Anyone who's read my previous posts on this subject will already know that I'm no fan of Wear OS. But as my last experience with it was almost two years ago I thought I should once again check in and see if it's gotten any better since. So I'm doing just that with a Fossil Sport, running the latest Snapdragon 3100 processor and latest version of Wear OS itself, known colloquially as the H update.

Hardware

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First, some details about this particular watch... The one I've been testing is the 43mm model in "Smokey Blue". I read somewhere that this larger case has the same screen size as the 41mm version, just with more empty space around the perimeter of the display. I purchased mine from Amazon so I'm unable to confirm this, but it's something you might want to verify in-store before you commit to either size.

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The design of the case is an aluminum top on a nylon (plastic) base, giving the illusion that the watch is thinner than it actually is. It's certainly less chunky than the Android Wear watches I'm used to, and also much lighter. In terms of styling, though, I find it to be a bit on the bland side; if you're looking for something more stylish I'd recommend the Falster 2 by Skagen.

The Sport is the first Android smartwatch I've used with a functioning crown, and I like it, a lot! Fossil's experience with traditional watches must have come into play in its design; the resistance when scrolling through notifications or the app drawer is just right, making for an extremely satisfying feel. Not so much with the other two pushers, though. They're alright, nothing more.

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The 43mm versions of the Sport ship with 22mm quick-release silicone bands (the 41mm version supports 18mm ones). You can easily replace them with other bands from Fossil, or with any other 22mm band from anywhere you like. Take that, Apple!

Tiles

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According to the Wear OS subreddit this is the marquee feature of the H update. Tiles are basically widgets that live to the right of your watch face. On the Fossil Sport there are currently seven Tiles to choose from:

Forecast
Goals
Headlines
Heart Points
Heart rate
Next event
Timer

But for some unknown reason, I can only use five at a time. That's a bit stupid.

There is some potentially good news on the way, though: XDA is reporting on undocumented code for a Tiles APImeaning that there might be a custom Tile on the way for your favourite Wear OS app.

Fitness

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If Tiles are a ripoff of Galaxy Watch widgets then Google Fit is similarly "inspired" by Apple's fitness rings. This gamification of exercise is all fine and well, but I'd personally be fine with a simple step count. And I suspect that anyone serious about fitness will want something more than what Google Fit and Wear OS currently offer.

Notifications

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Not much change here, as notification support remains generally very good.

For me, the best part about notifications on Wear OS is that they're actionableyou can choose from a couple of usually relevant canned replies (great), attempt to draw an emoji on your tiny screen (good, so long as its a happy or sad face), attempt to type out a reply on a tiny virtual keyboard (awful) or speak your response and wait for Google to do the voice-to-text thing over Bluetooth. That last option is still, years later, slow as molasses in real-world situations, but credit must still be given for being able to reply from your wrist at all.

Assistant

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Here's the thing: I don't use Google Assistant, nor do I care to. Thus, I feel like a significant part of Wear OS is wasted on me. If you have Google Home products already installed in your house then you'll likely be a good candidate for yet another device ready and waiting for you to yell at it.

But if you're like me and prefer Google Tasks to Reminders then you might be surprised to hear that Wear OS natively supports the latter, but not the former. You will at least get notifications for tasks that are due.

Google Pay

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To my surprise, this seems to work as advertised. I did the usual weekend grocery shop with the girlfriend and her mom, and was able to pay for everything with our supported card right from the watch. For security your Pay-enabled Wear OS device will lock as soon as you take it off your wristmeaning that you'll have to unlock it (once) when you strap it back on. It's a bit annoying, but also a bit more secure.

I do feel obliged to point out that after every wrist-based payment I was handed a paper receipt, which I immediately filed in my wallet, where my credit cards are. \_(ツ)_/

Stamina

The bad news about this Snapdragon 3100 is that it doesn't seem to accomplish much for battery life. Like just about any other Android Wear / Wear OS device I've tested you can probably squeeze about two days out of the Fossil Sport with passive use, much less if you're tracking exercise or holding your wrist against payment terminals all day.

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If you choose to go with an always-on display then your standby screen will look something like this (depending on your chosen watch face). It's legible enough in most lighting conditions, but the super-reflective Gorilla Glass screen most certainly doesn't help in direct sunlight. The lift-to-wake gesture is thankfully fairly quick but the transition to lit screen isn't particularly pleasant to witness, as I imagine it would be on an Apple Watch.

If readability outdoors is important to you then I would definitely recommend something with a transflective display. Unfortunately in the current crop of Wear OS devices on the market I can think of only two with this added perk: the Casio WSD-F30 and the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro.

Verdict

Wear OS is a great choice if Google Assistant is your thing; even if it's not the many and varied traditional watchmakers who have embraced it will ensure a size and style that will appeal to you. As an OS, however, it also doesn't really offer anything that sets it apart from other smartwatch platforms. Apple Watch, Fitbit and Galaxy Watches all do actionable notifications and wrist-based payments, while my Amazfit Bip is currently breezing through its third week without a charge.

So no, Wear OS isn't terrible, but for me it's not terribly compelling, either. It's just alright.