To most people, the round Alcatel SmartWatch will look like one of the many circular-faced Android Wear watches to have come down the chute, Alcatel will offer both rubber and metal straps, but they’re not replaceable. My review model had a rubberized sport band: attractive next to the metal body and glass-covered face.
The watch runs its own software but has three interchangeable watch faces: two round analog-style ones and one digital. The black-and-white design works well with the hour markers permanently placed around the outer dial, and the Alcatel phone app lets you change background wallpapers to different colors, preset patterns, or any photo you’d like.
The band is a little hard to put on: it’s stiff, mostly because it also houses a flip-out USB port on the edge of the band’s tip. It took me a while to figure out how to pre-adjust the metal clasp down the band, fit it on my wrist, snap it tight and get that USB tip to fold in nicely. The stiffness on my wrist wasn’t awful, but it didn’t feel loose and comfy. For its price, it cuts a sharp profile.
No one may know you’re not wearing Android Wear, even if you do. The round LCD display has the “flat tire” cutout on the bottom, so it isn’t fully round.
The SmartWatch runs its own operating system; neither Android Wear or anything else. Tap on the screen, and there’s a colorful grid of apps and features. Stopwatch, weather, timer and controls like screen brightness and airplane mode. It’s hard to tell what icon does what: they’re not always intuitive. You can check a fitness app, start a timed workout, open a camera-control remote shutter feature (on iOS, it makes you open the Alcatel app before it works), and use a music playback remote to see what tracks you’re listening to on your phone, skip/play/pause and adjust volume.
The watch hooks into your phone’s notifications, even allowing you to individually turn the fire hose on and off for individual apps. Facebook, Twitter, mail, incoming calls: they’re all there. On the watch, swiping up brings up the list of notifications, split up by type. It’s a clever idea, but the notifications end up being glommed into scrollable lists. I rarely got pop-up messages; instead, my watch would vibrate and make me check the phone’s notification window.