Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch review: Simple kid safety
The Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch provides an easy but sometimes limited way to keep an eye on your kids.
- Colourful design.
- GPS tracking.
- Call or send voice messages.
- No distracting apps.
- GPS lock isn't always 100%.
- Wants direct info on your kids.
- Requires ongoing SIM subscription.
- Not all that comfortable.
The Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch technically fulfills the requirements for being called a "smartwatch". It does more than tell the time, it's capable of making phone calls and has app functions.
At the same time, it's in a specific niche of devices marketed at parents who may be understandably nervous about sending their children off to school – or maybe just down to the shops – but who don't want to provide them with a feature phone or smartphone.
Parents are going to be the buyers for this device, because it's hard to see any kid requesting one over a more fully flexible smartphone.
Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch: Design
- Very colourful.
- Small display.
- Can get uncomfortable on hot days.
You're not going to easily lose the Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch, thanks to its vibrant blue and orange colour scheme. It's clearly designed to be attractive and "fun" for younger kids, even if it does feel like something of an 80s throwback in pure design terms.
It's also intended to be simple for its target market, so the watch itself only has two buttons. One controls power, and the other acts as a general back button if tapped, or an SOS alert if held down.
The basic design is fine, if a little cheap feeling, but it does have an impact on its general level of comfort. I started out testing the Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch by wearing it myself – I'm hardly the target market – and found it small on my wrist, as you'd expect.
Passing it through to my kids and wife, they all found that it was fine for shorter wearing periods, but the rather cheap plastic construction meant that it wasn't always comfortable to wear on hotter days. That does raise the prospect of your kid taking it off because it's not comfortable – at which point it could well be lost, and you've also lost its tracking abilities.Back to top
Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch: Performance
- App driven approach.
- App asks for child's details.
- 3G GPS tracking isn't 100%.
- Voice messages aren't always apparent to parents.
Setting up the Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch involves downloading the TCL Move app, and pairing it via QR code to the watch. You're then prompted to enter your child's details, including their gender and date of birth.
While I get naming the account, I have no idea why TCL/Alcatel want that kind of detail. If you're already concerned about your child's security and privacy, it feels a little creepy, to be honest.
Then again, there's absolutely nothing stopping you putting in false data, which is why as far as TCL/Alcatel are concerned, I now have a 119 year old daughter called Tarquin.
The other preparatory work you'll have to do is to drop a nano SIM card with call and data inclusions enabled into the Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch.
Alcatel has partnered with Vodafone Australia for the Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch, and dropping a SIM card in is a simple process of taking the band strap off and placing the SIM the correct way around into the watch. There's no SIM tray, so this can be a little fiddly.
Once installed, the watch primarily acts as – shock – a watch, with calling and tracking features that only kick in when requested.
The child wearing the Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch can initiate phone calls or send emoji only to phone numbers set up within the App, or from friends who also have an Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch. I only had the one, so I wasn't able to test that functionality, but in theory you should be able to bump two together to get them to share details over Bluetooth.
There's no direct SMS function from the Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch, but you can send small pre-defined emoji to anyone you've set up as family or friends on the watch. It's a smart enough step, because it means that someone couldn't spoof a message and perhaps lead your child astray.
On the voice side, you can either start a full call, or send short voice messages. Call testing showed the Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch as a reasonable way to communicate, although there's no headphones option, so whatever your call is will be broadcast to the rest of the world.
The shorter voice messages function does work, but it's not sending to an actual voicemail inbox. Instead it's controlled via the TCL Move app, which means if you don't have notifications enabled on your iOS or Android phone for it, you could miss a message. It's also not super-clear to the wearer that a message has successfully gone through.
The story from the parent side is a little more complex, because this isn't a smartwatch that's just intended to allow your child to call you or send you smiley faces. It's also enabled as a full tracking device, so you can check where your child is at any given time.
There's a whole separate argument around surveillance and trust that comes into play here, and I've got my own opinions there, but I think it's fair to say that anyone looking to buy a tracking watch is already conceptually fine with it.
The Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch is a 3G-only device with no Wi-Fi capability, and that has some consequences on how well it actually tracks at any given moment. When you fire up the TCL Move app, it naturally enough takes a few seconds to get a lock on where the watch is.
I would show you that via screenshots, but the app specifically prohibits that. That's a smart step too, because again you wouldn't want somebody creating a map of your child's movements if there are any bugs in the software – or even if it's as simple as your own phone being stolen.
The issue here is that 3G network only triangulation has its definite limits, especially indoors. The Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch mostly tracked accurately during my tests, except when I took it indoors. Often it would totally lose track of where the watch was, and sometimes it jumped it radically off track.
There's no way to tell absolutely, but I suspect it was busy jumping between network towers at the time, and the combination of a lack of GPS signal and that move confused it too much.
The Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch allows you to set "safe zones" that your child isn't meant to move out of, but the GPS tracking can send that just a little awry. Obviously that'll depend on the safe zones you set and how well the watch can see the GPS satellites as a result.Back to top
Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch: Battery life
- Custom charging cable.
- Multi-day battery life is feasible.
The Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch features a non-removable 370mAh battery that charges via a custom USB cable that comes in the box. However, there's no supplied charger, so you'll need to use your existing phone charger or a spare laptop port to give it extra juice.
It feels like a pity that it doesn't recharge via micro USB or USB C, because if you do lose or break the charging cable you're going to pretty quickly end up with a dead smartwatch.
Battery life will naturally vary depending on your usage of the watch, but I've generally found it to last around 2 days before absolutely requiring a recharge. The use of 3G networks and the limited feature set does mean your child's not super-likely to use it constantly, and that almost certainly contributes to the battery life being what it is.Back to top
Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch: Verdict
- A simple smartwatch.
- You've got to be happy tracking your kids in the first place.
- GPS tracking could use improvement.
Personally speaking, I'm not super in favour of the whole tracking kids argument, but. I can certainly see a space for the Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch amongst parents of children who want a non-phone way for their kids to keep in touch. That mostly works, and the Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch is priced fairly low to keep it affordable.
Your opinion on the tracking aspect may be quite different to mine of course, and that's fine. You do need to recognise the tracking limitations of this device though.
For parents where child security is a genuine threat – in the case of separated couples where there's conflict over custody, for example – I could see the Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch as being a very useful tool, but only in a general sense. The poorer indoor tracking capability means that you'll almost inevitably end up with your child somewhere that the app can't accurately "see" them.Back to top
Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch: Pricing and availability
The Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch is available exclusively in Australia through Vodafone, where it's offered on a wearable contract for $5/month over 36 months.
That's not including the cost of the Red wearable plan, which is a further $10 per month. There's little point in getting the watch without a SIM, which means in effect that it's going to cost you at least $190, taking those 36 monthly payments and adding just one $10 monthly contract payment into consideration. Over the full 36 months if you stayed on that contract, it would cost you a rather more hefty $540.
Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch Specifications
- Product Name
- Alcatel MOVETIME Family Watch
- Battery life
- Up to 4 days
- $180 plus data fees