LAS VEGAS - The Apple Watch is possibly the most anticipated device of 2015, but Alcatel just showed off a smartwatch that could be a serious contender. I had a chance to play with the Alcatel Onetouch Watch here at CES and was blown away by its potential.
The Onetouch Watch will work with both iOS and Android devices for just $149, and will be available starting March. That's a fraction of the Apple Watch's starting price of $350, and Apple's band only pairs with iOS devices.
A fan of the Alcatel Onetouch Watch? Vote for it to win the Readers' Choice award at CES 2015.
I was impressed with the Onetouch Watch's bright, responsive 1.22-inch display. The device worked well when paired with an iPhone 6, with message notifications and missed calls showing up as they appeared on the connected phone. Through Alcatel's own operating system, I easily controlled the music on a linked Android (Alcatel Hero 2 phablet) and remotely opened the camera app and took pictures.
That proprietary system packs some nifty features. For instance, not only can you customize your watch face by color, you can also pick your favorite picture to use as the background of your timepiece. During our hands on, I snapped a selfie on the demo iPhone 6, and an Alcatel rep set my mug to be the literal face of the watch.
In addition to changing watch faces, controlling music and operating the camera, you can also start Run mode, which tracks your heart rate, steps and other data. There are only a handful of apps available for the Onetouch Watch right now, but Alcatel is working with developers to increase that number.
To start an app, you just tap the watch face to go to the apps page and drag horizontally to see what's available. Tap an icon to launch that app, and touch the bottom semi-circle to go back or home. You can wake the watch up from sleep by pressing the physical button on the watch's side or lifting your wrist.
The functions are somewhat limited for iOS owners, though. You'll have to grant permission to the watch to access apps each time you start it, which can be cumbersome. But for notifications from messages and calls, the experience is seamless.
The Onetouch Watch comes with a heart rate monitor on the underside, an NFC antennae for instant pairing (with select Alcatel devices at launch but will include more in the future) and a USB charger built into the end of the strap. You'll get vibrating alerts for your notifications, too, with a motor inside.
The band will track not just the steps you've taken and distance traveled, but thanks to a built-in altimeter, will measure how high you've climbed. This data is transmitted to the companion device via Bluetooth, and with Alcatel's Onetouch Watch app, you can monitor your fitness over time.
I love the Onetouch Watch's premium build quality, which is laudable for the price. Its stainless steel face is covered in Corning Glass (not Gorilla), while the TPU band felt sturdy. The device is also IP67 water resistant. Unfortunately, there isn't a way to keep the display always on, a move designed to conserve the life of the onboard 210-mAh battery.
While it's not clear yet whether Alcatel's new device and unique operating system can stand up against the likes of Android Wear and Apple Watch, its super low price is definitely a huge draw. Stay tuned to Tom's Guide for a full review.