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Fossil Hybrid HR review: Exceeding expectations

Who needs a man when you have the Hybrid HR?

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These days, the qualities I look for in a man are the same things I look for in a watch: smart, good-looking, long-lasting, and more important, a great travel companion.

The search isn’t easy. Smartwatches have come and gone in my life mainly for two reasons: they have poor battery life and/or are hideous.

Walking around Brooklyn the day I took the Fossil Hybrid HR out of the box

For those same reasons, only the Fossil Q Hybrid smartwatches remained constant on my wrist for the last three years. When I learned that Fossil released the Hybrid HR, I got excited — until I saw that it promises only two weeks of battery life, that is.

A two-week battery life is already huge leap forward if you’re coming from a WearOS device or an Apple Watch. If you’re used to the original Hybrid line like me however, two weeks is not a lot.

Still, I wanted to give it a chance. It can do far more than the original hybrid after all, and it has a heart rate sensor, so the trade off might be worth it.

SEE ALSO: Fossil Q Hybrid: His and Hers

Polished looks

The one I have is the Hybrid HR Charter, with a rose gold stainless steel mesh strap and a white watch face. On the app it shows that it’s also called Diana.

Just like the late princess, it’s stylish, refined, and elegant as far as smartwatches go. There’s a version with a black watch face and rose gold combination as well, which I think is a perfect look for winter.

It comes with traditional watch hands and dials, but in the middle is a cutout for what Fossil calls a read-out display. This is similar to the e-ink display you’d find on a Kindle and other e-book readers. Unlike Kindle displays and regular smartwatch displays, the read-out display is not touch screen; all navigation is done through the three physical buttons on the right.

Buy the Fossil Hybrid HR

The physical buttons do three things primarily: up, select, and down. They can also be set to do other functions when not selecting from a menu. From the home screen, I set the top button to show my wellness stats, the middle button shows the weather including chance of rain and highs and lows throughout the day, while the bottom button is a shortcut for tracking my workouts.

The read-out display shows up to four bits of information at a time that you can customize on the Fossil Hybrid app. It can show a second timezone, day and date date, resting heart rate, the weather, chance of rain, calories burned, active minutes, steps, and battery life.

I set mine to show the day and date, my resting heart rate, a second timezone set to Barcelona, and the weather. These are the information I’ll always want to know without checking my phone, whether I’m traveling, working out, or just reading a book on a lazy Sunday.

On the Fossil Hybrid app, you can create presets and easily switch between them, depending on your activity.

The background is cuztomizable, too. Fossil has a few classy black and white patterns you can choose from.

Alternatively, you can use any photo from your gallery and it will be converted into a black and white, e-ink version. I found that it works better with photos with a lot of negative space. Here’s what it looks like with a photo of the sunrise over rock formations in Cappadocia, Turkey.

It can also be set to show no widgets and look like an analog watch if you want it to. It can have a plain white background, a photo, or any of the patterns all while still being able to see the data it records through its sensors on the app.

Since there’s no way to adjust the display brightness, you can double tap on the watch face to activate the lights to help you see the time better when it’s dark.

Basic fitness tracking

The main reason I gave the Hybrid HR a chance, is that unlike the original Fossil Q Hybrid models, it comes with a heart rate sensor. This is what I liked about the other smartwatches I’ve tried before, including the Fossil Q Gen 4. Knowing how unfit I was by seeing my resting heart rate made me want to live a more active lifestyle.

The Hybrid HR can track exercises although it’s not exactly made for that — there are more capable wearables if that’s what you’re looking for. The mesh band is replacable with any standard 18mm watch strap, so I bought a gray silicone strap from Fossil for when I do my workouts.

I don’t remember the last time I tracked my workout using a smartwatch, but I do remember arriving at the gym a handful of times with a dead battery.

Buy the Fossil Hybrid HR

Two months in and I have yet to get into the habit of putting it on whenever I work out, as well as remembering to start and stop the tracking function, so I have yet to see any real pattern from the readings.

My resting heart rate during a core workout (left) and a leg day (right)

When I did remember, the app recorded that I burned 79 calories and a maximum heart rate of 139 bpm during a 34-minute core workout. It recorded a total of 243 calories burnt one excruciating leg day, and an understandably maximum heart rate of 193 bpm.

The Fossil Hybrid HR is able to track sleep — on a flight (left) and on my bed

It also has a sleep tracker, and I’ve kept it on a few times while I dozed off. This isn’t a feature that I see myself using and checking a lot but I’m amazed at how it knew exactly when I fell asleep during flights, the specific moments when I woke up to drink water, or adjust my position.

You can also set it to send you alerts when you’re inactive. I set it to notify me every time I haven’t moved for one hour starting from 11:00 AM and end at 9:00 PM, which is generally the time I spend in front of my computer on weekdays. This has especially become helpful during quarantine since I live in a tiny New York apartment and have very little room for movement.

Better battery life than expected

Apart from being so well-designed, not having to charge the original hybrid smartwatches from Fossil was the reason I loved them. I already have way too many devices that need charging, and I don’t need to bring yet another cable with me when I’m traveling. Packing as little as possible is difficult as it is.

In the last two months of using the Hybrid HR, I found that its battery doesn’t last me two weeks as Fossil claims — it lasts an entire month!

Matching my monotone outfit at a briefing in San Francisco

During my trips to San Francisco, back to New York, then to Barcelona, Budapest, and Madrid through the month of February, not once did I take the charging cable out to juice it up. I could have forgotten to pack the charging cable for my trips and I would have been perfectly fine.

I can point to two reasons why the Hybrid HR’s battery life has been impressive: its read-out display doesn’t consume as much power as other smartwatch displays, and I’ve had most notifications turned off from the very beginning.

Munching on pintxos in Barcelona

While most people wear smartwatches to get notifications without picking up their phones, I’m the complete opposite. I wear a watch so I can see the time at a glance, not to get distracted and for my productivity to get disrupted.

Any work-related apps like Gmail and Slack have never had access to my wrist — only apps that me and my closest friends and family use to communicate did: Messages, Whatsapp, and Instagram Direct.

Buy the Fossil Hybrid HR

After a month I turned off both Whatsapp and Instagram Direct as well, and only left notifications on for Messages for three important contacts on my phone who also use SMS and iMessage sparingly. This meant that my watch now only vibrates and gets to interrupt me for something very important and whenever it tells me to move.

The Fossil Hybrid HR finally showed a low battery notification after four weeks of use

In March, when it finally buzzed to say that I had 7 percent battery life remaining, it took a little over an hour for a full charge. A 30-minute top up can get to 68 percent, which, based on my experience could very well last me more than two weeks of use.

My only complaint, having used the original hybrids from Fossil, is that the Hybrid HR no longer shows up under the Batteries widget on my iPhone. The only way for me to know how much battery I have left on the watch is by going on the app or by changing one of the widgets on the watch. It’s a minor issue, but I’m hoping this is something that can be addressed via an update in the future.

Is the Fossil Hybrid HR your GadgetMatch?

The Fossil Hybrid HR is the answer to the current crop of smartwatch’s biggest pain points: looks and battery life. For my lifestyle, the way I use watches, and at US$ 215, it makes the most sense. Other models start at US$ 195.

“I could have forgotten to pack the charging cable for my trips and I would have been perfectly fine.”

That I can travel and not worry about topping it up every night, while still getting the information I need is a godsend. Knowing what the weather is like at a glance, without asking my Smart Clock or checking Accuweather on my phone, is convenient when I’m planning what to wear given the fleeting weather. Seeing my resting heart rate at any given time, motivates me to exercise and stay fit especially at a time when taking care of one’s health should be everyone’s priority.

Apple’s Health app and other period trackers are not included in the list of apps that can send notifications to the watch

What keeps this smartwatch from being perfect, is the lack of a menstrual cycle tracker. At the very least it would be great to sync my Health or other period tracker apps to get notifications. Getting monthly reminders a few days before my period starts is helpful. They help me plan my days better as I can anticipate and monitor my mood swings, spotting, and intense cravings. Maybe that’s something that can be included in future iterations.

Books and brunch in Budapest

Sure, its battery only lasts one month versus the 8-12 that I was used to getting from the original hybrid models, but the added features are far more useful than the tiny inconvenience of having to charge it every four weeks; not to mention the fact that I no longer have to deal with buying and throwing away batteries that most likely end up in landfills.

I have been in a committed relationship with Fossil Hybrids for over 3 years now, and with the way things are with the Hybrid HR, that isn’t going to change any time soon.

Buy the Fossil Hybrid HR

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Pixel Buds suffer from laggy audio and uneven battery, users complain

Google responds to one problem

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Contrary to the technical superiority of wired earphones, wireless earbuds are now as commonplace as smartphones themselves with every brand coming up with their own branded version of the popular device. Among these are Google’s new Pixel Buds released earlier this year. 2020’s Pixel Buds successfully blends audio performance and Google’s suite of functionalities inside a Google-friendly package.

However, all is not right in Google’s wireless world. Spread across social media, numerous complaints are piling up on the device’s various flaws. For one, the audio can apparently cut out if you move or shake your head too vigorously. Naturally, the flaw completely deflates the Pixel Buds’ effectiveness for runners and joggers. Additionally, some users are reporting that the audio in one bud lags behind the other, creating a garbled distortion.

Further reported by Forbes, the battery drain can also differ from bud to bud. The difference can get as high as 30 percent, wherein one bud is considerably more drained than the other. However, Google has already replied to this particular concern. Apparently, the Pixel Buds can optimize battery drain by limiting some features to only one bud, prompting the uneven battery drain. As soon as the affected battery reaches a certain threshold, the device taps the other earbud for the feature, eventually leveling them out.

In any case, the company does not have an explanation for the uneven audio issues yet. Affected users can turn in their defective devices for a replacement. If the replacement device is still faulty, Google can issue a full refund.

SEE ALSO: Google Pixel Buds 2: Unboxing and Hands-on

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vivo introduces TWS Earphone Neo

Joining the TWS party!

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Another one has joined the TWS party!

vivo is launching its TWS Earphone Neo — a companion to the upcoming X50 series. It’s built to provide a stellar audio experience for everyday music lovers. It also features voice-activated smart controls and AI noise cancelling for clearer phone calls.

Neo runs Qualcomm’s 4th-generation TWS platform named QCC3046, offering low latency, high precision, and stable listening experience. Moreover, it’s equipped with the latest Bluetooth 5.2 technology, reaching a maximum of 10-meter range.

This pair of wireless earphones carries a design-centric compact body. It has a 14.2mm ultra-large driver unit and a bio-fiber composite diaphragm, promising to deliver enhanced audio and powerful sound.

In 2012, vivo pioneered the Hi-Fi chip technology, being the first smartphone to incorporate the chip to deliver unparalleled audio experience. Together with the X50 series, the TWS Earphone Neo is the realization of vivo’s decade-long investments and commitment to improving consumers’ lives with their devices.

Pricing and availability of the TWS Earphone are yet to be announced.

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Redmi Earbuds S are the most affordable TWS offering

The price is unbelievable

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In India, Xiaomi’s Redmi division looks after the affordable segment while Mi-branded products are for the premium segment. On the side, POCO is now an independent brand. Continuing with the new strategy, Redmi today announced the launch of their new TWS earbuds, the Redmi Earbuds S.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 were announced in the country but they are far from affordable. To bridge this gap, the Redmi Earbuds S has been unveiled. It’s worth noting that they are the same as the Redmi AirDots S, which were launched in China earlier.

The Earbuds have 7.2mm drivers and are IPX4-rated for water resistance. The individual buds weigh only about 4.5g each. The company’s marketing has focused on how good their bass is, but we’ll be able to confirm that in our review later.

For connectivity, it leverages SBC codec, a commonly used protocol via Bluetooth. However, a low-latency mode has also been added to aide gaming. The earbuds are said to deliver four hours of playback on a single charge and the case can extend this to 12 hours.

The Earbuds S also has a physical button on either side to control media playback or skip tracks. The gaming mode can be triggered by pressing the function key thrice.

The Redmi Earbuds S will cost INR 1,799 (US$ 23) and will go on sale starting May 27 via Mi.com and Amazon.

These earbuds are an entry-level option for someone who’s looking for a pair of TWS earbuds. Instead of rich features, the point of this product is to offer an affordable option to the end-user.

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