Skagen’s first Android Wear smartwatch is big on looks, but light on features. Measured against the rest of the fashion crop it’s a clear stand-out, but without even NFC this is almost a stock Android Wear experience. Skagen-designed faces give it some added flair, but despite our hopes, this doesn’t come at the benefit of battery life. Still, if it’s just a good looking Android Wear smartwatch you’re after, this is right on target.
- Clean and elegant design
- Skagen faces look great
- Unisex appeal
- No Android Pay
- Battery life barely better
- Button can be annoying
Fossil Group’s wearable crop is growing larger by the year and making it harder to pick out the best from the yield, but the Skagen Falster is sure to win over a lot of hearts. When I first locked eyes on Android Wear smartwatchat CES 2018, I actually found the design a little underwhelming, but after a couple of weeks on my wrist I can confidently say it’s won me over.
Danish watchmaker Skagen has form here. Its last two hybrid smartwatcheshave been among my favorites, so when I heard the company was making its first Android Wear smartwatch, expectations were high. At $275 ($295 if you want a steel mesh strap), you can pick up an Android Wear smartwatch that packs in more features, but whether you can find one that looks this good is a matter of opinion. But I think there are scanty alternatives. The Falster is a touchscreen smartwatch that’s not very concerned with tech.
Skagen has also layered some new ideas on top of the stock Android Wear experience to give its smartwatch a more distinct flavor. How well does it all come together? Read on to find out.
Skagen’s going for a clean, minimal look here that could be accused of being a bit utilitarian. But as I say, in time I’ve come round to the simple, elegant design, which also bleeds into the software. The watch makes me think back to when Google showed off the Moto 360 in 2014, the first smartwatch people were really lusting over (Yeah sure we had Pebble, but the old Cherry Red wasn’t much to look at, was it?). It ended up being wide and bulky. Four years on, the Skagen Falster is exactly what I wanted that smartwatch to be.
The case measures 42mm across and 12mm thick, making it just small enough to be considered unisex, with the option of leather or steel bracelet bands that should appeal to a range of tastes. Don’t like them? You can swap in any 20mm strap of your choosing. The lugs add a bit to the height of the watch, but add a dash of style too.
There’s just one button on the Falster, and let me tell you, I have opinionsabout this button. It’s squidgy and requires a fairly forceful push to feel the faint reciprocating “click”. Often I press it and don’t get a response. Also twist it all you want, but sadly it can’t be used to wheel through the menus like the Michael Kors Access Grayson.
There’s a fairly big bezel here too, but it does a good job of blending in when the screen is black or dimmed. Skagen’s used an AMOLED display which, when combined with its custom black watch faces, can supposedly eke out a bit of extra battery life. More on that in a bit.
Features and Android Wear
I once read that the Danish concept of “hygge” and minimalism intersect where ideas both focus on the heart of living and not the hustle. That’s precisely what Skagen is aiming for here with six watch faces that all riff on this theme by being more sparing with the information they show, and keeping down the mix of colors. The company said it wanted to push this idea of streamlining information so as to not overload ourselves, something I can definitely get behind, but if it can save even a fraction of battery life then that’s good too, right?
All of these watch faces can be customized with different colors and complications, and of course you have the entire catalogue of third-party Android Wear watch faces to pick from as well. But beyond that, it’s the standard Android Wear show and all of its recurring characters.
I don’t think the lack of a heart rate sensor or even GPS are massive red marks on a smartwatch that shows no fitness ambitions. Unlike Misfit did with the Vapor, Skagen hasn’t layered anything on top of the stock Google Fit apps, and personally I’m of the view that there’s no point adding a heart rate sensor for the sake of it, especially if it’s going to impede battery life further – and in the case of the Vapor, not actually perform well. But that’s just me: perhaps a heart rate sensor is a must-have for you, in which case, look elsewhere. Maybe the Huawei Watch 2?
However the exclusion of NFC, and therefore Android Pay, is something I am less willing to compromise on. I make this point every time I review a high-end Android Wear smartwatch lacking the feature, and I will not apologize. I will die on this hill. If I am paying $275 for an Android Wear smartwatch, I think it should have Android Pay.
Fight me on this if you will but I will not flinch. Payments are one of the stickier smartwatch features, and though I understand why you’re less likely to take the Falster outside without a smartphone than, say, the Fitbit Ionic, for the price you’re paying, I feel like NFC should be included.
Battery life and charging
Despite Skagen’s efforts to dial down the battery suck, I haven’t noticed a marked improvement over other Android Wear watches I’ve worn. With the Falster I’ve managed to stretch it a day and a half, which may have been slightly improved by those black pixels, but it’s hard to tell. Really, it doesn’t seem any better as any of the other recent Wear watches we’ve tested.
The charger is a pretty standard-affair magnetized circle that slaps on the back. It takes quite a long time to power up too, so chances are you’ll still want to stick this on the charger each night before bed.
In the landscape of smartwatches
The Falster is the best looking smartwatch I’ve tried in 2018, though admittedly we’re just a few weeks into the year. I’ve yet to try out the Tag Heuer Modular 41 (my colleague is currently testing it out – look out for the review soon), but on looks the Falster beats the MyKronoz ZeTime by my book.
Fossil’s Spring collection has a lot of beautiful hybrids to offer too, and plenty of people still prefer having a physical face, but if you’re thinking of moving to a touchscreen smartwatch, the Falster carries itself in a way that cares much more about great Danish design than the technology inside.