Alcatel OneTouch wouldn't be the first company to bring us a round smartwatch (well, near-circular, in this case), but with its eyes set on the sub-€100 and sub-$150 price points in Europe and North America, respectively, the company clearly has ambitious plans. Previously known as the "Wave," this device is now simply dubbed the Watch and features a much prettier UI than what we saw back in September. In addition to the aforementioned updates, Alcatel's added two slightly different designs to go alongside the original sporty black-and-red look: a feminine all-white version and a premium all-metallic version. While these two will cost a little more, we understand that they likely won't exceed €150 (about $180), which should still encourage more folks to give them a spin.
"We actually position ourselves more like Zara in the mobile industry," Global Design Director CW Park said. "So even though we bring the premium look and feel, we like to keep a certain target price for the right audience."
Park's colleague, Global Portfolio Director William Dowie, shared the same sentiment while commenting on the competition.
"I think some of the other players have taken more a purely technology innovation showcase [approach]. Nobody has brought a product with a really nice, premium-quality design that's really wearable, and with a nice experience on top of that as well. People have done one or the other, but nobody brought the full package; and I think, really, we've done a good job with this one."
As such, the fact that Alcatel OneTouch's smartwatches use a 1.22-inch, near-circular color touchscreen (which appears to be identical to what Omate's been using lately) should make them even more compelling for mainstream consumers. Park likened the use of a round watch face here to making a reboot of a movie that the mass market is familiar with, in order to help folks establish an emotional link with the product.
"To me, this is more like a new area and can be more like a first step to go to the wearable device market. It is a bit more challenging. If you bring in a new form factor and other things, I don't even know how to educate the audience. It is something beyond their learning curve. That's why I brought in the one object that the audience [is] already familiar with, trying to reduce to risk and help them quickly adapt to the device on a daily basis."
Having said that, Park has also been looking at other form factors for future devices, including necklaces and even patches, but he remained tight-lipped on what to expect from his team.
Going back to the Watch series, these devices share an identical core. You get a not-so-common STMicroelectronics STM429 chipset, a 210mAh battery and a heart rate sensor inside a 10.5mm-thick, brushed stainless steel body. There's also a power button on the right, while the blank area at the bottom of the screen serves as a capacitive back button. Other standard bits inside these IP67-rated watches include a vibration motor, an altimeter, an accelerometer, a gyroscope and an e-compass.
On the models that come with a resin band, you can quickly use NFC to pair the watches with your phone via Bluetooth 4.0; whereas the more expensive, full-metallic version requires manual pairing. That said, both the resin band and the metallic band have their own standard-size USB plug at one end à la Nike FuelBand, meaning you'll never have to carry a dedicated charging dock or cable with you; just find a standard USB port and plug it in there for about an hour to fully revive a depleted battery.
Still, we do have one complaint here: The strap's special latch is far from user-friendly as you need to take the watch off in order to adjust the position of its open end. Eventually I overcame this issue by remembering which groove I should lock the latch at.
Rather than joining the Android Wear camp, Alcatel OneTouch went with its own proprietary software instead, in order to offer what it believes is a more intuitive, more efficient system, and thus avoiding the early adopters' space. Dowie didn't hesitate to point out that Google's smartwatch OS is far from mature, therefore it's not necessarily a strong differentiator -- especially with its power requirement.
On the contrary, the Watch here can run for two to five days on a single charge. It also features a simple and pretty interface that wakes up with a gentle shake, and you also get a simple menu to toggle features, which include activity tracking, sleep monitoring, heart rate measurement, weather forecast, phone locator, compass, phone camera remote and music control. With a swipe from the bottom of the screen, you can pull up the notification tray to see what you got on your phone, which can be either an iPhone (iOS 7 and above) or an Android phone (4.3 and above).
"We don't want to exclude people who are not using an Alcatel OneTouch smartphone, and also, for us to grow our reach and to build a market in this industry, we think these products have to have a much broader compatibility," Dowie added.
Ultimately, we'll need to take the Alcatel OneTouch Watch out for a proper ride when it launches in Q1 this year, before we can crown it the new king of smartwatches, if such a thing even exists today.
Chris Velazco contributed to this report.