Nubia Alpha: IFA’s most innovative smartphone was a flexible OLED hybrid watch

By | 5th September 2018

Nubia Alpha smartwatch shown at IFA 2018

The Nubia Alpha caught the eye at IFA 2018 this week, and not just for being one of the few devices that incorporated a flexible OLED screen.

What also had us leaning in to get a closer look is that the device will be on sale before the end of 2018. That makes it far more than a concept, and it’s quite different to anything else out there. So what’s it all about?

Nubia

Nubia is a quasi sub-brand or spinoff from ZTE, with some decent devices including the gaming-focused Nubia Red Magic, a gaming smartphone set to be updated with a Snapdragon 845 and with shoulder triggers, among others.

This Nubia Alpha holds a bit more water than the other tech demonstrations we see encased behind a glass box at trade shows. Firstly, because it’s going on sale, and secondly, because it’s made by a known and plausible Chinese manufacturer.

When touring the booth and asking lots of question, Nubia’s team was kind enough to remove the Nubia Alpha’s protective glass casing, but we weren’t able to get hands-on, unfortunately. That’s because the Nuba Alpha looked a bit like a hardware alpha — obviously pre-production, and in demonstration mode only.

Nubia Alpha smartwatch shown at IFA 2018 Nubia Alpha smartwatch shown at IFA 2018

Most technical questions we asked were politely rebuffed, and we didn’t get much in terms of pricing either, other than the company is being careful to not overprice what is such a unique device. Nubia is billing it as a wearable smartphone, though, and it was sporting a few capabilities beyond what we’ve seen from other devices.

The main one is the long OLED panel wrapping right around with the device, and running through demo software, essentially playing a video on the device. The screen itself looked great — we didn’t get much when pushing to ask about the manufacturer behind it, but Royole was also at IFA showing its flexible OLED technology again, as they have been for years. Of course, there’s LG and Samsung tech out there as well. The black wristband was metal, and the reps confirmed it all as being lighter than expected.

Nubia Alpha smartwatch shown at IFA 2018

In terms of other tech we have seen on other wearable devices over the years, the watch/phone is running Android, although no clues were given about which version. There’s a 4G LTE modem for data of course, and you’ll spot a camera and small speaker on the outer perimeter of the device, plus sensors to alternate the display to work on either wrist. Charging wasn’t wireless, with the device using a charging module with pins to connect to the battery within.

The smartwatch demo software ran through contacts, music players, fitness tracking, a find your (other) phone function, and showed a call being taken. It all looked realistic enough, but of course, was just a looping video.

Nubia Alpha smartwatch shown at IFA 2018

The device was firmly in the realms of not being able to touch, which is ironic given the trailer below says “touch the future.” While it didn’t look half-baked, it didn’t look like a final version either. The concept device doesn’t exactly scream style, but that’s not why Nubia had it on display. It’s a first look — a way to showcase Nubia’s skills — and it’s something that might make sense to be strapped to your wrist. We’re not sure. While a complete wrap-around bracelet style of screen would be overkill, given how much of it you could see at once, the Nubia Alpha shows us more screen than we’ve seen before.

Nubia has leaked out other odd devices in the past, including the front- and rear-screened Nubia Z128S, though we haven’t seen it since. This looked much more real. There’s also a trailer to go with it:

So, what do you think of the Nubia Alpha? Would you be interested in toting it around on your wrist? It is too early? Is it vaporware? Let us know in the comments below!