Modern premium smartwatches are incredibly complex and feature-filled, but they tend to be quite disappointing when it comes to battery life. With even premium devices such as the Apple Watch series offering just about a day or so of battery life, many may want to avoid such devices in order to not have to deal with charging another gadget every day. There's also the problem of the design of most smartwatches, which tend to look a bit bland; it's essentially a screen on your wrist, devoid of the classic styling and mechanical engineering that goes into a traditional wristwatch.
That's where hybrid smartwatches come in. Touted as a combination of smart functionality and old-school charm, a hybrid smartwatch brings together the best of both types of watches, along with the promise of far better battery life than the typical premium smartwatch. The smartwatch I'm reviewing today, the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid, is exactly that.
Priced at Rs. 18,495 onwards in India, the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid has an E Ink display, health and fitness tracking capabilities, Alexa voice assistant function, and a claimed battery life of up to two weeks. Is this hybrid smartwatch the way forward for aesthetic-conscious buyers with a mid-range budget? Find out in this review.
The Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid has three physical buttons for controls and navigation
Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid Smartwatch price and variants
Fossil has launched the Gen 6 Hybrid smartwatch range in two variants — Machine (45mm) and Stella (41mm). Apart from the obvious difference in size between the Machine and Stella, the design also tends to make the former better suited for men, and the latter better suited for women.
Both variants are available in multiple colour and strap options, including silicone, leather, and stainless steel. Regardless of the variant, options with a silicone or leather strap are priced at Rs. 18,495, while those with the steel strap cost just a bit more at Rs. 18,595. The black Machine Gen 6 Hybrid with the stainless steel mesh strap was sent to me for this review.
Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid Smartwatch design
Like most hybrid smartwatches, the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid has an analogue timekeeping system, with mechanical hour and minute hands. However, it's worth pointing out that they aren't entirely mechanical as the time is set by synchronising with a smartphone, and the hands themselves move around to assist the ‘smart' functionality of the watch.
There is no seconds hand, and no crown either. The part that looks like a crown is in fact a regular physical button that does not rotate. There are two more buttons above and below the centre one of the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid, which are used for navigation, and can be set to quickly open specific functions from the home screen. The left side of the watch has a microphone, which can be used for voice commands.
The smart functionality on the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid smartwatch is carried out through an E Ink display under the hands. This power-friendly display is what gives this smartwatch better battery life than devices with full colour screens, and is also a lot easier on the eyes. However, this display not backlit, which means that it isn't legible in darkness unlike watches with backlit displays, but double-tapping on the glass activates lights that illuminate the display for five seconds. I found that I needed to tap the glass quite hard to activate the lights.
You can give voice commands to Alexa on the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid, with responses appearing as on-screen text
In the past, numerous complaints about issues of fogging under the glass have been raised in the older versions of the Fossil Hybrid smartwatch series. However, I didn't encounter these issues even in humid monsoon weather, or when stepping out from an air-conditioned car, so it seems that Fossil has addressed these concerns with the Gen 6 Hybrid.
The black colour of my review unit matches well with the stainless steel mesh strap, and has a 45mm case with a sophisticated, straightforward design that will fit in with both formal and casual looks. The strap of the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid was fairly comfortable for me, but added quite a bit of weight to the already hefty smartwatch. I would recommend the silicone strap for a more comfortable fit, and the straps themselves are replaceable with any 24mm quick-release watch straps.
At the bottom of the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid are the optical sensors for detecting heart rate and blood oxygen levels, as well as the magnetic charging system. The charger clamps on and makes contact with metal running around the middle, so you can attach the charger onto the watch in any direction.
The Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid is 3ATM water resistant, and uses Bluetooth 5 for connectivity with the paired smartphone. It's powered by the Fossil Q Intel Atom processor, and has 16mb of internal storage, although this is used for its own functionality and isn't user accessible. The sales package includes the magnetic charger with a USB Type-A plug on the other end, and instruction leaflets.
Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid Smartwatch software, interface, and app
I would ordinarily expect the software and user interface on a hybrid smartwatch to be fairly simple, but the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid surprisingly has quite a complex one this kind of device. Although the E Ink display would have you think it's a bit basic, it neatly covers the essential functionality of a smartwatch. It has the ability to clearly render text to display notifications and data, and also gives access to various tools including timers, music controls, and weather reports, to name a few.
The companion app manages the Bluetooth connection with the smartphone, and also lets you choose a theme for the E Ink display
When viewing notifications, the hands usefully move out of the way to allow for an unobstructed view of the operative parts of the E Ink display, snapping back into position to tell the time when you're done. Even from the home screen, a quick shake of your wrist will cause the hands to move around once to let you see complications on the display. It's a useful set of tricks that ensures a clear view of the display at all times.
The hands also serve as the pointer for the user interface, letting you navigate and scroll to various functions on the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid. The top and bottom buttons let you scroll, while the middle button selects whatever app or selection option the hands are pointing at. In some cases when indicated, pressing the middle button goes back to the home screen. This is a very elegant solution that makes up for the lack of touch controls.
Interestingly, there is also Alexa voice assistant support on the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid. You can set Alexa to be invoked with the top button, or navigate to it through the app menu and speak into the microphone on the left side of the watch. Responses are in the form of on-screen text, and the entire system is linked to your Amazon Alexa account for personalised responses and linking with other devices you may have.
There are various workout modes on the watch which can be selected through the menu, including walking, running, cycling, and elliptical, among others. The data from these workouts can be viewed on the app.
Naturally this needs the smartwatch to be connected to your smartphone, which itself needs to have Internet access. Responses to questions and controlling IoT devices linked to my account was possible for me from the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid, but I wasn't able to control music playback on the paired smartphone or even on Echo smart speakers. Alexa needs to be set up through the main app to work.
The Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid is rated 3ATM for water resistance
The Fossil Smartwatches app (available on iOS and Android) controls the connection between the smartphone and the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid. The setup and pairing process was fairly quick and easy, and connectivity and synchronising was a breeze. The app displays health tracking data and battery status, and also lets you link the health data to Google Fit or Apple Health, if you choose. There are a handful of other basic settings than can be tweaked such as watch hand calibration, preferred distance and temperature units, and daily fitness and health goals.
You can also change the watch faces, although this is naturally not as complex as on smartwatches with full colour screens. It is possible to pick between a white or black background with a few styles available in both colour options, and also choose the complications and data points you want displayed, such as battery level, heart rate, steps, and weather. You can also create a custom style with an image of your choice, but I found that this looked a bit odd and preferred the regular watch faces.
Additionally, you can choose which apps can push notifications to the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid, and also can also make the smartphone ring by paging it from the smartwatch. I found that the Android app caused significant battery drain on the smartphone, and I needed to charge my phone twice as often when it was paired with the device. I didn't experience the same issues on iOS.
Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid Smartwatch performance and battery life
A hybrid smartwatch is a considerably different device from the typical touchscreen-based smartwatch, or even premium fitness-focused devices from brands such as Garmin and Fitbit. With hybrid watches, focus is on the look and feel, as well as battery life, and the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid largely succeeds at delivering exactly what is expected of it. That said, it also performs impressively as a fitness tracker.
The Fossil smartwatch looks good, and has excellent battery life
Heart rate and blood oxygen tracking was accurate when compared to a pulse oximeter and my Apple Watch Series 5 when standing still or sitting down. Heart rate measurements while walking tended to be a bit hard to capture because of the loose fit of the metal strap. All of the data is visible in the wellness app on the watch for easy reference.
Step tracking was among the most accurate I've seen on wearables I've reviewed; the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid measured 1,001 steps where I manually counted 1,000 steps. Over a longer walking workout of over 3,000 steps as measured by the Apple Watch, the Fossil smartwatch measured a difference of just 30 steps, an error margin of less than one percent.
This is considerably better than most of the competition, including the more expensive Wear OS-powered Michael Kors Gen 6 Bradshaw. There is no built-in GPS on the device, but the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid can use tethered GPS, making use of the smartphone's GPS to record distances while tracking outdoor workouts such as walking, running, and cycling. This worked as expected, and matched the distance figure I got from my GPS-enabled Apple Watch.
Other core functions of the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid, including the music remote, stopwatch, timer, and weather app worked as expected for me. Notifications were pushed reliably, including caller identification and any text-based messages that could be seen directly on the watch. Connectivity was largely stable, and the watch remained connected to the smartphone at distances of up to 4m.
Battery life on the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid was excellent, thanks to the efficient nature of the hardware. The company claims that the smartwatch can run for up to two weeks on a single charge, and I was able to match up to this figure with moderate use that involved regular notification pushes, walking workouts, and frequent notifications from my smartphone.
The concept of a hybrid smartwatch isn't new, but the lack of real ‘smarts' in these sort of devices has usually been a key factor why buyers prefer full-fledged smartwatches. The Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid is different, in that, it truly finds the middle ground between new-age smarts and old-school mechanical charm, offering accurate fitness tracking, Alexa support, reliable notification pushing, and very good battery life, along with a sophisticated design.
For authentic all-day wearing and all-occasion suitability, there's nothing better than the Fossil Machine Gen 6 Hybrid that you can buy for around Rs. 20,000 right now, in my opinion. With its efficient and capable hardware, reasonable pricing, and excellent style, this seems to be the way forward for hybrid smartwatches.
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