Solutions are coming… we hope!
In short: if you want a simple basic fitness tracker that looks like a normal watch, then the Alpiner X Alive will do fine already. If you want anything more: be patient because there are a lot of problems but fixes are on the way they promise.
The unboxing experience could be better if you care about that, but everything arrived in good condtion.
Inside the actual watch box is a large manual with instructions for all of their watches except for the Alpiner X Alive… The manual shows how to set the time and date on most of their watches using the crown… The Alpiner X Alive does not have a real crown however.
On their website and marketing materials, the Alpiner X Alive is almost always shown with the display on. This is misleading because the display is never on, except for a short time after you press the button on the crown. They list “Always on Time & Date” as a feature, but this is only the time, using the analog hands. So that is another thing missing from this watch: an always-on display. Of course, you can always see the time, thanks to the analog hands. It would be nice to have the small display show some information at all times, with reduced brightness. We understand however that for the moment the display is always off to save battery and to keep the classic watch look.
Most modern watchmakers offer an easy way to change straps, these days. Not so for Alpina, unfortunately. You need to use a small watchmaker’s tool to pry them in and out. Not very handy, and again a sign that things were rushed. We guess some kind of quick-change bands will come later.
When looking for help on the website or inside the app you often end up on pages full of mistakes and wrong information. It is clear that they copied the information from another watch, and then changed it a bit. But they overlooked a lot of things. We guess this will be corrected in the future.
So the first impression is not a very good one. Things feels rushed and unfinished, but at least the watch itself looks very good, and the rest can be improved later on through updates.
Using the watch
Checking things on the watch can feel a bit cumbersome. After pressing the crown button, it takes some time before something is shown. This is mostly because of the hands moving out of the way of the display first. Many times this is a good thing, but the watch also does it often when the hands are not obscuring the display at all. This could be improved. Actually, the best position for the hands when using the display would be completely horizontal. Now, they move too far, usually to positions 10 and 2. When both hands are between 8 and 4, there is no reason to move them.
There is no wrist detection. The watch will also show every notification when it is not on your wrist, and each time the watch will buzz and the hands will move, using battery for no reason. If you put the watch on a table in the morning it will think you are still sleeping, and it will add this to your sleep time.
A wrist-tilt activation would also be nice. It could also save battery during workouts, and allow for example to show the date when you flick your wrist.
The top and bottom pushers are meant to work with the chronograph functions. It would be nice if they could also be used as shortcut buttons to quickly access information without the need to scroll through all the widgets, or to accept or decline calls, or change music volume, …, but at the moment this is not the case. They do have some extra functionality during workouts and sometimes you can change or select things with them.
It takes a lot of fiddling to charge the watch also. The clamp does not align with the contacts itself. You need to keep moving and turning the clamp until you see that the charging starts, and then put the watch down very carefully or the charging will stop again.
We contacted Alpina before purchasing this watch to ask if all Android notifications would be shown on the watch or only the ones from the apps that are shown on their website. They answered that the list of apps on their website was only an example, and that in fact all Android apps could send notifications to the watch, if you allowed them to. So we went ahead and ordered the watch…
This, however, is not true at all. Notifications are indeed limited to a handful of supported apps for the moment. We can not get notifications for our emails for example. Not a single calendar app is supported at launch. Alarms from your phone will not work on the watch, you need to set them in the app. You cannot see who’s calling or accept or reject a call, you only get a notification that there is an incoming or missed call. If you consider this watch, make sure to check the list of supported apps.
Notifications that are already handled on the phone will still show up on the watch, and you will have to clear them one by one. This can be very cumbersome.
Notifications also do not show emoticons, but instead display a combination of question marks and exclamation marks. Some notifications can look very weird and even insulting at times because of this. When you send an question to someone and receive “??!” as an answer, you better look at your phone.
To make matters worse: the watch loses its connection to the phone very easily. So even if you have some notifications that work, you will miss a lot of them because the watch will not be connected. The app needs to be open in the background at all times for notifications to work. If you close the app from the task-switcher, you get nothing anymore. And even if you leave the app open in the background: it just stops responding after a while, and notifications stop. If you keep the app open, it will also use the GPS from your phone continuously. This can be a battery drain.
We reached out to a company called MMT (Manufacture Modules Technologies) who manufactures the module, firmware and app. They acknowledged the problems and told us that they are working on updates that will be released in the coming weeks, and that will fix the connection and synchronisation issues, and will provide support for more apps.
Some good things to finish
The watch itself looks quite good. Lumen is great. After a whole night sleeping in a dark room, the hands are still clearly visible. Heart rate measurement seems to be accurate, and show the same results as our Garmin watches. Workouts are simple, and the display stays on during the whole workout. Step counting gives the same results as our Garmin Fenix watches. So for basic activity tracking, this watch is fine, but if your smartwatch needs are mostly workout oriented, there are a lot of better options out there. Sleep tracking is ok, but if you take off your watch in the morning you will need to tell it that your sleep is finished, otherwise, it keeps counting in some cases.
Battery life seems to be about 5 to 6 days for us now without any activity tracking or GPS usage.
The styling of this watch does not make it a watch that you would want to wear in the gym or while doing intensive sports. This watch is more for the urban city dweller who wants a stylish smartwatch. For the moment the Alpina Alpiner X Alive fails at being a good smartwatch. The problems with notifications and lack of functionality are just too big to ignore. A watch like the Montblanc Summit is a far better option, although also more expensive.
If all you need is a luxury watch that also has a step counter and heart-rate tracking then you will be happy with this watch. If you expect anything more from a smartwatch you better look at alternatives.
We will keep updating this review as updates arrives.