At least it's not all gimmicky like some of the earlier models, such as the Dick Tracy version. The watch's only extraneous ornamentation is four tough-looking case screws on the face. It's functional in appearance, and it lets the interesting and useful features of the technology in the watch itself show through. As with other SPOT watches, you can select from several time displays, ranging from clean and modern to traditional analog (somewhat incongruous on a high-tech device such as this) to completely wacky; one of the faces looks like a beach with the time written in the sand. You can also download two faces to the watch, although the selection isn't huge or up-to-date. As of this writing, in February, four of the nine available downloadable faces are winter holiday-themed.
SPOT watches receive radio signals, and the antenna for this model is in the band. But the Fossil Wrist Net FX3005 is reasonably flexible and comfortable, and it's easy to slide the buckle to resize without cutting the band or breaking out a screwdriver. The control buttons, however, are a little on the tough side, and pressing them with a geek's typically soft, uncalloused fingers is uncomfortable.
The watch has similar functions to other SPOT watches. It receives signals from local radio stations in about 100 major U.S. cities. These signals set the watch automatically (though if you like your watch to run five minutes ahead, you can adjust the "offset" to do so) and send it data such as news headlines, weather, movie listings, sports scores, stock quotes, and more. The MSN Direct service costs $39.95 a year and allows you to download the additional watch-face graphics. You can also receive MSN Messenger instant messages on the watch, but you can't reply to them, which makes this feature of questionable usefulness. The sender has no way to be sure you received the message.
For an additional charge of $20 a year, you can download appointments from your Outlook calendar into your watch. This is the most useful SPOT service, although it's a bit redundant if you already have that data on a PDA or a smart phone that you carry with you. The Outlook plug-in that synchronizes your calendar with the SPOT service is easy to install and set up, although during our testing, it occasionally popped up cryptic error messages. Additionally, it works with only Windows-based PCs, so Mac users are out of luck.
In addition to the bulk, the $149 price tag for the watch itself, and the need to pay $59.95 a year to get the full benefits of the MSN Direct service, the Fossil requires another commitment: charging. The Wrist Net FX3005 will run for four or five days on a single charge, but after that, it shuts down its radio and won't receive new information, although it will continue to tell the time. Unfortunately, the charging stand that comes with the watch is bulky, and it's not convenient for traveling. Other SPOT watches have clip-on chargers that take up less room or can be juiced via a USB cable that attaches to a computer.
We wore and traveled with the Fossil for a month and found it handy to have appointment information always at our wrist. We ended up not using the other features much, aside from the alarm and occasionally the weather information, although the news headlines in their default display mode are so short that they make a nice "finish the headline" party game (example: "Vatican insider sheds light on...").
After a month, we went back to our ordinary watch and found we didn't miss the Fossil Wrist Net much. We still had our appointment data in our PDA, and the time we got just as well from our much better-looking Mondaine analog watch. The Wrist Net is a fun gadget, but given the bulk, the unimpressive looks, the charging hassle, and the recurring expense of the SPOT system, it's hard to recommend it.