Yet another traditional wristwatch maker gets into the business of smart, and we explore the new Skagen Falster.
The smart wearables segment has existed for a while now but got a serious boost in 2014 when the first Android Wear (now known as Wear OS) smartwatches were introduced. The segment got an even bigger boost with Samsung introducing its Tizen-based offerings, and Apple launching the Apple Watch in 2015. While Apple and the fitness tracker product segment have since taken effective control of the market, Wear OS has fallen behind.
Nonetheless, opting for Wear OS is the most effective way to launch a smartwatch today, assuming you aren’t Apple and don’t have the software development capabilities of Samsung or Fitbit. Many traditional wristwatch makers have also seen sense in opting for the platform and getting into the growing smartwatch space. The latest to join this list is Danish wristwatch maker Skagen. Today we’re reviewing the Skagen Falster Smartwatch, a device that is priced at Rs 19,995 and runs Wear OS.
When it comes to design, Skagen has somewhat of a typical look for its traditional watches that continues even with the Falster. The round, relatively flat dial is seen on this smartwatch, and the 1.2-inch screen is perfectly circular with no Motorola-style flat tire at the bottom. It’s comfortable to wear, and the included strap can be adjusted to your fit at the time of purchase.
Whether you like how it looks or not is entirely subjective, and also depends on the kind of strap you get with the watch. In my opinion, it doesn’t look quite as good as the Emporio Armani Connected smartwatch that I reviewed a few months ago, but the styling on the Falster might appeal to some people.
You also get a single button on the side of the watch, which controls power, and also functions as a menu button. Wear OS has evolved of late to include more gesture-based control, and indeed navigating around the watch works with swipes and gestures on the screen. The smartwatch has an IP67 rating for water and dust resistance, so it shouldn’t be unsafe to get a few splashes of water on it.
The watch has a glass bottom, which enables wireless charging using the bundled charger which clamps onto the watch magnetically. The magnetic hold is a bit weak though, so you’ll have to ensure the watch and charger are steady on a table-top while charging. It doesn’t take too long to charge the 300mAh battery on the watch either. Apart from basic second-screen functionality and the compact design, there isn’t much else to the Skagen Falster in terms of features.
Wear OS and its reducing relevance
Android smartphone users are best suited by the Wear OS platform when it comes to smartwatches, because of the superior level of integration on the platform. Apps and notifications sync well between the two, and a Wear OS device works well as a second screen for your phone on your wrist. Additional functionality entirely depends on the device in use, but as a platform, Wear OS fundamentally works.
The problems with the platform are unfortunately linked to the hardware not evolving, as well as the lack of success of the platform, which makes for a vicious cycle of incompetence. Wear OS devices continue to be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset, which was developed back in 2016. Although new wearable chipsets from Qualcomm are coming later this year, for now, the Skagen Falster is immediately somewhat handicapped by its very nature.
Unlike with Android smartphones, Wear OS smartwatches don’t have custom skins or overlays, and the interface looks and feels the same regardless of which device you’re using. On the Skagen Falster, it works well enough, but performance is a definite issue. Because of the dated internals, things can be a bit slow. The watch tends to take its own time to load things up, and there’s a noticeable delay in getting anything done.
Battery life is poor as well, and I often couldn’t even get the watch to keep going for the 16-17 hours a day I’m awake. Assuming I’d have a full charge when I started my day at 7:00AM, I’d be scrambling for the charger around 3:00PM, with the watch’s battery in single figures and the looming threat of having no convenient access to the time. It’s disappointing and quite inconvenient to have this kind of battery life on a wearable device, and you’ll be worrying more about charging it than getting any actual smartwatch benefits out of it.
Despite looking arguably good, the Skagen Falster comes with a rather pathetic set of watch faces built in. Of course, Wear OS gives you access to plenty of aftermarket options (a lot of which don’t cost anything), but I’ve always preferred the in-built faces because they’re designed to suit the device looks. In this case, you get watch faces that seem to have been designed as an afterthought; it’s almost as if someone at Skagen forgot about it and had to get it done the night before the launch. They are plain, boring and utterly lacking in any character.
Despite the high price of the Skagen Falster, the smartwatch is entirely lacking in any worthwhile features. You don’t get a built-in speakerphone, just the microphone for voice commands. Even a turning crown for easier navigation would have helped, but the button is just a button in this case. There is no heart-rate sensor, and the system using the accelerometer to count steps is quite inaccurate as well.
Indeed, the only moderately interesting feature on the Skagen Falster is its wireless charging. There’s nothing to this smartwatch beyond wireless charging and its looks, and even that is entirely subjective and may not suit some people at all.
If you happen to like Skagen’s style and the general look of the Falster smartwatch, you have the only real reason to buy this. On all other counts, the Falster is a disappointing option even by Wear OS’ currently low standards. Wear OS will likely only get a fresh lease of life later this year when the next-generation Qualcomm smartwatch chipsets and Google’s own Pixel-branded smartwatches are launched.
The Skagen Falster’s poor battery life, weak performance and complete lack of features or worthwhile watch faces leave very little reason to invest in it, particularly considering that it isn’t even affordable at Rs 19,995. If you’re in the market for a good smartwatch to use with your Android smartphone, you’re better off buying a Samsung Gear S3, Gear Sport or Huawei Watch 2.