Skip to main content

Nubia Alpha review

A wearable, flexible, durable smartphone – with major issues

Image credit: TechRadar

Battery life

The Nubia Alpha has a 500mAh battery, which is small for a phone but about average for a wearable, although most wearables don’t have 4-inch flexible displays, or cameras, so we did feel the battery capacity should have been a bit better.

The Nubia Alpha’s battery lasted for a day easily, but we’d always have to charge it if we wanted to make it through a second day – and finding the time to charge it was always tricky, as between the various fitness features and the sleep tracking there weren’t many times when we wanted to take it off for long.

Image credit: TechRadar 

Image credit: TechRadar 

You charge the Alpha via a micro USB port on an attachable panel. It doesn’t take long to charge up, and we found ourselves charging it for brief periods here and there to keep it topped up, rather than leaving it plugged in for long periods. 

Camera

Now we come to one of the first features of the device that’s inspired by phones rather than wearables – the Nubia Alpha has a camera. It’s a 5MP f/2.2 snapper with a wide-angle lens, and you can be sure we tested it out a lot.

The pictures we took were of a fairly acceptable quality, with little grain or softness – but don’t expect any features like depth-sensing for background blur or scene optimization. There are a few basic filters available, but other than that there’s little in the way of processing on offer.

Image 1 of 2

Selfies when we held the Nubia Alpha were fine. Image credit: TechRadar

Selfies when we held the Nubia Alpha were fine. Image credit: TechRadar
Image 2 of 2

Filters let us channel our inner Humphrey Bogart. Image credit: TechRadar

Filters let us channel our inner Humphrey Bogart. Image credit: TechRadar

You can also shoot videos up to 10 seconds in length, and both videos and photos can be viewed on the phone, although they’re limited in size by the screen. You can also sync your Nubia Alpha’s gallery with the smartphone app, which enables you to view your snaps in better quality.

We have one major issue with a wearable with a camera, however – you’re never going to be naturally holding the Nubia Alpha at an angle that would enable you to take even remotely flattering portrait-mode shots, and we had to strain and stretch to find angles that didn’t capture horrendous up-nose pictures. 

Similarly, landscape-orientation selfies look pretty good on the Alpha’s stretched screen, but to take these you’ll have to take the device off.

Selfies taken from the wrist were... less than flattering. Image credit: TechRadar

Selfies taken from the wrist were... less than flattering. Image credit: TechRadar

There’s very little you can immediately do with images taken on the Nubia Alpha though – instead of going through the effort of taking a picture on the Alpha and then syncing it with your smartphone, you could just take a better-quality picture on the phone, so the camera is a novelty rather than a useful feature. 

Fitness

The Nubia Alpha comes with a decent range of fitness features, as well as ambient counters, so it’s a pretty useful health device.

As with all fitness wearables there’s a step tracker, heart rate monitor and calorie counting – each seemed accurate, giving us similar results for repeated activities or walking routes. 

On top of that there’s a sedentary reminder if you don’t move much, which was helpful to get us up and active when we’d spent too much time sitting down (although it did lead to a rise in our tea drinking habits).

Image credit: TechRadar

Image credit: TechRadar

During the course of our review we did find one massive bug, however: after walking to work we should normally have registered around 7,000 steps, but on one of the days we found a minus total of steps, and a whopping -59,000 at that. We encountered this bug a few times during our several weeks with the Alpha, and it was enough to ruin any step-tracking for that day.

The Nubia Alpha fitness suite has modes for outdoor running and walking, indoor running (presumably on a treadmill) and free workouts, and each of them was fairly useful for tracking distance, time, or other useful metrics.

Finally there’s the ‘health’ mode, which tracks your calories burnt by day as well as sleep time at night and distance walked. This was all good as a way to track our regular exercise, but neither the Nubia Alpha or the Nubia Wear app offer a way of viewing historic results, so it’s hard to contextualize your daily activity.