Fossil Q Founder review: Style over substance

Price when reviewed

Smartwatches have undergone a slow but steady transformation over the past two years. From geek chic to fully fledged fashion accessory, it’s now as acceptable to have a mobile computer strapped to your wrist as it is to tote a 5.5in smartphone, and this is why we’re beginning to see fashion brands and traditional watchmakers enter the market. The Fossil Q Founder is among the first in this brave new wave of wearables, but it will by no means be the last.

Fossil Q Founder review: Style over substance

And, although it may sound odd to say, technically speaking there’s absolutely no reason why a manufacturer such as Fossil can’t make a good go of making a smartwatch. There are relatively few things to go wrong compared to, say, a smartphone, laptop or 2-in-1 tablet because the choice of components is so slim, and there’s very little tinkering the developers can do with the software.

You either go with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor inside or one of the new Intel ones, pick an IPS, transflective or OLED screen, install Android Wear and ensure it runs smoothly, and once you’ve done that it all boils down to the design. And it’s here that fashion-first brands such as Fossil and Tag Heuer can – and do – make their mark.

Fossil Q Founder review: Design and look

Next to the Tag Heuer Connected, the Q Founder is the best-looking smartwatch I’ve yet had the pleasure to clasp around my wrist. Sure, it’s big and, yes, it is very heavy. The casing measures 47mm across, it’s 12.8mm thick, and even with several links extracted from the steel wristband, it weighs an imposing 148g.

The thing is that it all looks in proportion. The strap lugs provide a natural transition between the watch casing and the 22mm steel link bracelet. Despite its size, it isn’t overbearing, even on my skinny wrist. Its sheer bulk means it won’t be for everyone, but it doesn’t look daft – and the weight very quickly becomes a non-issue.

I also like the more traditional look that the crown on the right side of the watch’s casing imparts. The crown doesn’t rotate, as it does on the Apple Watch, but pressing it does unlock a handful of useful shortcuts: a single press wakes the watch from sleep, a long press brings up the apps screen, while a double press puts the watch into Android Wear’s “do not disturb” Cinema mode.

The one thing that Fossil gets wrong, and it isn’t the plain black plastic rear (maybe the designers thought it would be just too heavy with a stainless steel rear panel), is the flat-tyre watch face. Look at the front and you’ll see a small black segment cutting into the base of the otherwise perfectly circular screen.

It’s used to house the Q Founder’s light sensor, which allows the Fossil to adjust the brightness of its display depending on the ambient conditions. There is an upside, then, but it isn’t attractive at all.

I’m also none too keen on the white inductive charging station. This strange contraption cleverly forms part of the watch’s original packaging, but otherwise it isn’t brilliantly designed.

It’s bulkier than it needs to be, meaning it’s not the easiest thing to stow in a small compartment in your bag. Moreover, because the plastic charging plate is on an angle, the watch is prone to becoming dislodged at the slightest of nudges. And its red and blue indicator LEDs are simply too bright. I usually charge my smartwatch on the bedside table overnight, but I had to cover the Fossil Q Founder with a pillowcase to prevent it lighting up the room and interrupting my sleep.

It’s just as well the watch supports the Qi charging standard – a nice touch – but the steel bracelet means you’ll need to find one that it wraps around rather than sitting on top.

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