- Gorgeous, minimalist design
- Brimming with fitness features
- NFC for Google Pay
- Heart rate sensor iffy
- Old chip tech
- Battery life should be better
The Skagen Falster 2 has a lot to live up to, not just because the first Skagen Falster smartwatch was the best looking Wear smartwatch of its time (a whole 11 months ago), but also because the follow-up promises so much on paper.
The Falster's biggest problem was that its best qualities were only skin deep. Beneath the simple, elegant design was essentially a stock Wear OS experience: no NFC, no heart rate tracking, no GPS, no waterproofing. Bare bones.
As with all of the Fossil Group's fourth generation smartwatches, all four of these things are now present in the Falster 2, which retains the good looks of the first while being filled to the brim with features.
Essential reading: Best Wear watches to own right now
Newsflash: The Skagen Falster 3 has now been announced with the same great look, improved internals but a bigger price tag. Read our complete guide.
Skagen Falster 2: Design and fit
It was only at the start of 2018 that Skagen launched the first Falster, so the Falster 2, arriving less than a year later, is an unusually fast iteration. And in fact the design doesn’t stray too far from what came before, save for two new buttons on the side and a middle button that now works as a rotating crown. Wear OS has evolved into a very scrollable interface, so it’s great we’re seeing companies like Skagen take advantage of that.
As for the other two buttons, they can be set as shortcuts to your favorite apps and features. With NFC, the Falster 2 now supports Google Pay, so if you’re a user of Google’s payment service you’ll probably want to assign it to one of these shortcut buttons for convenience.
The case is 2mm smaller this time, now measuring 40mm to give it more unisex appeal. Fit within that is a 1.19-inch touchscreen which, thanks to Skagen’s specially designed watch faces and the OLED technology, does a good job of hiding the bezel. There are plenty of colours too, mixing different stainless steel finishes with various strap options. And once again you can swap in any 20mm band of your choosing, thanks to the universal fitting. Add to that 30 metres of water resistance and you've got a pretty versatile smartwatch.
What’s most surprising about the Falster 2 is that it's still so light despite all the new tech inside. Skagen deserves plaudits for its iterating here, managing to somehow squeeze more tech into less space in less than a year. Or you could argue that it simply thought it could get away with less the first time. Either way, what it’s done with the Falster 2 is impressive.
And at for the version with a leather or silicon band or for the more luxurious model it's not crazily priced for a Wear watch. So far, so good.
Skagen Falster 2: Features
Skagen clearly heard our feedback on the first Falster smartwatch and worked quickly to turnaround a smartwatch that ticked as many boxes as it could. All smartwatch makers know by now that fitness is the stickiest use case for these wearables, and so the Falster 2 offers up a heart rate sensor on the back, built-in GPS and a waterproof design. It also gets NFC this time around, meaning you can take advantage of Google Pay and make purchases from the wrist (at supporting payment terminals).
Skagen has also once again loaded a bunch of custom watch faces all themed on simplicity and the Danish concept of "hygge". These faces remove the clutter and are more sparing with the colours, opting for more blacks that look nice and deep on that OLED screen.
The Falster 2 comes ready to support the latest version of Wear OS, which I was prompted to update to right out of the box, and again, the updated interface is better for scrolling with the digital crown.
But there’s a glaring omission here, one that’s become harder to shake the more I’ve used the Falster 2. Skagen has built this smartwatch on Qualcomm’s older chipset, and with the first 3100 Snapdragon Wear devices starting to emerge, that decision is harder to accept.
This is mostly felt in the battery life, which only nets about a day on average – the same as the first Falster. It feels like Skagen could have waited just a little longer and opted for the updated silicone, which would have allowed it to optimize the battery better, stretching it out for longer.
I do also sometimes find the Falster 2 to be laggy when I’m moving through menus and opening apps, something else that might have been remedied by switching to the new Qualcomm chip. These frustrations will hopefully be fixed with some software optimisations, but the battery life won’t be. I just don’t see why Skagen couldn’t have waited a little longer and delivered something better.
Skagen Falster 2: Fitness and activity tracking
So Skagen has pumped this thing with fitness features, but how well do they work in practice? For starters, let’s talk about the software, because you’re really still getting the stock Wear OS experience in terms of apps. Skagen has an app for watch faces, and you do have Google Pay this time, but that’s it. That means Google Fit and Fit Workout are your go-to fitness apps here on the watch.
Read this: Best Wear OS apps to download first
If you’re an Android smartphone user, you have the Google Fit phone app to sync your workouts with, but iPhone users are stuck with just the Wear OS app for now, which only offers a basic glance at your daily activity. If you want to properly track your workouts, we’d recommend downloading an app like Endomondo or Runtastic onto the watch. We’d recommend Strava, but we’ve had problems getting this to sync with the phone, leading to workouts being discarded, so until this is fixed we’d advise against it.
In terms of the accuracy of tracking, the Falster 2 has proven decent in moderate exercise and uneven with more intense bouts of activity. You can see in one run, where we tried pitting it against some intervals, the Falster 2 struggled against the Polar H10 chest strap, completely faltering during one of the bursts. The average HR for this run was 142 bpm on the watch and 149 bpm on the chest strap, a not insignificant difference.
Left, Skagen Falster 2; Right, Polar H10 chest strap
The live heart rate readout also trailed behind the chest strap whichever app we were using, with a tendency to make a large jump, either up or down, after a couple of seconds, but I’ve marked this up more to the processor and Wear OS being slow, than the heart rate sensor itself. GPS tracking was more steady – we’re presuming it’s using the same sensor as the Fossil Q Explorist HR – and generally quite fast to lock on.
Skagen Falster 2: Battery life
Again, this is a major disappointment of the Falster 2, aggravated by the fact it could have been solved with a little more time. I’ve struggled to get more than a day out of the Falster 2, and on occasions where I've been working out more it's been difficult to even stretch to that.
Switch on battery saver mode and you could surely get more out of it, but if you’re buying this there’s a good chance you want to take advantage of the fitness tools, and those are going to cost you battery juice. Thankfully the Falster 2 seems a little faster to charge up than the first, so that’s something.