LAS VEGAS—It seems like smartwatches are all you hear about anymore, but it's really a young product category, and not terribly popular in the larger scheme of things. One of the reasons you don't see smartwatches on everyone's wrist yet is price: they're simply too expensive for what they do. That’s why Alcatel One Touch hopes it can appeal to consumers with its new Watch, allowing even budget techies with little disposable income to hop on the smartwatch bandwagon.
If the name Alcatel One Touch doesn’t ring a bell to you, that’s because the company isn’t particularly well known throughout the U.S. Alcatel has had a major hand in mobile markets elsewhere around the world, particularly in Canada and Latin America, and though its presence in the US has doubled in the last year, its biggest sales are in sub-$300 devices.
The Watch—yes, it's just simply called the Watch—is Alcatel’s attempt to expand beyond its rank as mid-tier phone and tablet maker. And after a brief time with this new wearable device, I can say that there is potential for the Watch to appeal to a specific subset of users who aren’t yet ready to commit to a $300 Android Wear watch.
Imitation is a form of flattery
The Alcatal Watch looks much too similar to Motorola’s Moto 360, though it doesn't function like it.
For one, the Alcatel Watch is extremely lightweight. Alcatel let me wear one during my hands-on time and unlike the Moto 360, which I used to wear on a day-to-day basis, the Watch doesn’t feel like an intruder on my arm. My only gripe with its design is its metal clasping mechanism, which would grab my skin as I tried to adjust it.
You can’t swap out the band on the Watch yourself because there’s a USB charger built into it, which makes it possible to charge on the go with an existing USB wall charger or your computer. This is so much more convenient than having to carry a dock around as you do with devices like the G Watch and Moto 360.
Alcatel also mentioned that there are four different “flavors” of the Watch that will be made available, including a white one skewed specifically towards the female demographic. It’s a bummer that we live in a society where a company has to design a product specifically to market it toward women, but I'll admit that it’s a smart move on Alcatel’s part to offer an array of color choices from the get-go—especially since every other watchmaker has failed to do so.
A very basic smartwatch
The Alcatel Watch features a touchscreen, a 210 mAh battery pack, and is IP67 certified. Alcatel says the watch can last up to two days on a single charge.
The Watch doesn’t run Android Wear. Instead, it uses its own proprietary operating system that's compatible with both iOS and Android. It comes bundled with a heap of preloaded applications, including a heart-rate monitor, pedometer, stopwatch, sleep monitor, music player, camera remote, built-in compass, and even a feature that finds your phone. It also supports notifications from third-party apps like Twitter, though they're definitely not as dynamic as what Android Wear has going on.
The Watch is simple to use: swipe up from the bottom to scroll through notifications, then over to the right or left to navigate through the menu. I had trouble with it at first because I’m so used to Android Wear’s controls, but it’s intuitive once you get the hang of it.
I’m still curious about how the watch will handle an onslaught of notifications from different apps, however, since the unit I used wasn’t actually connected to another device.
A budget smartwatch worth the price?
Even though it is so much more comfortable to wear than any of the Android Wear watches I’ve worn in the past year, I’m skeptical about its somewhat limited functionality and its lack of third-party app integration. We’ll have to wait to fully experience the Alcatel One Touch Watch when it launches in March before we can asses whether its $150 price tag makes it a reasonable buy.