We have never seen a perfect tech show. Simply put, it doesn’t exist. At best, exhibitors create fun experiences around their heavily-teased devices; at worst, the products revealed don’t fully work or are kept at bay from visitors. Mobile World Congress was no different but we were pleasantly surprised to see less-talked about devices shine, like Nubia Alpha.
Nubia is well-known for its gaming phones but last month, they surprised MWC attendees with a wearable phone. We saw a concept back in 2016 from Moxi Group but now, three years, later we tested the real deal at the booth.
Nubia Alpha bridges the gap between smartwatches and smartphones, adopting features from both categories. We talked about the specs at its launch, but what matters in the end is the user experience.
How is Nubia Alpha like? Pretty good. It’s hard to say flawless, but for a flexible OLED display that goes almost completely around your wrist (a first, by the way!), the touchscreen moves quickly, without glitches. Even in gesture mode, the navigation is fast and the apps act accordingly.
The front camera is not impressive from a specs standpoint; we’re talking about a 5MP sensor with f2.2 aperture, after all. When you think of it in the context of a smartwatch with a flexible display, you get a whole different story.
The selfies are decent but more importantly, the live video recording via pre-loaded app is something we never knew we needed from a wearable. Vloggers and fitness influencers will get a kick out of this.
Nubia Alpha comes with built-in speakers but after playing some music at the Nubia booth, we recommend you to pair the device with wireless earbuds through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
As with any smartwatch, you can track your fitness activities and sleep, accept calls and send texts, while receiving weather and navigation notifications. Unlike most flagship smartwatches, Nubia Alpha offers touchscreen, gesture and voice control, letting you opt for the preferred mode.
Nubia told us the Chinese version will also offer 4G LTE and eSIM from the get-go, as well as mobile payment through Alipay. NFC is part of their long-term plans but there’s no clear timeline for that.
The wearable phone comes in black and gold – the latter reminding us of the vintage gold Casio – and will cost 450 euros when it comes to Europe this April. US and Canada will be the next markets Nubia Alpha will hit this year.
Bottom line: 2019 is shaping up to be the year of functional foldable phones, 5G mobile networks and new, bold mobile form factors like Nubia Alpha. Nubia has managed to not only bend and flex an OLED display until it can go around your wrist but to make it easy to navigate around, with touch, voice or gestures! On top of that, it added a front-facing camera, eSIM support and mobile payment. This is where we see smartwatches going in the next couple of years and Nubia Alpha is a groundbreaking device, without a doubt. For being the first wearable to offer all these functionalities, we can forgive its bulky design, its only glaring flaw, by far.