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Michael Kors Dylan Access review: Android Wear for everyone

The Android Wear market has been relatively quiet for the past few months, but as we near the back to school season, the release schedule is set to pick up pace. And as we've seen from so-called fashion brands like Fossil, as well as well-known mainstream watch brands like Casio, Android Wear has found its way into practically any and every retail opportunity. Like Android itself, its versatility is its biggest strength.

Another such fashion brand looking to capitalize on the (admittedly slowing) smartwatch trend is Michael Kors, releasing two lines of its Access smartwatches today starting at $350. And despite some minor issues, the watches are destined to be successful largely because of Michael Kors' existing distribution model of watch dealers and box stores and every mall in between. But next to the ultra-sleek Huawei Watch, Moto 360 and upcoming Asus ZenWatch 3, is the Access smartwatch right for you?

About this review

I (Daniel Bader) am writing this review after using the black stainless steel / black silicone band Michael Kors Dylan Access model for two weeks. It is running Android Wear version 1.5.0 based on Android 6.0.1 with the July 5, 2016 security patch.

Michael Kors Access Specs

CategoryFeatures
Size46mm casing x 14mm thick
ColorBlack stainless steel (reviewed), Silver stainless steel, Gold stainless steel
Display1.5-inch 320x290 pixel transflective TFT LCD display (287.9 ppi)
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 SoC
RAM512MB
Storage4GB
Battery360mAh
SensorsGyroscope, Accelerometer, Bluetooth 4.1
StrapSilicone (reviewed), Leather
Weight112 grams (reviewed)

Michael Kors Access Hardware

Keep in mind that I am only reviewing one style of one model of the Access line; like all things department store, there is a color and style for everyone. Specifically, I have been using what is clearly the least provocative of the options — black stainless steel with a comfortable, textured black silicone band — that include multiple shades of gold-casing-on-gold-band and a snakeskin-style embossed leather.

More than a few times during my testing period, several people came up to me to ask about the watch on my wrist.

But between the two overarching styles and multitudinous color and strap variations, one thing is clear: this is a big, heavy, imposing piece of jewelry. At 112 grams, and a chassis that despite its round face juts out at angles to meet a set of 28mm lugs, the Dylan Access is present. When compared to the subtle, minimal and delicate design of last year's Moto 360, it's clear Michael Kors intends for this to be worn by people who want it to be noticed. And noticed it was.

More than a few times during my testing period, several people came up to me to ask about the watch on my wrist. Aside from my early days with the Pebble, and a few times with the original Moto 360, this has rarely happened to me. It appears the size gambit worked.

The Michael Kors branding is subtly entwined into the product itself; the crown to the right of the watch face has a clear MK emblem, giving texture to the button that, though it appears designed to twist like a regular crown, can only be depressed. Its function is limited to waking the screen from sleep or, when held down, activating Android Wear's app drawer (behavior that is set to change drastically with the release of Android Wear 2.0). On the other side is a set of microphones to enable Android Wear's excellent voice-activated "OK Google" support.

Underneath the watch is a metal plate sans heart rate sensor, an omission not mourned for due to its unreliable nature in previous Android Wear devices. In the silicone strap, with is surprisingly comfortable despite the heft of the metal, my wrist felt comfortable and, in the time I normally took to warm to an analog watch, I grew used to the Access on my wrist at all times. That strap can be swapped out with other silicone or leather options, but the lugs are specific to the Dylan Access line itself, which precludes the use of standard 28mm bands.

Like the Sony SmartWatch 3 before it, the Access has a transflective display, which denotes a reflective layer just above the LCD backlight meant to make it easier to read in direct sunlight. And while this is true, the relatively low-resolution 320x290 pixel screen appears to have a muddy sheen atop it in most all other situations, with poor viewing angles and blacks that appear milky. It's actually a better display than the SmartWatch 3 despite the lower pixel density — colors are more vibrant and, straight on at least, it offers a pleasant enough experience — but after using the Huawei Watch and Moto 360 (2015), this just doesn't cut it anymore.

There's even a "flat tire" towards the bottom of the screen just to reiterate just how far behind the watch's display chops are. That flat tire area doesn't even include an ambient light sensor, so you'll be adjusting brightness manually (though the transflective screen somewhat makes brightness a moot point).

After using the Huawei Watch and Moto 360 (2015), this kind of low-resolution display just doesn't cut it anymore.

Internally, the Dylan is a mix of new and old: it is running Qualcomm's specialized Snapdragon Wear 2100 SoC, which offers a slightly more power-efficient mix of Cortex-A7 cores than the Snapdragon 400 in most Android Wear watches to date, a chip that was built for phones and coopted for wearables.

At 1.2GHz, the Wear 2100 cores are clocked identically to the Snapdragon 400s found in most Wear devices, and it is built on an identical 28nm process, so it's no surprise that the Access lasted roughly the same amount per charge as any previous Android-based wearable I've used. The main difference is the optional integrated X5 baseband, which will allow future watches 3G connectivity, a feature Michael Kors clearly doesn't care for. There is also 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage — standard on Android Wear devices since their debut.

While battery life is on par with other smartwatches in its class, the charging experience certainly isn't. Taking design cues, without the know-how from Apple, the Access line charges wirelessly from its underside via a white, circular magnetic cable. While this allows the watch to be water resistant up to 10 meters (33ft), it is otherwise near-useless. The magnets are not nearly strong enough to latch on for any length of time, and I was forced to weigh it down the entire bundle with a book to get keep it connected. Even then, the orientation is such that it often slips off. I woke up to more than a few mornings of the Access fully dead despite being ostensibly attached to its charger.

Michael Kors Access Software

If you've used Android Wear since its inception, the experience here is a known quantity. While Michael Kors bundles its "Access" app, which allows for customizations of its varied and colorful watch face collection, there are no particularly unique tricks to note. It's also interesting that this is one of the least fitness-oriented Android Wear watches I've seen, with no native exercise or tracking app to speak of other than Google's own Fit experience.

The Access app is at once confusing and ultra-simple, and more than a little useless.

Like all Android Wear devices running the latest version, the Access supports a number of gestures to navigate through its Google Now cards — twist up or down to scroll through the cards; push down or pull up to move in and out — and I'm happy to report they work as well here as they do elsewhere. Similarly, the newly-implemented app drawer, which is accessed by swiping to the right of the watch face or holding down the crown, is alive and well. The dark theme, at least on my review unit, somewhat encourages a dark watch face, and thankfully most of the pre-installed options err towards an evening palette.

Those watch faces are not my personal liking — I am more of a spare, minimal kind of watch wearer (opens in new tab) — but unlike the Apple Watch, Android Wear supports downloadable third-party faces. Still, I settled on one that I liked, called Speedometer, and changed up the colors to suit my style. Most people won't get much out of the included Access app, though: it is at once confusing and ultra-simple, and more than a little useless. Many of the included faces also include support for complications, which Michael Kors calls Subeyes, that include shortcuts for alarms, a pedometer, calendar, and battery count.

Michael Kors Access Bottom line

The Michael Kors Access line is available September 6 starting at $350 for the model above (metal/silicone), going up to $395 for the more exclusive gold-tone Bradshaw varieties. Bands begin at $40, rising to $50 for the embossed versions). (In Canada, watch prices begin at $420, rising to $475, with bands running $50 to $60.)

Despite the issues with the charger, and the imperfect display characteristics, I grew to enjoy the Access, and would certainly recommend it to anyone looking to engage with the more fashion-forward varieties of Android Wear. Like the Fossil Q Founder, this smartwatch is more about the brand than the product, and it's clear that certain decisions were made to reinforce its place alongside similarly-designed analog watches in endless glass displays.

But somehow it works: it is both fashionable and functional, comfortable enough (with a sizeable battery) to wear all day.

See at Michael Kors

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central. 

36 Comments
  • Is Michael Kors a well known brand? I clicked to find out who "Michael Kors Dylan" was, and why Daniel was reposting his smartwatch review.
  • Indeed Michael Kors is a well known name, up there wit DC, RayBan etc,
  • Wow dude.. Yeah, Michael Kors is very well known. For both woman and men.
  • I don't know about in the UK, but in the US, it's a very well-known designer brand, with some off-the-rack department store labels as well.
  • When the word "useless" is used multiple times in a review, I'm comfortable passing on the product.
  • I see they are using the same manufacturer as everyone else (FLAT TIRE ALERT). There must be one Chinese factory that contracts with everyone for that display assembly.
  • I just don't get it. I automatically stop caring and will never support flat tire set ups.
  • Exactly. If the Gear S2 can be fully round, whey do Android Wear makers insist on crippling their displays????
  • Oh a new Moto 360. Wait..
  • "Can the Michael Kors brand command the same influence when it comes to smartwatches as it does when it comes to fashion jewelry?"
    Well it´s the first time I hear about this brand so I would have to say they would have zero influence on me; but if the smart watch is good then I couldn't care less about fashion and brands.
  • Michael Kors is out though. A diluted and finished brand.
  • The flat tire shouldn't be a thing now.
  • The flat tyre serves a purpose, if it gives you automatic brightness, then i'm all down for it, i have black watch faces anyway so it doesnt bother me. This watch has a flat tyre, yet no automatic brightness? then what does it serve?
  • Gives people something to ***** about, only purpose.
  • There is no other place for such a sensor? If the Apple Watch had a visible flat tire, we'd never hear the end of it from Android users.
  • Also remember that the Michael Kors brand is operated by the Fossil Group. So it's just a branded product of what they produce already.
  • I don't know, I like the look of the newer Fossil watches better.
  • No to the flat tire.
    No to the small size.
    And Michael Kors as a watch brand is only well known if you shop for fashion accessories at mall kiosks and Sam's Club.
  • According to your review this watch is junk, yet you still somehow recommend it. Whatever....
  • If AC doesn't recommend it, no one will click on that affiliate link, and AC won't make any money off the review. Don't forget that pretty much any product review these days is a hidden advertisement.
  • Hmm, I just heard about this watch the other day and was excited by the styling as a replacement for my gold OG moto 360 but this review is tempering that excitement...
  • Michael Kors is a cheapo fashion brand in the watch world and not really worth the time of day. :)
  • Its a cool looking watch and it's very much geared towards that big bold look that many people like. Not sure if anyone is aware but Fossil makes this watch for Michael Kors so its almost exactly the same as the new Fossil Q Wander and Marshal watches.
  • But with worse charging? I thought Fossil was using Qi...
  • This is qi but with a Magnet to line everything up it seems but the ment does not do the greatest job according to this
  • If you're still releasing flat tired smartwatches in 2016, you already failed.
    Let alone asking upwards of $350 for it.
    NEXT!
  • well , i guess this is still better than samsung smart watch
  • Except the Gear S2 has all it's pixels in the round display...
  • Daniel - What's with the "set of microphones"? Is that not the speaker like its cousins the q marshal and q wander? Isn't that the microphone hole under the crown?
  • I stopped reading after "flat tire".
  • You lost me at "Flat Tire"
  • I really need to play with these IRL, every review makes the watch look so large (or thick). I keep waiting for them to get smaller, like everything else.
  • Smaller? The current crop of round smart watches have 42 or 46mm cases. These are small for men's watches which are often 49 to 54mm. I have 2 watches with 63mm cases! It seems odd to me that while smart phones keep getting bigger and bigger, becoming "phablets" and no longer easily portable for some people, smart watches are at the small end of the size spectrum compared to standard analog watches. You would think that there would be more of a push for larger smart watches to get the benefit of the larger screen as well as matching current fashion trends. My thought on it is that more people are waiting for these to get bigger, not smaller.
  • General question. Do smartwatches make good phone calls? Or can the people on the other end tell it's something sub-standard, sound wise.
  • Depends on the make of the watch, your location and surrounding environment, and other influential factors. With that said, I have taken and placed calls with an Asus Zenwatch 2 and after done with the call, asked the person for feedback. Did I sound like me? <yes> How was the clarity of the call? <good, no issues> Did they have any problems hearing me? <no, and thought I was on mobile phone>. I was in a quiet environment (office one occasion, conference room by myself at the end of a meeting the other). Hope that helps.
  • Flat tire, but not ambient light sensor? No ty.....