It’s always quite a show when two top-tier watches go head to head. The Garmin Fenix 6 is the culmination of all the best parts of Garmin’s smartwatch line and the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle is the latest and most amazing line of Google Wear OS watches.
The Garmin Fenix 6 is a feature-rich watch with a slant towards sport-oriented users while the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle is the ultimate Wear OS watch that balances productivity and workout tracking.
Productivity with the Wear OS watch is generally very good as long as you are paired to an Android. It isn’t as seamless as an Apple Watch with an iPhone or a Samsung watch with a Samsung phone, but it is close.
The Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle is the cream of the crop and it offers the best features available out there. It has a microphone and a speaker, an integrated GPS and access to one of the best app stores.
The Garmin Fenix 6 has a good app store but just can’t beat the Gen 5. It does not have a microphone or speaker. It has an integrated GPS and a good app store.
Having a microphone and speaker pair is important because this allows you to use a voice-to-speech system to send messages as well as use a voice assistant like the Google Assistant on the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle. It also means you can answer calls and chat on your smartwatch, and while most Wear OS watches only allow this functionality on an Android phone, the Gen 5 Carlyle is able to do this on iPhones.
The Gen 5 Carlyle also has a touch screen which makes interacting with it much more natural. The Fenix 6 does not and so sometimes you are left guessing how to get some things done through one of its five buttons.
The Garmin Fenix 6 loses out to the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle due to its lack of productivity-focused hardware.
Winner: Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle
An app store is important because of the endless customizations available to users, limited only by what’s available there. In my experience, the best app stores are the ones with a wide user base and that includes the Wear OS’s Google Play store.
Because it’s a Wear OS system, you can add apps that you like such as games like 2048 or useful apps like Google Maps, Translate or Keep. If you use Google Translate, you can actually use the watch as an interpreter because it has a microphone. It’s very convenient that the Google suite of apps is available on the Wear OS because you can get so much done on the wrist as a result.
The Garmin Fenix 6 does have an app store called the Connect IQ. Its range of apps are smaller but there are essentials such as Spotify and Strava. Otherwise, it’s also a place where you can download many different watch faces.
Winner: Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle
If you are willing to pay the extra to get a Fenix 6 Pro/Sapphire edition, then you can enjoy the fantastic map function. On the Gen 5 Carlyle, you can download Google Maps for free.
The main difference here is that the Fenix 6 does not rely on an internet connection in order to work. It’s completely offline and can find routes for you based on whether you are driving, walking or cycling.
Google Maps on the smartwatch requires a smartphone to be the bridge between the smartwatch and the internet. In addition, if you have a map running on your smartwatch, you will also have Maps running on your smartphone.
It was great to have a map app on your wrist especially when cycling. I found it so much easier to find my way around because I didn’t have to stop and pull out my smartphone. Furthemore, you can also download golf course maps and ski maps on the Fenix 6.
On the Fenix 6, you can reply to messages and emails by using one of the canned replies. There’s no other way to respond.
On the Gen 5 Carlyle, you can respond to a message by using its on-screen keyboard, using a canned reply or by using the speech-to-text system. These methods are superior to what the Fenix 6 can offer and it truly brings convenience to your wrist. If you have a tight jeans, you’ll appreciate avoiding taking out your phone. Note that these are only available on an Android phones.
Both watches are heavy. The Fenix 6 is heavy because of its watch case, while the Gen 5 Carlyle is heavy because it has a stainless steel band. Weight is noticeable when wearing both watches.
I found the Garmin Fenix 6’s strap to be much more uncomfortable than the Gen 5 Carlyle’s band. Every time I take off my Fenix 6, my skin will be indented where the Garmin’s adjustment holes are and there will be an imprint of the heart rate sensor on the top of my wrist.
This does not happen with the Carlyle. The clasp always ensures that your band is the right diameter and the band is quite comfortable.
Winner: Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle
Workout, health and training
The Garmin Fenix 6 is meant for a sportsperson who wants to improve their health and lifestyle and this is where it shines. The Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle can’t beat it. But for a start, at last both of them can be brought swimming.
Garmin Fenix 6 has an integrated workout tracking app that can give you excellent analysis. The Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle can help you track your workouts but its analytics are not as good as the Fenix 6’s.
What I liked about the Fenix 6 is that it can help you create a training program for your next running race. It can measure your VO2Max on your wrist. It can tell you about your fitness status and whether you are improving, detraining or overworking yourself. It can analyze individual workouts to tell you whether you are exercising in the right intensity.
The Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle provides more rudimentary analytics. It will graph your speed, heart rate and elevation. It will also measure your Move Minutes and Heart Points. The first is self-explanatory and the second represents points depending on the intensity of your activity.
The Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle does not come with a sleep tracking app whereas the Garmin Fenix 6 not only can track sleep, it can measure your stress levels, Body Battery and acclimatization.
I really like how the Fenix 6 brings me a fuller picture of my health and while I don’t know how they’re really calculated, data makes me happy. Using the sleep quality that the Fenix 6 records, it calculates your Body Battery calculation. Garmin says you should try to balance charging with your day’s activity and the Body Battery figure helps you figure out whether you are overreaching.
It also has the Pulse Ox measurement which will tell you whether you are well acclimatized to the new environment and altitude you are in.
The Garmin Fenix 6 is an excellent sports-oriented smartwatch with tools that are much more advanced. The maps within that watch is also excellent and I haven’t found a smartwatch with a similarly good map app.
The Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle is a more mass-appeal, general-purpose smartwatch which is the best Google Wear OS smartwatch out there. It has many functions, looks professional and can be customized further.
For most folks, the Gen 5 Carlyle is excellent and will improve your daily life. The Fenix 6 will help you in a very specific area of your life — health and lifestyle — and it does it way better than any other smartwatch will.