Nubia Watch hands-on: 4-inch flexible display offers a glimpse of our wearable future

As popular wearables move to provide more detailed health data, Nubia is exploring new hardware technology with a 4.01-inch flexible AMOLED display featured on the Nubia Watch. Unfortunately, the software doesn't yet match the hardware.

Nubia Watch hands-on: Foldable display provides a glimpse of future wearables

Apple, Samsung, Garmin, Fitbit, and others compete for control of your wrist with square and round smartwatches with displays smaller than two inches. The Nubia Watch offers a unique option for wearables with a large 4.01-inch AMOLED flexible display.

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The Nubia Watch is more of a bracelet than a watch because the 2.5mm wide display covers the top of your wrist and then wraps down either side, halfway down on my wrist. Thus, it is bulkier than other smartwatches but not as large as many traditional watches I've seen on wrists. It's more of a concept wearable than something practical for everyday wear.

Also: Best smartwatches in 2020: Apple and Samsung battle for a spot on your wrist

The Nubia Watch is currently on Kickstarter with just over a week left in the campaign. At the time of this article, it had more than $188,000 pledged, far exceeding the $10,000 goal. There were still some $199 pledges available with plenty of $229 openings. The full retail price will be $398.

Specifications

  • Display: 4.01-inch 960x192-pixel resolution flexible AMOLED (244 PPI) made with Schott glass
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100
  • Storage: 32GB of internal storage for up to 2,000 songs and loads of topo maps and activity data
  • Water resistance: IP54
  • Connectivity and sensors: Bluetooth 4.1, GPS/GLONASS/BEIDOU, optical HR, compass, accelerometer, gyroscope
  • Battery: Up to seven days with 425 mAh battery
  • Dimensions: 41 x 14.2 x 125mm and 98 grams

An extension piece for the silicone band is included in the package, attached via a quick-release pin, that I used to fit my wrist. The original band piece is for smaller wrist sizes.

The small, magnetic charging puck has a microUSB port with an included USB-A to microUSB cable to charge up the Nubia Watch.

Hardware

The most striking feature of the Nubia Watch is the 4.01-inch long flexible AMOLED touchscreen that wraps around your wrist. A 1/2 inch on each end of the band flexes and adjusts to match the curvature and size of your wrist. The rest of the display is flat on the face and then curves down at each end of the top, with the frame keeping it rigid as it transitions from the face to the side of your wrist.

Colors are bright and vibrant on the display with clear text. The touchscreen is responsive and works in conjunction with the single hardware button on the right side of the Nubia Watch to access and control apps and settings.

The watch sides and back are constructed of aluminum and stainless steel material with a high-quality fit and finish. The Nubia Watch feels like an expensive piece of jewelry, but can be purchased at a reasonable price during the Kickstarter campaign.

Also: Best GPS sports watches in 2020: Coros, Garmin, Polar, and other smartwatches

An optical heart rate sensor is found on the back and is used with a dedicated heart rate app while working out and while sleeping.

Watch software

The first thing you see on the large gorgeous display is the watch face and this is one area where Nubia spent some time on development. Thirty watchband face options are available to choose from with each offering a unique look and some with various forms of data. You can also download more options from the Nubia Wear app or upload your favorite photo and create your own custom watch face, although I could not get this part of the Nubia Wear app working on this test device.

Another way to show off the display is by selecting a marquee that provides a dynamic display. For example, a matrix effect can be chosen with custom text. This is more of a demonstration of the technology with little practice use.

Swipe down on the watch face to access quick controls. Small icons are present to toggle actions such as GPS, Bluetooth, raise-to-wake, brightness levels, power-save, and more.

Swipe up on the display to view your notifications. The notifications that will appear on the Nubia Watch are managed in the smartphone app.

Swiping right or left, as well as pressing in on the single button, will open up the app launcher. Large icons are present for calls, messages, sports, health, heart rate, settings, barrage/marquee, compass, schedule, clock, search phone, and music.

Available sport modes include outdoor walking, indoor running, outdoor running, and a free workout. I tested the outdoor running mode a few times over the past couple of weeks. While running the display will show calories burned, heart rate, speed, distance, and duration. The long display helps you see all of this data at once without the need to scroll. Currently, only metric data is presented so I had to perform some conversions in my head to relate to my typical training metrics.

The Nubia Watch will also track your steps, heart rate, and nightly sleep, which appear when you open up the health app.

To use the music app and stream music to Bluetooth headphones you need to transfer MP3 files directly to the watch. There is no integration with any music service so this capability is of limited use in today's world of subscription music options.

Smartphone software

The weakest link in the Nubia Watch experience is in the smartphone software. The watch software is fine for basic notifications and health data, but there is nothing you can do with this data beyond view it on the watch and in the app. Even then, viewing in the app is extremely limited and is an area ripe for serious improvement.

The smartphone app is called Nubia Wear and is available for the iPhone and Android smartphones. The main screen, personal status, shows your step count, heart rate, and sleep along with connection status and Nubia Watch remaining battery percentage.

The other display, my settings, lets you view details of the watch, manage notifications, and manage sync, music, and photos (I couldn't get this to work at all).

There is no way to sync your captured health data to any service, such as Strava, or view the data by week, month, or other frequency. You cannot view the data to track trends, run reports, or do much with it except view it in the app.

Looking at the basic pedometer function and data, I could not view anything other than the current day. There are arrows at the top of the page that indicate I could view past days, but this doesn't work in the app so there are clearly elements that need work.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

The Nubia Watch is an interesting technology demonstration for flexible displays and the hardware is much better than I expected. It is very well constructed, has a high-quality look and feel, and has specifications that show it should stand up well to the elements.

When I went running, it took several minutes for the GPS receiver to pick up a signal. This is expected the first time you use a device, but for subsequent runs in the same area I still ended up standing on the corner and stretching for quite some time before I could start tracking my running. The Nubia Watch appears to have done fairly well tracking my running data, as compared to dedicated GPS sports watches, but I couldn't go back and compare all of the details later because of the limited software on the phone.

Despite its size, the Nubia Watch is comfortable and I slept with it for several nights to track my sleep. I wouldn't sleep with it every night if I wasn't testing it out, but with the long battery life, you could do it if it was comfortable enough for you.

With some work on the software side of things, the Nubia Watch could serve as a capable wearable with a focus on offering people a possible glimpse of the future of wearables. If you can get if for about $200, then you may get value out of it, but it is not really a practical wearable ready to take on the likes of Fitbit, Garmin, Apple, or Samsung.