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Nex Band review: What I really wanted instead of a smartwatch

I hate what we're doing with smartwatches right now. I don't want to talk at my wrist; I couldn't care less about a cellular connection; and I'm not interested in a smaller version of my phone giving me turn-by-turn directions in a place that still requires me to look away from the road. If I turn off the features I don't care about, set my notifications so my wrist isn't being buzzed every 12 seconds, and drink a little to forget there's a keyboard in there now, I can make a smartwatch do most of the things I want it to do.

That's a lot of unnecessary work for a watch that I still have to charge every day. I needed a better solution, and the folks at Mighty Cast have spent the last couple of weeks trying to convince me their Nex Band is the thing I've been looking for. Here's what I've found.

Nex Band

Glossy plastic and rubber, so hot right now

Nex Band Hardware

Instead of a traditional display with its own UI and apps and emoji, the face of your Nex Band is five small touch panels with LEDs underneath. When you touch a panel, it lights up in its corresponding color, and aside from the single physical button on the side that's really all there is to this thing. There's no text, no scrolling wheels, and no desire to spend any more than half a second glancing down at it when you're doing something. It's a few colorful panels with a single button and a vibration motor for getting your attention. And Bluetooth.

It feels a bit cheap, but I overlooked that because it does what I want it to do.

The Nex Band comes in two colors, a white band with a gold body and black band with a black body, and the most important thing to know about both is that they feel really cheap on your wrist, and there's very little you can do about that. The plastic body and "sporty" rubber band are fused together with no way to separate them, so if you're not a fan of that kind of band this won't be for you.

The plastic button clasp does a reasonable job keeping the band secure on your wrist, but the band itself doesn't close all the way on smaller wrists unless you're willing to trim the band yourself. On larger wrists like mine, it fit comfortably enough and remained in place on my wrist no matter what I was doing.

The bottom of the band doesn't have a heart rate monitor or a skin sensor for wireless payments, but it does have the charging pins. Instead of a standard charging port, you need to snap an awkward charging clasp on the back of the band and connect a Micro-USB cable to that clasp. I can't overstate how easy it is to lose this attachment, especially if you're planning to travel with it. Be careful, because right now they aren't easy to replace.

Nex Band

I thought we were past this kind of behavior.

Fortunately, you won't need to worry about carrying the charging clasp with you everywhere because the battery on this band is actually pretty decent. On average, I'm getting a little over two full days of use without recharging, and it's pretty safe to assume my usage is a little heavier than average.

Overall, this band is not going to impress just by looking at it. There's no nice way to put this: it even looks kind of cheap. It's unlikely I'd wear this when going to an important meeting or to a special function. Every day, however, it's the first thing I reach for when getting out of bed.

Nex Band

Dancing lights on your wrist

Nex Band Software

Out of the box, these five touch panels don't do anything at all. There are no features programmed to these buttons. Notifications from your phone will cause all five to light up in cute animations and color patterns so you know what kind of notification you just received, but otherwise it's a blank slate. A glorious, completely customizable, blank slate that can be set up to do just about anything.

Every day, however, it's the first thing I reach for when getting out of bed.

From the Nex app (opens in new tab), each of these panels can be assigned a function. You can launch media controls, start a remote shutter for your camera app, trigger a fake phone call, and really just about anything else. Nex calls these "hacks" but really they're all just simple scripts that run when you activate one of the panels on your wrist.

If you don't see a pre-written hack that suits your need, you can quickly make one yourself through IFTTT. Anything you can do with IFTTT can be activated by a panel, including control over things like smart lights and other connected home gear.

Hacks don't have to be activated through touching a panel; some can be contextual. Nex will let you use your location, the number of steps you've taken in a day, and proximity to another Nex user as triggers for hacks as well. There's a ton of flexibility by default, and while that means you're going to spend a little extra time setting this band up when you first take it out of the box, it also means you're going to have the exact experience you want when finished.

Each panel can be configured to a long press command and a double-tap command, so you have ten potential programs you can run from your wrist. The ridges between the panels make it easy to activate one without looking down at the band, so you're able to either remain focused on someone talking and be discrete about controlling the world around you.

Nex even gives you control over the lights and vibrations during notifications, so if you'd prefer Twitter to flash green and never vibrate your wrist but you'd like an email from your boss to look like KITT from Knight Rider on your wrist with a constant vibration you totally can. The light system in the Nex app gives you total control over how everything looks and behaves, making this band exactly as simple or complex as you choose.

Nex Band

Ditch the Dick Tracy look

Nex Band Conclusion

There's a lot to like about the Nex Band, especially if you're a fan of flexibility and have local friends that would also wear one of these bands. Nex allows you to send custom animations to people in your Nex friends list, and this micro social network doesn't care if you're using Android or iOS. It's not useful for much more than getting your friend's attention from across the table or letting a significant other know you're thinking about them, but that's probably enough for most people. It's also nowhere near a requirement to use, like everything else in the Nex ecosystem.

Nex has taken the things I wish smartwatches did better and made them its biggest features, while removing all of the extra maintenance involved in using a smartwatch. It works well in every situation, including direct sunlight, and I'm not compelled in any way to try talking at my wrist. I'd be happier with build materials that were a little less sporty and plastic, but so far Nex has done a great job getting the important things on the inside right.

Should you buy it? Yes.

Where most wearables worth talking about start at the $200-$250 price range, you can grab a Nex Band in either color for $80. That's a great price for something that gets you multiple days of battery and can be tweaked to do whatever you want it to do, so if you have any interest in wearables at all I'd suggest this over just about anything else right now.

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Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

52 Comments
  • 3 things:
    1.) If the band looks and feels cheap, that seems . . . bad for longevity. 2.) If it's a pain in the neck to charge with an awkward, easy-to-lose, proprietary attachment, that seems bad (it was one of my main complaints with my Pebble and FitBit). This is especially problematic if this thing isn't more "mainstream" because you can't just go grab a charger at Target or Best Buy, maybe. 3.) Maps on your wrist are VERY useful if you're WALKING around a city. It's one of my favorite smartwatch features, in fact, despite it being somewhat niche. But go to a city you're not familiar with that's fairly large (like NYC or Toronto), and you will love not having to have your phone in your hand constantly to get around on foot. :-) I do like how customizable this thing is though!
  • See, my biggest problem with walking in a city through GPS has been when I'm surrounded by tall buildings and lose the connection to GPS or I drift far enough for Maps to offer new directions. I love the idea, it just doesn't work for me very often.
  • Huh . . . interesting. I've had pretty good luck with mine (tested in NYC-midtown and Cleveland). I'm using the GPS in my phone though, rather than the GPS built into my watch . . . maybe it's a more powerful transceiver?
  • Seems more likely that it's less obfuscated by the meat bag next to it, but the same basic idea yeah.
  • "I don't want to talk at my wrist; I couldn't care less about a cellular connection; and I'm not interested in a smaller version of my phone giving me turn-by-turn directions in a place that still requires me to look away from the road.... That's a lot of unnecessary work for a watch that I still have to charge every day. I needed a better solution." So you want a Pebble?
  • I loved my Pebble. I'm not interested in continuing to use a dead ecosystem though.
  • I second that--I LOVED my Pebble, and I'm sad to see it going away.
  • Engadget had a report that an update is out for apple and soon Android to allow you it to function beyond this year.
  • How is this a good device? It isnt a smartwatch, and that is what YOU want - what i see is a Fisher Price toy for a 3 year old. It doesnt even show the time. Without the phone its connected to, its nothing, without that charging block, its a gumball machine giveaway.
  • Yes, I think I made it really clear in the article that this is what I wanted.
  • Boy, seems you are bit defensive. Second guessing writing this yet? Rrading comprehension - I never doubted it is what YOU want, what I doubt is that it is what very many OTHER people want.
  • i comprehended what you wrote just fine, and I'm pretty far from defensive. There's no such thing as one piece of hardware for everyone. You don't like this, and the flaws I pointed out make it useless to you. I can appreciate that position, but I disagree that it's a majority opinion.
  • Maybe I'm old-school, but when I look down at my watch I would like to see what time it is.
  • I'm sure you're not alone, but I'm not sure you're the majority.
  • Yeah, I think he's the majority.
  • It's not impossible. I'm wrong about stuff all the time.
  • Very wrong on this one.
  • Yeah, I know many people don't use watches. But many still do. And having the time it's essential.
  • Yeah, I think the majority want to be able to see the TIME on their WATCH. The things were very popular even before they were "smart".
  • That animated GIF made me think of the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
  • I thought I was the only one!
  • Averix and QMaverick, your ages are showing, lol.
    *Runs off to bury age under 6ft of dirt...*
  • Why pay $100 for this when the Xiaomi Mi Band (original) does this for $16 and lasts nearly two months on a single charge? I have the Mi Band 2 which I bought for $33 from Wish (free shipping took 30 days to deliver), and I love it. I can tell the time, see who text/call/fb/email/tweeted me, it lasts around 40 days, and is way smaller than that beast.
  • Great point.
  • I recently purchased a Mi Band 2, amazing piece of kit for the price. It even tells the time! The best thing about it though, is that I only have to charge it once a month, in fact so far, I haven't had to charge it since the very first charge when it arrived about 3 weeks ago, and it still has 25% remaining. It uses around 3% battery per 24hrs. Does notifications, sleep monitoring, heart rate etc. and seems pretty accurate in that the sensor on my Galaxy S6 produces virtually identical results when measuring heart rate.
  • Totally agree I love my Mi fit 2
  • I have a paper cup sitting on my desk with UNLIMITED battery life and it does EVERYTHING a paper cup should do. Best of all, it was FREE.
    Maybe I'll attached a band to it and call it a WEARABLE. WAIT - THIS IS A LATE APRIL FOOLS Day joke, right?
  • Lol!
    I wouldn't be interested in this personally...
    I wasn't a smart watch to tell me notifications, be a map when I'm out and about and more importantly tell me the time.
    I have a fitbit charge 2 atm which only does two of the above but looking towards a Samsung s2 sport or ticwatch 2...
    A wearable device around my wrist that doesn't tell the time isn't worth my time at all... Glad you like it though
  • Does it tell time? I can't find anything about that. It's literally 99%of what I use the gear S3 for....
  • I disagree.
  • Others have touched upon it, but come on......part of the term smart-watch is the WATCH part. TBH, I hate having to pull out my phone just to check the time, but if I have a device on my wrist that does most of the things I need in a smaller form factor, and tells time, then that's what I want. It's not called a smart thingamajig. It's a smart watch for a reason.
  • I never really cared for the time telling part of these wrist computers. I never wore a traditional watch before, and have never needed to know the exact time every 20 seconds. The things that made smartwatches interesting to me were the parts that extended the features of the phone. If I could have a "watch face" for Android Wear that didn't tell time at all, it'd be the first thing I install.
  • I'll be the one to agree with you... partially. I don't care about knowing the time all the time so I'm down with a non watch watch face... but if I had a wrist thingy I would want to be able to talk to it for phone calls and making texts. I also appreciate the fun and unique potential for the NEX.
  • If you never wore a traditional watch before, and think that those who do so is for the snarky reason of needing to tell time every 20 seconds, then perhaps you are the last person that ought to be writing about what the problem with smartwatches may be. Substitute "traditional cell phone" and "needing to make a call every 20 seconds" in the above for a hypothetical article explaining why a Walkman is better than a smartphone if it helps understand the objection. You like this device? Great, enjoy it in good health, more power to you, and may we all be satisfied with our personal tech choices. But - I've been reading about the death of smartwatches for months in this industry and I am tired of the snark against those of us who get value from them. There is never going to be a burning need for smartwatches, traditional watches, or mag wheels - because they're *accessories*. If you didn't need to slag mag wheels or high-heeled sneakers in order to write up why this new accessory is worth a look, then you didn't need to bring up smartwatches for the same exact reasons, and complain about what they got wrong. And btw, there's no "if" about it - Android Wear smart faces that do not display time have been around for the year and a half plus that I've been using it and they weren't new then. Plus you can design your faces, it's not that difficult if you really want something that isn't out there but need other features front and center on your wrist. Hope that helps! :)
  • Agreed. I don't need to know the time every 20 seconds, I just need to know the time... PERIOD. I get that a lot of people think of watches as style options now, but I would have to argue that the zipper must be a style item too. I am probably going to switch to Tizen after the issues that I am having with my last LG device and the watchfaces are more important than app support for me
  • I am so sick of these type of articles complaining about smart watches, if you don't like them don't bother thinking about them, I don't like hover boards but I don't constantly complain about wishing the battery last longer or was easier to ride or had less lights on them. with the exception of this post I don't think about them at all. I have the first huawei watch and I absolutely love every thing about it, it is made well works great and looks good would not trade it for that piece of junk if they gave me the company with it.
  • That looks like techno crap.
  • like a fine pint of Guinness, the NexBand ain't for everyone. But remember: it's not trying to be. I for one find wearables to be annoying and intrusive.
  • This would be great for playing a game of "Memory". I'm not sure that I'd walk around with it, though. I don't know that I'd remenber what each bit of light choreography was supposed to be communicating. I've grown accustomed to letters and numbers and I don't think that system of communication is broken. What I really wouldn't be able to get over is not seeing what time it is. This Lite Bright attached to my wrist can't even tell me the time? My second biggest complaint would be wearing this...out of the house...with people around to see it.
  • April fool's? This thing looks like junk. It has absolutely zero functionality. Colored dots? Seriously?
  • Looks like you didn't read the article, if you think it has zero functionality.
  • I love the idea of a bunch of buttons to do features on my phone. I instantly see music controls, flashlight, camera, and timer shortcuts. But I can not put something on my wrist if it doesn't also tell the time. It needs to have a basic watch with it. Please also tell me you can play simon with it? Seems like a missed opportunity if you can't.
  • "I don't want to talk at my wrist; I couldn't care less about a cellular connection; and I'm not interested in a smaller version of my phone giving me turn-by-turn directions in a place that still requires me to look away from the road." Russell, it's never good to lead a story by complaining. You sound like the old-timer who's mad because cars are making horse-riding obsolete. This wrist thingy shouldn't even be compared to smartwatches, it's a toy in a class of its own.
  • Mighty confusing photo with the thing wrapped around a... ? Piece of art?
  • I get that YOU like it and it works for YOU. I've owned several devices over the years that seemed compatible for me only.
    I enjoyed the first gsm gear from samsung but that annoying charger kept breaking and that was the deal breaker.
  • Lots of unconvinced people here, but I'm actually quite charmed by it. Way before smartphones arrived I had the Sony Z520i, which had customisable flashing lights around the edges of the phone so you could tell who was calling or texting. The notification LED is something I've always been a fan of in smartphones, but I have no idea why tech hasn't been pushed in the direction of more customisable LEDs -- there's so much our devices could tell us without even being touched, they're just not programmed to ... yet. Anyway, the Nex band looks a lot better in black (on the Amazon page), but would probably be way too clunky for a petite lady-wrist like mine. I like the direction it's going in though, and hopefully further iterations will be slimmed down. Quite a few commenters have mentioned the Mi Band 1 & 2. They both lacked a huge amount of customisability, but the battery did last a long time (40days for the Mi Band 1, and 14days for my Mi Band 2). Again, these weren't for everyone, but an amalgam of the Mi Band and Nex would be pretty damn cool.
  • Russel, im not sure exactly what uses your looking for in a wearable......just notification alerts?
  • I am a fan of wearables and I was repulsed before I even got past the hardware section. This doesn't do anything that I need it to do. And I have yet to understand why a multi-day battery life is that important. If I didn't sleep for two days constantly, maybe.
  • Similar thoughts as you Russell. I've had the Moto 360 Gen1, then onto a Pebble Round, then Fitbit Alta. What I discovered about all the wearables were that it was nice to be able to see a message or an email at a glance. Especially in niche times like a movie theater or a meeting. But 95% of the time, I would read the message then pull out my phone to respond. On the Moto and the Pebble, I rarely used the voice reply feature and most of the time swiped notifications away without really reading them, other than texts. What I really want, and I know a lot of people disagree, is a way to see notifications, and identify from what, rather than read them really. I'm pulling out my phone anyway if it's a text or email from work, or call. The simplicity and minimalistic nature is really a plus for me. I don't mind wearing an dumb-watch and frankly, I hate having to charge a watch every couple of days. I throw on my solar-charging Citizen and charge my army of smart bands. TLDNR: I'd like to give the Nex Evolution a try which leads me to this point. Has anyone, (Russell maybe you have), used this band with a Google Pixel? I saw one post on their forum that the Pixel disconnects frequently. Is that a fluke or a problem? Nex tells me the Pixel is currently being tested with but not officially cleared yet. I don't want to order one just yet considering the Pixel is my daily driver. Anyone with luck? Or willing to test for me? I'd greatly appreciate it
  • @Mongoose40 For the sake of trying something a tad bit different, I ordered this band. I received it this morning (4/15) and paired with my Pixel XL. Here's what I've learned using it with a Pixel: It was fairly easy to pair and I haven't had any random disconnects...yet.
    The only time I observed it acting a little weird was when my Pixel's BT was connecting to my car's head unit that has Android Auto. The Nex Band wasn't acting up, however for whatever reason the BT connection to the head unit was (not sure if AA or the Nex Band really had anything to do with it). But, the Nex Band was occasionally lighting up, as if it was trying to connect. Which leads me to not having a real idea what the colors meant. I did look at the FAQ's but it appeared to be the start-up colors. Still not 100% sure.
    The software update is not happening via the Pixel. I tried everything to get it to update and no dice (I directed this issue to the Nex forums and support).
    I must say it has a slight learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it is doing quite well. Also, it works well with IFTT too.
    If it had a clock, this thing would be killer for sure. I also pitched that idea to the Nex devs as well. There you have it!
  • @sag7392 Thanks for your detailed reply. I may give it a try and just update it with my wife's phone if need be. It would definitely be nice if they had a module that had a small digital clock or screen. I think this would be great for my use anyway though
  • After looking at the individual mods, it appears that they could support digits. Imagine if it had the time like 1 1 : 00...that's all I'd need. They would need to make sure the digits faced the correct direction depending on what wrist you wear it on. Also, the notifications are on the money. Overall, the Nex Band needs a little polish on both hardware and software, but it certainly has promise.