★★★★★ £279 • From www.fossil.com
A fitness watch that lacks fitness features, Fossil’s Q Control can be safely ignored
The Q Control is Fossil’s first fitness-focused smartwatch, but it lacks several key features
MAINLY BY VIRTUE of including a heartrate monitor, Fossil’s Q Control is its first Android Wear device to be described as a ‘Sports Smartwatch’. How, then, does it compare to other fitness-minded wearables such as the Apple Watch Series 3, Samsung Gear Sport (both Shopper 363) and Huawei Watch2( Shopper 355)?
For one, it’s no less nice-looking. The chunky steel casing exudes a certain degree of style and sophistication, as you’d expect from a brand that’s associated with fashion accessories. Once it’s on your wrist, however, you might become less enthusiastic about the chunky design, as it’s quite weighty, which isn’t ideal when you’re taking it out on a run. The optical heart-rate sensor does at least sit flush with the back of the casing, meaning it won’t become any more uncomfortable when you leave it on your wrist for hours at a time.
To control the smartwatch, there’s a 1.4in full-colour OLED touchscreen and one button on the right side, which lets you hop between the app drawer and the home screen. The screen’s 450x450-pixel resolution looks good, but an air gap between the front glass panel and the display means it falls short of greatness.
Another method of navigation comes via the watch’s ‘virtual touch bezel’, which lets you scroll through apps, notifications or emails without swiping up and down on the touchscreen. However, we rarely found ourselves using it, as in practice it doesn’t actually prevent errant fingers covering the screen. Garmin found an excellent workaround for this problem with the Vivoactive 3, placing a touch panel on the side of the casing.
The Q Control uses a 20mm black silicone strap, so you can easily swap it out when it wears out, or if you want to add a bit more character. We found the strap comfortable, and there are plenty of notches for both bigger and smaller wrists.
Fossil’s website claims the Q Control uses wireless charging, but in reality what you get is a small four-pin magnetic charging pad that you perch the watch on top of. We ended up wishing for a traditional charging cable: on three separate occasions, we thought we’d left the device charging, only to come back and find its battery still totally empty.
OUT OF POSITION
Like most smartwatches today, the Q Control automatically logs metrics including step count and heart rate. These can be easily viewed via the Google Fit app, where you can also set specific fitness goals. When you want to log a workout manually, you just open the aptly named Fit Workout, which lets you choose from an enormous list of activities, from cycling and running to strength training and downhill skiing. Unfortunately, because there’s no built-in GPS, you’ll need your phone with you if you want to track your movements precisely. That’s an unforgivable omission for a new £279 ‘sports watch’. There’s also no barometric altimeter, so you can’t count steps, and that heart-rate monitor – a first for Fossil smartwatches – is one of the worst we’ve ever used. For starters, it’s inaccurate, somehow only measuring a peak of 90bpm during a brisk bike ride yet jumping to 200bpm at the end of it. Checking your heart rate can also feel like a chore, as you need to go all the way into the Google Fit app instead of just consulting a widget. One of the few points in the Q Control’s favour is that it’s waterproof to 5ATM, or approximately 50m. There’s no swimming mode in the Fit app, but you can keep track of your pool workouts with the thirdparty MySwimPro app. The Q Control’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip and 768MB of RAM is speedy enough to keep everything running smoothly, but unfortunately, battery life was another letdown. Fossil estimates it lasts ‘all day’, and this is pretty much spot on; if you charge it overnight, the battery should last until the following evening, but there’s no way it will make it through the night. On the bright side, Android Wear is a pretty good OS, though there’s no NFC for wireless payments, as there is on many other Wear smartwatches. Agenda, Contacts, Fit, Keep Reminders and Weather are useful preinstalled apps that help you keep on top of daily tasks without having to keep reaching for your phone. The Android Wear Play Store is also much better stocked with third-party apps than Samsung’s Galaxy Apps store, so you can install Telegram, Messenger, Strava and Runtastic, among many others.
ON THE WRONG TRACK
Google Assistant is another great boon. Simply long-press the watch’s button and you can use it to send a message, get directions with Google Maps or start tracking your heart rate or run.
That’s not to say that Android Wear is perfect. The music controls worked really well when playing Spotify from our phone, but whenever we tried playing a song directly from the watch, the Spotify app simply would not play ball. The Q Control’s 4GB of built-in storage will let you store music offline, but only using Google Play Music.
The Q Control is a great-looking watch, but unfortunately, that’s where our endorsements for it end. It’s a minimally featured and often unreliable fitness aid, and a flawed everyday smartwatch as well. Android Wear offers plenty of great smart features and a strong range of third-party apps, but to really compete with sports smartwatches in 2018, the Fossil Q needs to offer much, much more.