For the past couple of weeks I’ve been wearing the Fossil Hybrid HR, a brand new watch from Fossil featuring, you guessed it, a hybrid design with regular watch hands and an e-ink display for smart notifications and data.
I was really eager to test out this watch after reading the initial press release and seeing the first photos because the design makes a lot of sense. While there are other hybrid smartwatches out there such as the Garmin Vivomove HR, the Withings Steel HR, and others the Fossil Hybrid HR has a Pebble vibe going about it.
If you’re not familiar with the Pebble smartwatch, it was the one that really began the smartwatch craze with their crowdsourcing community and a very smart design that also made a lot of sense.
I personally think it’s the smartest smartwatch that has ever been designed. Yes, there are smartwatches that can do more, like the Apple Watch, Samsung’s various smartwatches, and Wear OS but none of those have the Pebble charm and that’s what I miss the most.
The Pebble Time was engaging and fun to wear. It was kind of like a sidekick on my wrist with funny comments throughout the day about my physical activity, or lack thereof, fun animations and a menu system that was simple but very smartly designed.
Then Fitbit purchased Pebble, apparently as a means to kill it off, and stupidly in my opinion, didn’t incorporate the greatness of Pebble into their own smartwatches. Fitbit has made some boneheaded business decisions and that was the biggest bonehead move ever. Now that Google has purchased Fitbit, I hope they bring back the Pebble and for goodness sake don’t put Wear OS on it! Even Google the maker of Wear OS doesn’t seem to like Wear OS.
But anyway, the Fossil Hybrid HR isn’t similar to Pebble in many ways, other than a very good battery life (about two weeks) and a low energy consuming display which makes that great battery life possible. Still, it’s a bit Pebble-like which is a good thing. It just has some maturing to do to get closer to that high mark.
And after wearing the Hybrid HR my biggest takeaway from it is that it’s a great foundation for Fossil to build on.
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The hardware seems to be very good with an accurate heart rate sensor and good step tracking. It also supports automatic sleep tracking which is decent. I’ve tested more accurate sleep tracking watches but it’s okay. Notifications come through reliably though not all apps are supported yet. I’d like to receive notifications from my favorite weather apps for storm alerts and notifications from a few other apps but only a handful are currently supported which is a bummer.
Also, it isn’t possible to scroll through an entire text notification message when it pops on the screen. You’ll see much of the message but to view the entire message you’ll have to go to past notifications and use the buttons to scroll through – a little cumbersome.
The text might also be too small for some people and the vibration for the notifications is a little weak. I wish the vibration strength was customizable because if I used the alarm I wouldn’t trust the soft vibration to wake me up.
There’s no mic or speaker on the watch or any way to respond to text messages. It would be nice to at least has some quick replies but those would likely only work with Android smartphones since Apple doesn’t support such features for any other smartwatch other than their own Apple Watch.
The mechanical hands move out of the way with a flick of the wrist so that data beneath them can be read. During activities, such as a treadmill workout, the hands move out of the way so that heart rate and calories can be read. The hands also move like a timer as you workout. At the end of the workout the watch displays your average heart rate, max heart rate, active calories burned and steps.
Those mechanical hands also are very accurate. I haven’t had to calibrate them like I had to occasionally with the now Withings Steel HR. The move out of the way reliably and it’s fun to just watch them do so.
I like the Withings Steel HR quite a bit but in order to see my step count, heart rate, the date or other data I had to scroll through the little digital window. It’s still a cool watch but it’s nice seeing that data with a quick glance on the e-ink display of the Hybrid HR.
There are three buttons that can be customized to open various features of the watch such as: workout mode, wellness dashboard, stopwatch, past notifications, music control, timer and weather.
The problem with this is that you currently can only choose three of these and assign one to each of the three buttons. There’s no main menu to access other features. For instance, if you didn’t have music control programmed for one of the buttons there’s no way to access music control through the watch.
The display is also customizable with a few different display options but it’s kind of limited. There is a bit of a learning curve with the operation of the watch since it just uses those three buttons to make selections. It’s kind of a guessing game to figure out which button to push to get to what you’re trying to get to. It could be more intuitive.
There’s no connected of built-in GPS and there’s only a handful of supported activities including: treadmill, run, elliptical, weights, and workout for whatever doesn’t fit into those other categories.
Apps or widgets cannot be downloaded to the watch. The software running on the Hybrid HR is made by Fossil and there’s no active developer community like Pebble had to extend the functionality of the watch.
Music playing on your connected smartphone can be controlled through the watch but these controls don’t automatically show when a music app is started on your phone. I’d like that option and an option to get to music controls when doing an activity. Music cannot be stored on the watch.
But having said all of that, the only issues I have with the watch are ones that could be improved through software updates. The current software is solid but I’d like to see more functionality such as a main menu to access all the features of the watch, more dial choices, and just a more intuitive nature like the Pebble.
My old Nokia Steel HR (now owned by Withings) added connected GPS after it was launched and I’m hoping Fossil will do the same with the Hybrid HR. It’s snot a deal breaker for me either way because what the watch does, it does well and I don’t think the Hybrid HR is really marketed as a fitness watch to begin with.
This is an everyday watch with a very classic and classy design that has a great battery life, good build quality, a stable OS, and a fun hybrid design.
So, who’s this watch for? If you’re someone who wants a classy looking watch that tracks your steps, heart rate throughout the day and during workouts, and calories burned throughout the day this might be for you. If you want a fitness tracker that doesn’t look like a fitness tracker then this is a good choice. If you don’t want to charge a smartwatch often then this is definitely a good choice.
In my usage, only about 4-5% of the battery was used daily. That will increase if you do a number of timed workouts but even then the battery life is still very good.
The size is 42mm in diameter which will fit most wrists. Reviewed in this article is the Charter edition in rose gold. It is also available in black and smoke gray. The watch has nice weight to it giving it a more premium feel but it’s not heavy but you will want a good strap. The stainless steel strap that came with mine is adjustable in length and of good quality. You can easily change out the strap with a variety of third party straps available on Amazon and elsewhere. The case thickness is 13mm and the case is made of stainless steel.
I’m not sure what the glass is made of but I’m hoping it proves to be durable since it is a larger watch that can easily be banged up against things. I have accidently hit it a few times against doorways and such and there’s not a mark on it.
The Hybrid HR Charter edition has a 18mm quick release strap while the Collider edition features a 22mm strap. Other than that there’s no difference between the Charter and Collider. The Charter is just the more feminine version with the rose gold finish and thinner strap.
Other features of the watch include multiple time zones, alarm, find phone feature, and stopwatch. It has a water resistant rating of 3ATM which means it can withstand splashes and short periods of being underwater but it’s not really meant for swimming. In fact, Fossil doesn’t really recommend swimming with it.
All-in-all I think Fossil is onto something really good with this watch. With some tweaking it can be much better. It has a lot of potential though I don’t know what Fossil’s plans are with it. It would be a good idea to send Fossil some constructive feedback to nudge them into the right direction and that’s what I plan to do because I want to see this get better and better.
The Fossil Hybrid HR isn’t the reincarnation of the late and great Pebble Time but then nothing out there is – yet.
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