When it comes to smartwatches carrying its own brand, Fossil products tend to perform favourably. The track record is less gleaming when it comes to those smartwatches designed by Fossil for such labels as Michael Kors, Diesel etc.
With the Armani Exchange (AX) Connected, will Fossil buck the trend or will it be business as usual? Let’s find out.
Fossil AX Connected Build and Design: 9/10
The first thing that catches — or doesn’t — the eye upon unboxing is that barring a tiny ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ AX logo on the crown and an equally subtle logo on the clasp of the metal-link band, the smartwatch doesn’t boast any flashy branding.
That the device is chunky goes without saying, but then we’re accustomed to what Fossil’s smartwatches are and what they are not — which is slender things designed for svelte wrists. The model reviewed was of the blue stainless steel variety, with a 48 mm wide and 12 mm thick case.
The metal-linked strap is 22 mm across and can be changed easily enough if you favour something in a different colour or material — leather or silicone, for instance. And despite the fact that you’re unlikely to use this particular device to track serious sports activity, the AX Connected too, like Fossil’s Explorist HR (Review), comes with a heart monitor on the underside of the smartwatch.
Fossil has stuck staunchly to its three-button interface, which as noted in the past, is non-invasive — ie doesn’t poke the back of your palm — and effective enough to scroll through menus, return to home screen or quickly change watch faces.
As mentioned earlier, the Armani-specific branding is subtle and doesn’t distract from what is a solidly-built and classy-looking device.
Fossil AX Connected Features: 8/10
The AX Connect’s 35.5 mm screen boasts an AMOLED panel with a 380 x 390-pixel resolution and a pixel density of 328 pixels per inch. While this isn’t quite as pixel-dense as the 454 x 454-pixel panel sported by the Explorist HR, it does the job without a fuss.
And like that device, the AX Connected also has a Qualcomm Wear 2100 chip under the hood, which as stated in the past, is now outdated. Elsewhere, NFC and built-in GPS also make an appearance this time around, along with 4 GB of storage and the alkali-aluminosilicate sheet glass on the touchscreen.
An onboard speaker, microphone, accelerometer and gyroscope are also part of this particular package, with the customary Bluetooth 4.1 and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n by way of connectivity. The phone charges with a magnetic disc and takes a shade under 90 minutes for a full charge.
Essentially, Fossil appears to have found its best configuration of features and is sticking to them without much experimentation, which is absolutely fine as far as the AX Connected is concerned.
Fossil AX Connected Software: 7/10
The device is preloaded with Android Wear 2.0 OS — and as is the norm, takes a bit of time to update to the latest version once it is on the internet. With ever new iteration of smartwatches, the Wear OS interface appears increasingly dated and this is something Google will need to fix sooner rather than later. But it’s got little to do with Fossil, so this device won’t be judged on that count.
Fossil AX Connected Performance and Usability: 9/10
Eagle-eyed readers may have noted that the sections of Fossil-designed smartwatch reviews up until this point that have been published hitherto largely look the same and that’s because the build and design, features and software of all of these devices is largely identical, with a few bells and whistels here and there.
This section then is the one that sets the AX Connected apart from its predecessors.
A handful of the key issues that have blighted Fossil devices reviewed by this correspondent thus far include the following:
– Severance and repeated severance of the Bluetooth link, resulting in all manner of frustration for the user, eventually forcing her/him to trigger a factory reset and reinstall everything from scratch, just to get things going again.
– Slow response times that mean anything and everything from waiting for your heart rate to be calculated or the GPS to find your location on the map to opening apps or transitioning from one to another is an exercise in testing one’s patience to the limit.
– Unresponsive screens mean that multiple swipes or taps are required to execute the most basic of actions; and for slightly more complex ones like typing a response on the minuscule onscreen keypad, it’s probably quicker to whip out your mobile phone and do it the old fashioned way.
– Phantom calls or notifications that serve primarily to confuse and secondly, to annoy. Hours-old calls or messages flash on screen as if they are taking place in real time, leading to a string of confused “Did you call me? What do you mean ‘when’? Just now!” exchanges.
There are of course, plenty of other issues that could pop up, but since these are the ones experienced in the past, we’ll stick to how the AX Connected manages the task of handling these particular problems.
And the simple answer is: Swimmingly, because not one of these issues popped up during the almost-month-long use of this device. Bluetooth links, severed when out of range, would swiftly snap back into place almost as if watch and phone were never apart. The screen was responsive and response times were swift. Phantom notifications were non-existent.
Further, excellent voice recognition is de rigueur for Fossil smartwatches and there were no complaints with the heart sensor or NFC capabilities.
Bearing in mind that the Fossil Sport Smartwatch that carries the Qualcomm Wear 3100 chip released at around the same time as the AX Connected, the argument — much as in the case of the Explorist HR — could also have been made as to why this device doesn’t also carry the 3100 chip. The simple answer is that its smooth performance belies its outdated 2100 processor and shows that the very latest processor isn’t always necessary to build a quality product.
Fossil AX Connected Battery life: 8/10
With medium to heavy usage, the AX Connected battery will easily carry you through the day and begin to hit the single-figure mark after around 18 or 20 hours. Used sparingly, it’s possible to squeeze at least 30 hours of life out the smartwatch and with extremely limited use, you can easily pull a couple of days of life out of it.
The battery life complements what is for all intents and purposes, a high-quality smartwatch.
Fossil AX Connected Verdict and Pricing in India
The AX Connected sells for around Rs 22,495 and with the way it has set right a number of flaws found in past Fossil smartwatches, buying this should be a no-brainer. The only word of caution could be that given it runs on an older processor — albeit, swimmingly, as stated earlier, it isn’t future proof and could potentially see support dry up in a year or so. Until such time as this sort of thing is actually announced, the AX Connected will take some beating.
All images have been shot by Prannoy Palav
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