Following a prototype device that was shown off at the Mobile World Congress in 2019, ZTE’s sub-brand Nubia has introduced a commercial version of its “smartwatch” with a flexible bending screen that wraps around the wrist.
I’ve been testing a pre-production model of the gadget for a few weeks, and there’s no doubt this is much more refined than the prototype. It’s thinner (although still relatively thick at 14.2mm), with a brighter screen and better UI.
The version I tested is for the China market, so there are some shortcomings like an inability to show WhatsApp notifications properly (WhatsApp is banned in China), but Nubia promises the international version will run a more western-world friendly software with support for WhatsApp and other Google apps.
From a technical perspective, the Nubia Watch is definitely unique. The 4-inch OLED screen wraps halfway around the wrist, and the aluminum body that houses the screen feels great to the touch, and each end connects to a rubber strap. The fit is comfortable, although with so much of the area covered by screen, I do worry about durability.
The screen looks great, and bright enough to see under the sun; and there’s a single hardware button resembling a crown that can be pressed. Navigating will be done mostly via swipes and taps, however, just like every smartwatch we’ve grown used to.
But despite the screen looking so great—it definitely attracts attention when worn out and about—Nubia hasn’t really taken advantage of the larger screen real estate. Some apps, like health and weather will show more information, but many others, including all the watch faces, don’t show much more than what a typical smaller smartwatch screen would show. It would make a lot more sense if Watch faces showed in-depth stats and multiple complications alongside the large screen.
The watch connects to your phone via Bluetooth (or can be connected to the internet on its own via eSIM), and once connected, it can receive most notifications fine (except the aforementioned WhatsApp), but there is no way to respond or interact with them. All you can do is read. This is a major flaw in my opinion, but Nubia says the company’s software engineers are actively working to fine tune the software to address these shortcomings.
The watch can do the usual fitness tracking, including heart rate, and from what I’ve seen, all the tracking, from steps to stairs climbed to heart rate, seem accurate.
Charging is done via a proprietary plug and the watch can go about two days on a single charge if used to its full extent. There is a battery saver mode that can still keep track of time, steps, and notifications (but no heart rate) and this will boost battery to an impressive seven days.
Overall I’m impressed with the hardware, and I’m excited for a future in which we have a mini computer operating on our wrist, too. But the software right now needs more refinement. Even if the international version allows WhatsApp and Gmail notifications, I think the ability to respond to them is a must-have. Watch faces, as mentioned, also need more features and complications.
Nubia is currently selling this via crowdfunding campaign for around $200, but it will be released commercially in stores later this year. I think the commercial version is worth waiting for as it’ll have more refined software.