If I asked ten of my female friends to come up with a smartwatch they'd wear, it would probably look something like the Michael Kors Access Runway. It's far from perfect but I think the Access Runway is ready to break out as an everyday, fashion smartwatch.
Which coincidentally it looks like it's about to. Alongside a new ceramic model and some custom MKGO dials, this week Michael Kors announced a new marketing campaign with Google for the holidays.
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I say holidays but the advertising push, featuring model and current face of Michael Kors Andreea Diaconu, will actually last until April 2019 and include digital and outdoor ads. A lot of eyes are about to encounter the Access Runway.
That could be a big deal not just because we know that in wearable tech, marketing matters - hello Fitbit, Samsung - but that in this case, Michael Kors has the right watch to shout about. The look, the weight, the styles, the price point, the features are in place. It's smaller, much lighter and more comfortable than Michael Kors' first Access smartwatch for women, the big of lugs Bradshaw. And it doesn't scream eveningwear like its predecessor the Access Sofie.
It could also be a pretty big deal for Michael Kors. We know the Access line has done well for the Fossil Group in the past. In its Q2 2019 earnings call, for the quarter ending 29 September 2018, CEO John Idol said, per the transcript: "In our watch and jewelry segment, Access smartwatches outperformed the broader category. Our recently launched Access Runway watch... became a best-seller in the quarter."
He referred to declines in its fashion watch category but added: "Overall, we remain pleased with the growth trajectory in our smartwatch category."
Michael Kors was actually the first Fossil Group brand outside Fossil itself to launch a Wear OS smartwatch and it's since been followed by Diesel, Marc Jacobs, Tory Burch, Kate Spade and more. (So, if you don't like the MK aesthetic, check those brands out.)
As for the Apple Watch, the Access Runway is cheaper than the Series 4, works properly with Android phones and iPhones plus it matches Apple on daily features like NFC payments, a standalone Spotify app and water resistance for swimming. The custom watch faces will no doubt be popular. Oh and how could we forget - it's ROUND. And looks like a watch. Which as much as the Apple Watch is still the most compact, polished, iconic and lovely-to-wear smartwatch, is still what some women want from a smartwatch.
This is not an unqualified endorsement. Maybe it's the weight but the Access Runway doesn't feel as premium as the Sofie. The design will be a touch too thick for some. Google's Wear OS still needs work.
It's a year or two behind the Apple Watch in terms of advanced features and with MK's annual release cycle, it's not exactly futureproof. For one, the just announced Fossil Sport signals that we can probably expect designer smartwatches with extended, 2-3 days time-telling battery life in 2019.
It's also run into trouble over the actual performance of its built-in GPS and heart rate tracking - the consensus so far for all of Fossil Group's fourth gen sportier smarwtatches is that they're fine for casual runners/swimmers/gymmers but not much more. That's the main reason we gave the Access Runway 3.5 stars out of 5 in our review. We'll keep testing though and we may see updates pushed out to improve aspects of the fitness experience on the Runway and its cohort.
So there's still lots of room for improvement for 2019. But the Michael Kors Access Runway is worth considering as a credible Apple Watch alternative.
It's a desirable smartwatch, it would genuinely make a great gift and it's probably Fossil Group's best shot so far at a mainstream womens' smartwatch. Let's check back in with it next May.
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