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Wearable Tech

ZTE BlueWatch throws a fitness app into a Pebble-like design (hands-on)

ZTE makes a smartwatch debut at CES 2014 with BlueWatch, but it feels a little too familiar.

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LAS VEGAS -- It gets notifications. It has a fitness app. Yes, the ZTE BlueWatch, a new watch debuting at CES 2014, seems to have the main elements that matter. But what else can the BlueWatch, a debut from Chinese telecommunications company ZTE, add to the equation? Well, not all that much.

The BlueWatch has a thick plastic design that's reminiscent of a low-rent Pebble: same style of black-and-white display, except a lower-reflective LCD that lights up via a little LED sidelight like an old-school digital watch. There's no touch screen, either -- like the Pebble watch, similarly laid-out buttons on the right and left navigate into menus or scroll watch faces.

Lynn La/CNET

The BlueWatch uses Bluetooth 4.0, and works with phones running Android 4 or later. iOS compatibility is not on the radar. Like the Pebble, it's water resistant; up to 10 meters in this case. The rubberized wristband even has the same texture, and feels snug but generic.

Notifications such as voice calls, texts, and hooked-in Facebook and Twitter pings come in to the BlueWatch, along with some features the Pebble lacks: a find-your-phone app, a baked-in weather app, and a fitness tracker. You can also control your music or remotely operate a smartphone camera shutter with a button press.

Lynn La/CNET

The BlueWatch doesn't have the ability to load apps, however. The features included on the BlueWatch seem to be all you get, along with a small selection of ho-hum watch faces, although new features could be coming down the line. When? Who knows? A release date and price are still unknown. I'm not that tempted to know more, honestly -- although the fitness app is a nice add, there's too much about BlueWatch that feels like a watered-down Pebble. But, at least the instinct to mesh notifications and fitness tracking is barking up the right tree at this year's CES.

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