Goondu review: Alcatel Onetouch Watch

July 26th, 2015 | by Aaron Tan
Goondu review: Alcatel Onetouch Watch
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Many of us are well aware of the trade-offs that come with a low-cost gadget.

Take budget Android smartphones, for example. While we don’t expect them to tout high-end specs or win any design awards, they should deliver more or less the same user experience.

With the wallet-friendly Alcatel Onetouch Watch, a handsome smartwatch that picked up an iF Design Award this year, the trade-off is that you don’t get the familiar Android Wear experience (more on that later).

Design and comfort

From afar, the waterproof Onetouch Watch is one good-looking smartwatch that belies its $248 price tag. Except for its stiff and cheap-looking rubber strap, the smartwatch’s chrome-and-glass round face will turn heads.

There’s a button on the side of the watch face that you can press to turn on the screen, which like most smartwatches remains switched off until you receive new notifications. You can also turn on the screen with a flick of the wrist.

Wearing the watch for the first time can be hassle. It took several tries before I could get one end of the watch’s clasp-style fastener into the right groove on the strap for a good fit. Once that was out of the way, the watch stays comfortable on my wrist.

At the end of the strap lies a USB connector that you can plug straight into a USB charger. This nifty feature reduces one less cable or charging cradle to bring along while you’re on the road.

Once fully charged, the Onetouch Watch can last about three days, depending on how often it’s used. That’s a leg-up over the battery life of the Apple Watch and my one-year-old LG G Watch, which needs to be recharged once a day.

Software and user experience

Instead of using Google’s Android Wear that has the support of app developers in the Android ecosystem, Alcatel Onetouch chose to develop its own operating system for the Onetouch Watch.

Which means you can’t use popular apps like Endomondo to track your runs, or check in using Wear for Swarm. That’s a huge trade-off for someone like me who has been relying on these apps during my runs.

That said, you’re not completely crippled without Android Wear. The Onetouch Watch has a slew of apps that can track running distance, the number of steps you’ve taken and the amount of calories you’ve burned – like an activity tracker.

It even has a heart-rate monitor, though this only works when you’re stationary. Also, don’t expect the figures to be as accurate as that of a medical heart-rate monitor. A recent medical checkup revealed that my heart rate at rest was 53 bpm, while the Onetouch Watch recorded a much higher 73 bpm.

Unlike Android Wear, which uses a combination of text and icons in its menu, the Onetouch Watch interface is made up of a collection of colourful icons that serve as buttons for controlling screen brightness, displaying weather information and locating your phone, among other functions.

But what about watch faces? Without Android Wear, you are stuck with the default watch faces and styles, which Alcatel Onetouch refers to as “wallpapers”.

To be fair, some of the watch faces do look stylish and funky, but you if don’t like them, you can always create a custom face using any image on your phone.

One of the pluses of using a smartwatch is that it lets you read notifications and messages from apps like WhatsApp without whipping out your phone.

The Onetouch Watch lets you do that too, but again without Android Wear and a built-in microphone, you can’t reply directly to messages using voice commands – especially when you’re driving.

With 240 x 204 pixels IPS display, don’t expect things to look pin-sharp. The low screen resolution is obvious when reading notifications and messages, where text appears pixelated. Thea 1.22-inch screen offers three levels of brightness, and remains readable in bright sunlight.

The Alcatel Onetouch Watch, which tries to be an activity tracker and a smartwatch, should appeal to folks looking for their first wearable device without spending a fortune.

But with the competition getting keener each day – the better-built Moto 360 Android Wear smartwatch costs just US$149 on Amazon with free shipping to Singapore – it will get much harder for Alcatel Onetouch to retain its price advantage.

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