Xiaomi may be planning to launch a new fitness tracker with a 360-degree wraparound screen – which would make it the first commercially available watch of its kind.
Originally spotted by SparrowsNews on Chinese microblogging site Weibo, the device appears to be called the Xiaomi Mi Band X, and has a display that will extend all the way around the straps, showing far more data than a typical smartwatch.
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The details posted on Weibo appear to be taken from an internal event at Xiaomi. The watch is described as “king of inner scrolls – Mi Band X” and is said to be “extremely light and thin” apart from “360-degree roll screen without strap design”. Other key details mentioned in the slide can be roughly translated to “magnetic bracelet buckle is more convenient to wear” and “obsidian color is full of technology”.
The last statement suggests that the watch may only be available in black, though it seems likely that wearers will be able to customize the watch's wraparound 'face', thereby changing the look of the whole device.
We've contacted Xiaomi to see whether the company is able to confirm the veracity of the leak, and if so, when we might be able to expect more details.
The shape of things to come
While a 360-degree watch screen would be a first, we've seen fitness trackers and smartwatches with curved screens before. However, they've not been without their flaws.
Last year, Zepp Health opened pre-orders for the Amazfit X watch on IndieGoGo. The watch, which has a 92-degree curved display, began shipping in September, but comments on the crowdfunding page suggest many users are experiencing issues with the GPS and a lack of firmware updates.
A few months later, we got our hands on the Nubia Watch, from smartphone manufacturer ZTE. This chunky device has a 4.01-inch AMOLED panel with a 960 x 192 resolution, which we found useful for reading lengthy text messages and app notifications.
Again, however, the GPS proved inaccurate, and the thickness of the watch made it difficult to wear with long sleeves. We also experienced issues with battery life; according to the manufacturer, it should have kept running for up to seven days between charges, but in our tests it only lasted two or three.
There's a possibility that sales of the Mi Band X will be limited to China, where Xiaomi is based, but if it receives a worldwide launch we'll aim to bring you a full review as soon as possible to see how it matches up to more conventional fitness trackers.
Analysis: why nailing curves is so hard
One of the key selling points of both the Amazfit X and Nubia Watch was their ability to show more data at a glance than conventional smartwatches, with extra data, longer text messages, and more app icons visible at a glance. It's a great idea in theory, but very challenging to pull off successfully.
Not only does the display have to be curved (a feat made possible by the same technology used in rollable OLED TVs), all of the watch's internal components (including the battery) have to be curved as well. Plastic circuit boards can be curved easily enough, but any component that has to remain flat will add to the watch's thickness, leading to the kind of problems we saw with the chunky Nubia Watch.
Durability could also be a sticking point, as a curved watch screen has more potential to be knocked and scraped than a typical smartwatch display. The glass covering the Amazfit X's display is shaped by heating it to over 700C before bending it, and although we've not had the opportunity to test it ourselves, this type of tempering can make glass more susceptible to scratching.
That type of glass wrapped around the circumference of your entire wrist would be easy to bump and scuff in everyday wear, even just sitting at your desk and typing.
It'll be interesting to see how Xiaomi will get around these problems if the Xiaomi Mi Band X begins production. Hopefully we'll get more news soon.