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Nubia Alpha Review

Nubia wants you to ditch your phone for its flexible watch/phone hybrid, the Nubia Alpha. Here's why you might want to hold off for now
Should I Buy The Nubia Alpha?
In concept, the Nubia Alpha is phenomenal: a flexible OLED smartwatch display makes total sense. In practice it's less successful, with a bulky design, rubbish camera, and frequently frustrating software. 
Unfortunately, that isn't what we've got, and the Nubia Alpha as-is is ugly, overpriced, and occasionally feels downright broken. I can't recommend that you buy it, but I wish I could.

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Ticwatch Sport Review

Ticwatch Sport Review
PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
  • $199.99
The Ticwatch Sport, also known as the Ticwatch S, is the latest offering from the Chinese company Mobvoi. As the name suggests it's a fitness-focused smartwatch, and a fairly high-end one at that: it features GPS, impressive water resistance and an always-on display. Yet the price is a lot more manageable than even the entry-level Apple Watch.


In this article we discuss the Ticwatch Sport's design, build quality, features and specs, and outline its performance in testing. We'll help you decide if this is the fitness watch for you.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY
You can buy the Ticwatch Sport direct from Mobvoi for £150.50/$199.99; if you'd prefer the reassurance of a familiar vendor you can get it from Amazon for £177.99 or $199.99.

DESIGN
The Ticwatch S has a chunky, robust-feeling body with a round face and a single hardware button in an oversized bracket on the left. The button has a slightly 'sticky' action with very little click or tactile feedback when pressed, but it's reliable.

The watch is made of matt-finish polycarbonate and feels pleasant on the wrist, as well as capable of absorbing plenty of punishment. It's rated IP67 water- and dust-resistant, which translates to dust-tight and protected against liquid immersion up to 1m, although the manufacturer does not recommend swimming with it.

Weight-wise it would sit somewhere towards the upper end of the Apple Watch range (45.5g; only the larger stainless steel and ceramic editions of the Series 3 weigh more) but that still leaves it in the 'comfortably lightweight' zone; indeed for part of the testing period we wore the Ticwatch and the Apple Watch at the same time on the same wrist without being especially inconvenienced, even though in fashion terms we don't recommend this look.
Note that the rubbery polyurethane strap (which has integrated GPS) cannot be removed or replaced, so you'll need to make sure you pick the right colour initially. If you'd prefer a removable strap, go for the Ticwatch Express variant, which has GPS in the watch body.

Colour options
The Ticwatch S comes in three colours: black ('Knight'), neon yellow ('Aurora') and white ('Glacier'). Black is probably the safest choice but you can get away with gaudier colours in gym/sporty settings and we're rather fond of the yellow. We suspect, however - based on similar materials and colours on other manufacturers' watches - that this and the white option will both start to look grubby after a few months of use.

INTERFACE
When you jog, tap or rotate the Ticwatch it wakes up and displays the full watch face, but by default - this feature can be disabled to preserve battery - a simpler always-on version is shown at other times.

The watch is based on Google's Wear OS and pairs most naturally with an Android phone (Android 4.3 or later is required.) It's possible to use it, however - albeit with a less optimised experience - with an iPhone running iOS 8 or later.

Having only one button (and no dial) might seem limiting, but the interface manages for the most part to make life simple. The button toggles between the list of apps and the watch face, and you can easily swipe up and down to browse options, tap to select one or swipe left to right to go back one menu tier.

Occasionally the interface is less user-friendly than we'd like - when selecting a new watch face, for example, we paused for just a moment on one particular face and the watch unilaterally decided that this was what we were getting - but it's generally simple and intuitive. We do like the way recent apps automatically appear at the top of the list for ease of repeat access, although it seems counterintuitive that they appear below as well; in the photo above you can see the Alarm app twice within the space of four slots.

Speaking of faces, the way watch face customisation is handled is odd (albeit standard fare for a Wear OS device). Opening the relevant section of the settings shows only three; if you tap through to add more, you find there are really 19, all accessible without download, hidden in the submenu. You have to select one of these to add it to the higher-tier menu - the 'favourites' - and then select again to make it the selection.

You can access even more faces than this, but you have to download them from the Play Store.

FEATURES & PERFORMANCE
You get the usual range of Wear OS smartwatch features - music, email and text notifications, Shazam, Google Assistant - but this is primarily a fitness device. (To be fair the company's website also boasts that the Ticwatch features a vibrator, but we assume this is a translation issue because we couldn't find one in the box.)

With onboard GPS, which the makers boast is particularly accurate because of its integration into the strap, our expectations were high. But we found the device mildly prone to underestimation: a route that a trusted Apple Watch Series 2 pegged at 3.8km (backed up by Google Maps) was estimated at 3.69km by the Ticwatch. That's not a bad margin for error, mind you.

Smartwatches and treadmills are not happy bedfellows - they cannot use their GPS and don't know how fast the machine is running - but we gave it a try just to see how it would cope. As expected, the Ticwatch struggled, believing a 5km run was only 3.7km. But you can't expect much better than that without syncing with the machine, or training a smartwatch with your stride length (which takes time and will only improve, not fix, the problem).

For comparison, our well-trained Apple Watch still underestimated the treadmill run but less egregiously: it reckoned we'd done 4.3km.

SPECS
  • Ticwatch Sport: Specs
  • 1.2GHz dual-core MT2601 processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • 1.4in OLED multi-touch screen (400x400, 287ppi)
  • GPS (integrated into watch band)
  • heart-rate monitor
  • proximity sensor
  • accelerometer
  • gyroscope
  • e-compass
  • mic
  • speaker
  • 300mAh rechargeable battery - claimed battery life 48hours
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • 802.11 b/g/n
  • IP67 water resistance
  • 45mm diameter, 13mm thick
  • 45.5g

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