From Fossil to Nixon to New Balance, Google's smartwatch platform Android Wear has been getting the designer treatment in 2016. The first big fashion name with real star power to get involved, though, is Michael Kors, with the label's first smartwatch collection now on sale.
The series consists of two styles to kick things off: the Bradshaw Access and Dylan Access, based on bestselling women's and men's Michael Kors watches.
The pair of designer Android Wear watches start at $350, more expensive than both AW rivals and their traditional timepiece equivalents.
Still, the eye-wateringly expensive Tag Heuer Connected aside, these are some of the best-looking smartwatches we've worn yet. So can the smarts match the watches?
Michael Kors Bradshaw Access: Design
The style that Sophie tested is the Bradshaw Access, based on Michael Kors' popular gold-coloured Bradshaw watch and aimed at women (though most styles could be worn by a man). The DNA of the wristwatch is easy to spot from the classy bezel, lugs and shiny gold-coloured stainless steel build. This looks like a modern classic MK watch.
First up, at 44.5mm the Access is noticeably bigger than both the Bradshaw (36mm) and even the Oversized Bradshaw (43mm) so don't expect this to look identical to its namesake on the wrist. No doubt that's a job for version 2 or 3. The flat tyre is another clue this isn't a "real" watch, as is the decision to go with one crown-style button, with the MK logo, rather than the original three. This looks like it could twist but… doesn't.
At 14mm thick and weighing more than 110g, it is on the larger, weightier end of watches aimed at women, especially next to options like the Moto 360 2 and the very dainty Pebble Time Round. That said, this is based on an all-metal boyfriend watch that's designed to make a statement so it's down to personal preference.
Speaking of size, you may need to hit your local watch shop to get some links removed on the strap – the default strap is pretty generous and will hang off an average sized wrist.
We said it's gold-coloured and the model we tested is a shiny gold finish. But this being a designer affair, there are of course lots of styles to choose from. The Access Bradshaw is available in eight colours including tort gold, pave gold ($395), gold/turquoise ($375), silver, a metallic blue and metallic brown ($350).
Then there are four 22mm interchangeable silicone straps (black, white, blue and red) which will be sold separately for $40 and six 22mm leather straps (brown, white, red, black, embossed tan and embossed snakeskin-effect) which are $50 each. We haven't had a play with any of the alternate Bradshaw styles yet but we're sure they will be available to fondle in Michael Kors stores. The watch comes bundled with buckle in a cute little box to use with additional straps.
Michael Kors Dylan Access: Design
The 46mm (same size screen though) Michael Kors Dylan Access tested by Paul is a rubber affair with a more defined bezel and larger 28mm lugs. It comes in three colour schemes – all black, blue/silver and gold/black. Our review model which Paul has been wearing was the all-black one.
As with the Bradshaw, it's a bulky affair – but that works much better on a rugged watch squarely aimed at the less-fair sex. I personally like a big chunky sports watch and that's exactly how the Dylan feels. The lugs and bezel scream "high-end" and the attention to detail on the dial and the rear – with the engraved/raised MK/Michael Kors emblems – are something that the traditional tech brands should take note of.
The silicone strap feels solid and there's no flimsiness here, with the criss-cross textured finish on the inside doing a great ventilation job.
Michael Kors Access: Display
Michael Kors, being a fashion brand, isn't as focused on the hardware specifics as we're used to with the usual 'old skool' Android Wear models. We're simply told that the display is a 320 x 290, 1.4-inch, "TFT transflective" one. We're pretty sure it's LCD.
What we do know, for sure, is that it's all a bit underwhelming. The colours are a bit washed out and the sharpness doesn't really do the blingy (on the Bradshaw, especially) watch faces justice – but more on that later.
To put that pixel count in perspective, Fossil opted for a 360 x 326 resolution for its debut Android Wear device, the Q Founder – and that came out months ago. 320 x 290 is the same resolution as the original Moto 360 (albeit the display is a touch smaller), which was announced in March 2014. It's just not really good enough for a device in this price bracket.
Michael Kors Access: Android Wear
Speaking of blingy watch faces, this is the main addition to the standard Android Wear experience. Not only do you get a selection of 10 bespoke Michael Kors branded faux-analogue and faux-digital watch faces (press down and hold on the watch face screen or swipe left and select 'Michael Kors Access' from the list of the apps), but you can set up day and night modes too.
What does that mean? Instead of having one watch face, you turn on 'My Modes' then select one watch face for day (6am to 6pm) and one for night. This will then automatically switch to change up your smartwatch, as stylish ladies would with regular accessories.
Both are displayed as one half of the screen so you know what you're selecting and it's a really nice touch that caters to the fashion crowd. You can also save watch faces, some of which animated and all of which have low power modes, according to colour in 'My Looks'. You can even customise the 'jewel' colour on each face.
The fashion tech strut
- Q Marshal is big on styleThe classiest Android Wear show in town
- Fashion tech: 20 wearables that are more chic than geekUpdate: We've passed the ugly duckling phase and things look more beautiful
- Fitbit fashion: Public School, Tory Burch, Vera WangThe fitness tracker has designer collabs locked up
- Google intros AW designer watch facesTed Baker, Mango and Nicole Miller bring a little style to Google's smartwatch party
As for features, we're still waiting for the big Android Wear 2.0 update to land so the features set is basically what we've seen all year on less stylish smartwatches. There's voice interaction with Google Voice if you're comfortable talking to your watch, as well as messages, calls, alerts and contextual notifications popping up onscreen and activity tracking via Google Fit.
With the built-in mic, you can answer phone calls on the Access itself which is handy (and sounds clear), though you'll need Bluetooth headphones to hear the person on the other end. You can hook the Access up with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi at home and at work.
As ever, you can use this with both Android phones and iPhones, though with iPhones you're restricted in what you can do with it, for example third-party app alerts won't show up.
Michael Kors Access: Battery life and hardware
A big tick for the Michael Kors Access is that it boasts the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip. Until this processor arrived Qualcomm was, essentially, stuffing a smartphone chip inside the smartwatches it was chosen to power.
While that didn't really cause any big issues, as Android Wear is an OS with a pretty small footprint, the Wear 2100 was designed from scratch with wearables in mind – with a big focus on extending the battery life. The result, on the Access smartwatch, at least, is pretty good. We weren't quite getting two full days of use from our review units, but we only needed to charge the following evening after slipping the watch on in the morning the day before.
Talking of charging, this is done via a very nice, Apple Watch-esque magnetic disc that pops onto the back of the watch face – there's no messing around lining up pins as per the Huawei Watch or faffing with a cradle. Both watches are 1 ATM water resistant.
- Classy choice of styles
- Next-gen Wear 2100 processor
- Good battery life
- Below-par display
- Quite expensive for Android Wear
- Bulkier design for Bradshaw