Fossil might be the only company with the vision to challenge Apple in the smartwatch market

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Fossil might be the only company with the vision to challenge Apple in the smartwatch market
Fossil Gen 5 family

A lot can happen in the volatile tech landscape in the space of only a few months, so although I couldn't conceive the possibility of anyone even hoping to threaten Apple's crushing dominance over the global smartwatch market just a little while ago, a series of recent events is making me seriously reconsider that assessment. 

Of course, I don't expect Apple to be surpassed at the top of the smartwatch shipment chart tomorrow... or a year after that... or even five years down the line. For many people, the Apple Watch will remain synonymous with the very idea of a smartwatch the same way that iPads equal tablets and the AirPods are the only wireless earbuds that a big chunk of iPhone users would ever consider buying.

But the smartwatch market has been growing at a pretty impressive pace lately and analysts predict that trend will continue, driven primarily but not solely by steady Apple Watch demand. So, if Google, Samsung, Huawei, and Fitbit seem unlikely to pose a real threat for the supremacy of the Cupertino-based tech giant, who can rise through the ranks in the long run and at least close the gap to Apple? Well, I think Fossil is the underdog to watch out for (no pun intended), and I'll try to explain why:

More than one brand, more than one threat

Before rushing to disregard a company that doesn't exactly specialize in designing, building, and selling gadgets to the masses, you should know Fossil is actually a pretty large "group", releasing wearable devices under a lot of well-known and well-liked brands in addition to its own name. We're talking brands like Michael Kors, Diesel, Emporio Armani, Skagen, Misfit, and even Puma to name but a few.

While most of the Fossil Group's licenses come from fashion designers that have a fairly limited target audience with little to no room for expansion, devoted followers of the tech scene may remember Misfit as the creators of some of the coolest activity trackers of the industry's early days. Well, what probably fell under your radar is that the Fossil Group acquired Misfit a few years back.

To give you an idea of the value of Misfit's proprietary technology, it appears that's what Google paid $40 million for earlier this year. While it remains unclear what plans Big G might have for the smartwatch market going forward, it's important to highlight Fossil simply agreed to share some of its "hybrid" tech with the search giant. So even if a Pixel Watch were to come next year, which seems unlikely, that would only help Fossil rather than hurt the company, drawing attention to its innovations in addition to product diversity.

A coherent vision

With so many different brands under its belt, you might expect Fossil's overall market strategy and smartwatch designs to be all over the place. That's not exactly the case, though, as the new Michael Kors, Emporio Armani, Puma, and Diesel models are essentially built on the same underlying hardware platform. The Fossil Gen 5 lineup also shares most of its internals with these recently unveiled devices, and although the external designs are naturally different, all Fossil Group-made products seem to follow a number of key guidelines.

These bad boys are stylish in a fairly minimalistic way, aiming to stand out just enough to be noticed by your friends at dinner parties while not looking goofy or out of place on both large and small wrists. Many of the new models are made to strongly resemble traditional timepieces at first glance, but simultaneously, they can still do most of the things the Apple Watch is capable of. And because they're similar but not identical, they can cover a much wider range of price points than the competition.

They can't measure your ECG, detect falls, or claim to be able to save your life in any circumstance, but they're more powerful than their forerunners, have built-in speakers and microphones, as well as slightly improved battery life. They're certainly not perfect, but unlike Samsung, which can't seem to decide exactly what path to follow in trying to catch up with Apple, Fossil has its own direction and area of focus.

Instead of constantly staying one step (or several) behind the market leader and main innovator, Fossil is focusing less on health and more on style to carve out a niche that could then turn into a significant industry segment.

Google still needs to step up its software game

Whether or not a mythical Pixel Watch is in the pipeline (again), Wear OS development has to continue and shift to a better pace of innovation and refinement. Otherwise, Fossil's great hardware efforts of late will be wasted on a software platform that remains light years behind Apple's watchOS, despite technically seeing daylight more than 12 months earlier as Android Wear.

Fossil and Google basically need each other too, as the former is currently by far the latter's most prolific and significant Wear OS hardware-making partner. Of course, the large number of Fossil Group-made smartwatches released over the last couple of years hasn't translated into very impressive sales figures yet. 

According to one report, the company held a microscopic 2.5 percent global share in the first quarter of 2019. Another report didn't bother to break down the Q2 shipments of anyone else besides Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit, perfectly illustrating the uphill battle Fossil will be facing to gain relevance in a fast-growing but very challenging market.



1. Jason2k13

Posts: 1469; Member since: Mar 28, 2013

Surely this must be a paid review from Fossil? This guy mentions Samsung is not a threat to the Apple watch, yet Samsung has the 2nd highest markshare for smart watches... But still believe fossil is the underdog that could compete with Apple???

2. Xavier1415

Posts: 207; Member since: Feb 26, 2012

This site takes payment from alot of ppl mainly apple but I agree Samsung is #2 in smartwatch sales and saying Samsung is not a threat whatever they are smoking pass it!!

6. ssallen

Posts: 202; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

Samsung absolutely SHOULD be a threat but it is absolutely puzzling that they still can't get basic fitness tracking to work. Their latest watches look great with excellent battery life, but the fact that their step counters are routinely off by 30% or more is atrocious. They need to get their crap together, fitness tracking is still the main use case for owning a smart watch.

5. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2448; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Samsung still has a long way to go to be a threat to Apple. It sits at a 16% market share compared to Apple’s 46%. It sounds better when you say they have the second highest market share but the reality shows they are well behind. Considering Fitbit sits behind Samsung at 9.8% and they have basically given up on smart watches just goes to show it can be anyone’s game.

26. Jason2k13

Posts: 1469; Member since: Mar 28, 2013

And the reality is, Samsung is still the biggest threat to Apple. With your logic, you might aswell say Sony has 1% markets share in the smartphone industry, but is still a threat to Apple because they are still alive.

9. nikhil23

Posts: 469; Member since: Dec 07, 2016

While watch os is struggling to generate sales, watch active 2 is sold out in US and will ship on oct 23 yeah "Samsung is not the underdog"

11. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2448; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

I’m not sure where you are seeing it’s sold out. The local Best Buy is showing at least two units in stock. Amazon is showing availability for two day shipping.

12. nikhil23

Posts: 469; Member since: Dec 07, 2016

Oh. Best buy was showing "not available in 250 mi radius" yesterday night (in Chicago). I saw the delivery date Oct 23 on Samsung website (for 44mm). Looks like Bestbuy does have stock, awesome. I was going to trade Gear S3 and Apple watch Series 3 and get Watch active 2 and Series 5 for me and my Wife. I was a bit disappointed thinking I won't be able to get it today. Thanks

19. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2448; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Also looks like B&H has it as well in case BestBuy takes longer on delivery.

22. nikhil23

Posts: 469; Member since: Dec 07, 2016

There was 1 avaialbe at Bestbuy but it looks like it's gone. I don't want to travel 10 miles to get it at another best buy. I'll try my luck at target, if not, I'll order it online. Hoping that I would get my hands on it today

36. LiveFaith

Posts: 487; Member since: Jul 04, 2015

A significant % of "news" here is nothing more than placement ads by companies.

3. cmdacos

Posts: 4264; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

There isn't a single wear OS OEM that will be successful simply because if wear OS itself and the soc chips that drive it. The processing needed and effect on battery life make the platform best suited for junk drawers and clearance bins.

4. ssallen

Posts: 202; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

Haha, except EVERY SINGLE Fossil watch made in the last 3 years looks LIGHT YEARS better than the derpy Apple Watch. If you take off your Apple tinted glasses and actually look at that ugly bastard your stomach will lurch.

18. cmdacos

Posts: 4264; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Lmao, I'm not sure who you think you're talking to but regardless you're a tool. Welcome back after your two year hiatus though.

42. ssallen

Posts: 202; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

Do you speak english because nothing you just wrote was coherent?

21. Feanor

Posts: 1389; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

Terrible battery life is the argument that everyone brings up as the defining reason for the failure of Wear OS, yet the market leader Apple Watch has just as bad battery life. Lack of brand recognition is the reason behind Wear OS failure, much more than the real drawbacks of the system. The Apple Watch was in a terrible state for its first generations and that didn't stop it becoming the market leader. Because it's, well, Apple. See the Airpods. They are a very mediocre product in their segment, and they are the biggest recent Apple market success story.

25. cmdacos

Posts: 4264; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Apple users dont care about inconveniences like poor battery life. They do what their told.

34. wickedwilly

Posts: 723; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

Dead right, the Apple Watch only sells because of the name same with AirPods, if any other OEM came out with the same they would be derided in the press and been a failure. The same applies to the iPhones from the iPhone 6 onwards, inferior products and high prices. Kudos to Apple for being able to pull it off, but deluded Apple fans take the high sales as it being a better product, which clearly they are not.

7. OneLove123

Posts: 1189; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

Apple crushes! They say!

8. TBomb

Posts: 1568; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

I think there are some key differences between Apple and Android users that drive the success/demise of smartwatch brands. People interact differently with their phone depending on which brand and which OS it runs (yes, everyone taps on the screen, but the settings/apps are organized differently, there's simple "OS rules" that vary, and people choose their phones for different reasons). Apple has made it so you NEED an additional one of their products to get an extra feature(s). "To participate in the health studies you need an Apple watch" "to have your phone sync up nicely, you need a mac" "to use the credit card, you need an iphone". Samsung is trying to do this, but with so many other OEMs price-cutting them, they can't because there's always another OEM that my set of tech will work with. Example: "My LG phone will work good with my Asus Chromebook, and my Fossil Smartwatch" As long as it's Android-ish, the OEM doesn't matter (for the most part). At the end of the day as well, the OS's for the necessary smartphone companion attract different user groups for different reasons. Each of those different user groups has different buying/technology habits. Maybe some of those groups of people people drawn to Android just don't care about having a smartwatch as much as iOS users. It's more than a features game. It's more than a shiny object game. It's more than a pricing game.

10. Jamesmd81

Posts: 6; Member since: Oct 24, 2016

I have just bought a fossil gen 5 watch and have to say its brilliant, Wear OS does need to get a shake up but its much smoother with the newer hardware. Apple Watches are so popular simply because Apple users love Apple products, so although Wear OS watches offer more diversity and run with Apple iPhones they dont quite offer that "Apple" experience.

13. MsPooks

Posts: 169; Member since: Jul 08, 2019

Apple will continue to dominate because "Apple." Their watch is a status symbol, whereas people who buy WearOS or Tizen watches are looking for functionality. The iwatch has the functionality, but that's not why people buy it.

20. mackan84

Posts: 553; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

It kinda helps to that every other person with a ECG-Apple watch gets a heart attack...

33. royman

Posts: 25; Member since: Jul 04, 2017

I've had the Apple Watch Series 4 and now I have the Galaxy Active 2 and to be honest, they are both very good. I think the Active 2 is better but that's just my opinion.

29. Dsaint

Posts: 1; Member since: Sep 28, 2019

I believe there's truth to this article. I don't have an iPhone and even though I did own their first 2 generations (3G and 4S) and believe that Android desperately needs to improve their software, I have no intention to return to Apple. I have been using (and generally enjoying) a Samsung Tizen Smartwatch for 4 years (Gear S2) and I've been so keen on buying a new model that I actually put a down payment a week and a half ago on their Galaxy Active Watch 2. Then I discovered the existence in the same shopping centre of Fossil. Admittedly I had read online with some curiosity about this new Gen 5 watch. The sales person was excellent in every way and patiently explained why Fossil could be a better choice. My friend and I bought the fossil Gen 5 last week. I have now decided to get a refund on my deposit for the Samsung Watch Active 2. about the only real complaint I have is that I believe fossil should provide either via a PDF or a booklet directly included with their Smartwatch an owners manual/instructions booklet.

35. wickedwilly

Posts: 723; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

The OS on Samsung watches is better than on Apples Watches, faster and more intuitive, with a far superior battery life.

32. royman

Posts: 25; Member since: Jul 04, 2017

I mean I got my Galaxy Watch Active 2 and this thing is awesome. Haven't played with an Apple Series 5 but this Active 2 is better then my series 4 apple watch. Just my unbiased opinion.

43. JJ1337

Posts: 11; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

lol Amazfit is better then fosil WTF phonearena xD

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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