The Best Thing About This Smartwatch Is The Strap

The Best Thing About This Smartwatch Is The Strap

There’s no shortage of stylish Wear OS watches—it’s literally Fossil’s main reason for existing at this point. The company and its small army of designer brands make up the bulk of Android-friendly smartwatches out there. The problem is, they’re all functionally interchangeable. They run the same software, sport the same features, with maybe one or two proprietary apps that make you go: “Huh, well, that’s kinda new I guess.” This is all largely true of the Skagen Falster 3, but there’s one thing I absolutely love about it: the strap.

That’s right, you read correctly: the strap.

Why? Well, to start, you can choose from a couple of variations—Skagen is a Fossil brand, after all—but the strap I’m talking about is the half-leather, half-silicone one. The outside is a nice medium-brown leather, while the inside is the same type of material used in sporty bands. I was intrigued by it when Fossil first showed it to me at CES 2020, and now that I have actually worn it for more than 10 seconds, I want to know why other smartwatch makers haven’t followed suit.

Skagen Falster 3

WHAT IS IT?

The third Falster watch from Fossil's favourite Danish brand

PRICE

$US295 ($442)

LIKE

THE STRAP IS SO GOOD

NO LIKE

Everything else is just fine. Wear OS still the unloved, lacklustre smartwatch platform.

Personally, I’ve never loved the look of your basic silicone strap. Even on a beautiful, high-end watch, there’s something chintzy about it. Woven or leather bands tend to look classier and offer a bit more versatility for everyday wear. The main issue is workouts. I am a sweaty bitch, even on my wrists. A one-hour strength training session usually means I’m a drippy mess. I’m also lazy, and while swapping out bands is easy enough, the last thing I want to do is rummage around in my drawer for an alternate band, fiddle with pins or buttons, and then go for my run…when I could just go for my run.

I tested the Falster 3 over roughly 10km of outdoor running and an hour at the gym, which is admittedly not enough time to see any true signs of grody degradation. That said, I appreciated that the silicone underside has a bunch of grooves that let my skin breathe. Sure, some nasty dried skin ended up there, but it’s easy to wipe down and I know it won’t end up like this poor travesty of a watch strap that my boss kindly snapped a photo of. (It belongs to her, not me, just for the record.) Hell yes to being classy on the outside, sweaty on the inside, and lazy forever.

My boss would like you to know her grody watch band has since been retired and is for illustrative purposes only. (Photo: Alex Cranz, Gizmodo)

Now that I’ve waxed poetic about the strap, I regret to say that the Falster 3 isn’t a particularly special smartwatch in anything other design. It’s got that classic Skagen minimalist design with two industrial-looking lugs and three pushers off to the side. The default watch faces are also tres minimalist and super chic. I like that the 42mm case doesn’t dwarf my wrists, and even if it’s a slightly more masculine look, it doesn’t scream, “HI I AM MAN WATCH” by any means. It’s also pretty comfortable at just 11mm thick.

As far as its internal guts go, however, the Falster 3 isn’t packing anything impressive. It’s got the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip—which is objectively better than its predecessor, the 2100 chip—but at this point, it’s clear the new silicon isn’t enough to make Wear OS a viable contender against Samsung’s Tizen OS or Apple’s watchOS. Like Fossil’s Gen 5 watch, it also has 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. That’s enough to keep things snappier than the Fossil Sport and the Misfit Vapour X, but you still get the occasional lag when swiping between screens. I will say the 1GB RAM does make it tolerable to download apps directly onto the watch. The Falster 3 also has untethered GPS, a nice addition as you can load your music and run phone-free if you like. (Most Fossil watches tend to opt for connected GPS.)

It does, however, have slightly better battery life than I was expecting. That’s due in part to the 3100 chip and some new extended battery modes Fossil introduced with its Gen 5 watch. The older watches could barely make it an entire day before petering out. In my testing, on days where I used about 30-40 minutes of GPS, I still managed to get a little over 24 hours of continuous battery life. That’s fairly abysmal compared to the competition these days. However, the latest batch of Fossil watches all feature rapid charging. So long as you don’t mind stashing a charger, it’s easy to keep the Falster 3 topped up. For example, I went from 11 per cent to 99 per cent battery in about 58 minutes. On average, I find other watches tend to take somewhere between 90 minutes to two hours to go from zero to full.

A wild Tepig considers the always-on display. It’s a bit dimmer to save battery life, but still visible unless you’re in direct sunlight. (Photo: Victoria Song, Gizmodo)

When it comes to fitness-tracking, the Falster 3 performs as you might expect a casual, design-first smartwatch to. You get a decent ballpark idea of your activity, but the watch falls short if you’re really serious about training. The Falster 3 has a tendency to overreport distance and is more generous with your pace. On an easy 3.75 mile run, my phone logged an average pace of 10’38” per mile. The Falster 3 logged the same run as 3.89 miles at a faster pace of 10’20” per mile. Comparatively, the Apple Watch Series 5 recorded 3.63 miles at a pace of 10’58” per mile. I saw a similar discrepancy with a shorter 2.65-mile run; the Falster 3 tended to give me an extra two-tenths of a mile and said I ran about 20 seconds faster than my usual ‘easy’ pace.

For instance, on my usual running path, I know where my 2km, 4km, 6km, etc., markers are. Mid-run, I’d glance at the Falster 3 and see I’d hit those distances about 30-60 seconds faster than I usually did. It might not seem like much, but if you’re trying to do speedwork or measure progress over time, that sort of discrepancy can be misleading come race day. This isn’t a huge dealbreaker for the Falster 3, as it’s not meant to be a fitness-first watch. I’d just push myself a smidge harder if this were my main smartwatch.

The Falster 3 fared better with heart rate. On both runs, I got similar graphs of my average heart rate on the Falster 3 and Series 5. Likewise, it was on par with my Polar H10 chest strap during a strength training session.

Tepig also considers the sensors, and that sweet silicone underside. Heart-rate tracking was on par with other smartwatches, but the other activity tracking was just so-so. (Photo: Victoria Song, Gizmodo)

The Falster 3 is a competent smartwatch. It looks nice! You have some advanced features like NFC payments via Google Pay! Wear OS still kinda sucks, but in a dull, this-isn’t-exciting way rather than the shitshow it used to be. Still, for $US295 ($442), I’d want to say something other than the strap to be its best feature—even though I really do freaking love the strap.

At this price point, you could easily just get the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2, which costs $449 for the 44mm version. You get a better overall smartwatch experience and comparable fitness tracking. Or if a touchscreen smartwatch isn’t your thing, but you still want a stylish watch, the Fossil Hybrid HR is $150 cheaper and delivers most of your basic notifications with ease. That said, if money isn’t a thing and you just really love that industrial minimalist vibe, you could do far worse than the Falster 3.

README:

  • This leather-on-the-outside, silicone-on-the-inside strap is the thing my lazy arse has always wanted.

  • The Falster 3 is a chic smartwatch. Love that Danish minimalist vibe.

  • Hardware-wise, this is the same as the Fossil Gen 5 flagship, with Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB storage.

  • You get some nice additional features like NFC payments, built-in GPS, and always-on display.

  • Decent battery life thanks to rapid charging.

  • For $US295 ($442), I want the best feature to be something other than a strap, though.

Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for Australian pricing and availability.