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ZTE BlueWatch is a Pebble lookalike without the start-up (hands-on)

Chinese mobile giant ZTE unveiled the BlueWatch at CES 2014, a monochrome smart watch to keep track of your physical and your virtual self.

Whilst we’ve seen fitness bands that can tell the time and connected watches which feed off your smartphone’s telemetry for fitness data, ZTE’s BlueWatch, which was on display at CES this year, brings some of that tracking tech in-house.

The company’s first attempt at a smart accessory like this, the BlueWatch won’t win them any points for originality, but it’s a sign of yet another big brand getting involved in the smart watch game alongside the likes of Sony and Samsung.

The BlueWatch, as its name suggests, supports Bluetooth 3.0 or 4.0+ EDR technology to pair to any (not just a ZTE) Android handset running 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and up. Modelling itself heavily on the likes of the original Pebble smart watch, it features a 1.26-inch monochrome screen that’s tailored for easy sunlight legibility and comes with a host of preinstalled apps and a built in pedometer to keep track of your steps, even if your smartphone isn’t around to offer up its location. Just like the Pebble (and Pebble Steel) it charges using a magnetised connector.

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As a standalone device, beyond its basic wrist watch functionality, there’s the aforementioned pedometer, an alarm, stopwatch and the ability to swap out watch faces, but of course the experience can be augmented by pairing it wirelessly to a smartphone, at which point it can also display incoming text messages, tweets, Facebook posts, caller ID and many of the things we’ve already seen from other manufacturers, again, namely Pebble. Whether it will have a downloadable app store to expand the experience is unclear at this stage.

The “quantified self” angle that ZTE is going for with the BlueWatch seems to be the most logical approach for consumers looking for an everyday device that’ll be functional both as a smartphone accessory and in its own right. The company is still looking to refine the design a little further before It hits retail, but whatever it does, we hope the finished product is priced competitively, otherwise there’s a pretty solid selection of alternatives now out in the market that might offer a superior experience.

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