Alpina Alpiner X Alive Smartwatch Review

Almost good to go

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 some problems but fixes are on the way they promise. We learned from the comments on this post that the situation seems to be better when you are using an iPhone compared to using it with an Android phone, so keep that in mind also.

This review is based on using the watch with an Android phone.

First impressions

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.

268 pages booklet that contains no information about the watch…

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. 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. So, not a real problem.

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. We had to wait several months for our rubber straps to arrive after contacting Alpina a dozen times. These rubber straps are difficult to resize because the pins don’t align properly with one side of the buckle, and it took us almost an hour of fiddling to do that. If you want to do any sports or shower with this watch you will need the rubber straps, so make sure you have one.

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 sooner or later. The user guide also no longer opens from our device since the recent updates. An example of wrong information below:


An example of completely wrong information on how to use a function. Pressing the pushers only starts the timer. You need to tap on the numbers to change them.

So the first impression was not a very good one. Things feel 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, but you do get used to it. 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. If you get a lot of notifications, the constant movement of the hands can get annoying. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it could help a lot if the display would already come on before the hands start moving. Since the December update, the hands move faster, so it’s less of an issue now.

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.

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. We hope this will be implemented in the future. You can switch the display off during a workout to save battery by pressing the crown, however.

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. The clamp does not align with the contacts by 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.

Vibration is too light. You can almost not feel it, and the watch will certainly not be able to wake you up when you are sleeping.


So usability could be improved but it is not a deal-breaker.

The major problem: Notifications & Stability

We have rewritten this part of our review because there have been some updates that improved the experience. Before the January 6, 2021, update we experienced a lot of problems and we could not recommend this watch. The watch rebooted often, draining the battery completely, the app crashed often, and notifications only worked when the app was running. In short: the watch and notifications were completely unreliable. We even considered sending it back and asking for a refund.

The update on January 6, 2021, fixed most of this finally: the watch no longer reboots. The app is a lot more stable but still crashes now and then when opening it. But most important: notifications also work when the app is not running. So notifications have become far more reliable on Android.

There are still some issues however:

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 could not get notifications for our emails for example. Not a single calendar app was supported at launch, but now some are supported. 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. The missed call notification does show the caller ID, so we wonder why it doesn’t show on incoming calls.

If you consider this watch, make sure to check the list of supported apps. We had to switch to other apps for our e-mail and calendar to get notifications for these.

Notifications that are already handled on the phone will still show up on the watch. Since a recent update, there is no longer a need to clear them one by one, luckily. Just push the crown when you reach a notification that you had already seen, and the watch will go back to its normal functions. This is a nice improvement.

Notifications 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 a question to someone and receive “??!” as an answer, you better look at your phone.

The biggest remaining problem is that the watch loses its connection to the phone very easily. Bluetooth range seems to be a couple of meters at most. About half of our other smartwatches. So even if you have some notifications that work, you will miss some of them because the watch will lose its connection if you move a bit too far from your phone, and it will not automatically reconnect when you move back in range. You will need to open the app and wait for the watch to connect again. About a dozen times per day we have to open the app to get notifications to work again. We got reports from readers that the iOS app is more reliable and automatically reconnects by itself when the connection was lost.

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 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 (about 5% too high). 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 sometimes registers too much sleep when you do not move enough in the morning. This has also improved with recent updates. The app statistics are also nice and will be enough for most people.

Battery life seems to be between 3 to 5 days for us now depending on the usage.

Conclusion

We really like this watch, even with all the troubles we had. A lot of them are fixed now, however, so we trust the remaining onces will also get fixed.

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 and also wants some basic activity tracking. As a simple activity tracker, it will do fine. Until Alpina fixes the remaining connectivity problems, a watch like the Montblanc Summit is a better option if you are looking for a smartwatch with a more classic look, although it’s also more expensive.

If all you need is a luxury watch that also has a step counter and heart-rate tracking then you will already be happy with this watch. If notifications are important for you: there are better, more reliable options but these will not be hybrid watches like the Alpiner X Alive.

We will keep updating this review as updates arrives.

28 thoughts on “Alpina Alpiner X Alive Smartwatch Review

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  1. Fantastic reviews. At least you managed to buy one! I was sent the old model. Seeing the brand is now owned by Citizen you would hope that it will eventually perform as intended. I bought the MTM Status which is brilliant. This accompanies my Breitling Exospace and Garmin Chronos.

    1. You’re lucky that you could not buy one, because currently: it’s a waste of money 🙂 Really hope they get it fixed, but I don’t think it will ever happen.

  2. I bought one as I love the brand, have several of their mechanical watches ans wanted to ditch the Apple Watch…

    It arrived three months late.

    After two further months of it sat on my desk not working I tried to return it as it didn’t work on a single workout.

    I was told I could not return it as it was a custom order – at the time custom orders were the only option.

    The latest update has made the gps tracking work finally but still the app/watch is riddled with issues:
    App/watch displays different info, calorie burn is way out and different in various areas of the app.
    I also cannot get Strava to sync, or Withings, or Apple Activity…
    It also counts bike rides as steps…

    I really hope they sort it but it really is tricky to live with…

    1. We didn’t bother with testing the workout functionality, since there are so many other issues to resolve. Heartrate and steps seem to be accurate for us. We have little hope that the flaws will ever get fixed. Alpina will lose a lot of customers like this. Never again will I buy a watch from them. They just made a watch and used an app and module from another company that is used for different watches by different brands. It is clear that this third party company has no clue on how to develop a decent app. Buyers from the previous smartwatch are still complaining after more than 2 years…
      Alpina should never have released a smartwatch. It is clear that only big companies have the resources to make it truly work.
      If you need a watch for workouts: stick to Garmin or Polar or Suunto. Or even an Apple watch.

  3. Hi, I also waited for this watch for many months. In fact I was one of the last to receive it. After reading your review, I’m glad I did as it sounds like many bugs were recently fixed.

    My experience is nothing like you state in your review, although it is not perfect, for sure. The recent update (early Dec) seems to have fixed the GPS distance issue. This shouldn’t have been an issue to fix! Disappointing.

    When not using the GPS, the workout distance accuracy is pretty good. The swimming distance doesn’t work though. Cycling was out a little bit. I’ve reported these. I’ve not experienced any issues that you mention above. No synch issues. No drop-outs. No hand synch issues, at all. I agree with you, if this happened, it’s an issue that needs to be fixed.

    The app has worked pretty well. It could be improved and I’m sure Alpina is doing their best to work on improvements….v soon. If we give them feedback, hopefully this will give them an understanding of what is important to prioritise. What they need to add is a sharing functionality to the app. Who doesn’t want to share their workouts?!!

    I agree that having the display on a low light level all the time would be good. Probably adversely impact the battery life though. Again, pushing the button and the time for the hands to move away isn’t really an issue. Forgive me, but I think you’re being picky. As you say the style design of the watch is such that the display is relatively clean. We all bought it knowing the size and look.

    You didn’t talk about the HR monitoring. How was this for you? For me, it’s pretty good. The annoying thing is that the design facilitates the green sensor light showing so at night time, in bed, it shows! A bit annoying. After you fall asleep it’s not an issue. HaHa. But I’ve had a Garmin and you couldn’t see this. The design team would have picked this up if they wore it to bed! Now I’m being picky. 🙂

    All in all, I think a good quality Swiss made watch which needs a good massage to refine and fine tune to make it a great Swiss time piece. I trust that Alpina will stay on this project and then we’ll see the results. All this, for what it’s worth…..is my opinion after about a month of using.

    1. Hi,
      Glad to hear the watch works better for you. That gives me hope. Are you using an iPhone or Android device? That could make a big difference.
      I don’t mind pushing the button actually, but I mind that the display only comes on after the hands stop moving. The hands move too far (all other hybrid smartwatches move that hands to the 9 and 3 positions) and they also move when there is no real need for it because they are not obscuring the display. When I quickly need to check things, like the date I often get irritated by this. Not a big thing, if everything else would be working.
      The green light is quite normal when sleeping because of the heart rate tracking. Our Garmin and other watches also do this. Depending on the strap you are using and how tight you wear the watch you will be bothered by it or not. We have no problems with it.
      We did mention heart-rate tracking: for us, it seems to be very accurate, comparable with our Garmin Fenix watches.
      We mostly use this watch to view notifications, and not so for sports or activity tracking because we have our Garmin watches for that. Things have improved with notifications after we disabled any battery optimization for Bluetooth and with the latest updates. But it is still far from reliable. Vibrations are also still too soft to notice. We never have any problems with all of our other smartwatches when it comes to notifications, so it must be possible to get this right.

      1. Hi, Completely understand. I use an Apple phone (iPhone 8s). Alpina recommends leaving the app open all the time to aid the system. At first I was only opening when I needed to, but now I just leave open. Connects by itself in the background.
        You’re correct re the light sensor. It’s not a huge deal for me, but more for my partner. She gets annoyed by it. I have it relatively tight, but my old Garmin light sensor was recessed a bit bit if I recall and I think this helped shield the escaping light. It’s not a deal breaker for me.
        The moving hands and then display coming on …it’s less than a second. Not an issue for me but I hear your frustration.
        The notifications of missed calls come in and sit on the watch display when you activate it until you dismiss it. So the notifications are ‘saved’. I think this is what you’re asking. Anyways, good luck with it and let’s all hope Alpina picks up the pace to remedy a few important issues we’ve discussed.

  4. I should add regarding notifications, that you get notified of calls, text and what’s app messages (this is my top three) and they all work fine for me. Who would want to respond to these via a watch interface!? Not me. I’m not that much of a slave to the technology. Just saying :-). If this is what you want, then this isn’t a watch for you. Again, this isn’t part of what the watch design is. Bit again, no connection issues at all.

    1. Well, we never mentioned anything about responding to notifications. No smartwatch does that properly, and there is no need for that indeed.
      But they need to be reliable. What use are notifications on a smartwatch if half of them are never shown, and you need to keep restarting the app to get them? And all apps on the smartphone need to be supported, not a handful. All other smartwatch manufacturers can do that, so why not Alpiner? I know why actually because they told me: they are using a very old legacy Android system that nobody else uses anymore. Others have switched to the newer system since many years.
      We had to switch to Google Calendar and Samsung E-mail just to get notifications about e-mails and calendar…

    2. It would be nice to hear if you could test what happens when you move away from your phone outside Bluetooth range. When you come back, do the notifications start to work again automatically? We have to reconnect the watch again by starting the app on the phone.

      1. Hey, I think I answered this above. Yes, the notifications come onto the phone, I think. TBH, I haven’t noticed….sorry. As mentioned, just leave the app open int eh background and see what happens.

      2. Thanks. Leaving the app open is indeed the only way to get notifications. But on Android the app crashes often, so notifications will stop anyway. Things have improved, however. In the beginning, the app crashed about every hour. Now we are down to 2 or 3 times a day. They will get this solved once they switch to the more robust notification handling in Android that everyone else is using. No need to have the app open then anymore. But they also need to make sure that the watch automatically reconnects when the connection is lost. At the moment this does not happen with our watch.

  5. The watch is meant to give VOmax and Hydration levels. Mine doesn’t – can anyone else get them?

    I am still getting GPS drop outs. HR logs roughly 50% of my actual heart rate during exercise. Watch restarts itself regularly (which then requires hand alignment). Distance and time logs on actives are not very accurate. Data displayed on the watch often displays different to the app. No Strava or Withinga integration.

    Basically the watch is missing two thirds of the functionality it’s meant to have.

    1. Hey James. I also was having trouble with the VO2 Max registering a score. Until I went for a run I couldn’t trigger it! Apparently the threshold to measure it is relatively high. I’ve since got it working. Try an intensive workout for at least 30 mins.
      The recent updates (they are trying to fix things) have fixed things for me re GPS accuracy and speed to connect too. All good as can be expected. Nothing is going to be 100% accurate Ive decided. It depends on what you baseline measure against (re distance). I went for a run with my daughter and she was wearing a Garmin and I used an app on my iPhone and all 3 measurements (Alpina, Garmin, iPhone) were all different. The distance on the watch and app are same for me. Do you ensure you synch the GPS prior to running? I think they have forced this to be more frequent in the latest update. That’s good. It does help.
      What I’d like is a simple Share button option. So I can share workouts on Whats App. Hopefully this will come.
      I’m not having any issues with the HR measurement. I sense they have fiddled with this in the latest update. You wouldn’t know as poorly, Aplina don’t advise what has been attended to in the updates. That would help.
      Over time, I’m finding the watch pretty good now. I just got 6 days battery out of it with 2 GPS runs and another 2 activities not using GPS. That was pretty good.
      Good luck.

  6. Dear All,

    I’m thinking to buy this watch but I would like to ask from android users what is the situation with current software version (10.0.1 release date 04 February, 2021)
    -Is there any watch /app freeze or rebooted watch?
    -if disconnect happens the app automatically reconnect or have to be open for the reconnect state?
    -is there any progression to support all application or still the mentioned application supported only?
    -any progression with workout and sensors measure?

    Thank you in advance

    Balazs

    1. Hi,
      CurrentLy the watch still freezes about 1 time per week for us. You need to reset and re-align the hands when that happens.
      More Android apps are supported but the list is still very limited. Mostly social apps and some email apps, but not all.
      Connectivity remains a big issue. We need to reconnected the watch at least a dozen times per day. It does not reconnected by itself. You need to open the app and wait for a minute. Very annoying.

      1. Dear Amidomi,

        Thank you for your quick answer.

        It’s incredible, how is it possible to sell Alpina this watch with this kind of big issues??

        I think it’s not a simple annoying, rather scandalous….

        Thank you again

        Balazs

      2. Yes, this watch should never been released as it was. Things have improved a lot, but the main issue remains and can only be solved by an entirely new app that uses modern Android technology instead of the old legacy tech they are using.
        We have a drawer full of smartwatches. From very cheap ones from Fossil and Diesel, to very expensive ones from Montblanc and Louis Vuitton. None of them have any serious issues. Even the older ones. So, it seems that the company developing the software that Alpina uses, simply has underestimated the development.

  7. Hi,

    May I ask is tehere any progression with software version 10.0.3 (release date 24th February)?

    Thank you in advance

    Balazs

    1. The app crashed when opening it this morning. The previous version did not crash anymore, so the update from February 24 is a step back again, it seems….

  8. Hi All, I have the Alpina X Alive and using with an Iphone 8. The Firmware is 7.5.41. Which software are you guys referring to?
    As an aside, I’m increasingly more pleased with the watch and how it functions. The GPS is entirely accurate for walks and runs and rides. Swimming, no good!. I’ve given Alpina this feedback. The watch/gps doesn’t like water!
    The distance measurement for non-GPS use is about 10% short. This is good but not good enough. This is compared against another App which I run sometimes simultaneously and trust.
    I’ve expereinced connection issue only when I have wireless headphones connected into the phone at the same time as the watch BUT this is only once in a while….not an issue to deal with.

    Otherwise the watch and app are operating as expected and all good. Not sure what the issues are you guys are having but sorry to hear this. I’m assuming you’re getting help with these issues directly from Alpina?
    All the best.

    1. Yes, the watch is getting better and better. The main remaining issue is with the watch not automatically reconnecting to the phone when it lost connection. So each time you moved away from your phone a bit too far, you need to open the app again and wait for the watch to reconnect. And there is no indication that it has lost connection so you never know if it did not lose the connection. The end result is that you still need to keep checking your phone for notifications. This is only an issue if notifications are important for you, otherwise, the watch will be fine already. It seems this issue is only there when using the watch with an Android phone. People with iPhones do not report this issue.
      The first 2 weeks I had the watch, the development team responded to my messages with suggestions and bug reports, but they no longer do. The watch still freezes and reboots now and then, and with the latest version of the Android app, this app starts to crash again.
      They used old legacy tech to develop the Android app. They need to switch to the new tech, but that requires a complete overhaul of the app, and I doubt it will ever happen. Seems this watch is meant for iPhone users, and Android is an afterthought again, although 80% of the world uses Android…

  9. Dear amidomi,

    Thank you for the detailed summary, I’m using Android phone and there is no plan to change to iOS. So this is a bad news, again….

  10. The interface is clunky I agree. It definitely could be more professional.

    However, my issue is the recharging is very hit and miss – mostly miss. I connect it carefully to the cradle and it says “charging” on the screen. I return a number of hours later and disconnect and the battery has not moved from 0%. So I try again. Sometimes this process takes 3 – 5 separate connections over 2-3 days before the watch charges. I have no idea what causes this issue as the screen does indicate it is charging but it is obviously not working most of the time.

    1. Yes, same issue here with charging. It takes a lot of fiddling to get the watch to charge properly. The slightest movement can stop the charging. Makes you wonder if anybody at Alpina is using these watches.

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