Fashion brand Michael Kors has returned to the smartwatch fray for a third time, adding to its Access range with the Runway.

The Runway goes back to the chunkier design we saw on the initial Bradshaw watch but it keeps the fully round display, while adding extra features including a heart rate sensor, built-in GPS, swim-proofing and the choice of a silicone strap.

Is the Michael Kors Access Runway smartwatch the season's must-have?  

Fabulous Kors design

  • Stainless steel design
  • Three color options
  • Case size: 41mm
  • 18mm lug width
  • 5ATM swimproof

The Michael Kors Access Runway takes its design from the company's standard Runway watch. It is on the chunkier side (or "oversized" as Michael Kors describes it), like the Bradshaw, offering a stainless steel casing with 18mm wide lugs.

And what a design that is. We've worn this watch every single day for a month. It is fashion-focused and comfortable to wear.

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The standard Michael Kors Runway watch has a singular crown on the right of the watch face, while the Access Runway features the Michael Kors-etched rotating crown to the right of its touchscreen, along with two action buttons either side.

The Access' casing has a two-tone effect on its edge made up of brushed and polished steel, offering a more sophisticated finish compared to the blingy Access Sofie, while the underside of the case now has a heart-rate sensor - a new feature for the Access range. The Access Runway is also swimproof.

There are nine finish options available, which include rose gold, gold and silver casings, as well as either a colour-matched linked bracelet strap or a silicone strap. Our review model is rose gold with a linked bracelet strap - and we adore it.

All straps can be interchanged, so if you pick one of the models with a traditional linked bracelet, you can always invest in a silicone alternative for the days you're feeling more active.

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Overall, the design is very Kors. It takes one of the company's well-known traditional watch models and makes it smart, which is exactly what its two predecessors - Bradshaw and Sofie - do. Like the Bradshaw and Sofie, the Runway won't be to everyone's taste but if you're looking for a smartwatch that combines substance and style, the Kors Access range is a great place to start, especially if you're already a fan of the Kors watches.

Customisable display

  • 1.19-inch AMOLED display, 390 x 390 resolution
  • Customisable watch faces

The Access Runway features a fully round 1.19-inch touchscreen display, which is the main differentiator between the Access device and the traditional Runway watch. A fully round display is no longer uncommon on smartwatches, though back when they first launched, some, including the original Access Bradshaw, were let down by a "flat tyre" look (where the bottom had a black-out section). Thankfully Kors corrected this with the Access Sofie and the Runway follows suit.

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It's an AMOLED display, which means you get rich and vibrant colours coupled with deep blacks. Everything is crisp and sharp thanks to the 390 x 390 resolution (which might not sound high-res, but at this scale it's as good as it gets). It's a great screen with ample brightness for even the sunniest of days.

The Access Runway also features an Always On display, which is darker and more subtle than the standard display, switching to a monochrome output and only displaying the time in order to preserve battery life. The designs and layouts of the Always On display vary depending on the interactive MK watch face chosen - but they all make the Access Runway look like more of a standard watch than a smart one, as they did on the Sofie.

There are numerous interactive Michael Kors watch faces to choose from, all designed to mimic the design of the company's traditional watches to offer fans the complete package. The MK faces are exclusive to the Access watches, so you'll find some of them on the Bradshaw and Sofie too, though there are a few specific to the Runway that display heart-rate.

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As with the previous Access smartwatches, it's possible to customise everything on the MK faces from the dial colour to the crystal colour, as well as set automatically changing faces between day and night. You can read our tips and tricks on how to do this.

In addition to the MK faces, you can also set a Facebook or Instagram picture as your watch face, as you were able to do on the Bradshaw and Sofie. An update to the My Social element of the MK Access app - more on that in a minute - means users can also customise social photo dials with MK-themed stickers.

Features and fitness

  • Heart-rate monitoring
  • Built-in GPS tracking
  • NFC payments

So far, most of what we've talked about isn't new to the Access Runway, it's simply transferred over, or slightly updated from the Bradshaw and Sofie devices. Luckily, the Access Runway does have its own selling points, including the optical heart-rate monitor, which allows you to track your heart rate across multiple workouts types through Google Fit.

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The Access Runway takes your heart rate every 20 minutes, or on demand if you tap the HR complication on a compatible watch face or press the bottom action button when in Google Fit. We found it to be within a couple of beats per minute of the Fitbit Charge 3's reading - sometimes a little higher, sometimes lower. Overall, it's fairly accurate, though we would always recommend those training to a HR zone wear a chest strap for the most accurate reading.

Google Fit is accessed with a swipe from left to right on the Runway's screen, or by pressing the bottom action button. It concentrates on two metrics - Move Minutes and Heart Points - both of which are shown as circles, like the Apple Watch and its activity rings.

Move Minutes are gained for any physical activity you do, from walking to yoga, while Heart Points are scored when you do activities at a higher intensity - the higher the intensity, the more points you get. At first these seem like pretty pointless metrics, but if you're anything like us, after about a week of wearing the Access Runway then you'll really want to complete those rings before the end of every day.

The workouts feature is located in the middle of these rings when you access them with a swipe from right to left of the main screen, and there is a huge selection from the standard running, walking and cycling ones, including American Football, Badminton, Baseball and even activities like CrossFit and Cross Country Skiing.

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There is built-in GPS, too, meaning you can go for a walk, hike, ride or run without your phone and the Access Runway will record your route and distance. Given that some fitness-specific devices don't offer this, it's a great feature to see added. We really would recommended buying a silicone strap though, as the linked bracelet isn't really suitable for sweating it out.

Scroll down past the Move Points and Heart Points rings on the Access Runway's screen and you'll find other information, including steps taken, heart rate data and calories burned. More information can be found by tapping on the respective metric too. Data is recorded and presented in the Google Fit app for Android users, or within the Wear OS app for iOS users. Bear in mind it is less detailed for iOS users, but at least it's available in some degree.

Michael Kors (or Fossil, really, seeing as that's that company responsible for the MK smartwatch range) has also added NFC to the Access Runway. You can therefore add your cards to Google Pay and make payments using the watch, like the Apple Watch offers with Apple Pay. Google Pay works with both iOS and Android devices, so if you've paired the Access Runway with an iOS device then it will still work.

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Of course, you get all the standard Wear OS smartwatch features on the Access Runway too, including smartphone notifications for anything coming through to your phone. For example, if you have WhatsApp preview turned off, the Access Runway will only display who the WhatsApp message is from, rather than what it says. 

Hardware, performance and battery life

  • Qualcomm SD Wear 2100 chipset
  • 300mAh battery, magnetic charger
  • 512MB memory, 4GB storage

The Michael Kors Access Runway delivers a smooth, slick performance for the most part. We had a few instances of it stuttering before the Wear OS software update landed - but following that it was able to switch between tasks without an issue.

The built-in battery is charged via a magnetic disc, making top-ups easy. That's a good thing, as you'll need to do so every night. It's this longevity per charge where the Access Runway is most let down. The battery life is claimed to offer over one day of use - but we only managed to get a full day from 7am to midnight at best.

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Naturally, battery life is very much dependant on how you use the watch. If you're going for a long run with GPS turned on, display brightness turned up, along with all your notifications coming through from emails and social media, then a day will be seriously pushing it. Everyday casual use will get you 14 hours of use without too much of an issue though.

With competitors like the Samsung Galaxy Watch offering over two days of battery life, we would really have liked to have seen the Access range improve in this department.

Wear OS software

  • Wear OS
  • Google Assistant
  • MK Access app

The Access Runway runs on Google's Wear OS platform with voice-activated Google Assistant. The Wear OS platform has seen an update, making it much easier to use with a cleaner interface and the experience is great though the app still needs to be running in the background of an iOS device, which makes it a little less seamless compared to Android.

The crown on the Access Runway allows you to swiftly scroll through the various apps, while a swipe from the top of the screen provides better and quicker access to larger variety of settings from Google Pay to finding your phone.

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A swipe from left to right takes you to Google Assistant, though you can also just say "OK Google" for voice-activated response. We had a few issues with Wi-Fi occasionally not connecting properly, but other than that, Assistant works well and it can give you a run down of your day, a read of your heart rate, among other things.

As we mentioned, the Access Runway also offers the MK Access app, which has come a long way since it first launched on the Bradshaw. It's here where you'll find "Looks", along with the My Social, My Modes, My Settings and My Next features. The My Next feature, for example, allows you to set a date for an event you might be looking forward to - be that a trip, a party, an anniversary, and so forth - and you'll then be reminded when it's coming up.

Verdict

The Michael Kors Access Runway is a fabulous smartwatch. It's the perfect device for those after stylish wrist-wear with solid performance and plenty of features, from its solid waterproof build to its heart-rate monitoring. 

However, the battery life could certainly be far better and the Wi-Fi connectivity can be a little glitchy. Its fitness-focused features also seem a little mis-matched for something so fashion-focused, so if you're looking to go sporty then we'd turn your attention to a Garmin or even a Fitbit tracker.

It won't be for everyone, but for the Kors fan this watch is everything you could want.

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