This year at Mobile World Congress, ZTE’s Nubia division introduced its Alpha, a wearable device that can serve both as smartphone and smartwatch. While initially dubbed as an Android-based wearable smartphone, the Nubia Alpha is actually an advanced smartwatch with a massive display that can make phone calls.

Based on the Android Wear 2.1 operating system, the Nubia Alpha is essentially a smartwatch coupled with a an oversized display and matching high-capacity battery. At 4-inches diagonal, the 960x192 pixel OLED display is so large that it actually wraps in an effort to contour the user's wrist. Meanwhile under the hood is traditional smartwatch fare, with Qualcomm's aging Snapdragon Wear 2100 SoC doing the heavy lifting. This is a four core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU plus Adreno 304 GPU setup, which is further paired with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB NAND flash storage. 

The device in its WWAN-enabled flavor supports 4G/LTE, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0 wireless connectivity. Meanwhile, there will also be a version without 4G/LTE connectivity. As for imaging capabilities, the Nubia Alpha has a 5 MP (f/2.2, 25mm) camera that can be used to control the device using gestures. The manufacturer says that the Nubia Alpha will work for up to 48 hours with its 500 mAh battery, which is in-line with other smartwatches available today.

Since the Nubia Alpha can make phone calls, ZTE has the option of positioning it as a smartphone. Though as the watch cannot browse the Internet or run applications that you expect from an Android-based handset – never mind the odd display resolution and aspect ratio – it's functionally closer to a super-powered smartwatch and that's likely the route ZTE will go with it.

In the meantime, the Nubia Alpha is one of the most advanced smartwatch and fitness trackers available today because of its large display, gesture and voice-based controls, advanced sensors (accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate), attractive design, IP67-rated protection against dust/water, and so on.

With a body made of stainless steel, the Nubia Alpha does look good. However this is a double-edged sword as the overall watch is quite big, and that may be considered as a disadvantage by many not only because of the dimensions, but also because of the weight.

ZTE plans to start selling its Nubia Alpha this April. The eSIM/WWAN-enabled version will initially only be available in China, whereas the company will offer Wi-Fi/Bluetooth-only versions in other countries for around 450 EUR. Later on in the third quarter ZTE will offer the eSIM version globally, but its pricing is unknown at this point.

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  • jordanclock - Tuesday, March 5, 2019 - link

    I was reeeeally hoping this wouldn't use a Snapdragon Wear SoC. The performance of that SoC in normal smartwatch usage is atrocious and I can't imagine it being much better when pushing more pixels for the display and working standalone without a phone.
  • Moodywoody74 - Wednesday, March 6, 2019 - link

    atrocious? I cant't relate to that, The sd400 used to power cheap smartphones that had triple resolution that of a regular smartwatch just fine, "atrocious" in like what type of daily usage you meant, mining on a smartwatch? I used tons of android weae and all of them run smooth using daily functions, unless you want to make it like a fully functional smartphone replacent like nubia, a quadcore A7 would be a joke, but if you insist, a quad core A7 is still the best option efficiency wise, what is your alternative? atom wear is a massive flop.
  • Gadgety - Thursday, March 7, 2019 - link

    "The sd400 used to power cheap smartphones that had triple resolution that of a regular smartwatch just fine" I guess the battery was larger than 500 mAh too?
  • ZipSpeed - Tuesday, March 5, 2019 - link

    Wow, the thing looks like it belongs in a Bioshock game.
  • bENDEJO - Tuesday, March 5, 2019 - link

    Indeed, it is truly hideous. I expect this thing to fly of the shelves...
  • Valantar - Tuesday, March 5, 2019 - link

    Entirely agree. I pretty much came here just to say how hideous it is, then I saw that the article says "With a body made of stainless steel, the Nubia Alpha does look good." I wonder what exactly was in the swag bags handed out by Nubia while showing this - LSD?

    This looks like someone made a (bad) steampunk case for a Samsung Gear Fit.
  • khanikun - Thursday, March 7, 2019 - link

    I agree. This this is ugly. Yes, everyone has different tastes, but I can't imagine that many people will think it's a nice looking watch.
  • Manch - Friday, March 8, 2019 - link

    It must come with an Addidas track suit, sneakers, and a gold neck clock.
  • randomhkkid - Tuesday, March 5, 2019 - link

    "it's functionally closer to a super-powered smartphone"

    I think you mean to say super-powered smartwatch
  • PeachNCream - Tuesday, March 5, 2019 - link

    It's a non-statement even with the corrections since "super-powered" is absent any meaningful frame of reference even with the smartphone/watch following it. It's superfluous language that detracts from rather adds to the directness of the communication. I used to write that way as a novice author before a competent editor told me how to be descriptive without rambling (advice I still have trouble following after all these years).

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