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The Nubia Alpha has many features, but it is not a wearable for everyone.
Unusual science fiction design They say they have a good battery
Gesture controls do not work well Snapdragon 2100 processor Very large for small faces
The Chinese company Nubia arrived at CES 2019 with the ingenious intelligent dual-screen phone Nubia X, which has a screen on the front and another on the back, but did not stop with that. Now, the company is in the MWC 2019 with the first smart phone in the world that can be carried in the face. It's called Nubia Alpha, and it's like a trip on a Russian mountain of technology, a kind of hybrid between a smart watch and a fully functional phone. We tried it, and this was our experience.
What exactly is the Nubia Alpha?
Let's talk first about what it really is. Nubia's definition is mostly correct: it is a smart watch with smartphone capabilities, which includes everything: from making and receiving calls to taking photos with a built-in camera. Instead of a circular screen, it has a flexible 4-inch rectangular OLED screen with a resolution of 960 x 192 pixels. It curves down on the side of the bracelet, providing a longer viewing area than a traditional smart watch. The stainless steel bracelet can be easily resized with small clips.
The bezel around the screen gives it shape and definition, and holds a normal camera and a sensor to recognize gestures. But this is not a portable device shaped like a modern watch; It is like a rare mix of the space age, but in the eighties, and comes in silver, black or in a striking 18-carat gold-plated version.
It is novel, true. However, interior technology is disappointing. The Nubia Alpha has the Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor, which is completely outdated, and a portable processor that we would prefer not to use in 2019, now that the new Snapdragon 3100 is available. The watch has 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage space and a 500mAh battery that Nubia says is valid for two days of use, or a week in standby mode. Having experience with the Snapdragon 2100, this seems too optimistic, but we have not tried it to know for sure. The Alpha tracks your physical state and also has a heart rate sensor on the back.
The Nubia Alfa is large, as long as it was expected to be a portable smart phone. There is no subtlety here. Everyone will notice the Alpha in your face. When we tested it, we noticed that the bracelet is very comfortable, the size fits easily, and does not pull the hairs of the grimace of any of my colleagues. However, due to the fact that his style is so retro in science fiction, and due to its size and style, it is unlikely to be attractive to a female public.
It is not subtle. Everyone will see the Nubia Alpha in your face.
Those are the ups and downs of the design, so what about the screen? It is attractive, bright and colorful, as expected from an OLED panel, showing the cones and the operating system wallpaper very effectively. You can also watch videos, show photos, and do other things similar to smart phones, but you don't want to do it because it is tall, thin and, for modern phone standards, quite small. For example, you can take pictures with your camera, but the viewfinder is the size of a postage stamp and a low resolution. It is true that the 5 megapixel camera will probably take passable images, but few will want to see them on this small screen or contort their arm to take a picture with this device.
Controls and gestures
Let's talk about the control system. You can interact with it by pressing, sliding the screen from left to right, and from top to bottom, or vice versa. The cones range from large and clear to small and complicated, with some screens that show a lot of information and others quite simple. A click sound accompanies it when scrolling through the screens, which adds to the retro atmosphere. A pinch close applications. In our test, the watch did not have access to Google Play, and it is not clear if it works with Android.
Nubia wants you to use its gesture control system called Air Interaction Mechanics, or AIM. This involves moving your hand in the air, over the clock, to mimic the touch controls. The movements of your hands are recognized by the special clock sensor, and you can scroll through the mens without touching the screen. At least that's the idea. But as much as we tried in a wide variety of models, we couldn't make the gestural controls work consistently. Other people had a slightly better success, but not for prolonged periods. Even Nubia's representatives had difficulties.
As much as we tried, gesture controls could not always work well.
Availability and price
The prices vary. The cheapest Alpha with Bluetooth costs 450 euros ($ 512 dollars), the 4G eSIM model costs 550 euros ($ 626 dollars) and for the 18K gold version eSIM should pay 650 euros ($ 740 dollars). This places it in the same range as the Apple Watch Series 4, which although still divides the opinion with its design, is certainly less visually challenging than the Nubia Alpha. In terms of availability, Nubia says the Alpha will be available in the coming months in China and parts of Europe, and arrive in North America by the end of 2019.
The Alpha is exactly what is expected of Nubia. It is rare, strangely convincing, technically innovative, it has elements that do not work as described and that must be solved before launch, and does not resemble anything else that is currently available in the market. As we said at the beginning of this article, it is a Russian mountain, with ups and downs. None of this is a reason to rush you to buy it, or to put aside the idea of having it, but we're glad it exists. Even so, even after all this time, it seems that nothing can compete with the Apple Watch, which even in its most basic form is cheaper than the Nubia Alpha.