LAS VEGAS — Kate Spade’s latest smartwatch has all the style that drew me to the original version, but is even more appealing thanks to a heart rate sensor, GPS and NFC. The $295 watch still runs on Wear OS, which feels half-baked compared to Apple’s watchOS or Samsung’s Tizen OS. But I don’t even mind.
In spite of the pitfalls I’ve found using Wear OS watches, namely their speed and battery life, this device is one that I would actually buy. Why? Because I’m a Kate Spade devotee, and have been since I was a teen. This is where Wear OS watches, particularly those from fashion brands, differentiate themselves from others: The technology is secondary to the style, and that makes sense.
Fossil and its portfolio of brands, which includes Michael Kors, Skagen, Kate Spade and others, make smartwatches, but those watches are designed to remain true to the brand’s aesthetic. People don’t buy Apple Watches for of their looks. We’ve all seen them. They’re not the most stylish gadgets on the market. Apple Watches are bestsellers because of their technology. The opposite is true for fashion-focused Wear OS watches, like the Kate Spade Scallop 2. Tech is a bonus.
The Scallop 2 puts a Kate Spade twist on the features I now expect from smartwatches. Heart rate, which is a standard smartwatch app and not usually all that interesting, features a unique animation that evokes Kate Spade’s signature spades. Furthermore, heart rate is now a quick tap away with a spade shortcut above the 12 o’clock hour, because the company realized women prefer easier access to this feature. New watch straps have an elegant scallop trim you won’t find on other smartwatches. And the Scallop 2 carries over the “Choose Your Look” feature that Kate Spade introduced in the first-gen watch, which uses the color of your jewelry and handbag to choose a matching watch face for you.
These whimsical tweaks are extremely on-brand — for both Kate Spade and me. They almost make me forget about the drawbacks of Wear OS: rudimentary fitness-tracking and uneven performance. The Scallop 2 is pretty to look at, and for many people, style comes first.
I didn’t love Fossil’s latest smartwatch, the $255 Fossil Sport. Even though it emphasized fitness and was one of the first Wear OS watches to use Qualcomm’s next-gen Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip, its fitness features were bare-bones, and the chip didn’t make much of a difference. The Scallop 2 isn’t trying to be what it's not, and I think that’s why I like it so much.
The Scallop 2 is available to preorder now and will go on sale at the end of January.