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Hands-On: Alcatel Watch Series

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Jan 5, 2015, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Alcatel believes its Android- and iOS-compatible smartwatch will outgun the competition with a low price point. Here are our initial thoughts.

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Alcatel showed off its first foray into wearables at CES this week with the Watch Series, a low-cost competitor to Android Wear and the Apple Watch. Few smart watches are compatible with both Android and iOS, and Alcatel thinks that will help generate mass appeal for its branded wearable.

The Watch Series is available with two different band styles (plastic or metal) and two different finishes (chrome or gray metallic). Whichever style you go with, the look is simple and elegant. It mimics the Moto 360 a bit, but the quality and design aren't quite in the same league. It is fairly small, and can probably be worn by both men and women. I didn't care for the plastic bands overmuch. They feel somewhat cheap to me, though the built-in USB charger is rather novel. There's a flap at one end of the strap that when peeled back reveals a full-sized USB key to insert into a charger or laptop. Neat. There's a single button on the right side for controlling some functions of the watch.

Watch Series  

The watch face, at 1.22 inches, is rather small, and the resolution isn't competitive with the current crop of Android Wear hardware. Despite the size and resolution, the time is easy to see and it is bright enough to read under bright lighting conditions. Like the Moto 360, the Alcatel Watch Series doesn't fill in the entire 360-degree watch face. Instead, it has a flat bottom where the circle is truncated above the six o-clock position. There's an invisible capacitive button above the six that you use to interact with some on-screen controls, but the watch face itself is a touch screen and responds to swipes and jabs.

The user interface is unique to Alcatel. The main menu offers a grid of app icons that Alcatel says are easy to decipher. I disagree. The app icons aren't accompanied by any text and are so similar it's impossible to tell them apart. I suppose people will discern them over time, but I wasn't able to grasp them in the few moments I played with the device.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the device is that it works with Android and iOS. The iOS app, which Alcatel let us take a peek at, is fairly robust. It provides detailed ways to consumer the health and fitness data generated by the wearable, as well as control the device with settings tools.

Alcatel has a solid low-cost story to tell with the Watch Series. The starting price point is $149. That's $100 less than most Android Wear devices and $200 less than the starting price for the Apple Watch. That could be all the incentive people need to give the Alcatel Watch Series a shot.

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