- Beautiful watch
- Handy Link features
- Long battery life
- Step tracking is hit and miss
- Notification system requires getting used to
- Sleep tracking very limited
The Skagen Jorn and Hald Connected are slimmer, smarter takes on last year's Skagen Hagen Connected, one of my favorite hybrid smartwatches of 2016. Now back for a second swing, Skagen – which is one of Fossil's subsidiaries – hasn't gone for a huge overhaul but instead made a few tweaks that refine, but don't dramatically change, the analogue smartwatch experiences.
Once again, the brains are concealed by a classic watch design – even more so than last year's model – to make this primarily about just having a really nice timepiece on your wrist. It joins Fossil's already-beefy 2017 lineup of hybrids, along with some other enticing entrants from the likes of Michael Kors, Mark Jacobs Riley and DKNY.
This time Skagen is launching two variants, the Jorn for men and the Hald for women, both of which come in different colours and materials. They also both remain just under $200, which might make them more appealing to someone who's looking to upgrade from their "dumb" watch but perhaps isn't ready for the full leap to Android Wear, Tizen or the Apple Watch.
I've been living with the Jorn for a while now, but does it improve on the original in practice? How well do the smart features work without a screen? Read on and find out.
Skagen Connected 2017: Design
The new Jorn measures 41mm wide, making it exactly 1mm smaller than last year's model and 1mm larger than the women's Hald version. Its case is also 1mm thinner at 10mm, and it's the same for the Hald. The dimensions aren't dramatically different on paper to last year's model, but they're definitely noticeable on the wrist.
The same 'Skagen Connected' logo adorns the face, but notice that this time the sub-dial has gone. That's because the watch now just moves the hands to corresponding colours along the left side of the face to signify notifications.
You've also still got three buttons to play with, but they're circular instead of oval. These can be assigned to different functions, which you'll dictate in the companion app – I'll come onto that shortly.
As ever, you have a selection of styles to choose from, though the Jorn only comes in two variants, the stainless steel with the tan leather strap and grey face, and the titanium with a grey face and 22mm black leather strap. The women's Hald comes with the option of rose gold, gold and stainless steel faces, with different tan and 20mm black leather bands. All of these straps can be replaced by others of your choosing, so long as they're the right size of course.
Last year's model on the left, the new Jorn on the right
All of the models are water resistant to 3 ATM, which means they're fine for the odd splash of water here and there, but you can't take them in the shower. With those leather bands, you probably wouldn't want to anyway, but even with the bands swapped out for something more water friendly, the case itself isn't up for much beyond a bit of rain.
Hald on the left, Jorn on the right
Overall, it's an impressively sleek package, with more heft than the Withings Steel HR but less than the Frederique Constant Horological Smartwatch. The Jorn and Hald are perfectly suited for someone who wants a hybrid that perfectly mimics a classic watch when it comes to form.
Skagen Connected 2017: Smart features
The sub-dial is gone this time around, and that means the face hands will move and point to different colours to tell you that you've got a new notification. You can assign each notification a colour, and that goes beyond texts and calls to include the wide pantheon of third-party apps on your phone. For example, I have calls assigned to white, texts to grey, Facebook messages to black and WhatsApp messages to green.
I also have tweets assigned as 'vibration only', so if I get a nudge but don't see the hands move, I'll know why. You can also assign up to six contacts from your address book a colour (but still only from the five available colours and one 'vibration only') but when it comes to notifying you by the contact, it can only do so for emails, calls and SMS. Other third-party apps will just tell you that you have a notification, not letting on who it's from.
As I found with last year's model, the key is to keep the smart notifications as simple as possible if you want to get something out of them. That means avoiding repetition of colours and only using it for the apps that really matter. I like it for calls, in case I don't hear or feel my phone go off, and for texts and Facebook messages. If you have a small number of contacts who regularly contact you through text message or calls, you might be better off assigning your colours by names instead.
Overall, it's not an elegant way of getting notifications, but it does the trick if you try not to overcomplicate things. You're still going to need to reach into your pocket for your phone, but used right, the system can at hopefully tell you how important it is to do so (another Snapchat? Probably doesn't warrant an immediate response).
More handy are the customisable 'Link' features you can assign to the buttons. For each one you can pick from a handful of functions, which include different music playback controls, a remote find-my-phone feature, a remote photograph taker, displaying the date, and a second time zone. I really like these features, and I find the music controls and remote phone ringer particularly useful. You can also have a button show you how much of your activity goal you've achieved for the day, which brings us to…
Skagen Connected 2017: Activity tracking
Activity tracking on the Skagen Jorn and Hald is very basic. We're talking step tracking, distance measuring, calories burned and that's it. This isn't made for people who really want insights into their health and fitness, but more those who just enjoy hitting step goals and maybe trying to outdo their friends.
The step tracking tends to be quite stingy here, especially if you're the type of person who doesn't move their arms much when they walk. Now I'm not someone who wildly flails my arms when I move, and as such I've often noticed a big disparity between the steps Skagen has given me compared to what the Fitbit Alta HR delivers. I tried walking with my arms more still by my side, and then with more swing, and sure enough it found it much harder to pick up my steps when my arms had less movement. It was the same deal when I tried the Hald. It's a shame the accelerometer isn't more finely tuned, because that is all the watch has to go on. There's no heart rate monitor or any other type of sensor here.
I do like that you can see a breakdown of your steps throughout the day, and the app will show you how much light, moderate and intense movement made up your overall activity. And you'll be able to see how much longer you have to go, in minutes, to reach your day's step goal.
There's also sleep tracking, but again this relies just on the accelerometer and will just tell you how many hours you slept, breaking it down into "light" and "restful" stages. This works fine, but you're inevitably going to get bad readings as without better sensors such as an optical heart rate monitor it's just not possible to accurately tell what level of sleep you're in. Up against the Fitbit Alta HR, I found the Skagen readings were a bit off where it clearly read my stillness as sleep (when I was in fact lying in bed awake). If sleep tracking is a big deal for you, you'd be better off considering some of the more capable devices out there.
Skagen Connected 2017: App and battery
I've already touched on how you use the app to set up various features, and this is still the same Connected app that works with all of Skagen's smart wearables. You can view your step count and calories burned for the day and see how it compared to the same day last week. You can also see how much sleep you got, which is broken down into light, restful and wake time.
Another feature I haven't yet mentioned is the goal system. This lets you set targets for whatever you want; the defaults are exercise and water intake, but you can simply set a custom goal of your own. Then, once you've assigned a button, you can press on the watch every time you achieve "one of" whatever that goal is. For example, you can tap once every time you drink a glass of water, and this will register in the goals section of the app next time you sync. You can also choose whether these goals are to be achieved over a set period of time, or indefinitely.
As for battery life, that's another benefit of going hybrid. You can expect between four and six months of life on the CR2412 coin-cell battery, which can be replaced when you're out of juice.
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