Fossil has created two great watches with a major difference in price and some critical differences in functionality. Here's a guide to make that decision.
Imagine walking into a car dealership. You don’t really know what you want but you know you want something that takes you from A to B, is good on gas and is reliable. A salesperson comes up to you and shows you their compact car. Four doors, a small trunk, two-wheel drive. Yawn.
Then the salesperson whispers into your ear, “For just $99 per month more…” The salesperson suggests that for a little bit more, you can get a brand spanking new SUV. Four-wheel drive! Huge cargo capacity! Seven seats! High and commanding driving position!
“Sir, but this is the last car we have on this lot, once it’s sold, we won’t get stock for another six months!” the salesperson exclaims.
Luckily, Fossil doesn’t make such contrived claims. But the parable above rings true in the comparison between the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle and the Sport Smartwatch.
The Sport Smartwatch is the compact car, with a $99 price tag. It is much more affordable, smaller in size and will serve the basic function of a smartwatch. It tells time, syncs with your smartphone and has common features such as a heart rate sensor.
The Carlyle is the SUV, with a $295 price tag. It’s larger in size, more expensive and has additional functions. But at the end of the day, it also tells time, syncs with your smartphone and has common features.
Price and value
Should you fork out two times more money in order to get the newest and most feature-rich series of smartwatches from Fossil?
Fossil put the Carlyle against some stiff competition at the $295 price tag. If you were a Samsung smartphone user, you’d have no good reason to buy a third-party watch when you can get superior functionality with a Samsung smartwatch-smartphone pairing.
Compared to the Fossil Sport, you have to really want some functions unavailable on the Sport to spend the additional $200.
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Winner: Fossil Sport Smartwatch
Hands-down, the Carlyle is an excellent performer that will leave the Sport in its dust. Although they have very similar specifications such as the newer Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor.
The doubling of the RAM from 512MB in the Sport to the 1GB in the Carlyle seems to make all the difference. The Sport feels like a two-wheel drive car in the snow. It gets stuck a lot. Prepare for pauses, stalls and unresponsiveness, and then five seconds later, suddenly a new screen pops up.
The Carlyle, on the other hand, never gets stuck in the way the Sport does. It’s very swift, agile and responsive. Everything just works butter smooth on the Carlyle, and it still amazes me that just 500 more megabytes of RAM can make all the difference.
Winner: Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle
Both watches use the Wear OS platform which means you have access to the Google Assistant, which is an excellent speech-to-text interpreter and also a great task assistant.
The Wear OS functions very well when paired with an Android phone as you can reply to messages and make phone calls on your smartwatch.
Text input is easy with the excellent keyboard that comes with the Wear OS which you can use as a traditional keyboard where you typed letter by letter or you could swipe to form a letter. You could also use Google’s speech-to-text system to get words into your message.
Using the Wear OS also means you can use Google apps on your smartphone. This means you can use Google Maps, Keep or Translate. They’re excellent apps that function well on your wrist and helps you from taking your phone out in order to use them.
What I really liked about Google Maps on the watch is that you can use the app while biking, which means you won’t have to buy a handlebar phone holder. Or you can strap your watch to a rear-view mirror to act as a GPS in a car which does not have cell phone integration.
It’s even more ingenious that Google Translate uses the tilt sensor to orientate the screen. Once you’ve done your translation, you can tilt your watch away from you, and your counterpart who you’re having a conversation with will be able to read the translation in the right direction.
But if you’re thinking about using these high-intensity capabilities, consider the battery life of both watches.
With the first generation of electric cars came the term “range anxiety,” and with the Sport you’ll have this unsettling feeling too.
Forget about using the Sport for over a day. The Sport is very feature-rich watch but with a jerry can of fuel to power it. In 16 hours of use, my Sport went from 99% to 20% and this was without any significant exertion such as using its internal GPS.
If you are going to use Google Maps for hours on the watch, prepare to charge it multiple times a day. Luckily charging its 350mAh battery is quick and the charger is so light, it won’t even qualify as a paperweight, but it is still a hassle to bring its life support everywhere.
The Carlyle, on the other hand, will last up to two days if you do not strain the battery. If you are the type of person who expects to charge a smart device once a day, then the Carlyle is for you. You can strain it by using intensive applications and it will still keep running without dipping into power saving mode.
Winner: Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle
The major difference between the two is the ability to make calls. The Carlyle has a microphone and speaker but the sport only has a microphone. The ability to take calls on your wrist is convenient, but overall, you will still rely on your phone for more serious discussions.
The quality of the sound from the Carlyle is good as you can usually make out what the caller is saying. The microphone is decent too, especially if you’re in a quiet room. Calls can get unreliable if your Bluetooth connection is bad and hence you would want to make calls from your phone if it’s an important conversation.
Overall, a speaker is a nice-to-have feature.
Winner: Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle
Both watches provide the same level of sports data and tracking because they both have an integrated GPS for folks who want to exercise without bringing their phone along. Both also have storage space for music (4GB for the Sport and 8GB for the Carlyle), and both are swimproof, which means you can swim with the watch.
Both watches use Google Fit to present data on your activity, and you can access close to 50 workouts on the Fit app which will track data points such as your heart rate, time elapsed and distance.
Google Fit also has a unique method of measuring activity, called “Heart Points.” You get more of these points by doing more intense activities and you can set a daily goal for how many you want to get.
The Carlyle provides the full-fledged experience that you would expect from the flagship line of watches. Its price is the biggest challenge for Fossil, but its functions outdo the Sport by a long margin.
The Sport offers most of the important functionality from the Carlyle, with significantly poorer performance and lacklustre battery life.
Overall, you can’t go wrong with the Sport and $200 in savings if you are OK with a feature-rich watch that is unfortunately marred by certain issues. The Carlyle is a great watch too, but its price needs to be more competitive.