Skagen Falster 2 review: Hands-on

In our review of the original Skagen Falster we lamented that attractive, minimal design was match with few technical features. At IFA 2018 we went hands-on with the new Skagen Falster 2, announced less than a year on.

And we are pleased to say it is a huge improvement. The design is ever better and more premium while Skagen has almost unbelievably added all the features the first one was missing – GPS, NFC, swim-proofing and a heart rate sensor.

Best of all, it will cost the same as before. Here are our thoughts on what could be the best all-round Wear OS smartwatch yet.

Skagen Falster 2: Price and availability

The Skagen Falster 2, brilliantly, will cost from £269/$275 – the same the original Falster cost on release. Considering the boost in design and features this is great to see.

Prices will go up for some of the leather and metal strap options.

Pre-orders for the watch will go live on 12 September, but we don’t know global availability yet.

Skagen Falster 2: Design and build

If you want a Wear OS smartwatch that genuinely looks like a regular, slim, tasteful wristwatch then this is it. Almost unbelievably, Skagen has made a smartwatch that is still thin and nowhere approaching bulky, but stuffed four big new features in – a heart rate sensor, untethered GPS, NFC and waterproofing.

Usually adding GPS and the heart rate sensor makes watches huge (LG Watch Sport) but it’s all here in a subtle design. There’s also a smaller bezel around the outside of the circular display, meaning the Falster 2 looks even better and more premium than before.

The unit we looked at was a silver metal finish with matching mesh metal band. It’s quite unisex in look, as is the rest of the line. The basic design is the same with a black bezel on the face but then different colours of casing and the protruding strap buckle in either black, gold, bronze or silver.

Straps are either mesh, silicon or leather. Skagen has picked a good choice of looks and materials for the Falster 2, though with the black bezel we feel the black and silver models look better.

The heart rate sensor on the back is very flat if not quite flush when worn and is more comfortable than on bulkier smartwatches. Three buttons now adorn the right side of the watch – great that one of them is a bezel to scroll through menus, unlike on the first model.

Two programmable buttons sit above and below the crown and it’s good to see Skagen embracing this more customisable side of Wear OS where the original Falster was on-rails and feature-light.

Skagen Falster 2: Features and specs

It bears repeating that the Falster 2 has GPS, NFC, waterproofing for swimming and a heart rate sensor. This more than justifies the RRP and shows you that the company was charging too much for the first-gen watch.

While not specifically a fitness watch, the built-in GPS will let you track your run routes and swimming sessions thanks to the 5ATM rated waterproofing, all working in tandem with the heart rate monitor. 

NFC for mobile payments is essential on new smartwatches these days and is in line with Google’s new version of Wear OS that closer integrates Google Fit into the experience. By adding these new features, Skagen and Google are accepting that Apple Watch and Fitbit are doing far better at the health aspect of smartwatches. Google’s catch-up game is afoot.

It’s worth noting though that the Falster 2 has the same 300mAh battery capacity as the first-gen Falster. Given all the new features, it’s possible that battery life here will be disappointing, as it wasn’t outstanding last time around. We will no doubt be looking at a watch that you have to charge every night.

Skagen Falster 2: Software and apps

As mentioned, the Falster 2 will run the latest version of Wear OS when it launches. Based practically entirely around a black OS it’s a minimal, slick design choice that suits Skagen’s hardware.

The newer software does a better job of collecting notifications, and alerts now don’t take up the whole display, making scrolling more pleasant and information easier to take in. And while the Falster 2 will work with iPhones, it'll be a much more feature-rich watch on Android.

Like the last Falster there are some Skagen-designed watch faces that are less cluttered than some of Google’s but there’s some fitness focussed options there too if you want to closer track your steps and heart rate.

SHOULD I BUY SKAGEN FALSTER 2?

There’s no doubt that the Falster 2 is a better smartwatch than the first-generation model. Adding GPS, NFC, heart rate and waterproofing is excellent. It’s also admirable considering the design is not only slim but also improved in appearance. 

The main concern here is battery life given it has not gone up in order to keep the design slim. And if you’re into fitness you won’t want to go running in a metal or leather band, so you might have to consider something a bit more fit for purpose.

But if you want all those features in a watch that doesn’t look like it belongs in a marathon, then this is that Wear OS watch and we are excited to review it fully.