Technology

Fossil promises Alexa is coming to its smartwatches ‘soon’

Although Fossil launched two new smartwatches today at CES, there is one big elephant in the room: the upgrade to Wear OS 3 won’t arrive for a few months. To take the sting out of the wait, Fossil sneaked in yet 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 for Wear OS 3.

In a statement to 9to5GoogleFossil says the update will come in the first half of 2022. This ties in with what Fossil told The edge in a CES briefing, in which spokesperson Robyn Sills said Alexa would be coming to Gen 6 devices “early this year.” Fossil sent me both the Skagen Falster 6 and the Razer x Fossil Gen 6 smartwatch, and yes, there is a widget just for Alexa. However, if you tap it, the voice assistant will not appear. You will only see the message ‘coming soon’.

So anyone can guess between ‘soon’, ‘early this year’ and ‘first half of this year’. With features like this, it’s not uncommon for companies to cover up timelines so that they don’t make like Douglas Adams and see self-set deadlines flash by. But if all goes well, it seems 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 have not deviated from the equally vague timeline of mid-to-late 2022.

It might seem strange 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 in anticipation of Wear OS 3, which could arrive in a few months or a whole year. In a briefing, Fossil said: The edge that this awkward timing affected initial Gen 6 sales, though surprisingly Gen 5E sales seem to be going strong. Given all the uncertainty, it makes sense that Fossil would want to emphasize compatibility with Alexa.

For what it’s worth, it’s (or will be) a win for Fossil. Voice assistants are becoming more common on smartwatches, but customers don’t really have a say in which assistant comes with their wearable. Wear OS watches are currently paired with Google Assistant and Apple Watches are Siri-only. Samsung has been inflicting Bixby on Galaxy Watch owners for years, and while Samsung said you could 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, just connect you to your phone’s assistant. Others pair you with their own assistant, and that’s rarely a good time.

Right now, Fitbit is the only one that actually offers any choice. Starting with the Fitbit Sense and Versa 3, you had the option between Alexa or Google Assistant. However, you can only do one or the other. As far as I can see from my review units, while there’s an Alexa widget, that doesn’t stop you from using the Google Assistant as well. Admittedly, there are few official details and Alexa on the wrist is not the best. However, Fossil’s offering of a choice of assistants – or even the ability to potentially use more than one – is a smart move. It would just be smarter if it was here already.