If this is Nothing’s first smartwatch, I’m not interested

Leaked render of Nothing's upcoming CMF smartwatch.

Nothing recently announced a new product label, one that would focus on affordability without sacrificing the brand’s signature approach to design and user experience. Named CMF by Nothing, it looks like the sub-brand has a bunch of products ready for prime time, and one of them could be a snazzy-looking smartwatch.

In a Telegram channel, an anonymous leaker dropped marketing material and supposed renders of the Watch Pro. At first glance, it looks eye-catching with its bold orange aesthetics, but there is little to take away in terms of originality here, and the software situation sounds even more disheartening.

Nothing’s first watch gets a few things right

Leaked promo material for Nothing smartwatch

Let’s start on a positive note. The rectangular watch case is made out of aluminum alloy and offers IP68-rated protection against dust and water. The Watch Pro’s 1.96-inch AMOLED display offers a decent 600 nits of peak brightness. It also delivers support for 110 activities and serves an on-device GPS facility, too.

Overall, it looks like a decent smartwatch package for the supposed asking price of INR 4,499, which translates to roughly $54.40 based on current conversion rates. That may sound like a lucrative sticker price for Western markets like the U.S., where buyers don’t get many options like this. But in Asia markets such as India and China, there are rivals that go above and beyond in terms of looks and features.

Why it misses the mark

But all those budget perks come at a fat functional cost, and that cost is the absence of Wear OS. Now, CMF by Nothing isn’t committing a cardinal sin. It’s just following in the footsteps of OnePlus, where Nothing founder and CEO Carl Pei left quite some legacy. In fact, OnePlus’ own first smartwatch skipped Wear OS and embraced an RTOS (real-time operating system) by applying a signature aesthetic makeover over the barebones software foundation.

Now, running RTOS comes with its own set of benefits. First, it’s not resource intensive, which means you don’t need a fast Qualcomm chip or spend on pricey RAM and storage modules to run a whole Android-tied operating system and the apps that come with it. Second, battery life is amazing. I’ve used RTOS-based Honor smartwatches, and they easily last for days on a single charge.

Concept design of Nothing Watch.
This is what I had hoped for on a Nothing smartwatch. @QndzyNews / Twitter

But the drawbacks are also deep. The best a brand can do is dramatically reimagine the UI. Nothing has done it with Android by serving a pleasing UI experience with Nothing OS, but there’s only so far you can go with aesthetics. You really need apps and the foundations of a solid smartwatch ecosystem to promise functionality.

That perk won’t be available with CMF’s upcoming smartwatch. I am disappointed not with the overall package – which offers all the essentials like heart rate and blood oxygen saturation measurement – but the lost promise here. With every single product it has launched so far, Nothing has tried to reinvent the fundamentals.

After smartphones and wearables, a smartwatch was the next avenue to surprise users. Lord knows the smartwatch industry could use a disruptor! Samsung’s Galaxy Watch lineup continues to carry the burden of aging looks, while the Google Pixel Watch focused so much on fresh looks that it forgot to deliver a rewarding Wear OS experience.

Nothing was a glimmer of hope, personally speaking. So far, Nothing has wowed us with some cool tricks across all its products, and I was expecting something similar with its debut smartwatch. Of course, the CMF smartwatch will be an easy purchase — almost an impulse buy — given its $50-ish asking price.

It has got clean looks and a solid brand value to go with it, especially when other Asian brands also play smack dab in the same pricing field. But it is far from the kind of smartwatch revolution I was expecting from a brand like Nothing, irrespective of the label slapped on it.

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