There has been a continuous converging over time in the past year concerning the different form factors of devices (laptops, tablets, and smartphones). Samsung and Huawei are merging the smartphone and tablet with their foldable smartphones, the Galaxy Fold and Mate X, respectively.
Less common is the idea of using the flexible features to bring together the form factors of the smartwatch and the smartphone. But that's exactly what Nubia has done with the Nubia Alpha, a smartwatch with a lot of the functionality of a regular smartphone. We saw it in a non-touchable capacity at IFA last year, and now at MWC 201
9 we've finally had a chance to get it on our wrists and take it for a proper test drive.
According to Nubia, you should be 100,000 times, which should allow you to wrap around your wrist without worrying about damaging it.
The Nubia Alpha's display is really wide, but the bend of the smartwatch's screen means you're getting it all at once. Instead, Nubia's custom Android-based OS lets you scroll the watch's essential information so it's readable from any angle. You can drag the clock down to the right side of your wrist hand, if you're left handed, for example, or scroll it up so you can see more menu items at the bottom of the screen.
Otherwise, the watch's operating system is navigated using a series of simplified icon menus, where all the options are tiled in a row from top to bottom. You swipe left and right to move between lists of apps grouped by functionality, tap to select the app you want to use, and pinch to go back. There are also a couple of physical buttons on the side of the device. One kicks you back out to the home menu, and the other seems to be used for voice control.
One of the more interesting features of the smartwatch is gesture control, which allows you to scroll up and down, or left and right. It has been designed to activate the functionality – which is labeled as "alpha" feature – on our demo unit. But the functionality was buggy, and clearly not ready for public use.
So what can the wearable smartphone do? Lots of things, as it turns out. There's all the standard smartwatch functionality, as well as mobile payments (though only the Chinese QR code payment service AliPay was mentioned), and voice calls through its built-in speaker or Bluetooth connected headset.
But where it stands out is the functionality that's traditionally seen on a smartwatch. There's a 5-megapixel camera that lets you take selfies pretty effortlessly, or normal photographs using a little more limb contortion. There's also option to watch movies, though you'll have to stand with your arm lifted up at a straight to see them straight. Even then, you'll get a lot of either cropping or black space because of the screen's ultra-wide aspect ratio.
Text messaging is also a possibility, either through SMS or WeChat, a Chinese messaging service. Eventually (we presume), most people will dictate their messages using voice control because of the alternative, a T9 alphanumeric dialer, which is very difficult to use.
The Nubia Alpha is running on a Snapdragon Wear 2100, a wearable chip that first released back in 2016. Elsewhere, the specs are a little more modern, with 1GB of RAM (equivalent to the Apple Watch Series 4) and 8GB of onboard storage (16GB of Apple's latest model). This battery should be powered by a 500mAh battery, which should last for one and two days with regular usage.
Nubia plans to release a couple of different Models of the Nubia Alpha. As well as two different color schemes, black and gold, there are two different types of connectivity available. The cheap model wants to offer bluetooth connectivity so that you can pair it with a phone, while the pricier model gets you eSIM compatibility, so the Alpha can truly be the standalone wearable smartphone Nubia so wants it to be.
The Nubia Alpha is an ambitious attempt to make smartwatches more capable by debunking them with more smartphone capabilities. However, while the flexible OLED display makes this a possibility, it is not quite possible. Messaging just feels easier on a phone and it's taking a picture with a device that's not strapped to your wrist.
The first version of Nubia's wearable smartphone wants its black Bluetooth variant, which will be available in Europe and North America starting in April with an average global price of € 449 (around $ 510). If you want to eSIM for data connectivity, then you'll have to wait a little longer and pay a little more. The eSIM version will start at € 549 (around $ 624), and will be available in Europe and North America in the third quarter of this year. If you want it in gold, then the watch will set you back € 649, approximately equivalent to $ 737.