Nubia Watch is, at the surface, a wearable with an enormous screen and novel innovations but, upon a deeper review, it's hard to say whether it's worth its asking price. Expected to be priced at $397.78, according to its Kickstarter page, the device isn't quite a fitness wearable. It's definitely not a smartphone. And it isn't a smartwatch.
No. The Nubia Watch is a little bit of all of those things. So it's going to be a very niche purchase for any market.
With that said, there is a lot to love about this wearable that will — for some buyers — more than justify its price. Whether that's because of its oversized display or the fitness features it does have. In fact, aside from the price, there's not a lot to dislike about the Nubia Watch at all. Even if it is a bit bulky.
From the outside looking in, the entire thing seems complicated. And that's because it is. So let's take a deeper look at this wrist-worn anomaly.
The hardware here is bulky but well-built
Hardware quality was very obviously on the company's mind when it came to designing the Nubia Watch. In terms of materials used, Nubia stuck mostly to metals, with the exception of the removable segment of the watchband and the ridged plastic power button. The frame can be had in either green or black. My review unit was the black variant of the Nubia Watch.
The screen doesn't quite have the consistency or feel of glass. But it also doesn't scratch like plastic because it is glass.
Well aside from the IP54 dust and water resistance rating, the entire package feels exceptionally well made. As it should, given its pricing. The early bird Kickstarter price is $179. That's 45-percent of the Nubia Watch's actual cost. The true cost, at MSRP, is at right around $397.78. It also ships with an additional, longer strap to pop on if the pre-installed strap isn't long enough.
All of that is good and well. But there is one big drawback. And also another smaller one that applies directly to a device that's designed like this one is. And that's bulk. The Nubia Watch is, without a doubt, one of the bulkier smartwatches around. That's despite the best efforts of the company to ensure that it's only really thick in exactly the same spot as other smartwatches. With the design thinning out again around the bottom and top edges of the screen.
The Nubia Watch is really only about as thick as a standard bracelet-style wearable. But the fact that the watch is so much wider than a standard bracelet makes it feel much more cumbersome than those wearables.
It's important to note that still wasn't as bad as early Android Wear watches. Under review, it was still easy to go to sleep while wearing the Nubia Watch. But comfort falls somewhere in the strange middle-ground between a fitness band and a smartwatch, making it awkward when it comes to setting and meeting any concept of expectation.
Otherwise, I found Nubia Watch to be extremely comfortable. Although it did get caught up once or twice when putting on a backpack or jacket.
This Nubia Watch really is all about that display
As shown in the images so far, the Nubia Watch really is centered around the design of the display. And that makes it an important aspect of this review. Especially since the other focus seems to make this watch not much different from any other fitness wearable. But we'll discuss that momentarily.
Of course, that's not just down to the company's decision to use a 4.01” AMOLED, 960 x 192 resolution panel either. Although the ease-of-reading is definitely a highlight. At half-brightness, this watch is great even under direct sunlight.
Because the Nubia Watch utilizes an AMOLED display there's not a lot to be said about its vibrance or brightness, though. Those aspects of the display are exactly as might be expected. At least for anybody who has used an AMOLED panel before. In terms of latency and responsiveness, on the other hand, this watch was surprisingly good.
I noticed a bit of lag when interacting with the display during initial testing but that cleared up after about a half-day of use. So it's not immediately clear where that came from. The clarity of the panel, however, was on-point. And it stayed that way from the moment I turned this watch on until my testing was done.
When it comes to touch interactions and viewing, this display makes every one of the dozens upon dozens of watch faces — the built-in apps — look spectacular.
But how does that display impact the Nubia Watch battery?
Now, no battery test is perfect. Or fits with every possible use case or users' habits. The battery life I experienced during my review of the Nubia Watch should not be viewed as typical. Not only are there likely plenty of updates that will arrive when the watch leaves Kickstarter and is available on the wider market. But I also simply turned on all of the features for my test. That includes GPS, WiFi, and more.
The screen, during my test, was left at maximum brightness even though it didn't need to be. And I used effectively every feature multiple times. That includes sleep tracking as well as health metric measurements.
Battery drain will almost certainly be higher for other users. Especially for those who choose to download music to the watch or use it to make phone calls.
With that said, the Nubia Watch lasted, at a minimum, 2 days with all of that. And it lasted 4 days when I stopped taking measurements so frequently and left it at home, connected to WiFi rather than searching for WiFi.
Charging up the watch wasn't at all bad though. Using the magnetic, pogo-pin packed charging pad, that took just over an hour and a half.
The charging pad feels surprisingly well-made as well. It attaches easily, without much wiggle to speak of. The only caveat is that it's USB-A to micro-USB, plugging into the dock-like charging pad. And doesn't come with a wall adapter.
Connectivity is as solid as any other high-end wearable and feature-rich
One of the most interesting aspects of Nubia Watch is that it doesn't just connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone. It can also sync up via WiFi. It's not immediately clear what benefits that brings. But it's an interesting point to note.
Connections, at any rate, were near perfect with the Nubia Watch during my review. It took approximately 3 hours for my messaging apps to start pushing notifications, likely owing to initial syncing issues. Once I was connected, those messages showed up much more clearly than with other smartwatches I've used.
Health, sleep, heart, and fitness metrics all seem to sync up almost instantaneously too. That made tracking those things a much easier task. Although, as we'll discover momentarily, I was more than a bit disappointed by the way that Nubia chose to implement some of those features.
Of course, there's also a clock for more stopwatch and timer functionality. And a SearchPhone feature that helps ring the connected smartphone if it becomes lost.
Software and features are mix-n-match for Nubia Watch
When it comes to software and features, this watch connects much more closely to how a standard fitness bracelet does. It keeps tabs on sleep across light and deep sleep. That's in addition to tracking awake time and how many times I woke up — which was more than I probably should. The Nubia Watch also kept tabs automatically on my heart rate and step count throughout the review.
On the user-activated features front, Nubia Watch can track Outdoor Walking, as well as indoor and outdoor running. Or there's a freestyle mode. But none of that really matches up with its fitness wearable roots. There are simply a lot of activities that the Nubia Watch doesn't track from individual sports to swimming. The latter feature isn't trackable because this wearable isn't rated for any time in the water beyond an IP54 rating.
Additionally, the watch includes a compass, schedule app, and "Barrage" app. Those all worked as expected, with the last of those used to display nifty little screensaver-like animations. The animations are customizable.
One other big feature that's missing in the software, on the phone side, is a watch face store. That's touted on Kickstarter but wasn't available in my app. That's either not ready yet or not ready for the US. In either case, all of that made this watch feel closer to a watch than a smartwatch, although the dozens of pre-installed faces were nice to have.
How does this watch handle audio?
Audio with the Nubia Watch, with consideration for similarly priced hardware on the market, might be expected to do with speakers. But Nubia didn't include any on this watch, so that isn't something I could review. Instead, audio here is reliant on Bluetooth but a bit differently than many fitness wearables.
The feature marks yet another disparate characteristic that sets it between smartphones, smartwatches, and fitness wearables. Namely, that's the feature that allows Nubia Watch to sync up with Bluetooth accessories.
Once synced, Nubia Watch works like a phone. Of course, not only can phone calls to be taken directly on the watch. Nubia Watch also makes phone calls. That's directly on the watch. And the feature comes packed with a recent call log, dialer, and contacts list.
It's also possible to download music to the wearable. The watch provides a Music app that works as an mp3 player.
In either case, depending on the quality of the synced headphones, this watch pushes audio exactly as it would be from a smartphone. The company built the watch with quality in mind. So the quality of both incoming and outgoing audio is great. Or at least it is as long as it's great on the synced headphones.
Should you actually buy the Nubia Watch?
At the end of the day, Nubia sets Watch apart by including a massive flexible AMOLED display panel. In terms of functionality, as noted already, it doesn't quite align with expectations from any wearable category. It provides solid functionality, of course. But it doesn't quite offer the full suite of features for a smartwatch. Or for a fitness band. It isn't a smartphone. Even if it can act as an extension to one.
All of that works both against and for this connected wearable.
Bearing that in mind, the price feels entirely disproportionate. It's too expensive by far. Competing watches that can accomplish the same, and often more, more poignantly, cost half as much. With the sole differentiators being build material and screen.
None of that is to say that Nubia Watch can't be recommended though, either. In fact, there are going to be potential consumers who fall into exactly the niche this gadget hits. And there, it could easily be worth the cost.