But when it does come, at least you’ll have a choice in digital assistants
Although Fossil launched two new smartwatches at CES today, there’s one big elephant in the room: the upgrade to Wear OS 3 won’t arrive for several months. To take the sting out of the wait, Fossil snuck in another new feature for its Gen 6 smartwatches: Amazon Alexa. As for when Alexa will arrive, you’ll have to settle for “coming soon.” Hopefully before Wear OS 3.
In a statement to 9to5Google, Fossil says the update will come in the first half of 2022. This tracks with what Fossil told The Verge in a CES briefing, in which spokesperson Robyn Sills said Alexa would come to the Gen 6 devices “early this year.” Fossil sent me both the Skagen Falster 6 and the Razer x Fossil Gen 6 smartwatch, and yup, there’s a widget just for Alexa. If you tap it, however, you won’t bring up the voice assistant. You’ll just see a “coming soon” message.
So, between “coming soon,” “early this year,” and “first half of this year,” it’s anyone’s guess. With features like this, it’s not uncommon to see companies hedge on timelines, lest they make like Douglas Adams and watch self-set deadlines whoosh by. Still, if all goes well, it appears likely that Alexa compatibility will arrive before Wear OS 3. As for when the Wear OS 3 upgrades will arrive, that’s up to Google. For now, both Google and Fossil haven’t budged from the equally vague mid-to-late 2022 timeline.
It might seem curious as to why Fossil would even tease Alexa if it’s not ready yet. The most likely reason is to give everyone something to look forward to while waiting for Wear OS 3, which could arrive in a few months or a whole year from now. In a briefing, Fossil told The Verge that this awkward timing did impact initial Gen 6 sales, though surprisingly, the Gen 5E sales seem to be going strong. Given all the uncertainty, it makes sense that Fossil would want to highlight Alexa compatibility.
For what it’s worth, it is or will be a win for Fossil. Voice assistants are increasingly common on smartwatches, but customers don’t really have a say in which assistant comes with their wearable. Wear OS watches are currently tied to Google Assistant and Apple Watches are Siri-only. Samsung has inflicted Bixby onto Galaxy Watch owners for years, and while Samsung said you’d be able to opt for Google Assistant on the new Galaxy Watch 4, it has yet to officially arrive. Some watches, like Garmin’s newly announced Venu 2 Plus, simply connect you to your phone’s assistant. Others hook you up with a proprietary assistant, and that’s rarely a good time.
Right now, Fitbit is the only one that actually offers any sort of choice. Starting with the Fitbit Sense and Versa 3, you had the option between Alexa or Google Assistant. However, you could only do one or the other. As far as I can see on my review units, while there is an Alexa widget, that doesn’t stop you from using Google Assistant as well. Granted, there are few official details and Alexa on the wrist isn’t the best. However, Fossil offering a choice in assistants — or even the option to potentially use more than one is a smart move. It’d just be smarter if it was here already.