When you hear the brand name Fossil, your mind probably goes to watches, leather products, and other accessories. You likely don’t think tech.
And yet Fossil has a long and varied history of making wearable tech. In 2004, the company made a SPOT watch for Microsoft, a very early version of the modern smartwatches popping up today. A year later Fossil introduced the Fossil Abacus Wrist PDA, a Palm OS-based watch that actually ran apps like Zagat to Go, Tetris, and Metro Navigator.
Those weren’t necessarily game changers, but Fossil hasn’t stopped trying. Earlier this year the company announced it had acquired Misfit, a California-based startup known for its jewelry-like wearables with super long battery life. And then there’s the latest batch of Fossil-made wearables, this time built with Intel tech: the $125 Fossil Q Dreamer connected bracelet for women, a version of the same product for men called the Fossil Q Reveler, and the Fossil Q Founder, a $295 Android-based smartwatch.
I’ve been wearing the Q Dreamer bracelet for a few weeks, and it’s clear that fashion is Fossil’s priority here. The step-counting technology feels like an added bonus. That’s all well and fine; you wouldn’t buy this type of activity tracker with the expectation that it’s going to help you train for your next triathlon. Fossil is, after all, a lifestyle company; and some people in the wearable-making space believe that all of these things will have to eventually fuse fashion with tech in order for people to wear them for any extended period of time.
Still, the Q Dreamer is a little underwhelming both as a bracelet and as a connected wrist device. And its companion mobile app encourages you to do things like take smartphone photos (seriously) as much as it nudges you to take some steps. Fortunately, you can share the activity data tracked with the Dreamer to a few other health and fitness apps.
the tech is an added bonus in this bracelet
There’s no doubt the Fossil Q Dreamer looks more stylish than something like a Garmin Vivofit or a Fitbit Charge HR. It’s fancier than the Jawbone Up, too, and it’s much more reasonable than something like last year’s absurd MICA connected cuff from Intel. When I wore the Fossil Q Dreamer out at night, people complimented me on it like it was a bracelet.
After just a few weeks, though, the Dreamer’s leather band had started to show signs of wear, and the metal portion had a scratch in it. You can swap out bands, and in a variety of colors too, but that will run you an extra $25 to $30.
It’s also pretty basic as far as activity tracking goes: it has a tri-axis accelerometer for counting steps, and it shares the data via Bluetooth LE to a compatible app on iOS or Android devices. It doesn’t track sleep, although I don’t find it uncomfortable to wear to bed. The tech is packed into a stainless steel "case" (mine was rose gold-colored). There are three small LED lights on either side of the case, which act as the device’s notification system, and a small "Fossil" imprint on the front edge.
The notification system is color-coded, which seems like a clever solution when you don’t have a display, but in reality gets confusing. You can set up the Dreamer so that its LEDs will flash different colors depending on the type of notification you’re getting. So, calls and texts could be blue, Google Inbox could be pink, Facebook could be orange, Instagram could be purple, and so on. You can also assign a color to the notification you’ll get when you reach your daily activity goal.
Even after a week of wearing the Dreamer I could not, for the life of me, remember which color I assigned to which notification or what different LED colors meant, with the exception of maybe phone call and text notifications.
The Dreamer’s wireless charging capabilities are a nice touch, at least, and allow for a little more elegance in design. Battery life is promised to be around seven days. The first time I took it off the included plastic charging cradle, the fully charged Dreamer mysteriously died within a day; but after resetting the device, it lasted me from Tuesday until Sunday.
This is fairly standard battery life for a display-free, lightweight activity tracker. It is, in fact, easy to wear the Fossil Q Dreamer and feel like you’re just wearing a bracelet, albeit, one that flashes different colors on its sides. For some people, wearables like this stand way more of a chance of being worn than an expensive smartwatch you have to charge every day and looks like a computer on your wrist.
But there’s still the question of "How much value am I really getting from this?" and this often depends on the software. The Fossil Q mobile app experience hinges on the notion of curiosity. There is even, within the three main sections of the app, one called Q Curiosity, that is supposed to spark creativity among Fossil Q wearers.
One of my first "curiosity challenges" in the app was to take a jump shot, which I was game for (I like basketball) until I realized that I was supposed to ask someone to take a photo of me while I jumped in the air and share my #jumpstagram. Unbeknownst to me, this is the modern-day form of a jump shot. Another challenge? "Wrap your favorite object in paper and make it pretty." Who has time for this stuff?
Eventually I ignored this part of the app and only opened the other two sections: Q Activity, which displays steps taken, calories burned, and miles walked; and Q Notifications. You can also share this activity data to other apps if the Fossil Q app doesn’t suit you, including Apple Health, Jawbone UP and UA Record.
Maybe that’s the savior here — you can wear an attractive-looking bracelet, track some steps, and look at the data in another app that offers a lot more than the Fossil Q app does.
Just get a Misfit or another fitness band
If someone was really serious about buying a "health and fitness" band for the holiday season and had $125 to spend, the Fossil Q Dreamer isn’t that type of wearable. And actually, if you were just looking for a basic fitness tracker that looked more like a bracelet, I’d recommend a less expensive, Fossil-owned Misfit product over this one, too. The Q Dreamer is another attempt at fashion meets tech, but offers more style than substance.
Photography by Vjeran Pavic