Fossil Q Explorist and Venture hands-on: Android Wear fashion watches with full round display

Smartwatches often look techy, plain, chunky, or unattractive. The Fossil Q Explorist and Venture watches bring a full round usable display with high quality materials and daily wear durability.

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Back in May I took a look at the Fossil Q x Cory Richards smartwatch, but it had that bottom flat tire on the display that held it back a bit.

Fossil's new Q Explorist and Q Venture models bring use a similar build and design, but with a full round display.

These are not smartwatches focused on activity tracking like we see with most wearables since they do not have heart rate monitors on the back and are modeled after other Fossil fashion and daily wear watches. They look and feel good with a reasonable price given the technology inside.

Specifications of the Fossil Q Explorist include:

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100
  • Display: 1.4 inch 454x454 pixels resolution
  • Operating system: Android Wear 2.0
  • RAM: 512MB
  • Storage: 4 GB internal storage
  • Wireless technology: 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 LE
  • Other features: IP67 dust and water resistant, integrated microphone and speaker
  • Bands: 22mm standard width
  • Dimensions: 46mm round and 12.5 mm thick

The Q Explorist that I tested had a smoke color stainless steel body and band. There are five case and band options available for the Q Explorist with prices of $255 for the leather bands and $275 for the stainless steel ones.

Specifications of the Fossil Q Venture include:

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100
  • Display: 1.4 inch 454x454 pixels resolutio
  • Operating system: Android Wear 2.0
  • RAM: 512MB
  • Storage: 4 GB internal storage
  • Wireless technology: 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 LE
  • Other features: IP67 dust and water resistant, integrated microphone and speaker
  • Bands: 18mm standard width
  • Dimensions: 42mm round and 11.5 mm thick

The Q Venture has the same two prices for leather and stainless steel with eight color options available. As you can see in the specs list, it is slightly smaller than the Q Explorist for those with smaller wrists.

Hardware

These watches are stout and weigh a lot more than most wearables I use on a daily basis. The weight of them is close to some phones today, maybe even heavier. They are built well, but you will definitely know you are wearing them at the end of the day.

There are three buttons on the right side of the Q Explorist with the middle crown also rotating to help you scroll through lists, such as the app launcher. The Q Venture has a single button on the right side and it does not rotate.

The displays are touchscreen so you can swipe and tap on them. I found myself using the touch screen more than the buttons most of the time.

The stainless steel watch body of the Q Explorist fits my wrist well, but may be too large for those with smaller wrists. The Q Venture is smaller and is targeted towards those with smaller wrists. These watches have attractive bodies, one with a gray serious look and the other with a stylish flashy look.

The watch face glass is smooth and transitions nicely into the bezel. There doesn't appear to be an ambient light sensor on this watch as brightness levels are manually selected.

A microphone and speaker are present on the Q Explorist. There is a mic on the Q Venture, but no speaker. Music and calls sound decent through the speaker so you can use this to take calls while walking without the ability to hold up your phone for a call.

There is no optical heart rate sensor on the back like we see with most smartwatches today. The back has a matte plastic material and is where the lightweight USB cable puck magnetically attaches to charge up the watch wirelessly.

The stainless steel band has quick release pins embedded in the strap with angled ends that fit into the watch body. You can swap out and use other bands on both watches, with 22mm and 18mm straps.

Watch software

Thankfully, these Fossil watches launch with Android Wear 2.0 so you begin with the latest operating system. There are several customizable Fossil watch faces and a Fossil Q app to help you personalize the look of the watch. These include complications to access your desired data or launch apps right from the watch face.

Android Wear 2.0 brings the Google Play Store directly to the watch so it is a bit different than the previous version where you managed your watch apps with the Android Wear smartphone application. At first I found it a bit awkward to manage apps and updates on the watch directly, but I don't install a ton of apps so was able to setup the watch in about 20 minutes with the apps I wanted to use regularly.

Google Assistant is present in Android Wear 2.0 and is one of the major features I use regularly with these new smartwatches. Press and hold the button on the crown to launch Google Assistant and speak your request out loud. While the watch has a speaker, Google Assistant shows you the responses to your inquiries and does not provide a response in audible form.

Swipe down to see the watch status and access settings. Swipe up from the watch face to view your notifications. Single press the crown button to launch the app launcher.

Daily usage experiences and conclusions

The Fossil Q Explorist was my favorite and I enjoyed wearing it for a couple weeks. It was heavy, but did not bother my wrist and after I took out a couple links it fit very well. These watches appear to be very well made.

I am honestly not a big fan of Android Wear and am not pleased with the way you now have to find and install apps directly on the watch. The previous method of managing apps on your phone, similar to the Gear S3 Frontier and Apple Watch, is better IMHO. As long as you don't install a ton of apps, things are great. However, it can take a long time to get apps installed on an Android Wear device.

I've been able to get through most of a day with the smartwatch, but had to charge it up each evening to be able to get through the next day. The display brightness can be turned all the way up to help with visiblity in daylight, but it is not as clear and bright as my Gear S3 Frontier or Apple Watch Series 3.

The watch is fast, very comfortable, and works well as a daily wear watch for triaging messages, checking your Google Now cards, answering calls on the go, sending quick text messages, and tracking your activity while not working out.

The Fossil Q Explorist and Venture look great and can be worn at the office or around town. They are priced fairly for nice looking fashion watches that also serve as smartwatches.

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