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Alcatel One Touch Watch Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Built-in charger
  • iOS and Android compatible

The Bad

  • Iffy strap
  • Black bar on screen
  • No always-on display
2.5

Alcatel One Touch Watch Review: We slip on Alcatel’s £99 smartwatch, which sports a built-in charging nubbin and support for both iPhone and Android mobiles. But how does it stack up to rivals such as the Pebble Time?

Design

Alcatel One Touch’s Watch immediately reminded me of the Motorola Moto 360, thanks to its chunky rounded design. Maybe I’m just getting used to smartwatches being thicker than the average TOWIE cast member (no kidding, I have actual muscle growing on my left arm from all the heavy lifting) but Alcatel One Touch’s model seems relatively slender at a shade over 10mm. It’s not too hefty either at just 60g.

Considering the £99 price point, the Watch is reasonably stylish, especially compared with the range of chunky Android Wear watches I’ve tried out. That said, the Withings Activite is still our favourite recent wearable for looks, thanks to its stylish curves and traditional finish.

Unfortunately I didn’t get on too well with the Watch’s rubbery wrist band, which features an annoying clasp that doesn’t ever seem to click together and hold firm. Instead, I had to hold the watch on my wrist with the strap loop, which to be fair kept it nicely in place, with reasonable comfort. All the same, I’d have preferred a simple strap like the Pebble Time’s, which is easier to deal with when you’re staggering around like a demented zombie in the morning.

The one good point of the Watch’s strap is the built-in charging USB nubbin, which is revealed by pulling back the tip (snarf). This allows you to slip the Watch into any computer port to charge up, without the need for annoying dongles. It’s a more convenient solution than a clip-on dock, although you’ll have to buy your own USB mains charger if you don’t have a computer to plug into. And of course, the charging ability means that you can’t swap straps.

In more good news, the Watch is water-resistant like all good smartwatches (with an IP67 rating), so you can rock it in the shower, swimming pool or anywhere else wet (up to a depth of one metre).

Screen

The rounded 1.22-inch IPS screen is pleasingly sharp, even if it isn’t quite as vibrant as you’d hope. No worries about visibility either, as even on the weakest setting I had no trouble reading the display outside. On the most powerful setting, the Watch will even light up a small room without bother. Great tip for those late-night toilet trips.

Sadly, the curse of the Moto 360 black bar is back. As in, the Watch’s screen isn’t perfectly round, because the bottom section has been cut off. It’s a necessary evil to help keep the screen bezels thin (basically, most of the watch’s internal tech is packed into that space at the bottom), but the black space is still an eyesore.

I’m also not too sure why Alcatel One Touch added time notches to the screen bezel. It’s a nice bit of decoration and works fine when you’re using an analogue clock face, but if you choose a digital one instead, the notches are completely redundant.

Features

One of the big advantages that the Alcatel One Touch Watch has over rivals is its support for both iOS and Android. Setup is nice and simple and there’s built-in NFC to pair quickly with your device.

Alcatel One Touch has crafted its own custom OS for the Watch and it’s a colourful interface that has a fair few quirks, just like the Pebble Time’s.

To get started, you need to first turn the Watch on with a push of the side-button or a violent flick of your wrist. A tap on the ‘clock’ screen takes you to your apps, while a flick upwards goes to your notifications. And to get back to the home screen from the apps page, you need to tap the very bottom of the display, which can be a little awkward.

Sadly there appears to be no earthly way to get the Watch to constantly display the time. You can boost the timeout to a massive 15 seconds, but every time you want to check what hour of the day it is, you’ll need to push the side button or twist your wrist in a very precise manner.

Also hard to forgive is the way the Watch notifies you of new messages and other alerts. When an email pops into your inbox, you’ll get a little buzz on your wrist to tell you something happened. But the screen stays off, so if you want to actually see what’s going on you’ll need to turn the watch on and then flick up the screen to get into notifications. Which, if you don’t have a hand free at the time, makes the Watch little more than a massive cock tease.

Still, I like how you can set your own background on the Watch’s home screen from your gallery of photos. And while there isn’t exactly a huge range of apps for the device, it does have a few handy functions.

Beyond obvious toggles such as Airplane Mode (which for some reason didn’t work on my new Moto G), you also get a handy find-my-phone feature, a remote control for your smartphone’s camera (which works well), a compass (for those sexy orienteering trips), weather updates and your standard fitness tracking.

Aside from my rather speedy walking pace occasionally being recorded as full-on sprinting, the Watch seems to log your motions about as well as any other smartwatch out there. You can see your efforts right there on the Watch, or via Alcatel One Touch’s companion app. And the Watch also has a heart rate sensor on the back, so you can check how badly that workout destroys you.

Battery life

The Watch crams in a 210mAh cell which provides pretty standard smartwatch battery life, lasting just a couple of days between charges before you need to power it back up. Considering the screen is practically never on, that’s not an amazing result. Still, at least it’s easy to charge up again using that built-in USB nubbin.

The champion here is still the Pebble Time, which consistently lasts five to six days between charges despite an always-on screen.

Verdict

The Alcatel One Touch Watch has some really good ideas, such as the built-in charger, and has to be commended on its own-brand OS and multiple platform support. Plus at just £99 it’s one of the cheapest smartwatches out there.

I really wanted to love the thing, to the point that I’d overlook a fair few of the quirks, but the never-on screen is perturbing and the lack of expandability just as much, while the design could use some serious refinement. Here’s hoping the second Watch can eliminate most of these quirks, and give us the budget wearable we long for.

Specification

TypeSmartwatch
Screen size1.22-inches (circular)
Screen resolution204x240
OSWorks with Android
Bonus featuresBuilt-in charger, iOS and Android compatible

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