Features

Fossil Q Hybrid: Reinventing the smartwatch

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In the tech world, to win you must innovate.

It’s a fast-paced, uber-crazy rat race, where each year, feature upon feature is piled onto new products dubbed the latest and greatest of tech.

Not everything makes sense, not everything practical or groundbreaking. But these headline features are what sells these products, and it gives us tech journalists something to write about.

But what if scaling back was even better than moving forward?

It’s an unconventional approach to product design, but one that might make sense in the smartwatch space and maybe even the tech world at large. More on that later.

I’ve owned and used many a smartwatch over the last two years, but nothing has really become a daily companion. Either charging becomes cumbersome, the need to be constantly connected drains my smartphone faster, or the novelty of owning one wears off.

If I didn’t write about tech for a living, I would think twice about buying a smartwatch knowing that unlike a traditional watch that I could theoretically pass down to my children, a smartwatch would be obsolete in a year, two at best.

Samsung’s Gear S3 smartwatch has built-in navigation features.

Sure everything’s gotten better — watch designs, software, and hardware features like buttons, knobs, and rotating bezels that make it easier to interact with these smart devices are much improved.

But more than two years since the first Google-powered smartwatch was unveiled, and over a year since the release of the original Apple Watch, the smartwatch industry is still at a standstill.

[irp posts=”8920″ name=”Smartwatches are doing even worse than expected”]

Recently I was at the launch of Fossil Q smartwatches in the Philippines. I wasn’t particularly interested at first, but I own a few Fossil watches myself, and was curious to see how a traditional watchmaker would approach smartwatch design.

Unlike brands such as Apple, Samsung, and Motorola that are primarily tech companies, Fossil is a first and foremost a fashion brand.

It’s an easy fit. Usually smartwatches from any of the tech companies mentioned above come in two to three variants; Fossil’s new Android Wear-powered smartwatches — the Fossil Q Marshal and Q Wander — are available in a wide range of styles, as are Fossil’s traditional watches.

My Fossil Q Crewmaster Hybrid

But what caught my attention was the Q Hybrid, which is unlike any other smartwatch that I’ve reviewed before. I was so smitten, that I’ve since gone ahead and purchased one of my own — mine is called the Fossil Q Crewmaster Hybrid, a nautical-inspired watch with a multi-colored face and black silicone strap.

Fossil refers to its Hybrid line as smartwatches, but they don’t fall into the usual model. They are, for all intents and purposes, traditional watches. They look just like any other Fossil watch; don’t have a touchscreen or an operating system, you don’t have to charge them at the end of every day (you replace the standard CR2430 batteries every six months), and you can’t use them to make calls or read text messages.

But they are smart in the sense that they can track your steps and sleep. They connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth and sync with a smartphone app. And they can be programmed to vibrate when you get a notification — I’ve programmed my watch to vibrate only when I get important calls from loved ones.

Fossil Q Hybrid watches come with built-in fitness tracking features. You can view your stats on your smartphone.

My Hybrid watch also has an extra button that can be programmed to extend the functionality of my smartphone — like being able to play and skip music tracks, using it as a remote shutter button for taking photos, or having it make loud noises when it’s gone missing.

If you compare these features to any other smartwatch in my collection, there’s plenty the Fossil Q Hybrid can’t do, but that’s fine with me. In fact, maybe that’s exactly what makes the Fossil Q Hybrid an excellent idea.

Not everyone will agree, but perhaps this is what all smartwatches should be like.

In Manila, I sat down with Fossil APAC Merchandising Manager Justin Paxton.

He says, “Over the next couple of years, customers will eventually get to the point where they’re going to say, why does my watch only tell the time. There will be a point where customers will want smart features and expect it to be a standard.”

Perhaps that time has come. We want traditional watches and we want smart features, but we don’t need to have them all. We don’t need extra features at the cost of battery life, or the legacy of a watch that can last several lifetimes.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for the latest and greatest tech — I’d still fawn over a super watch that can do it all. But as tech creeps into more aspects of daily life, maybe tech companies can learn a thing or two from outsiders like Fossil.

That innovation alone doesn’t sell a product. And that scaling back and just perfecting something already existing, makes for the best tech of all.

Best Smartphones

Best Premium Smartphones above $600

March 2020 Edition

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If you’re looking for the very best high-end smartphones available, you’ve come to the right place! Every month, GadgetMatch updates this list with the finest devices money can buy, no matter how much they cost.

Updated monthly, this list takes every newly launched flagship costing more than US$ 600 into consideration, but doesn’t discount the smartphones that continue to make an impact since their launch last year.

Here they are in no particular order:

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (US$ 1399)

All of Samsung’s new Galaxy S20 series belong in this price range. If you’re going to spend north of $600, might as well get the one with maxed-out specs, right? That’s exactly what the Galaxy S20 Ultra — the absolute best that Samsung has to offer right now in this form-factor. The numbers on the hardware are there but Samsung made sure to add key software features to appropriately take advantage of everything it has to offer.

WATCH HANDS-ON: Samsung Galaxy S20 series

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ (US$ 1100)

The Samsung Galaxy Note series continues to set itself apart by being the premier smartphone that comes with a stylus. It doesn’t hurt that the smartphone is also pretty darn good at pretty much any other thing you might think of doing on a smartphone. While it’s not necessarily elite at one thing, it’s pretty darn good at everything.

HANDS-ON: Samsung Galaxy Note 10

ASUS ROG Phone 2 (Starts at US$ 500)

Nobody asked but ASUS followed up their gaming smartphone. The ROG Phone 2 maxes out every imaginable spec all while maintaining the design language of its predecessor. While the older accessories work, ASUS still introduced a few new ones. Most notably the Kunai gamepad that makes the gaming phone look almost like a Nintendo Switch.

REVIEW: ROG Phone 2

Google Pixel 4 XL (US$ 899)

Reluctantly adding this to the list due to how it feels like a stepback from the Pixel 3. In reality though, it’s still better than its predecessor, it just didn’t meet most people’s expectations. Google’s computational photography is still second to none and that’s still enough to make this list.

HANDS-ON: Google Pixel 4 XL

iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max (US$ 999)

The iPhone 11 Pro made no leaps in design which is why it somewhat feels underwhelming. It does, however, make up for it with yet another faster than ever processor, and a much-improved camera system. No, Apple didn’t exactly “innovate” but the iPhone is still what you expect it to be — a smartphone who’s hardware and software just works.

UNBOXING: iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max

Photo from @oneplus on Twitter

OnePlus 7T Pro (GBP 699)

The OnePlust 7T Pro didn’t get hyped as much because it was — in the words of many reviewers — only an incremental update from its predecessor. Make no mistake though, this is still a powerhouse of an Android phone is the owner of perhaps the smoothest, fastest Android UI today.

REVIEW: OnePlus 7T Pro

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip (US$ 1380)

The Galaxy Z Flip compares directly to the Motorola razr because of the way they fold. But on paper, the Galaxy Z Flip blows the Moto razr out of the water. There have also been plenty of reports that the Galaxy Z Flip has sold out in many markets (but lacking any actual figures). Regardless, this is easily the foldable smartphone that might actually serve well as your main phone.

WATCH: Galaxy Z Flip vs Moto razr

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Best Smartphones

Best Upper-Midrange Smartphones from $400 to $600

March 2020 Edition

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When premium phones are out of financial reach and entry-level handsets just don’t make your cut, something in between is the next best thing. This is our updated list of the best upper-midrange smartphones retailing from US$ 400 to US$ 600.

Formulating this category was tricky, since you can’t set an exact price and some of these devices are, in fact, the flagship phones of their respective brands. To simplify things, we chose a price range that simply sits between our other lists for best budget, midrange, and premium smartphones.

Here they are in no particular order:

Samsung Galaxy A71 (US$ 500)

Awesome screen, awesome camera, long-lasting battery life — that’s the LSS-inducing theme of the Galaxy A71 as it was being teased. Lo and behold, Samsung wasn’t lying. The phone certainly lives up to the hype and while specs-wise there may be cheaper options out there, the package that Samsung has put together is quite enticing.

REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy A71

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite (US$ 449)

Finally. A Galaxy Note sans the gimmicks. The Galaxy Note line has always been a premium offering. And while this isn’t exactly budget, it’s still a lot more affordable than the usual stylus-paired smartphone from Samsung.

WATCH HANDS-ON: Samsung Galaxy Note 10

Realme X2 Pro (CNY 3299)

The Realme X2 Pro has flagship killer written all over it. Equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ and a 64MP camera sensor along with three other cameras, this phone promises to be a powerhouse with a price tag that doesn’t require sacrificing any of your internal organs.

HANDS-ON: Realme X2 Pro

OnePlus 7T (US$ 599)

When the OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro came out, the company wanted to clearly communicate that they’re competing in the premium space. Fast forward to the OnePlus 7T and it looks like they are back to their flagship killing ways offering premium-level specs at a price lower than most top-of-the-line flagships.

UNBOXING & HANDS-ON: OnePlus 7

OPPO Reno2 (EUR 449/ US$ 488)

Yes, the Reno3 is already out there in the wild but we’ve yet to truly put it through the paces. The Reno2 however, we’ve had our hands-on. It’s crazy how close the release dates of these phones are but we can say for sure that this is still a good purchase owing to its now more premium design and dedication to providing better camera performance.

REVIEW: OPPO Reno2

Black Shark 2 [8GB + 128GB] (GBP 449/ US$ 283)

Okay so we’re being very specific here. There is a pro version but that’s that what we’re talking about. There’s also a version of the Black Shark 2 but with 12GB of RAM which exceeds this price point by hair. Which is why we specifically put the 8GB+128GB variant. It’s still a phone with pretty obvious gaming aesthetic. If this appeals to you, it’s a worthwhile purchase.

READ: Black Shark 2

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Best Smartphones

Best Midrange Smartphones from $200 to $400

March 2020 Edition

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When premium phones are out of financial reach and entry-level handsets just don’t make your cut, something in between is the next best thing. This is our updated list of the best midrange smartphones retailing from US$ 200 to US$ 400.

Formulating this category was tricky, since you can’t set an exact price and some of these devices are, in fact, the flagship phones of their respective brands. To simplify things, we chose a price range that simply sits between our other lists for best budget, upper-midrange, and premium smartphones.

Here they are in no particular order:

Realme XT (US$ 333)

The Realme XT is our choice for best smartphone with a 64MP camera. This smartphone produces flagship-level photos.

REVIEW: Realme XT

Xiaomi Mi 9 SE (US$ 300)

Xiaomi has always been a part of the list and the Mi 9 SE truly deserves its spot. It’s a flagship-grade phone from its design to its specs. It’s dubbed as a “compact flagship” thanks to its smaller-than-usual form factor. If you’re looking for a phone that won’t hurt your pockets both in size and price, check out the Mi 9 SE.

REVIEW: Xiaomi Mi 9 SE

Realme 5 Pro (US$ 232)

A quadruple-camera setup at this price point seems unlikely but Realme made it happen. And it’s not just the setup, the lenses actually take photos with good image quality. That would have been enough to recommend this but it also has a Snapdragon 712 AIE chip with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. If you’re looking for a great deal, this is it.

HANDS-ON: Realme 5 Pro

 

Pixel 3a (US$399)

The Pixel 3a barely makes this price range by being just a hair under $400. The camera alone easily makes this crème de la crème of this bunch. Add to that the vanilla Android experience and of course being in the priority list of Android updates, this is the Pixel to get for Android purists.

HANDS-ON: Pixel 3a

 

POCO X2 (INR 19,99/ US$ 279)

The future of Pocophone was up in the air for a while, but all of that was finally put to rest when the brand finally released the POCO X2. This isn’t exactly the successor to the POCO F1. In fact, this is just a rebranded Redmi K30 Pro. But it’s still a step in the right direction for a brand that quickly captured everyone’s attention only to go completely silent for over a year.

READ: POCO X2

Samsung Galaxy A51 (US$ 320)

Samsung’s on a roll with their Galaxy A-series. The Galaxy A51 builds on everything that was already great with the Galaxy A50 and A50s and just makes it even better. Much like everything on the Galaxy lineup this year, the Galaxy A51 sports a look that as of posting is still undeniably Samsung.

Samsung Galaxy M31 (INR 15,99/US$ 224)

This battery-powerhouse of a smartphone has never quite made it to more markets, but it has gotten a significant amount of attention thanks to its 6,000mAh battery. Something this long-lasting appears to still be one of the priorities of smartphone buyers.

 

 

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