The next chapter of Fossil’s foray into wearable tech has just been written.
And the watchmaker’s latest offering of full-fledged Wear OS smartwatches includes a much-anticipated new feature: Tap-to-pay capability for shoppers.
Unlike Fossil’s previous Android Wear devices, its new Generation 4 touch-screen smartwatches — which feature the men’s Fossil Q Explorist HR and the women’s Fossil Q Venture HR — will come packing Near Field Communication capabilities. That entails hardware and software that transmit data when supporting devices come in close proximity of each other. It enables the tapping action in tap-to-pay payments, with users bumping a phone or smartwatch to an NFC-equipped terminal.
“What we’re most excited about with this launch is being able to just pack all this tech, pack all this function, into these beautiful designs,” a Fossil technology executive told WWD. “So the designs really fall in line with what we know our consumers love and what they want when and kind of give them something unexpected as it relates to a smartwatch.”
With NFC technology supported in the Fossil Q line, so comes support for Google Pay. With that one move, Fossil has joined the mobile payments bandwagon, which is growing in speed and intensity. According to Juniper Research, mobile wallets available through phones and smartwatches will account for as much as $1 trillion in transactions this year. Prior to Fossil’s latest development, the firm singled out Apple Pay as a major driver of that momentum, with one in two mobile payments being delivered by the tech company’s iPhones and Apple Watches by 2020.
If Google aims to challenge that foothold, Fossil, as a marquee Wear OS partner, might be a natural place to turn. Like other Wear OS watches, Fossil Q works with Android phones and iPhones. They also offer support for features that should appeal to fitness-minded users, such as untethered GPS for location-tracking runs and other pursuits, heart-rate tracking and “swim proofing” that protects the unit in the pool or the shower. The looks retail for $255 to $275.
The major feat in this release is that, despite the new hardware and software, there’s no hit to the battery life, the Fossil executive told WWD. The models — which fast-charge in an hour — have the same longevity as its previous, less feature-packed generation of smartwatches, which last longer than 24 hours, depending on usage.
That’s impressive, considering the wrist gadgets run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset — an aging system that’s been around for more than two years. The chipmaker said it has a new wearables processor in the works, but for now, the 2100 — with its battery-hungry features — is the only game it has. Apple and Samsung have their own proprietary processors, which manage to eke out more battery life.
Fossil’s focus on burgeoning feature sets represents an evolution.
“It’s always been a watch first — that is say, style and design first, and then technology second,” said IDC’s Ramon Llamas. “I think that’s served them well. In the beginning, though, a lot of the criticisms of Fossil [centered on its light approach to technology] — but oh boy, people really wanted the watch to look like, you know, a watch.”
He notes that it’s now deepening the technical side of its devices.
Not that the company will leave style behind in pursuit of specs. That was the mistake of the initial wave of geeky smartwatches from the tech sector, which played into the industry’s inability to appeal to mainstream consumers. Despite Fossil Q’s growing tech specs, the collection still boasts the touches that matter to shoppers, like stainless-steel encasements as well as interchangeable straps and bracelets and personalization features.
For Google, the partnership helps keep interest in its somewhat slow-moving platform. And, if Fossil has a handle on consumer sentiment, the tech company has a way to glean insights into what people want.
“We’re working very closely with [Google] to figure out what those unlocked features can be, so that we can kind of leverage that as quickly as possible,” said the Fossil representative. “We’re working closely, hand in hand with them to figure out how to unlock the right features at the right time.”