Are smartwatches on the decline? Everything will depend on which surveys and reports you’ve been reading, however the safest response compared to that question is that the jury’s still out.

Knowing that, here is a look at Fossil’s fourth generation variant of the Explorist style of Wear OS smartwatches.

Fossil Explorist Build and Design: 9/10
Exactly like Fossil’s earlier offerings, the fourth generation Explorist HR will come in a range of case colours with a straight larger selection of metal-link, silicone and leather straps. The model we reviewed was the black case variant with a black silicone band. With a case that’s 45 mm wide and 13 mm thick, the watch weighs only around 70 grams – strap included. The prior version of the Explorist we tested weighed around 100 grams heavier and that was as a result of the metal-linked strap with which it came.

Fossil Explorist HR. Image: tech2

And while the most common disclaimer to people that have thin wrists should be issued, Fossil is on its fourth generation of smartwatches, and if the actual fact that its large and somewhat bulky designs don’t make it an extremely elegant accessory for all those with petite wrists wasn’t clear enough already, it must be by now.

While previous generations of the watch boasted some amount of water resistance, that one is submersible to up to 30 metres (3 ATM), therefore you may take it for a swim. And the Explorist HR sits comfortably feather-like on your own wrist to permit you to pull off your very best butterfly stroke unhindered and unencumbered. The other major addition these times is the occurrence of the heart monitor on the lower of the watch.

The Fossil Explorist HR has a heartrate sensor on the lower of the watch. Image; tech2

To quote the overview of the third-generation Explorist, “The crown – located at the 3 o’clock position – acts as a power/home button when pushed so when turned, enables you to cycle through menus. That is a refreshing differ from smartwatches featuring crowns that serve no real purpose. Said crown is flanked on both sides by buttons that serve the function of taking you to a Fossil-specific menu (where you could save custom watch faces, etc) and as a back button. None of the, it should be noted, dig into or cause any discomfort to the trunk of your palm (in the event that you wear your watch on your own left wrist).” Hardly any has changed here.

The Fossil Explorist HR. Image: tech2

Fossil Explorist 4th gen Features: 8/10
A 35.5 mm screen on a 45 mm case – the screen has remained the same size as the case has been shaved down by one millimetre – takes last edition’s design strengths and runs with them, with the sloping bezels giving the looks of a more substantial screen. Unlike how big is the casing, the 454 x 454 pixel AMOLED screen is a thing that hasn’t been upgraded because the previous generation of Explorist smartwatches.

Great up to now. But problems start when you see that the watch is fitted with a Qualcomm Wear 2100 chip, that was outdated even in the last version of the Explorist. That is a 2016 chipset. That the Fossil Sport Smartwatch that premiered a little while following the Explorist HR is packed with today’s generation Qualcomm Wear 3100 chip is just a little disappointing. Could Fossil not need waited a time longer to push out the Explorist HR, and also have it fitted with the 3100 chip? On the plus side, NFC and built-in GPS are two of the notable new features these times.

Shifting, 4 GB of storage is another standard, although at no point in my own history of using smartwatches have I encountered the necessity for anything near that much storage. It has been mentioned previously that Fossil uses alkali-aluminosilicate sheet glass because of its touchscreen, which as has been also noted during the past is sturdy, but susceptible to fingerprints and smudges around it. Things are no different these times.

Fossil Explorist 4th gen. Image: tech2

The onboard speaker, microphone, accelerometer and gyroscope are also industry standards, but by introducing a heartrate sensor, Fossil has finally covered all its bases and ventured in to the territory (with the Google Fit app) where it had found itself left out by famous brands Apple, Samsung, Garmin and so forth. Connectivity will come in the kind of Bluetooth 4.1 and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n standard.

Fossil sticks to its proven magnetic disc to recharge the Explorist HR’s battery. It requires ranging from 90 minutes and two hours for a complete charge, which is rather brisk.

Fossil Explorist HR Software: 7/10
The Explorist HR arrives preloaded with Android Wear 2.0 OS – and takes short amount of time to update to the most recent version (2.6, if I’m not completely mistaken) once linked to the web. Wear OS hasn’t moved along in leaps and bounds through the years, so it will be unfair to guage the Explorist HR on its inadequacies or slightly obsolete UI, particularly in the menus. It could, therefore, be downright criminal to guage Fossil’s watch on the increasingly sassy, inappropriate and downright rude (sometimes) auto-responses Wear OS generates for SMSes and WhatsApp messages.

For instance, I had the possibility to auto-respond with an “I’ll consider it” to my editor’s orders about changing a headline.

Fossil Explorist HR Performance and Usability: 2/10
It’s here that the Explorist HR requires a massive hit. Having reviewed Wear OS devices before, the initial plan was to skip at night process of establishing and flicking through helpful little tips and tutorials. However when that entire group of ‘handy tips and tutorials’ has been endured no less than five times over the five weeks that the Explorist HR was tested.

The first was when firing up these devices for the very first time.

The next came when the Explorist HR was blighted by repeated cases of the Bluetooth link with the telephone being severed, for no ostensible reason.

The 3rd came when the touchscreen of the Explorist HR would arbitrarily and inexplicably won’t react to any touches or gestures – it had been almost as if these devices had went on strike.

The fourth came following the previous phenomenon was experienced once again; but this time around, phantom notifications, ie. those I’d dismissed or acted on via cellular phone a while ago, commenced popping up.

The fifth came when the prior symptoms seemed to have already been cured, however the Bluetooth link started out to be severed over and over… once again, inexplicably.

Except through the spells when the Bluetooth link refused to reconnect, following the watch and phone were reunited (having been too much apart for some time), the watch was with the capacity of restoring Bluetooth connectivity as quickly as possible.

Even though there weren’t any evident problems affecting these devices, the Explorist HR’s performance was underwhelming at best. Although the speed of software transitions or software loading up wasn’t the slowest seen, it had been noticeably slower than expected or when compared to previous edition of the Explorist at the very least. This was still much less big a problem as the touchscreen’s stubborn unresponsiveness and sluggishness. Multiple taps on a single option and repeated swipes of the same notification were de rigueur for these devices reviewed. (Note: It is possible this isn’t a thing that influences all Explorist HR smartwatches).

Onto the positives, voice recognition as always is quite accurate. The heartrate sensor performed well in comparison with the readings supplied by a Fitbit device. NFC on these devices, when working with Google Pay at least, was a smooth and speedy affair.

Unfortunately, all this paled compared to the inconvenience due to the glitches and unresponsive screen of the Explorist HR.

Fossil Explorist HR Battery life: 8/10
The device is thought to contain a battery that provides a day’s worth of battery life – that’s, according to all the state literature available about the watch. This is really an understatement as the device was found to provide 32 to 35 hours of battery life (accounting for the watch being worn during sleep) with medium to heavy use. And with judicious make use of battery saver mode and switching off Always-On Display, the battery life could possibly be dragged to at least two days.

The battery life is a definite positive for the Explorist HR.