We, like many other publications, have been quite vocal about the failings of WearOS. The fact is that the wearable market is still pretty solid with the Apple Watch well and truly leading the pack. While some in the Apple world may argue otherwise, wearables still haven’t hit the perfect device formula yet.
Generally speaking, I’m pretty happy with my Garmin watch but I’d like to have a bit more functionality to it and frankly, don’t want an Apple Watch. That’s why I stuck my hand up to take a closer look at the Bradshaw 2 from Michael Kors.
My most recent experience with WearOS was OK with the Huawei Watch 2, but the performance was a little flat at times and the battery life fades over time. That was the driver for me to pick up the earlier mentioned Garmin when I stopped getting a full day of wear from my WearOS device.
It’s an oversized – 44mm to be exact – watch face that is easy on the eyes with gold-tone stainless steel. The AMOLED display makes it easy to read in pretty much any lighting conditions with a variety of supplied WearOS faces, or any you care to download from the Play Store.
You’ll get step and heart rate tracking, date and time, Weather, Battery life and all of the notification goodness you expect from a smartwatch. Nothing to do with the physical watch, but the OS – the notifications you receive are customisable.
As part of WearOS, you’ll also get access to Google Fit which will continually track your general activity and heart rate throughout the day thanks to the built-in sensors. Unfortunately though, Google Fit just isn’t up to the standard that it could and probably should be. When it comes to fitness tracking hardware, I’ll be sticking with my Garmin for now – Google’s competitors are doing a significantly better job here.
Other features you would expect in a current-day smartwatch that have been delivered include GPS, voice activation, a water resistance level (up to 30m) and the ability to use it for NFC payment via G Pay which is remarkably simple compared to previous watches I’ve tried.
This is one of the most stunning smartwatches I’ve had the privilege to enjoy. The gold-tone stainless steel really does set it apart from other hardware, add in the ease with which you can change the band and you’ve got a really versatile piece of hardware.
The three side buttons perform a range of functions from calling the Google Assistant, to navigating the menus with some customisation options available for what features you’d like to call as well.
The default settings are:
- Top button called the Kors Menu to customise the behaviour of the device
- The centre button calls the app menu and by twisting it allows you to scroll through. A long press will activate the Assistant, but you can easily do so verbally
- The bottom button is set as quick access to Google Fit, easily changed if you desire
It comes with a standard clasp fastening metallic band that you see on most men’s watches leaving it – if others don’t notice the screen immediately – delivering a very professional, polished look that could find its place at a casual get together with friends or in a high stakes boardroom meeting.
What’s it good at?
The Bradshaw 2 is a really nice piece of hardware, I can’t stress that enough – it’s gorgeous and perhaps most importantly for features, it performs well – It tells the time. While I struggled a couple of times for battery at the end of a very long day, I never felt the need to have the screen turn off completely so the time was always visible.
A very important factor for a device that you’ll wear day after day is comfort. The watch band supplied is very generous in its size so I highly recommend taking links out to ensure you get a good fit for the sensors to work correctly and to avoid possible discomforts on your wrist.
The UI is smooth
Some time ago, like my colleagues in the Ausdroid team I became disillusioned with WearOS and because of the lack of development, migrated to other options and have – so far – stuck with Garmin.
The combination of good hardware from the team at Micahel Kors and steady evolution of WearOS has resulted in really smooth user experience. The notifications are instant and very reliable, gestures worked flawlessly and the screen responds to touch quickly and accurately.
It’s a small feature in the grand scheme, but having an NFC chip for payment in the watch is not just cool it’s a timesaver and reasonably secure. It takes less time to unlock the G Pay interface on the Bradshaw 2 than it would to get my phone out and unlock it. Having already set up G Pay on my phone, the transfer to the watch was so remarkably simple and quick.
Use of tap pay with the watch was just as easy:
- Swipe down
- Select G Pay
- Input your security swipe code
- Tap to pay
What’s it not so good at?
I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before on a number of times with devices lately… The battery needs to be better. While I didn’t have any disastrous outcomes as a result of poor battery life, if I had to unexpectedly go out in the evening then that could have been a problem. Most days, I was getting to bed with a touch under 20% of battery remaining. On a couple of days, the full-on battery saver mode kicked in where you only have the time visible and no notifications, which is better than a dead smartwatch but not hugely useful.
In fairness, that was on an early start and late finish day and the only battery sucking feature I had disabled was the continual heart rate monitoring. I could have almost certainly got more battery life by adjusting some settings on the power-hungry features. The trade-off though would have been sacrificing performance and features. The charger is lightweight and does the job quickly, so a 20-minute top-up charge while you freshen up for a big night out is going to see you through till you get home.
That still doesn’t stop me longing for a full-featured smartwatch that will give me at least 2 full days without needing to be charged. This is perhaps because I’ve been caught out on overnight stays without a charger for my watch in the past, but it’s also the flexibility that 2 or more days of battery life would give you. Battery life can be the difference between a good and a great device.
I already mentioned the need to turn off the continual heart rate monitoring, this was simply due to the battery destruction it caused. I tried a couple of days and found that by 4 pm, the battery saving modes had kicked in which just isn’t acceptable for me. Turning off that feature also removed some of the health monitoring benefits and tracking for Google Fit which includes tracking sleep.
Google Fit itself isn’t bad it just isn’t good… yet! The feature set is focussed on general movement vs fitness driven targets and for many users, they just want that bit more from the platform. Let’s hope that Google’s acquisition of Fitbit late last year is the key to that puzzle being finished.
The final word
When the Bradshaw 2 arrived for review, I was stuck between hesitance and excitement. I knew – images aren’t hard to find online – that it was a good looking watch, but the finish it has is dulled by computer images. So the look turned me more towards excitement for what the watch may hold.
There are some very distinct positives to the Bradshaw 2 including the gorgeous look of the device and – once I disabled features – the reliability, sadly not the brilliance of the battery life was a comfort.
Having G Pay, or some form of really functional tap-pay option in all smart devices should be mandatory these days. NFC chips aren’t expensive and the integration to one of the major systems isn’t a big deal, the absence of tap pay capability is a bigger impact than actually having it now.
Should you buy one?
Despite the lack of really strong health monitoring, the reliability of the notifications and interfacing were just that good I don’t want to send this back to the PR company. The battery saver mode kicks in early enough that if you’re out and about through the afternoon, you’ll almost certainly get home before it goes flat and if you are going out again that night, a quick (30 mins+) top up charge will see you through the night pretty comfortably.
Here’s the kicker though, it’s between $500 and $600 depending on where and when you buy it. At the time of writing this review, the retail price is $598 and the online bargain stores have it around $530.
So the biggest question other than what features do you want in a watch before I tell you the Bradshaw 2 is a great buy, is what’s your budget?
If it fits your budget, the feature set lines up and you’re after a rather gorgeous piece of hardware then yes, this is a genuinely great investment. If you’re not up for the big bucks, perhaps looking for something a touch less “flashy” then the Ticwatch S2 is probably up your alley.