining equal, it’s hard to imagine the new watches will change the fortunes of smartwatches heading into the fall.