A solid device that stuns in many ways but can't quite shake off its dated hardware.
- Beautiful design
- Tons of features
- Decent battery life
- Occasional lag
- There are better fitness trackers
- Review Price: £269
- Untethered GPS
- Water resistant up to 30 metres
- Wear OS
- 1.19 inch screen
- Optical heart rate sensor
- Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100
- 390 x 390 AMOLED display
- 1-2 battery life
- 4GB storage
What is the Michael Kors Access Runway?
Billed as the more fully-featured alternative to the Access Sofie, and a significant upgrade in functionality over the Access Grayson, the Michael Kors Access Runway is the fashion house’s biggest attempt yet at creating a luxury smartwatch device.
At a high asking price of £269 upwards (although discounts are available from specific retailers), the Access Runway is just as concerned with being a highly fashionable accessory as it is about fulfilling the everyday requirements that one hopes to get out of a smartwatch.
With the Runway going for a lower price than the comparatively underpowered Sofie, potential buyers are likely to skip the latter entirely in favour of the former.
Michael Kors Access Runway – Design
The best thing that the Access Runway has going for it is its undeniable sense of style. Boasting a traditional textured crown, flanked by two fairly sizeable buttons that produce a satisfying click, the smartwatch could easily be mistaken for an analogue timepiece from afar.
Having those physical buttons is always a plus, as it gives you quick access to your favourite apps. For instance, a double tap of the upper-right button will open up Google Pay, letting you complete a transaction at a moment’s notice. While I much prefer turning the crown for menu navigation, I was disappointed to find it only works with a handful of apps. The Michael Kors Access app, strangely enough, isn’t one of them.
Very few smartwatches have the same ‘wow factor’ found with the Access Runway, but a great point of comparison comes from the also newly released Emporio Armani Connected. While the Connected sports a brushed metal design that empowers with industrial flare, the empty gaps between the body of the watch and the band leave something to be desired. Luckily, the Runway has no such problem – so long as you opt for the metallic band and not the silicone alternative.
The Runway’s metallic band curves around the body of the watch, giving it a more premium feel overall. Being cursed with dainty wrists meant that I had to relieve the strap of several links before the watch could stay firmly on my wrist without sliding off. While the experience of shortening the band was easy enough, it was a tricky affair to reconnect the band to the body. Only by sheer dumb luck was I able to reattach everything.
The band also has an easy-to-use, quick-release pushbutton deployment clasp that makes short work of wearing/removing the watch. I’m not a huge fan of the confusing hidden butterfly clasp design that’s found on some watches like the Armani Connected, so the Access Runway gets extra marks in my book.
I was sent the rose gold variant of the metallic option, a colour which I wouldn’t usually opt for and one that drew curious looks from the office, but I soon changed my tune after a few days of use.
As this is a Michael Kors product, the company has done all it can to remind you of that fact. While it hasn’t gone as far as to slap its name on the front of the device – I’m looking at you Fitbit – you can find no less than three references to the brand across its form; one by the clasp, another on the back of the watch and finally, the company’s initials are subtly printed on the face of the crown.
Speaking of the watch’s rear end, a rounded plastic backing ensures that the Access Runway never feels rough against your wrist, allowing it to nestle comfortably. It’s a far more comfortable design than if the entire body of the watch was covered in metal.
Michael Kors Access Runway – Screen
For a long time, it felt as though stylish smartwatches were being let down by lacklustre screens but I’m happy to report that this is not the case here. The Access Runway’s 1.19-inch AMOLED screen is deliciously crisp and I never found myself squinting to make out a line of text.
It has a thin, circular bezel but unless you have a distinctly bright watch face or one that contrasts heavily with darker colours, you’re unlikely to notice it. That bezel does allow the screen to take on a completely circular form, making the flat tyres of old a distant memory.
Unlike the 454 x 454 resolution panel found on the Access Grayson, the Runway actually has a slightly lower resolution of 390 x 390. This might sound like cause for concern but given the screen’s relatively small size, I didn’t pick up any noticeable dips in quality as apps and watch faces appeared with consistently crisp visuals.
The only trouble I came across was when attempting to check the time outdoors. I much prefer to use the Access Runway’s ‘always-on’ feature, in the belief that if a watch can’t tell you the time at a moment’s notice, it has failed to do its most important job. In order to save on battery, however, this feature presents your given watch face in a monochrome state while on standby. It’s great for a quick glance at your desk but when viewed against direct sunlight, it can be tricky to make out exactly what’s on the screen.
Michael Kors Access Runway – Features
When stacked against other Wear OS devices currently on the market, the Access Runway comes in at the higher end of the scale – boasting a plethora of features including a heart rate monitor, untethered GPS, NFC support and even water resistance of up to 30 metres with swim-proofing to boot; so you’ll have no qualms about it accompanying you at the local pool.
Speaking of Wear OS, the Access Runway sports the latest version of Google’s operating system which now allows for quick access to four essential screens from the watch face itself. For example, a quick swipe upwards will pull up your notifications timeline, while a flick towards the right-hand side opens the Google Assistant page, giving you an easier way to ask Google if you left the lights on at home.
It’s all incredibly streamlined and offers a far better experience than Android Wear ever did, but the OS still feels like it’s in the early stages of becoming something truly great. You’ll encounter the occasional bit of painfully slow lag (particularly at low battery), and the device can often revert to standby just as your navigating through a menu. It’s frustrating but these issues shouldn’t be too difficult to iron out in the future.
Aside from the standard Wear OS fanfare, there’s little here to separate the Access Runway from its competitors. The Michael Kors Access app makes a return, designed to add some flair to your lifestyle, but the app’s four main categories range from quite useful to downright pointless. On the better end of that scale, ‘My Social’ lets you link up to your Facebook and Instagram accounts so you can pull in your favourite pictures and use them as a watch face. ‘My Looks’ on the other hand is just a method of scrolling through the available watch faces on a colour coded basis. Given that you can already change watch faces by simply holding down your finger, this just seems like a missed opportunity to add something worthwhile.
As one might expect, the Access Runway does boast a variety of exclusive watch faces and I’m happy to say that things fare a bit better on this front. Keeping in line with the Runway’s fashion-oriented design, many of the available watch faces come with a distinctive flair of glitz and glamour, proudly displaying the Michael Kors logo in a sea of gold textures. By far, my favourite has to be the ‘New York Skyline’ watch face, which, in its monochrome state, looks like the opening animation to Frasier.
Michael Kors Access Runway – Fitness
Fitness tracking on Wear OS is still a bit of a mixed bag. The system itself runs smoothly and can track your heart rate and steps with ease but its efficiency can be propelled or hampered depending on the watch at hand, and I’m afraid to say that the Access Runway falls in the latter of these two camps.
Aside from taking it out on a bike ride or a quick run around the block, the Access Runway can be fairly cumbersome as a fitness tracker. This became apparent just a few minutes into doing some circuit training at the gym, as diving into a push-up caused the watch’s crown to dig into my wrist and set off the Google Assistant by accident. It’s not ideal and left me longing for my Fitbit.
Related: Best Fitness Trackers
I was pleased, however, to discover the ridiculous number of exercises that Wear OS is readily able to track; with some options catering to people with disabilities. Bravo Google! It’s a positive step in the right direction and a perfect way of showing that exercise can be enjoyed by anyone.
Michael Kors Access Runway – Performance and battery life
Just as with the recent majority of Fossil-designed smartwatches, the Access Runway is built with the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100, a fairly outdated chipset when compared to the superior Snapdragon Wear 3100. The older hardware could also explain the instances of slowdown I’ve had with the watch, problems which are nearly non-existent on the Samsung Galaxy Watch and Apple Watch Series 4.
Michael Kors touts the Access Runway as having a 24-hour battery life, and while it’s not entirely wrong, it depends on what you do with the watch on any given day. At its best, after receiving a moderate amount of notifications and using Google Pay sparingly, I was able to end the day with just over 50 percent battery life left in the tank. That’s impressive by Wear OS standards.
On another day, however, a nine-minute bike ride with untethered GPS and heart rate monitoring saw the battery plunge by 13 percent. By the time I got home, I had very little choice but to run for the nearest charging outlet.
Just as with the Armani Connected, active heart rate monitoring throughout the day will only set you back an additional 10 percent by the end of the day, so it’s never too much of a worry to keep it switched on in the background.
To get the most out of the Access Runway’s battery, I recommend turning off the ability to wake the device by flicking your wrist or tapping the screen, opting instead to have the ‘always-on’ feature toggled. By having the time readily available whenever I needed it, I felt less inclined to wake up the device and flick through its menus.
Why buy the Michael Kors Access Runway?
For anyone who values style just as highly as substance, the Access Runway could be exactly what you’re looking for. Thanks to the smartwatch’s eye-catching design, it’ll have a secure place on my wrist for quite some time – particularly at parties and events. The impossible detail to ignore, however, is the watch’s high entry level price of £269, continuing all the way to £349.
It remains to be seen if the Access Runway will be subjected to the same price drop that made the Access Grayson an easier recommendation, but for the time being, there are better watches out there that can be had for the same price, if not cheaper.
Similarly, if you’re looking for a new digital companion to take with you to the gym, the Access Runway is not it. The watch’s metallic body and protruding buttons make it an ill fit for certain exercises and will leave you lusting after the more comfortable bands of traditional fitness trackers.
Michael Kors Access Runway – Verdict
As one of the most attractive smartwatches on the market, the Access Runway has a lot going for it, and a ton of features to boot. With a high price tag and dated hardware, however, it’s a hard recommendation for all except the most diehard of fashionistas.
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.