Fossil smartwatches are mostly generic chinese watches

Nowadays, if you want a Wear OS watch, there isn’t much choice. Most major tech brands have abandoned Wear OS. Some have left the smartwatches business (Sony, Asus, LG…) others have designed their own OS (Operating System) like Samsung, Huawei, Polar…

Fossil is behind most Wear OS remaining watches

In the remaining brands, Fossil comes first with its many sub-brands or licensed brands like Skagen, Misfit, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Emporio Armani, Diesel, Puma, Citizen … These are just Fossil group brands or other brands they took a licence on, and all these watches are nothing else than Fossil watches with different case designs and some very light software personalization.

Fossil sub-brands dedicated apps have left some remains here

Very few competitors

Fossil main competitor is Mobvoi with the TicWatches. They offer quite similar solutions except for the TicWatch Pro line which sports a double display. Suntoo does have some Wear OS models too. And … that’s all.

Edit : 

- I forgot the OppoWatch, based on WearOS too. Reports confirm that this watch has no « bloatware »from Fossil or Mobvoi.

- Misfit Vapor X has exactly the same hidden apps from Fossil sub-brands and many Mobvoi apps, and chinese apps for the chinese market (thanks u/graesen for checking).

- Suunto 7 watches have the same Mobvoi apps (thanks u/alehel for checking)

Mobvoi apps are hidden in Fossil watches

Surprisingly all the Fossil Wear OS watches are full of hidden apps from Mobvoi. Just go in settings, locate the apps informations and you will see in system apps quite a lot of Mobvoi apps : Mobvoi Account, TicExercise, TicHealth, TicStore … and others.

Mobvoi ? TicSanté (TicHealth in french)… On a Fossil watch ?

What a strange thing ! How is it possible that apps from Fossil´s competitor are there ?

How can that be possible ?

It’s very likely that Fossil is not actually Mobvoi competitor but simply their client. Mobvoi does have an OEM activity. They sell software solutions, but not only for watches, they are in the car business too.

So, in simple words Mobvoi probably designs the software part of all these watches. They logically use a common base ROM and introduce minor changes to achieve the required vendor personalisation. You only have one base ROM for all, like the master ring to rule them all …

A dubious but convenient explanation

Some people say that it’s not true, it’s because Google apps are banned from China and watches need those Mobvoi apps to work in China. That simply doesn’t make much sense because if your watch is set in another language, in french, for example, most of these apps have french names : TicExercice, TicSanté, TicClassement. And there are already other hidden apps with pure chinese names. Why would an app required exclusively for the chinese market be translated in every language?

Chinese apps for the chinese market are here and stay in chinese

This clearly let us think that the ROM base is universal and Mobvoi is at least deeply involved in the ROM design. A lot more deeply than Fossil who has very few specific apps.

OEM is the solution when you have no expertise

It is all perfectly logical. Fossil doesn’t have the expertise to actually create smartwatches. They are a mass market fashion company. The sell inexpensive jewelry, bags, accessories, fashion watches… 

To get into the smartwatches market they hired OEM companies to make the software and the hardware. Mobvoi is probably the software designer. Compal seems to build most Wear OS watches nowadays, and they probably propose a generic hardware platform with some options as any OEM provider. Their clients just have to choose between options.

Little secrets between business partners

Of course that doesn’t help much for sales if you say publicly you have little expertise and hired other companies to design and built your products. That’s why most brands prefer to avoid telling it and OEM contracts are kept in secrecy.

But don’t be surprised, it’s not new and actually quite common in many fields.

That being said, in 2019, Google purchased a Fossil tech for $40M. As always with this kind of deal there is no more detail, we don’t know what has been bought. Most reports says it’s about their Hybrid HR line. Some other says it’s for a technology coming from Misfit, brand bought by Fossil in 2015. If Google bought something from Fossil it doesn’t mean that Fossil actually developed something. This can be an inherited tech or Intellectual Property or an outsourced work, like for the Hybrid.

Fossil is just a brand, a name and a distribution network for what are essentially generic chinese smartwatches

The crude fact is that Fossil is probably not very deeply involved in its smartwatches, with a generic software base designed by Mobvoi and a generic hardware base designed and manufactured by Compal.

We are lucky if they at least really choose the shape of the watch and its color. And maybe the armbands too…

There are less Fossil apps than Mobvoi apps in this watch

Sometimes, brands are just labels without much substance.

Lack of competition isn’t good for evolution

Have you ever wondered why, despite many different brands and models, every Wear OS watches suffer from the same problems ? The same short battery life, average reliability, lag … 
When there is a competition, there is an incentive to make better products to earn market shares. With no real competition and a common software and hardware base, with relatively minimal evolutions, there is little way to make a difference.

That may explain why my 6 years old Huawei Watch W1 works better than a Gen 5 Fossil Carlyle, it’s smoother and has a better battery life. It’s a bit like if an apple Watch 1 was better than the new Serie 6 … it makes no sense.

My old Huawei W1, released before Mobvoi was fully involved in wear OS

More cluttering - less optimization

There are so many useless things remaining in those watches software that we can legitimately wonder if there is any optimization at all. Actually, some people use quite complex methods to clean this mess via ADB, with the watch connected to a computer. They can remove all those unnecessary apps and they claim the watches are significantly more responsive after this debloating. They use it especially on the Fossil Sport which is famous for its lack of performance.

Then again, maybe this is why the old Huawei W1 is less laggy than a Fossil gen 5. Less cluttering, more optimization.

And what about privacy ?

Those apps are supposed to be deactivated and you can’t use it, it won’t appear in the launcher. But, if removing these apps makes a performance difference… We must wonder what is really deactivated. Aren’t there some processes running in background ?

If this is the case, some people may ask questions about privacy. Fossil is an american company and western people doesnt’expect to buy pure chinese devices full of hidden chinese apps. Maybe it’s just being paranoïd but there are People who won’t buy a Xiaomi watch or a Huawei phone over privacy concerns. They may feel fooled to learn that their american watch has nothing american… and it may look like some kind of trojan horse to them.

I’m not anti chinese at all. They build everything for everybody. However I value transparency and all this situation doesn’t help to trust a brand nowadays when privacy is so precious and fragile.

The Wear OS landscape is populated by a false diversity

For Wear Os this strange game of artificial branding on generic watches has a big advantage : it creates a diversity and can push people to believe the OS is successfull. With more or less the same watches sold under more than 10 different brands, you can give the illusion you are everywhere. 

But alas, the truth is out there and this is a bit like cutting cardboard silhouettes to make people think you have an army when you are in fact alone in the dark.

Let’s hope for Wear OS that the rumor about Samsung ditching Tizen and returning to Google’s OS is true!