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Fossil is planning a premium Google Wear OS watch for fall

In an exclusive chat, Fossil's smartwatch execs talk about where Google, Samsung and Fitbit play into their next-gen watch plans.

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Fossil's Gen 5 watches, released over a year ago, are getting an upgrade in the fall.

Fossil

There have been a lot of Google smartwatches over the years, many of them made by Fossil Group. The family of watch brands, which includes Diesel and Skagen, has been one of the bigger presences in Google's Wear OS watch lineups over the past few years. Now, with a new platform developed with Samsung, Fossil is readying its own high-end watch running Google's new watch software this fall.

A conversation over video chat with Fossil's Chief Commercial Officer Greg McKelvey and Steve Prokup, senior vice president of connected devices, helped clarify what Google and Samsung have already discussed: The upcoming wave of Android-compatible watches will be entirely new, with new chips focused on faster performance and better battery life. These watches will also offer LTE cellular options globally, and Fossil is looking to that global carrier expansion as a way to expand the watch's appeal in more markets.

Fossil's Gen 6 watch should have a similar feature set to Google and Samsung's other future watch efforts. "All of the software benefits that Google's talking about and launching with the unified platform is something we'll be building into that as well," McKelvey said.

But the next Fossil smartwatch may not be low-priced. "Premium" is the description that Google, Samsung, Fitbit and Fossil have all used, and that suggests pricing may line up with recent versions of the Apple Watch -- which is also likely to have a new version in the fall.

Fossil's hardware for its coming watches llooks to be considerably more advanced: "We've got a full set of some pretty major hardware upgrades that we already planned," Prokup said, hinting at faster performance, better battery life and potentially more advanced health features.

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Fossil's watch designs (Gen 5 seen here) mix buttons and designs across brands. Expect the same as the next wave rolls out.

Fossil

What's still unclear is what types of buttons or crowns Fossil might use in its next Wear OS watch. Samsung has already committed to using its rotating bezel on its next Google OS-running Galaxy watch. It sounds like Fossil may continue to explore different combinations of buttons or spinning crowns, including on future Fossil Group watches running Wear OS. 

"We've had, and still have, multiple configurations of buttons in the market at the same time, and that's able to be supported," Prokup says. "I think you're still going to see a variety of offerings across even our products, as well as manufacturers ... not so much that you're going to have a watch that ends up having four, five, six dedicated buttons or no buttons." Prokup still sees the watch touchscreen being the key way to interact with buttons and crowns offering extra design flair and shortcuts.

Fossil's smartwatch and connected hybrid watch lineup (a line of analog watches with Bluetooth connectivity) are extensive, but McKelvey says that the company's premium watches have been the area of greatest success. Fossil aims to launch a single premium watch as its flagship for the new wave of Google watches, with other watch brands under Fossil Group likely developing their own variations. "We're bringing great branded design to our customers that commands a premium price," McKelvey says, arguing that a great product that innovates will be worth the price. 

As far as budget options for these next-wave watches, McKelvey sees the most likely outcome being previous-year models eventually being discounted, much like Apple's watch lineup tiers.

It also sounds like Fossil isn't emphasizing growth of its hybrid analog watches either, which McKelvey admits have been less successful. "Smartwatches have been much more successful than hybrids," he says, pointing to Fossil's more recent higher-end smartwatches in particular, like its Generation 5 LTE-ready watches, as successes. 

Hybrids will stick around, but might end up evolving over time to be a more experimental model for other wearables. In particular, perhaps, that's where Fitbit-powered analog watches could flex. At the moment, Fitbit's presence on Wear OS watches looks to be more limited-function, but Fossil's McKelvey feels Fitbit's presence is going to be a bigger factor over time: "We think integrating Fitbit into our product is going to be a huge improvement and something our customers are going to love."

It's still unclear whether previous Fossil Google Wear watches will be upgradable to new software. It sounds like next-gen Google watches will have chip upgrades and performance that won't necessarily carry over to previous watches. Samsung recently confirmed that its previous Galaxy watches won't be upgradable to new Google Wear software. 

But Fossil says its previous Gen 5 watches will continue to get some software upgrades: "Our product and engineering teams continue to innovate on the Gen 5 and Gen 5E smartwatches, which will result in new software features being launched later this year and into next year," McKelvey confirmed in a statement after this article was written. "Our policy is to bring the maximum amount of innovation that Google will enable to each of our generation of smartwatches. Future upgrade plans are still being developed, and we will continue to make announcements later this year."

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.