This year’s MWC in Barcelona has been a wild ride. From foldable smartphones to weird hand gestures to the return of QWERTY slider keyboards, we’ve seen it all. Nubia, an off-shoot firm from ZTE, had its own device that made use of a flexible OLED display. Meet the Nubia Alpha, a smartwatch that tries desperately to be a smartphone and fails to be both.
The Nubia Alpha is more of a proof of concept than a phone
Despite the fact that the Nubia Alpha is being marketed as a smartphone, it’s more of a proof of concept than anything else. Its purpose is simple: to fulfill the needs of your everyday smartphone in something that wraps around your wrist. The flexible OLED display comes in at 960 x 192, which…works, I guess. It’s certainly not a head-turner and it’s somewhat impractical. The idea is cool and I understand where the company is going with it, but the Nubia Alpha is unwieldy. It’s way too big and heavy, and no amount of tech can change that. The one thing going for it is how futuristic it looks, but futuristic is not a synonym for good. You’re not going to be using it for sleep tracking, and you’re certainly not going to be engaging in any fitness activities with it on.
Paired with that OLED display is a 5MP camera, two buttons, a heart rate monitor, and a gesture reader. The gestures were rather useless and didn’t work, which only added to my frustration with this device. Why would I use a gesture when I can just use the display and guarantee that the action works? It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Given that Nubia is also trying to pass this device off as a phone, it would help to have upgraded to the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 rather than the outdated Snapdragon Wear 2100. More than 1GB of RAM would also have been nice, along with more than 8GB of storage. Everything about the Nubia Alpha is poorly executed when you consider the fact that the company seriously believes this device to be smartphone-capable. It needs to be much more powerful and practical before that will be true.
Given that we didn’t get much time with the Nubia Alpha, it’s hard to draw any conclusions from the battery life. It has a 500 mAh battery inside of it, something of which I am very skeptical. How long will it last on a single charge? How long will it take to charge back up? 500 mAh is not a lot when you’re powering a 4-inch OLED display and a mobile operating system that can apparently connect to networks (with the eSIM variant). It seems poorly thought out, and the high pricing is a kick in the teeth. Who wants to buy this watch/smartphone hybrid and why? The target market isn’t clear. It’s at best a cool concept, but the execution is poor and could do with a lot more.
The Nubia Alpha, it hurts to say, is a rather poor device. It lacks many features of a traditional smartphone while failing at the ones that actually matter. There are so many things the company could have got right here, yet the only one that they did is the flexible OLED panel. It looks decent despite its size and I like the idea, it’s just a shame that it was so poorly executed. I may have been harsh on it, but for such a high price the company could have afforded to get something right with it.
Speaking of that high price, there are two models: an eSIM variant and a Bluetooth variant. The Bluetooth variant will launch at a price of €449, or roughly $510 in Q2. The eSIM variant will be slightly more expensive at a price of €549, or roughly $620 in Q3.
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