Alcatel first revealed details of its upcoming smartwatch a few days ago, and now we're getting our first chance to check it out and get more details on what will set this device apart from its Android Wear competition. Perhaps most notable is the fact that the Alcatel Onetouch Watch will support both iOS and Android devices, something that sets it apart from nearly every other smartwatch on the market (with the notable exception of the Pebble line of watches).
Much like Android Wear, Alcatel's Watch is controlled through a companion app for iOS and Android — from there you can do things like pick which apps will notify you, view all your health data the watch has collected, adjust themes and colors for the watch, and generally manage all of the ways the watch can communicate with your phone. If you're using an Android phone, any app that can send notifications can push them to the phone, but iOS appears to be more limited, at least for now. We know Apple's phone, messaging, and mail apps will work with the Watch, but third-party support appears to be up in the air.
The main interface itself is controlled not by swiping the screen, but by tapping near the bottom edge of the Watch. When you raise your wrist, the screen activates (similar to the Apple Watch), and tapping will cycle between the watch face and the menu, which is a colorful, Windows-style scroll of the apps that can run directly on the watch. Unfortunately, the interface isn't quite as fluid and responsive as most Android Wear devices we've tried, but it's certainly useable enough. That said, trying to hit the small "home" area at the bottom of the watch is occasionally frustrating.
Another way Alcatel says its smartwatch will stand out is in the battery department: the company says it'll can last at least two days, and possible up to five under the right circumstances. Android Wear, on the other hand, has been generally disappointing in the battery department, and Apple has strongly hinted that you'll need to charge its Watch every day as well.
SUPPORT FOR ANDROID AND IOS IS GREAT, BUT THE INTERFACE NEEDS A LITTLE WORK
As for the wearable's main features, Alcatel has given us a bit more info than we had the other day. From a health monitoring perspective, the Watch will use its build-in heart rate monitor, accelerometer, gyroscope, altimeter and e- compass to measure the usual metrics like sleep cycles, steps taken, distance traveled, and calories burned. The other expected feature is the aforementioned notifications and multimedia control — It'll also vibrate if you get a certain distance away from your phone, and you can use the Watch to make your phone ring if you misplace it. Tapping the screen also brings up multimedia controls, and you can use it as a remote shutter for your phone's camera, as well.
From a style perspective, the Watch will come in four versions — two "micro-textured resin" models in black / red and white as well as two metal options — unfortunately, those metal options aren't coming out until later this year. It feels much like a Moto 360 (right down to the small missing slice at the bottom of the watch's interface), though it's a bit smaller and lighter than the Motorola. The band itself feels fine on the wrist, though the clasp is a bit awkward to use. What isn't awkward is the small, hidden, USB charging port — a much better option for powering up your Watch than the goofy docks or proprietary cables that most smartwatches use.
While the Alcatel Onetouch Watch didn't quite feel like the most polished product we've ever seen, its entry price of $149 currently undercuts most ever Android Wear device out there. But the Watch doesn't appear to offer any features that you can't get on Android Wear, and it doesn't have Google's nice voice-activated commands and search options. If you're an iOS user, however, and think the Apple Watch will be too rich for your blood, Alcatel's watch might be worth a look. It'll be available this March and will be on sale at Amazon.