Hands on: The Axon Watch hints at an exciting Android Wear Future for ZTE

The Axon Watch hints at an exciting Android Wear Future for ZTE

ZTE has big plans for its flagship Axon range. We’ve seen the original Axon smartphone and the spinoff Axon Elite already, but if it wants to create a family of high-spec devices along the same lines as Samsung’s Galaxy S line — which ZTE has indicated to us is its intention — then it’ll need a smartwatch. The thing is, it already has one, but for now it’s only destined for sale in China. It’s called the Axon Watch, and we got a chance to try it out.

The working prototype of the Axon Watch was being worn by Waiman Lam, ZTE’s senior director of mobile devices, who showed us how the device operated. If you can’t quite place what OS it’s running, don’t worry. It’s not Android Wear, but Tencent OS, the mobile operating system designed by Chinese media giant Tencent — which among other things, owns super-popular messaging platform WeChat, hence the presence of an app on the watch.

Tencent OS is built on Android Wear, so there are similarities, such as swiping up and down through the menus, left and right to dismiss notifications or gain more information, and holding down on the screen to change the watch face. The icons and buttons are noticeably larger and more defined though.

In addition to the WeChat app, there are various others, including a find-my-phone option to alert you if you leave the connected phone behind, and a tiny but fun Labyrinth-style game. Tencent OS works well on the Axon Watch, but doesn’t do anything more than Google’s software, but it’s certainly fast and well-designed. It’s compatible with most modern Android smartphones, to which it connects using Bluetooth, and doesn’t need to be mated with a Tencent phone.

Thin screen bezel

The watch, being a prototype, didn’t look box fresh, but it still managed to visually impress with its thin bezels. The 1.4-inch screen looks great, with a pixel density of around 250ppi, which is on par with the LG G Watch R/Watch Urbane’s 320 x 320 pixel P-OLED display. The look is somewhere in-between the Moto 360 and its almost nonexistent bezel, and the G Watch R’s sportier, chunky casing.

With the right watch face, the screen looks large and appealing, and isn’t dominated by the oversize lugs on the top and bottom. It’s possible to tailor the Axon Watch’s style to your personal taste, as ZTE makes it in several colors and there’s a choice of metal and leather bands.

If you can’t quite place what OS it’s running, don’t worry.

There’s a heart rate monitor on the rear, plus it’ll track your activity levels, and although the function wasn’t active on this device, sleep tracking will be present on the final, production Axon Watch. It’s light and fitted neatly on my wrist. The body is quite thick, but the overall size is more compact that the Watch Urbane, so it may suit more people than many of the Android Wear watches currently on sale.

Because it runs Tencent OS, the Axon Watch as you see it here won’t be sold outside China, where it will go on sale in the near future. ZTE’s not saying whether it will act as the template for an actual Android Wear smartwatch sold internationally with the Axon name attached, but it’s a possibility. If not, this Axon Watch may end up as a test case for a second-generation version for the future. Either way, it impressed us enough that we’re looking forward to seeing what direction ZTE takes with it, and smartwatches in general.


  • Thin bezels
  • Sharp screen
  • Lightweight and comfortable


  • China-only release
Product Review

Can Walmart extinguish Amazon’s Fire with the cheap Onn Android tablet?

There aren’t many Android tablets under $100, so the Walmart Onn is an attractive prospect. With near stock Android and the Play Store on board it has the potential to be an Amazon Fire beater, but what’s it like to use?

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for June 2019

Smartwatches make life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. If you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, here are the best smartwatch deals for June 2019.

The modern Moto Z4 is now available straight from Verizon

The Moto Z3 was the first phone to support 5G, but now it has a successor: The Moto Z4. The new phone doesn't offer anything we haven't seen before, but it does bring back the headphone jack.

Exclusive: This is Mobvoi’s next Wear OS smartwatch, and it likely adds 4G LTE

Mobvoi may not be a household name in the U.S., but it sells affordable smartwatches running Google's Wear OS platform. The company's next watch has leaked -- by Mobvoi itself -- and Digital Trends managed to snap a screenshot.

HTC still makes smartphones, but still isn’t great at marketing them

It’s easy to forget HTC still makes smartphones, as it sold most of its phone division to Google. The phones are still there, though, and HTC has announced a pair new ones: The HTC U19e, and the Desire 19+.

Cover your glass with the best cases and covers for Google's Pixel 3 XL

The Pixel 3 XL is Google's plus-sized flagship handset. Having paid $900 for that beast — best make sure you protect it, too. Here are some of the best Pixel 3 XL cases to keep your phone safe.
Product Review

Samsung's $99 fitness tracker takes on Fitbit. Can it keep pace?

Samsung’s going toe-to-toe against Fitbit’s Inspire HR with its own $99 fitness tracker -- the Galaxy Fit. It also has a heart rate monitor, can automatically detect six workouts, and has a battery that can last for days.

The best Apple AirPods alternatives for Android, Windows, and iOS devices

Apple AirPods might be new and improved, but they aren't the only game in town. Other makers are offering their own truly wireless earbuds, with attractive features. These are the best AirPod alternatives on the market today.

Samsung's $99 Galaxy Fit fitness tracker is now available in the U.S.

Looking for a new fitness buddy? Samsung just launched the Galaxy Watch Active and the Galaxy Fit, two new wearables with a raft of fitness-focused features that'll keep you moving and get you down to the gym.

Samsung dismisses rumors of a revitalized Galaxy Fold launching in July

The Samsung Galaxy Fold is real, but for how long? Folding out from a 4.6-inch display to a tablet-sized 7.3-inch display, this unique device has six cameras, two batteries, and special software to help you use multiple apps.

Huawei's folding phone held back for more tests, will be released in September

The Huawei Mate X is an exciting 5G folding smartphone with stunning looks. The Mate X has three screens, a clever hinge system, and a Leica camera. All the details you need to know are right here.

You can pre-order the Galaxy S10 5G from Sprint starting today

Samsung announced a whopping four new Galaxy S10 devices, from the low-cost S10e to the triple-camera S10 and S10 Plus. But it's the Galaxy S10 5G that steals the show, as it's the first 5G-ready smartphone to hit the market.

These are the best Moto Z4 cases to boost your new phone’s longevity

The Moto Z4 is the newest way to experience Motorola's flagship range. But just because it's cheap, doesn't mean that it's expendable. Make sure your new and beautiful Moto Z4 survives for a long time with one of the best Moto Z4 cases.

5 features I’d like to see in Google’s Pixel 4 smartphone

We’ve had a sneak peek at Google’s forthcoming Pixel 4 smartphone, and it offers few clues about what we’ll get. These are the 5 features I’d like to see Google include to take the Pixel line to the next level.