If you weren’t already emotionally attached to your smartphone, now you can take digital shackles to a whole new level with Nubia’s wearable phone.

The Shenzhen-based company debuted the Nubia α (or Alpha) this week at MWC19 in Barcelona and reactions ranged from cautiously impressed to downright incredulous.

Nubia’s flexible smartwatch is the first wearable flexible screen. It has a 4-inch flexible OLED display manufactured by Visionox with an ultra-wide aspect ratio and a display resolution of 960 x 192. The device runs on the Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip and has 1GB of RAM, 8GB of onboard storage, and a 500mAh battery.

The company announced at MWC19 that they had “innovated the largest wearable flexible screen in the industry, up to 230% larger than the standard wearable displays.” Nubia also claims that the display can be bent up to 100,000 times without damage.

The screen is protected by a strong, heat-resistant polymer called Polyimide and is also reportedly water-resistant. Nubia also claims that the display can be bent up to 100,000 times without damage.

Because it wraps around your wrist, it’s impossible to see the entire screen at once, although its custom Android-based OS lets you scroll, drag, and navigate using a simplified icon menu. There are also physical buttons on the side of the device to take users back to the home screen.

The device also has gesture control, allowing users to scroll by merely waving a finger rather than physically scrolling through the screen. It also has fitness tracking capability, limited mobile payment options, the ability to make voice calls via its built-in speaker or Bluetooth, and SMS text messaging. The device will ship with wireless earbuds.

According to The Verge, the device also has a 5-megapixel camera “which lets you take selfies pretty effortlessly, or normal photographs using a little more limb contortion.” While you can also watch movies on your wearable, it’s not exactly comfortable since you’d have to lift your arm in front of your face to see video head-on. But, hey, at least you’ll get some strength training in.

Nubia plans to release a few different models of the Alpha. Customers will get to choose between black and gold devices and two different types of connectivity – a cheaper model with Bluetooth connectivity that pairs with a phone, and a pricier model that will come out a bit later with eSIM compatibility that allows it to act as a standalone smartphone.

The Bluetooth model will be available in Europe and North America starting in April and cost around $510, while the eSIM version will start at roughly $624 and be available in Europe and North America in the third quarter of 2019. The flashier gold eSIM model will cost you an extra $100.

Of course, the question remains, do we really need this much connectivity? While experts predict that wearable tech will become more prevalent since it is more versatile and energy-efficient, smartphone addiction is a real problem all over the world. And more and more research is showing that increased reliance on screens leads to poorer mental health.

To be honest, the Alpha looks a lot like the ankle monitors worn by convicted criminals under house arrest. It’s worth asking if we really want something like this strapped to our wrists, monitoring our every move.

Avatar for Jessica Baron, PhD

Jessica Baron, PhD

I am a technology writer and tech ethics consultant whose work has appeared in international news and trade outlets. I have a PhD in History and Philosophy of Science and write about everything from future military weapons to advances in medicine.

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