Michael Kors Access Runway review

Fashion-focused and packed full of features
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Michael Kors Access Runway
By Michael Kors
It’s a beautiful watch that’s hands down the most advanced yet from the collaboration between Michael Kors and Fossil – and maybe even the best-looking of Fossil’s recent crop of smartwatches full stop. It handles notifications well, supports Google Pay, provides some decent fitness tracking thanks to Google Fit and its bright, circular screen makes doing most things feel like a real treat. Of course it’s created with fashion-lovers in mind, so expect a premium design that may not fit in so well at the gym or on the running track – with a premium price tag to match, depending on which style you go for. Unfortunately it needs charging most evenings, which isn’t surprising but is a little disappointing now that competing brands are offering power for days on end.

  • Google Pay on-board
  • Some fitness features & HR tracking
  • Lovely design & screen
  • One day battery life
  • Design not fitness-friendly
  • Not for serious sports

Fossil has become one of the top smartwatch brands of the moment. And it hasn’t just been making waves with its own brand devices, but with the collaborations it’s forged with the likes of Marc Jacobs, Kate Spade, Emporio Armani, Misfit and Michael Kors.

The Michael Kors Access Runway is one of the latest additions from Fossil Group’s current crop of fashion-friendly smartwatch collaborations, following the success of the Access Sofie, Grayson, Dylan and Bradshaw.

The Runway is a slimmer, smaller option that has set a fashion-loving female audience in its sights – although we’d happily class it as unisex, just for those who want a slightly smaller design. It certainly delivers in the style stakes, bringing a more understated, everyday elegance to Michael Kors’ line of smartwatches than previous models.

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The Access Runway does come at a premium price in comparison to Fossil’s similar own brand smartwatches. That means we should be clear from the start that this is definitely for those looking for a designer watch with a more high-end look, and budget, to match.

Like the other smartwatches released this year by Fossil, the Access Runway comes with some significant upgrades on the brand’s previous models. The most notable new additions include an NFC chip to bring Google Pay to your wrist, built-in GPS tracking, a waterproof design and an optical heart rate sensor.

So do these new features and good looks warrant the + price? And if they do, could this be one of the best smartwatches of the moment or is it more style than substance?

Michael Kors Access Runway: Design

Michael Kors Access Runway review

This statement accessory instantly looks more high-end and stylish than most other smartwatches on the market, and we can thank the Michael Kors design for that.

It’s notably more simple and pared down than some of the previous Michael Kors smartwatches, though, particularly the Access Sofie. Depending on your view of glitzy accents and where you plan on wearing the watch, this is arguably a very good thing. In our opinion, the newer Access Runway still looks bold and beautiful, but this time round it’s much more effortlessly stylish and would suit everyday wear.

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If the name of the Runway sounds familiar, it’s because Michael Kors brought out a hybrid smartwatch by the same name that this one borrows design cues from, but it’s significantly smarter.

At 41mm with 18mm lugs it’s designed for smaller wrists. But it doesn’t feel like we’re compromising on screen size to get a slimmer design, which is a huge plus. The watch is available with gold, rose gold, silver and two-tone stainless steel casing and there’s also a range of watch strap styles, including stainless steel and silicone.

Michael Kors Access Runway review

Although we reviewed the rose gold version with a stainless steel strap and liked it, it’s obviously not ideal for fitness. Luckily, you can change the straps easily and we’d recommend investing in a selection of straps that you can switch out if you do want to take it to the gym or the pool.

On the side of the watch there are three buttons and the one in the middle is a larger rotating crown, which is used to open your apps, scroll through options and take you back to the home screen. The other two buttons open up options including My Looks and My Social (more on those shortly), as well as Google Fit. The buttons carry out a lot of different tasks depending on the menu you’re in, but their function feels intuitive and makes sense without any additional guidance overtly telling you which to press when.

On the back of the watch is an optical heart rate monitor. Hold the watch up and this looks like it’s protruding slightly from the casing, but once it’s on you can’t tell as it’s only very slight and the watch still sits flush against your wrist.

The Access Runway has a "swimproof" build, which means it’s water resistant to 3 ATM. That means you can happily wear it to the pool for some lengths and underwater swimming, but you can't take it diving.

Michael Kors Access Runway: Screen

Michael Kors Access Runway review

The circular 1.19-inch touchscreen AMOLED display has a super-bright 390X390 resolution and you can customise the watch faces too. There are plenty to choose from, ranging from the very minimal, to those that make the Runway look just like a traditional watch, through to futuristic, retro and digital designs. There’s something for everyone and whichever one you choose can really change the overall feel of your watch in a few seconds.

There’s also a set of features collectively called Michael Kors Access. These include My Social, which allows you to put photos from your social media accounts straight onto the watch face. This also syncs up to My Looks, which is a fashion-focused feature that will tailor the look and feel of the watch to whatever you’re wearing or whatever style you want to go with that particular day. There’s also My Modes, which allows you to tailor different styles to day or night. Finally there’s My Next, which allows you to input an upcoming event (I added my holiday to New York in a month) and that’s then displayed on certain watch screens.

All of these settings are fairly simple and not particularly groundbreaking, but they’re a nice touch that’s unique to the Michael Kors range of smartwatches.

Speaking of the screen, there’s an ambient option, which means the screen isn’t on full brightness but can be always-on enough for you read the time. This is really handy because it doesn’t drain the battery every time you just need to check if you’re running late.

Michael Kors Access Runway: Features

Michael Kors Access Runway review

The Access Runway has Wear OS on board, which runs smoothly thanks to a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor and 4GB of storage.

It has all of the features you'd expect from Google’s wearable OS, including watch faces, lots of apps, slick navigation, notification support, music playback controls, Google Assistant voice controls and the chance to use the revamped Google Fit for sports tracking together with the new heart rate monitor.

Aside from its added fitness features, the Access Runway also has an NFC chip, meaning you can use it for Google Pay.

Another handy update is that this now also works across both Android and iOS devices. Setting up Google Pay on the smartwatch is relatively simple. You’ll need to add a card to Google Pay on your phone, verify it with your bank, then open Google Pay on the smartwatch to select the right card.

We gave it a try and found the experience at times took a good couple of seconds, but was mostly seamless. You’re prompted to hold the watch over the card terminal and it’ll vibrate once the payment has gone through.

Michael Kors Access Runway: Fitness

Michael Kors Access Runway review

Previous Michael Kors, and Fossil, smartwatches lacked built-in GPS, a water resistant rating and heart rate monitoring. Now that the latest models, and the Access Runway, have all three it feels like this crop of watches is much more serious about fitness.

You can run Google Fit, as well as a range of other third party fitness apps for basic activity tracking. Google Fit has received an upgrade in recent months, which means it puts Move Minutes and Heart Points at the forefront of its offering, via two rings that quickly show your progress throughout the day.

Move Minutes are active minutes of physical activity and Heart Points are activities at a higher pace with more intensity. These seem a bit arbitrary at first, but research shows that focusing on time spent being active in one go tends to give a better indication of daily fitness levels rather than step counts. However, you can also scroll down to find Step data in Google Fit if you’d like, as well as Calories burned and distance covered. Next up there’s heart rate measurements, which are presented on a small chart with the last heart rate reading below.

At the bottom there’s a Workouts option, which is how you manually begin tracking workouts. Here there are loads of activities to choose from, including aerobics, beach volleyball, boxing, circuit training, crossfit, gardening, HIIT, pilates, rock climbing, yoga and much, much more. Handily your most recent exercises are at the top too.

The metrics that the watch tracks will depend on the activity you’ve chosen, for example, elliptical will display time, heart rate, calories burned and heart points and once you’ve completed the activity you’ll see your average heart rate, too. Running will sync up to GPS before tracking time, distance covered, heart rate, calories burned and heart points.

All of your workout data, as well as heart rate data, is stored locally on the watch. You can access it in the Workout History setting. Some people might not like this on a smaller screen, but we liked to be able to see fitness data at a glance. On Android Google Fit is housed in a separate app and you can delve deeper into the data. On iOS, you’ll find Google Fit within the Wear OS app and see most of the information, but it’s a little more simplistic. If you're on iOS, it might be worth getting Strava or another third party app to track your workouts, or opt for an Apple Watch.

Michael Kors Access Runway: Heart rate tracking and GPS

Michael Kors Access Runway review

The Access Runway's built-in, optical heart rate monitor takes a reading every 20 minutes, which is handy for tracking overall fitness over time. We found these readings to be mostly accurate when compared with a Fitbit Versa, but they were on the high side at times. The watch also takes readings while you’re working out, which is shown in charts in your Workout History. We compared live readings of heart rate on the Access Runway during a HIIT session on an elliptical machine and compared them to the readings from a Fitbit Versa.

The Runway was a little slower at clocking a rise in heart rate and took a few seconds to catch up. Again, when it did catch up it tended to come in a little high, but overall it fared well at keeping tabs on HR data within a few bpms. We haven't had chance to test the Access Runway in comparison to a chest strap, but will update this review when we do. In any case, its heart rate performance will no doubt be aligned with the Fossil Q Explorist HR and Fossil Q Venture HR.

Michael Kors Access Runway review

Although our readings found the Access Runway was only about two to eight bpm higher than the Versa, we do think that if delving deep into heart rate data and collecting accurate readings is important to you for health or fitness reasons, it may be best to opt for a more fitness-focused wearable from the likes of Garmin or Fitbit.

The Access Runway also now has built-in GPS so you can leave your smartphone at home. It's the first time we've seen this fitness feature on a Michael Kors smartwatch and it's a nice bonus addition. Like the new Fossils, it's good enough for casual or beginner runners but if you're serious about GPS tracking for running or hiking, you'll probably want to go for something more reliable and consistently accurate. Still, we're glad Fossil and its designers are heading in this direction.

Michael Kors Access Runway: Battery life

Despite the fact Fossil significantly upgrades its smartwatches every time it brings out a new batch, battery life remains the same at around a day.

During our first test we had the brightness of the watch around the halfway point, notifications on, played about with the settings a bit, tracked one half hour workout and the battery lasted a little longer than we expected at 26 hours. It’s worth noting that the low battery mode kicked in at 13% and that kept the watch going for another 4 hours. But we didn’t use it much during that final crawl to the end. That’s good if you need it to urgently tell the time or glance at notifications, but not if you wanted to keep tabs on a run.

So, like most Wear OS smartwatches these days, you’ll need to be prepared to charge it up most nights and that means it falls short in comparison to the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch. Luckily charging is straightforward and has had a boost. Just plug in the magnetic puck charger and the watch will click into place thanks to a magnet on the back. Once there, it takes just over an hour to charge up from 0 to 100%.

How we test

Becca Caddy


Becca has been writing about technology for nearly ten years. In that time she’s covered topics from robotics and virtual reality to simulated universe theory and brain-computer interfaces for a wide range of titles, including TechRadar, New Scientist, Wired UK, OneZero by Medium, Stuff, T3, Metro and many more.

She’s passionate about helping people wade through tech jargon to find useful products they’ll actually use – with a focus on health and wellbeing.

Becca is also interested in how scientific developments and technological advances will impact us all in the near future. Many of her features ask big questions about what’s in store for wearable technology, especially the potential of virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

She spends a lot of time interviewing researchers and academics to explore the ethical implications of a world increasingly filled with tech. She’s a big fan of science-fiction, has just traded in her boxing gloves for weight-lifting gloves and spends way too much time in virtual reality – current favourites include painting in TiltBrush and whizzing through space in No Man’s Sky.

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