All posts in “wearable devices”

The Skagen Falster is a high fashion Android wearable

Danish understatement meets Mountain View tech

Skagen is a well-know maker of thin and uniquely Danish watches. Founded in 1989, the company is now part of the Fossil group and, as such, has begin dabbling in both the analog with the Hagen and now Android Wear with the Falster. The Falster is unique in that it stuffs all of the power of a standard Android Wear device into a watch that mimics the chromed aesthetic of Skagen’s austere design while offering just enough features to make you a fashionable smartwatch wearer.

The Falster, which costs $275 and is available now, has a fully round digital OLED face which means you can read the time at all times. When the watch wakes up you can see an ultra bright white on black time-telling color scheme and then tap the crown to jump into the various features including Android Fit and the always clever Translate feature that lets you record a sentence and then show it the person in front of you.

You can buy it with a leather or metal band and the mesh steel model costs $20 extra.

Sadly, in order stuff the electronics into such a small case, Skagen did away with GPS, LTE connectivity, and even a heart-rate monitor. In other words if you were expecting a workout companion then the Falster isn’t the Android you’re looking for. However, if you’re looking for a bare-bones fashion smartwatch, Skagen ticks all the boxes.

What you get from the Flasterou do get, however, is a low-cost, high-style Android Wear watch with most of the trimmings. I’ve worn this watch off and on few a few weeks now and, although I do definitely miss the heart rate monitor for workouts, the fact that this thing looks and acts like a normal watch 99% of the time makes it quite interesting. If obvious brand recognition nee ostentation are your goal, the Apple Watch or any of the Samsung Gear line are more your style. This watch, made by a company famous for its Danish understatement, offers the opposite of that.

Skagen offers a few very basic watch faces with the Skagen branding at various points on the dial. I particularly like the list face which includes world time or temperature in various spots around the world, offering you an at-a-glance view of timezones. Like most Android Wear systems you can change the display by pressing and holding on the face.

It lasts about a day on one charge although busy days may run down the battery sooner as notifications flood the screen. The notification system – essentially a little icon that appears over the watch face – sometimes fails and instead shows a baffling grey square. This is the single annoyance I noticed, UI-wise, when it came to the Falster. It works with both Android smartphones and iOS.

What this watch boils down to is an improved fitness tracker and notification system. If you’re wearing, say, a Fitbit, something like the Skagen Falster offers a superior experience in a very chic package. Because the watch is fairly compact (at 42mm I won’t say it’s small but it would work on a thinner wrist) it takes away a lot of the bulk of other smartwatches and, more important, doesn’t look like a smartwatch. Those of use who don’t want to look like we’re wearing robotic egg sacs on our wrists will enjoy that aspect of Skagen’s effort, even without all the trimmings we expect from a modern smartwatch.

Skagen, like so many other watch manufacturers, decided if it couldn’t been the digital revolution it would join it. The result is the Falster and, to a lesser degree, their analog collections. Whether or not traditional watchmakers will survive the 21st century is still up in the air but, as evidenced by this handsome and well-made watch, they’re at least giving it the old Danish try.

The X-ONE H1 is a new hybrid smartwatch for the fancy traveler


Since the dawn of smartwatches the fancier watch lovers among us have wanted a mechanical watch with all the features of a smart watch. A few comers have attempted this nearly impossible feat and now the X-ONE H1 is now giving it a try.

The X-ONE H1 has an internal mechanical movement that powers the hour, minute, and seconds hand, just like a regular automatic watch. Further, there is a small, replaceable package of electronics that powers the rest of the features including GMT time, perpetual calendar, and decidedly unique linear display that can tell you your Dad is calling in Morse code.

The watch starts at $750 in steel and goes up to about $1,000. It runs a Sellita Caliber SW200 movement, a bog standard automatic movement that became popular after Swatch stopped selling as many of the workhorse ETA movements popular in Swiss watches for the past few decades. The electronics charge via induction and can run for a week.

The watch also has a step counter and can notify you of incoming calls and messages. It surpassed its goal on Kickstarter.

To be clear this is watch is not powered entirely by the movement of your arm or motion of your body. That technology – the ability to charge a complex electronic movement with just a spinning rotor – isn’t quite there although some watches can use rotor spin to power a simple quartz movement. Ultimately this watch boils down to aesthetic choice – do you like something like this vs. an Apple Watch or similar smart watch? If you do, then you’ve got a winner.

It’s a clever hack on the traditional Swiss watch and it’s a fascinating attempt at connecting the mechanical with the electronic. Hopefully future versions will be less schizophrenic and meld the mechanical with the electronic in a real way.

Apple and Android are destroying the Swiss Watch industry


In Q4 2017 – essentially during the last holiday season – market research firm Canalys found that more people bought Apple watches than Swiss watches. Two million more, to be exact. Brian Heater has more data but this news is quite problematic for the folks eating Coquilles St-Jacques on the slopes of the Jura mountains.

The numbers are estimates based on market data but they still point to a trend. In Q1 2016 Apple shipped 1.5 million watches to Switzerland’s 5.9 million. The intervening quarters were about the same until the launch of the Apple Watch 3 in September 2017, just in time for holiday shopping. The boost of a new phone and a new watch at the same time meant a perfect storm for upgraders, driving the total number of Apple Watches sold past the Swiss watch sales numbers.


This switch does not mean Apple will maintain that lead – they have one product while Switzerland has thousands – but comparing a single company’s output to an entire industry’s in this case is telling.

Wearing watches is, as we all remind each other, is passé.

“I check the time on my phone,” we said for almost a decade as phones became more ubiquitous. Meanwhile watch manufacturers abandoned the low end and began selling to the high end consumer, the connoisseur.

Take a look at this chart:

Sales of low- to mid-tier watches – and a mid-tier watch can range in price between $500 and $3,000 (and I would even lump many $10,000 watches in the mid-tier category) – were stagnant while the true cash cows, the expensive watches for the ultra-rich, fell slowly from a high in 2014. This coincides with falling purchases in China as what amounted to sumptuary laws reduced the number of expensive gifts given to corrupt officials. Sales are up as December 2017 but don’t expect much of a bump past the current slide.

As a lover of all things mechanical – I did ruin a few years of my life writing a book about a watch – I look at these trends with dismay and a bit of Schadenfreude. As I’ve said again and again the Swiss Watch industry brought this on itself. While they claim great numbers and great success year after year the small manufacturers are eating each other up while nearly every major watch brand is snooping around for outside buyers. There is no money in churning out mechanical timepieces to an increasingly disinterested public.

As time ticks ever forward things will change. The once mighty Swiss houses will sink under the weight of their accreted laurel-resting and Apple will move on to embedded brain implants and leave watches behind. The result, after a battle that raged for more than four decades, will be a dead Swiss industry catering to a world that has moved on.

The LifeClock One will help you escape from mundanity

Whether you’re trapped on a futuristic island prison full of blood-thirsty gang members or simply stuck in a two-hour meeting, the LifeClock One might be the watch for you. Inspired by the movie Escape From New York starring Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, the watch is an homage to Plissken’s wrist-worn LifeClock, a device that would trigger the an injection of micro-explosives in his arteries if he failed his mission. And you thought you had deadlines.

Escape From New York is a pretty wild movie and this is a pretty wild watch.

Jonathan Zufi created the $399 timepiece when he watched the John Carpenter classic and mused on the idea of creating his own LifeClock. Before running a successful Kickstarter he received permission to create the product and add Plissken’s likeness and many prop-quality details to the smartwatch. Now you can buy either a model based directly on the original movie prop or even have Snake himself engraved on the back of your watch, thereby immortalizing Kurt Russell in his most important role after Big Trouble In Little China.

The watch itself is surprisingly cool. It has a 79mm case made of milled brass and contains six custom 11-segment LEDs that displays the current time, world time, and it can even count your steps and receive push notifications from your phone. The watch is rechargeable via an included USB cable and lasts three days on one charge. It comes on a leather band with a buckle or velcro closure system.

The watch is also huge. It’s big even for me, and to read it you have to press one of the buttons on the side, lighting up the LEDs for a moment as you either scroll through features or assess how much time you have to save the president before you explode. It’s definitely an acquired taste and it’s a funny commentary on smart watches in general. After all, getting rolling phone notifications on a massive LED screen is hilarious.

Germany bans kids’ smartwatches that can be used for eavesdropping


A German regulator has banned domestic sales of children’s smartwatches that have a listening function — warning that parents have been using the devices to secretly eavesdrop on teachers at their kids’ school.

In an announcement on Friday, the Federal Network Agency telecoms watchdog said it had already taken action against some online sellers. The target group for the smartwatches are children between the ages of 5 and 12 years.

“Via an app, parents can use such children’s watches to listen unnoticed to the child’s environment and they are to be regarded as an unauthorized transmitting system,” said Jochen Homann, president of the Federal Network Agency in a statement. “According to our research, parents’ watches are also used to listen to teachers in the classroom.”

Back in February, the same federal agency banned sales of an Internet connected doll — called My Friend Cayla — in the country where it’s illegal to manufacture, sell or possess surveillance devices disguised as another object.

On Friday the agency warned there are a large number of providers in the German market that are offering smartwatches for children which contain a listening function, often referred to as a “baby monitor” or “monitor function” in the companion app.

The app owner is able to silently call the device via such functions and listen unnoticed to the conversations of the watch wearer and others in their vicinity — an act of covert surveillance that is illegal in Germany.

The agency has instructed parents to destroy any devices they have bought, and asked schools to be on the look out for smartwatches being used by children — and to request destruction of listening devices they identify.

The Federal Network Agency is not the only European body concerned about risks posed by children’s connected toys, nor specifically by kids smartwatches. Last month the Norwegian Consumer Council put out a report about children’s smartwatches, raising concerns about security flaws, privacy concerns, and risks posed by what they described as unreliable features.

While this month a UK consumer rights group also raised concerns about poorly secured IoT toys which it said could enable strangers to talk to children. The group also called for devices with known security flaws to be banned from sale.

The latest ban may increase pressure for the European Commission to consider whether European Union-wide regulation is needed for Internet connected toys. Back in February, the commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, expressed concern, telling the BBC: “I’m worried about the impact of connected dolls on children’s privacy and safety.”