We'll admit that when we first heard that Alcatel OneTouch was launching a budget smartwatch back in January at CES, we weren't holding out too much hope.
If the alarm bells weren't already ringing as a result of the 'budget' tag, they definitely were when we heard that the French company's new wearable was running on a proprietary OS.
Essential round-up: Best smartwatch 2015
But, at just £99, is it worth a punt?
We've had the Alcatel OneTouch Watch on our wrist for the last week or so, read on for our full review…
Alcatel OneTouch Watch: Design and build
Alcatel, in the original OneTouch Watch press release, claimed its new wearable "looks like a watch and feels like a watch" - and it does ... albeit a slightly tacky one. It's not a terrible build by any stretch but, while a lot more watch-like than some of the Android Wear brigade, it's not as slick as the similarly priced Withings Activité Pop.
Wareable verdict: Pebble Time review
It's quite skinny, with the watch face itself measuring 10.5mm, but it does appear a tad bulky at the edges thanks to the bezel that contains the numbers and 5-minute markers. This bezel is not part of the touchscreen, so it's only around 80% of the face that the 1.22-inch display makes up.
The Watch is actually slightly more svelte than its round-faced rival, the Moto 360. The watch face itself is 41.8mm, again smaller than the Motorola smartwatch's 46mm diameter.
The brushed chrome and stainless steel, and micro-textured resin band, combine well – although we have serious reservations about the fit of the strap. It's fiddly to do up and comfort has clearly not its strong point. To fasten the OneTouch Watch you have to fold one part of the metal clip back to sit flush with the second part, and this lies next to the rubber strap. Not flush, just next to. That means the metal parts dig into, and sometimes pinches, the inside of your wrist and the band itself sticks out a bit. It also pops open of its own accord with worrying frequency. Talk about getting the basics wrong.
Alcatel OneTouch Watch: Display
The display is fairly vibrant, helped by the bold colours Alcatel has chosen for its icons - but there are some slight pixelation issues. The 240 x 204 display packs a 262K colour palette and, while this won't worry its OLED packing alternatives, the visuals are clear.
A neat feature of the display is that, along with the pre-installed watch faces, you can add your own photos as background images (syncing from within the companion app is easy) and even choose which watch type and metrics – think analogue or digital, date display etc – go over the top of these.
Read this: Pebble Time v Apple Watch
And while the Watch's display hasn't got the necessary readies to make your images pop like your high resolution smartphone does, it certainly makes customisation easy.
You can also switch the display from white icons with colour backgrounds to dark icons if you wish.
Alcatel OneTouch Watch: Features and OS
There's no Android Wear in sight with Alcactel's debut smartwatch, instead we're treated to a proprietary OS that keeps things relatively simple. Once you suss out how to navigate through it that is.
When we first slapped the Alcatel OneTouch Watch on our wrist, it took us a while to figure out how to operate it. There's a button on the side - but all that seemed to do was turn the display on and off - and tapping the display seemed to do nothing.
We finally realised that in order to bring up the homescreen, you had to tap below the display, slightly above the number 6 on the bezel. A single tap takes you to the main apps menu screen and a double tap brings you back to your home watch face.
Swiping up on the touchscreen, from any of the screens on offer, brings up your notifications and then you can swipe up or down through them or move onto a different set of app notifications by swiping sideways; the Watch has a nice way of showing different notification groups side by side.
Notifications are limited to the updates and apps Alcatel has chosen although popular third parties are included. The full list is: incoming calls, missed calls, SMS, calendar, email, Facebook (and Messenger), Twitter, Skype, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ (and Hangouts) and WhatsApp. You can't respond to messages on the Watch, it's purely a notification system.
The touchscreen is responsive enough, with swiping and tapping all working as it should. There are 14 'apps' on offer from the Watch OS and you simply swipe horizontally to scroll through the icons. We use the word 'app' loosely here, as some icons simply represent settings such as vibration on/off, airplane mode and brightness.
Smartwatch showdown: Android Wear v Apple Watch
A quick tap on an icon fires up your chosen app. There's weather, fitness tracking, an activity recording stopwatch, smartwatch controls (music and camera) and a find my phone feature.
Music controls are limited to the default music player on your smartphone – so no Spotify – and are a little clunky, and the camera shutter mode requires an awkward journey through the Alcatel app first. Sadly, unlike the Apple Watch and Android Wear, you can't add additional apps.
There's no always-on mode for the watch face, the longest period before a time out is just 15 seconds. That wouldn't be so bad if the wrist flick motion to fire up the screen actually worked. We found it required a completely unnatural, quite violent, motion to get the face display on and 99% of the time resorted to pushing the button instead.
Another major issue we had was constant dropped connections and syncing issues between the watch and our phone. A smartwatch is pretty dumb if it requires you firing up the app every hour or so to keep the connection alive.
Alcatel OneTouch Watch: Activity tracking
The health and fitness app, which you can keep up to date with on the watch itself or through the fairly basic app, counts steps, calories, distance, active minutes and sleep. When it comes to regular daily movement, it's not a million miles off the readings we got from a Fitbit Charge HR and, as ever with algorithmic calculated step counts, consistency is the key – and the Alcatel OneTouch Watch did seem fairly undeviating.
Sleep tracking is somewhat of a nonsense; you get a breakdown of the deep and light sleep you had since you manually start the process – whether you believe in its readings is another matter.
Distance and calories are measured using a calculation of the step count combined with personal metrics you input such as height, weight, age and sex. As with all non-GPS wearables, the distance calculations are estimates, rather than exact measurements – an 8km run, for example (you can tag activities using the watch), measured in at 9.4km.
Heart rate monitoring is on board and, although we found regular readings fairly consistent – if a little shy – don't even think about attempting to record your bpm on the fly; you need to be sitting still for this function to 'work'.
As mentioned, the app is fairly basic, but easy to use. You'll see daily breakdowns of all the info the Watch has recorded and it's even possible to instantly share your stats with social networks and contacts with a touch of the share button.
Alcatel OneTouch Watch: Battery life
A cool feature is that the Alcatel Watch charges from a USB charger integrated into the watch strap - a simple feature that puts the likes of Samsung and LG, and their annoying additional adapters, to shame.
The Alcatel OneTouch Watch is dust and water-resistant to IP67.
- Pretty good battery life
- No additional charging cable
- Cheap price tag
- Works on Android and iOS
- Poor, uncomfortable strap
- Constant syncing and pairing issues
- No additional apps to install
- Wrist flick action doesn’t seem to work