The Apple Watch Series 5 and the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle are both excellent watches with comparable hardware, but Apple has a significant edge over Fossil.
Apple products represent an ecosystem where everything works together in unison. Like two strangers who meet for a date and immediately click. Just like those two strangers, the Apple Watch Series 5 jells fantastically with any iPhone that can support iOS 13 which at the time of writing is an iPhone 6S. For the few Android users reading this review, the answer is that you can’t use an Apple Watch.
The Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle works fantastically with an Android phone because it uses Google’s Wear OS. But if you are reading this review, chances are you want to know whether it works with an iPhone. The good news is that it works and for the most part it will give you value for your money.
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The Apple Watch Series 5 GPS base model with a 40mm watch case starts at $399 or $429 for the 44mm watch case model. Add another $100 and you can get cellular connectivity. Then there’s a slew of cosmetic upgrades you can pay for which gives you a watch case in stainless steel, titanium or ceramic case and a bunch of fancier bands made from leather, textile or stainless steel. For the rest of the review, we will use the 40mm base model.
Fossil’s Gen 5 range of smartwatches also come with a few options. All of them go for $295 normally but at the time of writing are on sale for $219. Between them are slight differences in the watch case — some with minute markings on the bezels, a pattern on the bezel or a plain bezel. Then there’s a range of straps including a silicone, leather, stainless steel bracelet with a clasp and a stainless steel mesh strap. The Gen 5 in this review is the Carlyle with a stainless steel bracelet.
Feature for feature, the Apple Watch’s base model compares very closely with the Gen 5. Both do not have cellular connectivity but otherwise have similar features. In this regard, the Gen 5 is at least $100 cheaper than the Apple Watch and therefore provides better value for money.
Winner: Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle
The Gen 5 Carlyle is one of the heaviest watches I have reviewed. It does have a bigger watch case and also a heavy stainless steel bracelet with a clasp. It adds a much more noticeable heft on your arm as compared to the Apple Watch which is light and small.
Both watches are quite interesting because of the unique straps they come with. The silicone Sport Band that Apple provides is comfortable but its locking system is a bit difficult to manage. Unlike most watches, the Sport Band comes with a pin which you have to push into one of the adjustment holes to lock in the diameter of the band. It can take a few tries before you get the pin into its optimal position.
The Gen 5 Carlyle is the complete opposite as it will always be the correct size for you.
The only trade off is that you must set the bracelet’s length by hammering out links. You will need a pin, hammer and pliers in order to do this. The watch is not usable straight out of the box without doing this as it is too large.
Winner: Apple Watch 5
If you use an iPhone, you can get more done on the Watch than you would on the Carlyle. The reverse is true if you use an Android.
For iPhone users, the biggest barrier for non-Apple watches is that while you can receive notifications, you cannot reply to them. This is not a problem that the Apple Watch as every notification you receive can be interacted with.
Inputting text with the Watch is done through its speech-to-text system, using a canned response or by Scribble, which involves drawing letters to form words. Both systems work well for replying to messages on the wrist. The Wear OS also has similar input methods, except instead of Scribble, you get a keyboard. I prefer the keyboard to Scribble.
The good thing about the Carlyle is that you can answer calls on it when connected to an iPhone. This is something that’s unique to the Gen 5 series of smartwatches that is not available to most third-party smartwatches. Phone call quality on both devices are good.
Winner: Apple Watch 5
Both watches are also well supported with apps. The Gen 5’s Wear OS comes with a great range of apps that include Google’s own suite such as Google Maps, Keep and Translate. Apple’s App Store is also excellent with many apps that can help you be more productive on your wrist. There is no Google Maps for the WatchOS though, so you’ll have to settle with Apple Maps.
The Watch deserves some kudos for some interesting apps including a noise meter which will listen for loud noises and warn you to prevent you from aural damage. It’s not enough to give an edge to the Watch, so this segment ends in a tie.
Both watches come with a voice assistant and it’s very convenient to have it on your wrist. The Gen 5’s Google Assistant is an excellent assistant that can help you set reminders, calendar events and information. The Watch’s Siri is also equally good and is especially humorous if you set it with an Australian accent.
Both watches have native workout tracking and both watches are equipped with water resistance that’s good enough for swimming and both also have an integrated GPS so you can get location data without needing to bring your phone along.
You can’t track your swims without downloading a third-party app on the Carlyle, though, while you can in the Watch.
The Watch tracks and analyzes data using the Health app that is natively installed on iPhones while the Carlyle requires you to use Google Fit. The data that Google Fit offers in the app is comparable to what Health offers but Health wins overall because it is much more comprehensive of a healthy lifestyle app. In addition to keeping track of your workouts, you can also keep track of your nutrition, menstrual cycle and heart rate.
Winner: Apple Watch Series 5
Both watches are “charge daily” watches with the Apple Watch being more so than the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle. With moderate use, the Apple Watch will last just over a full day, but not two days. The Carlyle will last two days but only barely — but this is with the always-on screen on and the continuous heart rate tracking turned on. You can disable both in order to extend the battery life or use one of its battery saving modes.
Winner: Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle
iPhone users should buy an Apple Watch for practical reasons. Using an iPhone with the Gen 5 Carlyle means you have to download different apps in order for various functions to work, whereas setting up the Apple Watch with the iPhone was seamless and easy.
Some reasons to buy the Carlyle include the access to Google’s suite of apps or if you like the design of the Carlyle. It’s still an excellent watch but its full potential can only be used if you paired it with an Android phone. Not being able to reply to messages when paired to an iPhone is a significant downside, and this is a perennial problem you will find with third-party watches and the iPhone as this is a privilege that only Apple has conferred to its own Watches.