Skagen Falster 3 review: The best Wear OS smartwatch we've tested

The best looking Wear OS smartwatch gets a much needed performance boost
Skagen Falster 3
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The Skagen Falster 3 is the Danish brand’s third generation smartwatch that once again runs on Google's Wear OS.

It's hard to dispute that Skagen, which falls under the Fossil Group's umbrella of watch brands, makes one of the best looking smartwatches you can buy right now.

With the Falster 3, you can expect more of the same great design and comprehensive features that made the Falster 2 such a success. Changes have been made to the design, performance improvements are the changes worth talking about – and as a Wear OS smartwatch it performs extremely well.

The Falster 3 comes in at $299, putting it in around the same price as the second gen Falster. It’s also around the same price as Fossil’s own Gen 5 smartwatches including the Fossil Sport. It comes in cheaper than the newest Apple Watch Series 5 and in around the same as the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2.

We’ve been living with the Falster 3 for a few weeks to find out if the best looking Wear watch now delivers more than just a pretty watch face.


Skagen Falster 3: Design and comfort

Skagen Falster 3 front on

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and that’s largely the case with Falster 3 on the looks front. You’re still getting a fully round stainless steel watch case with your choice of leather or a metallic mesh strap.

On the face of it things don’t look to have changed all that much, but the case size has grown. Skagen has moved from a 40mm case to a larger 42mm one, which means it loses some of the daintiness that gave the Falster 2 more unisex appeal.

Let's put that in context though. A 42mm case is still smaller than most smartwatches, and we'd certainly still recommend for those with smaller wrists.

What that jump in case size also means is that there’s now a bigger 1.3-inch AMOLED display, up from the 1.19-inch touchscreen one on the previous generation. It’s still a perfectly bright, sharp screen and match it up with one of Skagen’s own watch faces and it does the trick of hiding away that bit of screen bezel.

Skagen Falster 3 thickness and strap

Thankfully, the watch hasn’t got chunkier, measuring in at the same 11mm thickness as the Falster 2. It’s still not as slender as an Apple Watch, but it manages to conceal its hardware under a still pleasingly slim frame.

You’ve still got that twisting crown to scroll through notifications or the app tray with two pushers above and below. These can once again be assigned to launch your most frequently used apps and features. Around the back you’ll still find a heart rate monitor and you can still expect the same 3ATM waterproof rating to make it suitable for swimming too.

You may want to change up the bands before hitting the water, which have now moved from 20mm to 22mm. Skagen makes some of the nicest straps you’ll find on a smartwatch and that thankfully, does not change here.

If you opt for the mesh strap though, be prepared to have a mini-meltdown working out exactly how the strap buckle works and trying to resize it. Our advice, find yourself a pen to dig out the pin holding the buckle in place to get that better fit.

Skagen Falster 3: Wear OS

Skagen Falster 3 – Wear OS and Google Assistant

Google’s Wear OS once again runs the show, which means you’re getting software we'd still describe as being good in some places and not so good in others, ultimately making it a hard operating system to get on with.

You're getting pretty much everything Wear OS has to offer at least including Google Pay, which is very easy to set up and is the most useful feature. Music controls are still well implemented too. Notification support is good, but still feels a bit clunky and we'll get into what we think of Google Fit in the section below (spoiler: it's not very good).

Essential reading: Complete guide to Google Wear OS

It's now been brought in line with other Fossil Gen 5 watches adding a speaker, which now means you can take calls from your wrist on iPhones and Android phones. There's no LTE connectivity here, so you'll need to have your phone nearby.

In terms of speaker quality, it's good but nothing groundbreaking. If you want to be calling from the wrist then it does work – but we'd still prefer to reach for our phone.

Skagen Falster 3 features

That onboard speaker also means you can listen to music out loud (if you really want to be that person) and hear responses when using Google Assistant.

Using it for the latter is more useful than the former, though the success rate of Google’s smart assistant picking up a slightly more challenging question still disappoints. Keep it simple and it’s absolutely fine most of the time.

Skagen once again makes its presence felt in the watch face department and does the fine job of extending that stylish, minimalist look to those digital faces. For the faces that show off widgets and complications, it's done in a really subtle and complimentary way. These are some of the nicest branded watch faces you can find on a Wear watch.

What really shines through though here is that Wear OS runs better and smoother than before. Skagen has upgraded to the latest Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor alongside 1GB RAM and 8GB of storage for your apps and music. The performance jump is really noticeable one. There's no laggy screen moments and it's the kind of boost it dearly needed.

Skagen Falster 3: Fitness and sports tracking

Skagen Falster 3 fitness tracking

The Skagen Falster 2 brought us built-in GPS and a heart rate monitor, the latter of which Fossil has told us in the past was one of the most requested features for its smartwatches.

Those sensors are still there along pushing your health and fitness data primarily to Google Fit, but can also be utilised by third party Wear OS apps.

Google's health and fitness suite is broken down into three apps: there's Fit to review data, Fit Workout to track workouts and Fit Breathe to de-stress with some guided breathing exercises. You've also got a dedicated Google Fit widget you can swipe to for a quick glance at your Move Points and Heart Points.

Google Fit support on smartphones has always felt better integrated than it has on Wear OS watches, and nothing here really changes our opinion of that. Everything feels very crammed onto that watch screen and it just needs to feel better optimised for a watch screen. It just doesn't feel like a wholistic, unified approach to monitoring your health and fitness as it stands right now.

Skagen Falster 3 workout tracking

From an accuracy point of view, we'd say it's just okay as a basic fitness tracker. That Fit widget does a good job of showing off your progress. Below is a snapshot of the typical step tracking data. It was usually within 500-1,000 steps of a Garmin fitness tracker.

We're not saying that the Garmin was more reliable, but it did tend to report lower step counts in our time with it. There's no dedicated sleep tracking, but that may have more to do with battery life performance than the ability to support it.

Skagen Falster 3 fitness data comparison

Fitness tracking compared: Skagen Falster 3 (left) and Garmin Fenix 6 (right)

Speaking of your heart, you still have that optical HR sensor to track effort levels during workouts, but this type of watch simply doesn't feel like something you'd want to hit the gym with.

Even if Skagen offers new more workout-friendly straps. It's not the kind of accuracy you can rely on if you really care about heart rate insights for workouts.

If you're more interested in on the spot heart readings to get a better idea of your current state of fitness, we compared it to readings from a Polar H9 chest strap and found heart rate readings could be on the money on one reading, and then dramatically different (almost 10bpm difference) with a reading just moments later.

Bottom line, this isn't a smartwatch that feels well built for workouts, even if it does have the sensors and features onboard to give it that ability.

Skagen Falster 3: Battery life

The first two Falsters have both disappointed on the battery front, struggling to deliver the all day use that's been promised. It seems though that despite packing a bigger display, the Falster 3 is more successful at making it a day without a charger.

Yes, it’s still a day and we’d like to have more, but at least it can actually make it to that 24 hour mark. That includes having the display at auto brightness and using sports sensors for 30-40 minutes.

There are clearly features that will quickly drain the battery, like having the screen at maximum brightness. If you are planning to use the call functionality, you'll even be prompted that it will drain the battery.

That's why Qualcomm's custom battery modes are key to pushing things further, giving you more flexibility in terms of the only having select features in use to improve battery performance. If you can live with a basic watch mode, where you can still show of those minimalist Skagen watch faces, we’ve found we’ve comfortably been able to get a couple more days out of it.

When you are fully out of battery, it takes just over an hour to power back up and that disc-shaped charging cradle does securely keep hold of that watch.


Skagen Falster 3
By Skagen
The Skagen Falster 3 is a smartwatch that makes it easier to forgive some Wear OS flaws simply because it looks so good. Even with that larger watch case. The boosted internals have improved performance, particularly with battery life, even if it is still just a day. If Google can get Wear OS up to scratch, then it has a watch brand in Skagen that is more than doing its part on the design front.

Hit
  • Same, stylish minimalist look
  • Improved performance
  • Nice selection of watch faces
Miss
  • Sports tracking still iffy
  • Wear OS is still Wear OS
  • That fiddly mesh strap