Michael Kors Access Runway review

The Michael Kors Access Runway smartwatch is feature-packed and fashionable

The Michael Kors Access Runway is a beautiful smartwatch with a vibrant display and useful fitness features.
The Michael Kors Access Runway is a beautiful smartwatch with a vibrant display and useful fitness features.
The Michael Kors Access Runway is a beautiful smartwatch with a vibrant display and useful fitness features.

Highs

  • High-resolution display
  • Sleek and stylish design
  • Interchangeable watch straps
  • New Wear OS
  • Built-in GPS

Lows

  • iOS capabilities are limited
  • No Wear 3100 processor
  • Less than a day’s battery life

This past summer, Michael Kors debuted its new smartwatch — the Michael Kors Access Runway. Unlike the last smartwatch released from the designer’s collection, the Access Sofie, this one forgoes the bling that we weren’t huge fans of. Instead, the Access Runway provides a minimal, more streamlined look that’s still elegant and looks beautiful on the wrist.

This time around, the Access Runway packs even more features into a fashionable smartwatch, including a heart-rate sensor and GPS. While it doesn’t have Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor, it does have Google’s updated Wear OS interface which provides a far better experience than the old version.

Beautiful design

Of all the Wear OS smartwatches we’ve reviewed, the Michael Kors Access Runway is one of our favorites design-wise. The 41mm stainless steel case is the perfect size for our small wrist and doesn’t look clunky. While we liked the gold-tone wristband on our review unit, the bands are also interchangeable with other 18mm straps to allow for more customizability.

On the side are three buttons, instead of one like the Sofie. In addition to the rotating crown, which you can use to scroll through menus and notifications, the two extra buttons allow you to trigger shortcuts for specific apps. For instance, we used one button to trigger Google Pay and the other to automatically open Google Fit.

While $350 may sound like an extremely high price tag (especially for a smartwatch that doesn’t include the latest tech), we think it’s worth it for the aesthetics. On the wrist, it looks extremely high-end and we received a lot of compliments while wearing it. This is a smartwatch that we gravitated towards each day without second-guessing whether or not it went with our outfit. We truly love the muted look of the gold-tone Access Runway, but there are other colorways the device comes in that are cheaper.

The 41mm stainless steel case is the perfect size for our small wrist.

For example, the stainless steel case with the silicone watch strap will set you back $295. If you do want bling there are also cases with Michael Kors’ signature pavé setting stones, which will cost you a bit more at $395.

We particularly liked our gold smartwatch because it goes with any outfit. Even though the design is simple, it still makes a statement on the wrist. It’s a little heavier than other Wear OS smartwatches we’ve worn in the past but not enough to deter us from wearing it.

The only issue you might run into when it comes to design is comfortably working out with a steel strap. If you work out often, we recommend investing in a silicone band to switch back and forth between.

michael kors access runway review
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

It’s also worth mentioning that we did have some trouble with the steel strap. Since it was too large for our wrist out of the box, we had to go to the Michael Kors store to get the watch resized (free of charge). But we recommend going to a watch vendor — the links broke off two separate review units and we think it might be a result of removing the links incorrectly. To save yourself the trouble of having to re-order another watch or watch strap, it might be better to go to a professional with experience working with and fixing watches.

Redesigned Wear OS

We’ve already grown accustomed to Google’s redesigned Wear OS, and it’s a big improvement over the last version. You no longer have to memorize a ton of gestures in order to navigate and can instead use simple swipes.

When you swipe down, you’ll see shortcuts like Google Pay, Do Not Disturb mode, battery saver, and other quick setting tiles that you can toggle on or off. We do wish that, like the Google Android mobile operating system, you could customize these. We’d like the ability to choose different tiles to include in the menu. At the top, you’ll also find the settings icon, allowing you to easily access the menu with a swipe and tap.

We experienced some lag when scrolling through the menu.

To access your activity and health metrics, all you need to do is swipe to the left which brings you to the redesigned Google Fit. While you can see your daily metrics at a glance, you can also tap on the display to open the Google Fit app which provides you with more in-depth numbers.

Notifications look far more appealing than before. Each one is now stacked neatly on top of the other in chronological order, making it easier to read and scroll through them. To view the entirety of a notification, all you need to do is tap on it to expand it and then tap again to collapse it. If you’d like to clear the notification, simply swipe fully to the left or the right.

Another useful feature with the new Wear OS is brought to you by Google Assistant. It can be accessed by swiping to the right, where you’ll see a personalized overview of the day whether that’s calendar appointments, any upcoming travel information you need, and more. There are also smart suggestions based on your activity.

michael kors access runway review
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

It’s important to note that the new Wear OS works best with Android phones. People with an iPhone are limited when it comes to some use cases. For starters, with iOS you have to make sure you always have the Wear OS app running in the background for the smartwatch to stay connected — otherwise you won’t receive any notifications. Sadly, iPhone owners can’t interact with notifications or text messages either and can only accept or deny calls from the watch.

Smooth performance, nice display

The one big downside to the Michael Kors Access Runway is that it includes the two-year old Snapdragon 2100 chipset, but we didn’t find too many performance issues. We experienced some lag when scrolling through the menu and when loading apps like the Google Play Store on the watch. But for the most part, all other apps loaded fairly quickly.

The 1.19-inch circular AMOLED display on the Michael Kors Access is sharp.

When using the Fossil Sport with the Wear 3100, we found that scrolling was much smoother and there wasn’t as much lag when swiping through the menu or sorting through notifications.

On the Access Runway, there’s also 4GB of storage so you can store music directly on the smartwatch.

The 1.19-inch circular AMOLED display on the Michael Kors Access boasts vibrant colors. With a 390 x 390 pixel-resolution, it’s sharp and bright enough to see in broad daylight. The display also felt much larger, without the distraction of pavé setting stones.

Expanded fitness features

With the Access Runway, you’ll enjoy more in-depth health tracking. With last year’s Access Sofie, you got step tracking, calories burned, and distance traveled through Google Fit. With the next-generation smartwatch, you can also track your heart-rate throughout the day and log your results within Google Fit.

michael kors access runway review
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

You can choose to track heart-rate automatically throughout the day, but you have to opt-in by tapping on the watch face. Once you give the smartwatch permission to track your beats per minute, it will take measurements every 20 minutes. If you want to manually measure your BPM instead, then you can, and it’s a good idea as it will preserve battery life.

To help make the feature even easier to use, there are a variety of watch faces you can choose from that include your BPM on the display. That way, whenever you glance at your display you can see what your heart-rate is. Using the “Glow” watch face, your BPM is displayed right underneath the time, or you can tap on the heart-rate icon to quickly measure it. Using the Google Fit app, you can also see your heart rate measurements logged throughout the day, displayed in a nice graph to show how it changed over time.

Same battery

The Michael Kors Access Runway smartwatch comes with the same 300mAh battery as the Access Sofie, both of which lasted us a little over 12 hours. But considering the Access Runway has a heart-rate sensor and built-in GPS, it’s impressive that it was able to last that long.

We took it off the charger at around 6 p.m. before a night out and it was at 100 percent. Throughout the night we used it to check notifications like text messages, social media, and emails. By the time we got home at about 1 a.m., it was at 38 percent and we left it on throughout the night to find it at six percent by 10 a.m.

We also had the always-on display setting turned on, which switches to ambient mode whenever the watch isn’t in use. If you want to get a little more juice out of the device, we recommend turning the setting off.

The Access Runway charges up faster than the Sofie, too. It’s still a puck-shaped charger but with the addition of magnetic pins that clip into the smartwatch. This allows it to charge the smartwatch up to 80 percent in an hour, which is convenient on days when you forget to charge it overnight or need to quickly power it up before heading out to the gym or to an event. Whenever we forgot to charge it at night, we simply popped it on to the charger while we got ready for work (which typically takes us a little over an hour) and it was at 100 percent by the time we were heading out the door.

Warranty information

The Michael Kors Access Runway smartwatch starts at $295 and can go up to $450 depending on the style you choose.

It also comes with a limited two-year warranty for manufacturer defects.

Our Take

The Michael Kors Access Runway is a beautiful smartwatch with a vibrant display and useful fitness features. It boasts a heart-rate monitor along with a bright display all packed into an extremely fashionable case. While spending over $300 for a smartwatch that doesn’t include a new Wear 3100 chipset may deter you, the Access Runway runs smoothly and looks stunning on the wrist.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes. Of course, there’s the Fossil Sport which includes the Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset for a cheaper price of $255. As with the Access Runway, there’s a heart rate sensor and built-in GPS along with interchangeable watch straps for extra customizability. But since it includes the latest tech, it also runs more smoothly and has a longer lasting battery.

If you’re looking for a more fashionable smartwatch, there’s also the Fossil Q Venture for $255 which packs the same chipset and features as the Access Runway in a sleek and stylish case. It also comes with the new Wear OS.

Those who’d like a more fitness intensive smartwatch, should go for the Fitbit Versa. For $200, it comes with a heart rate sensor and tons of fitness features, along with a beautiful design. It can also last for up to five days on a single charge, depending on how much you use it.

For iOS users who want to be able to use all the features on a smartwatch without restrictions, we recommend the Apple Watch Series 4. It comes equipped with an electrocardiogram app, as well as the ability to recognize when you have an irregular heart rate.

How long will it last?

The Michael Kors Access Runway should last you beyond the two-year limited warranty, but the battery will deplete overtime. However, it’s unclear how long it will receive software updates for, especially now that the Wear 3100 chipset is out. At 5ATM, it’s also swim proof, so you don’t have to worry about ruining it when you go for a swim or take a shower.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you’re looking for a stylish smartwatch to track all your important health and fitness metrics that you can wear every day, the Access Runway is a great option.

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