ZTE Axon Watch review: UK availability, design, spec and software

Interestingly, MWC 2016 saw a lack of smartwatch-related announcements – the hot topics were the releases of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5, along with virtual reality content. What’s even more interesting is the appearance of the ZTE Axon Watch at the ZTE stand – a gorgeous smartwatch that, at first glance, features Android Wear, although all is not what it seems. We went hands on with the Chinese smartwatch at MWC 2016, and here’s what we thought. Read next: Best smartwatches of 2016

ZTE Axon Watch review: Pricing and availability

The ZTE Axon Watch surprisingly isn’t new – it was announced back in July 2015, and went on sale back in October 2015. So why haven’t we heard about such a beautiful smartwatch in the UK? The issue is that while the Axon Watch looks like it’s running Google’s Android Wear OS, it’s actually running Chinese company Tencent’s TOS+ platform, a platform that doesn’t feature any Google Services and as such, would be useless to us around the world.

With that being said, ZTE has no plans to actively sell the ZTE Axon Watch in the UK or anywhere else in the world apart from China. So why cover it on a UK-based website? While we’re disappointed that the Axon Watch won’t be reaching our shores any time soon, it gives us a look at what we could expect from ZTE if the company decides to launch an Android Wear powered smartwatch in future.

Read next: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear release date, devices, specs and features

ZTE Axon Watch review: Design and build

The ZTE Axon Watch is circular in design, which has proven to be hugely popular with the likes of the LG G Watch R, the Huawei Watch and the Moto 360. We’d go as far as to say that the Axon Watch looks strikingly similar to the Huawei Watch, with its stainless steel body and coloured bezel surrounding the display. That’s not a bad thing either, as we feel like the Huawei Watch is one of the most stylish smartwatches available on the market at the moment. In fact, in terms of measurements (42x42x11.5mm and 49g) the Axon Watch is almost identical to the Huawei Watch and Moto 360.

The ZTE Axon Watch comes with leather straps by default which the company thinks will add more of a premium feel to the watch, although during our hands on we thought that the straps felt a bit thin and plastic-y. It’s not a huge issue though, as like with many other smartwatches, you can swap out the watch straps for something a little more to your personal taste. It comes in either Black & Rose Gold or Silver & Gold, giving you two variations to choose from.

It’s a similar story with the available watch faces too – the Axon Watch features a variety of watch faces, including more traditional mechanical faces through to digital faces, as well as hybrids of the two. The high quality display of the Axon Watch makes the faces seem more detailed and realistic than with other smartwatches on the market.

ZTE Axon Watch review: Features and spec

The first thing you’ll notice about the ZTE Axon Watch is its gorgeous circular display. More specifically, the Axon Watch features a 1.4in sapphire-coated circular display, boasting a resolution of 400x400 and a pixel density of 404ppi – pretty impressive for a smartwatch. Though we only had a brief amount of time with the Axon Watch at MWC, the display did stand out to us – it’s bright and crisp, and something you’d expect to find on a flagship product like the Huawei Watch.

Along with its 1.4in circular display, the Axon Watch boasts a 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor coupled with an Adreno 305 GPU, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of on-board storage – fairly standard specs for an Android Wear (based) smartwatch that’ll compete with the internals of the Huawei Watch and second generation Moto 360. It was fairly snappy when swiping between the various menus, although we didn’t get a chance to run any particularly power-intensive apps. It boasts IP67 certification, which means the Axon Watch could survive a 30-minute stint in up to 1 meter of water.

It also features Bluetooth 4.1, and a 300mAh battery – it won’t last for days on end like other smartwatches, but should comfortably get you through the day without needing a charge, although we couldn’t confirm this during our hands on. It also includes a heartrate monitor that can be used to track a user’s average bpm, as well as be used to help monitor exercise.

ZTE Axon Watch review: Software

As mentioned above, even though it appears that the ZTE Axon Watch runs Google’s Android Wear operating system, it doesn’t. It’s actually a very good lookalike created by Chinese company Tencent called TOS+, and while it operates in an almost identical way to Google’s offering, it doesn’t feature any Google Services. This is largely due to issues regarding access to Google Services in China, and means that Chinese manufacturers have to find another way to power their smartwatches.

TOS+ isn’t necessarily bad, either – it offers an experience as close to Android Wear as you can find without installing Google’s operating system, which makes it easier for Android Wear users to use (if needed). Although with this being said, the TOS+ system makes the Axon Watch almost completely useless to the rest of the world.

ZTE Axon Watch: Specs

  • 1.4in circular display
  • 400x400
  • 404ppi
  • 42x42x11.5mm and 49g
  • TOS+ operating system, no Google Services
  • Beautiful stainless steel body
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor
  • an Adreno 305 GPU
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 4GB of on-board storage
  • IP67 waterproof rating
  • heartrate monitor
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • 300mAh battery
  • 1.4in circular display
  • 400x400
  • 404ppi
  • 42x42x11.5mm and 49g
  • TOS+ operating system, no Google Services
  • Beautiful stainless steel body
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor
  • an Adreno 305 GPU
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 4GB of on-board storage
  • IP67 waterproof rating
  • heartrate monitor
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • 300mAh battery

OUR VERDICT

We only had a limited amount of time with the ZTE Axon Watch at MWC 2016, but we were impressed nonetheless. The body is a little chunky, but that isn't a complaint specific to the Axon Watch, and the high resolution display & gorgeous design makes up for it. The only downside is a lack of Android Wear, which means the Axon Watch is China-only for now. However with this being said, it's a great insight as to what ZTE could offer if it made an Android powered smartwatch for the rest of the world.