Review: Nubia Watch – If only the software was as flexible as its screen
For $200, are looks enough for a smartwatch?
Back in September, we put the spotlight on a new wearable from Nubia, the Nubia Watch. Over 800 backers decided to jump aboard to get one of the quirky smartwatches, which featured a 4.01-inch flexible OLED screen.
Instead of a small screen that’s housed inside a small area of the watch, the screen on the Nubia Watch wraps around your wrist, almost turning it into an OLED bracelet. That part of the watch is protected by ceramic-coated metal links, just like a high-end watchband, with the rest being silicone like a fitness tracker.
We’ve been using an early model here at KnowTechie for the last few weeks, so let’s take a look and see what those backers are in for once shipping starts.
Let’s talk specs
The Nubia Watch is powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset that most Android-based smartwatches are powered by. It’s not bad, and since Nubia paired it with 1GB of RAM, it’s no slouch, even with that huge screen. It’s got 8GB of internal storage, although the operating system takes up part of that, so I see about 4GB free that you can transfer MP3s onto for music while you run.
It’s got WiFi but only up to N speeds, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, an optical heart rate sensor, a compass, gyro, and accelerometer; everything you’d expect from a smartwatch. Well, almost everything. There’s no NFC, which would have made this watch even better if you wanted to leave your wallet at home. It’s got a 425 mAh battery, which can give up to seven days of use in low-power mode or a couple of days in normal usage.
In China, it’s got eSIM compatibility so that you can turn it into your phone. No such luck for the rest of the world, as it doesn’t have the band support needed for LTE elsewhere. That’s a shame; it’d certainly scratch my itch for a wrist-based communicator that I dreamed of growing up watching things like Dick Tracy and Inspector Gadget.
So, is it any good?
Okay, to answer this, I have to talk about the hardware first. That’s honestly pretty great, the OLED is gorgeous, and the screen is fairly responsive to input, even on the curved sections. I’ve noticed a few minor freezes, usually when using the screen unlock, so maybe leaving that off would be a good idea. The watch feels premium, and all of the hardware is of high quality. It has a proprietary charger puck, so you’ll want to keep hold of that, but that’s not unusual for smartwatches; I’ve got a drawer full of chargers just for watches.
It doesn’t feel bulky or heavy on the wrist either, which is important for the size. I don’t want to keep some smartwatches on my wrist for extended periods of time, which kind of defeats the point of having all of the health tracking capabilities.
The software, however, feels like a work in progress. The sports modes are fairly useful, showing things like calories burned, steps, heart rates, speed, distance, and duration, and if you have the GPS turned on, a map of your route. They’re only viewable in the Nubia Wear app though, with no way to export it to any of the popular services such as Apple Health or Strava.
It’s got many pre-set watch faces, which are all fairly interesting and designed to take advantage of the OLED panel’s extra screen space. It’d be nice to see the ability to customize your own watch faces at some point, maybe as part of the smartphone app, which doesn’t have many functions inside it so far. It’s mainly for linking your watch and seeing things like step counts and battery life.
So, should I buy one?
The Nubia Watch is a showcase for flexible OLED technology, which looks great on the wrist. I can’t speak to how well that screen will hold up over time, although it is better protected inside the metal watch components than most folding smartphones seem to be. It’s well-built and premium-looking, even when viewed next to other metal watches.
The thing is, for $200, are looks enough for a smartwatch? Software and feature set are the reasons people buy smartwatches and why Apple and Fitbit are the class leaders. The overall experience on the Nubia Watch is lagging behind, so maybe once Nubia adds more to the software side of things, this will be a worthy device.
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