Until recently, wearables had an image problem. If the very first fitness trackers and smartwatches didn’t look like a random piece of silicone with a honking module on top wrapped around your wrist, they were considered a fashionable success. Within the past year or so, companies like LG and Huawei have gotten a bit more style-savvy with their wearables, making smartwatches that closely resemble analog timepieces.
Now Fossil, the fashion company well known for its focus on American vintage styles, is coming out with its own line of wearables. The Q range consists of the Q Reveler and Q Dreamer smart bands, the Q Grant non-display smartwatch, and the upcoming Q Founder Android Wear watch. Fossil has experimented with wearables in the past, but it was nothing like this—the Q devices aim to be both fashionable accessory and smart device, pieces you can wear all day long that say something about your personal style while keeping you in touch with your digital life.
While the Q Founder isn’t quite ready for us to test yet, we did get our hands on a Q Grant and a Q Reveler. Compared to other smart bands available now, both of these Q devices have fewer bells and whistles than most. They focus on tracking activity, delivering you notifications from your smartphone, and encouraging you to stay curious about the world around you. However, when we would normally consider that compromising, these devices don’t make you feel like you’re compromising at all. The Q range certainly provides a different type of wearable experience—but possibly a better one.
These wearables scream “Fossil”
You’d never be able to tell that the Q Grant watch does anything more than tell time thanks to its traditional watchface. This non-display smartwatch features a classic metal case and interchangeable genuine leather bands, much like many of the brand’s other standard watches. Fossil isn’t the first to make a non-display smartwatch, though. Withings’ Activite is a lovely Swiss-crafted watch with hidden smart functions, but also a Swiss-made price of $450. Fossil’s Q Grant, however, ranges in price from $175 to $195, which is cheaper than a handful of the brand’s most expensive regular watches.
The $125 Q Reveler and Q Dreamer use the same metal and leather materials, but in a different band-like design. Based on Fossil’s ID bracelets, these wristbands have a central module where the technology lies and a long piece of leather that wraps around your wrist, attaching to small notches to stay as tight as you want. Fossil basically hid all typical signs of a “smart device” from the naked eye.
“Our customer is very quick to sniff out if we’re doing something not on-brand or that’s not centric to the story we’re already telling them,” says Jill Sones, lead creative developer at Fossil. “We wanted to make sure from the beginning that it was something that makes sense with our brand, with our customer’s lifestyle, and our fashion point of view.”
And just like other accessories under the Fossil brand, both the Q Grant and Q Reveler/Dream come in a few earthy color options. Sones went on to say that Fossil started out with design ideas that incorporated the brand’s signature aesthetic for both the smartwatches and the fitness tracker bands and then went back and forth with engineers to figure out the best way of adding “smart” technology to them. “Fashion was always the first thing we were thinking about,” Sones says. “What’s the look? What’s the feel? How is the customer going to wear this? How does it layer with what they’re already wearing?”
One typical smart device port that these noticeably lack is a micro USB for charging, because they don’t need one. The fabric-encased stand that comes with the packaging of both the Q Grant and the Q Reveler/Dreamer doubles as a charging surface—just sit the devices on top of the plastic surface and they will begin to charge. The surfaces light up to show you progress as well, with red meaning it needs more time to juice up and blue meaning it’s fully charged. Fossil claims these devices can last up to a week before they need another charge. After about four days of using the Q Grant with all of my Gmail and Hangouts notifications being sent to the watch, it was down to about 50 percent.
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