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Can a $200 ZTE Stand Up Against the Top Smartwatches?

A smartwatch for the masses?

Chase Pellerin

Let’s start with the negatives. The ZTE Quartz smartwatch doesn’t have a heart rate monitor, so the fitness addict won’t buy it. It lacks an NFC chip, too, so if Android Pay is your thing, you’ll still have to whip out your phone at the checkout counter. The Quartz isn’t for iPhone owners either, as it runs Android Wear 2.0 and you won’t be able to fully access iOS features like iMessage. Lastly, it’s not for those with plans other than T-Mobile; its 3G cellular connectivity won’t work if you’re on an AT&T, Verizon or Sprint plan, so only T-Mobile users will be able to make calls from the watch without their phones nearby.

So who is it for? That’s actually simple. If you own an Android — from Samsung to Huawei, LG to Google Pixel — and aren’t looking to spend big, the Quartz is your watch. At just $192, it’s practically half the price of any other smartwatch.

ZTE is the fourth largest smartphone manufacturer in the U.S. — behind Apple, Samsung and LG — and it makes a number of mid-range smartphones. The Quartz is its maiden attempt to breach the U.S. smartwatch market. (The previous iteration, the Axon, was only available in China.) The company has waited to bring a smartwatch to the U.S. market because, frankly, not many people were buying them. But Jeff Yee, ZTE’s VP of technology planning and partnerships, believes that’s going to change with the arrival on Android Wear 2.0.

Specs: ZTE Quartz

Processor: Snapdragon Wear 2100
Display: 1.4-inch AMOLED display, Gorilla Glass 3
Band: 22mm, interchangeable
OS: Android Wear 2.0
Connectivity: 3G, GPS, T-Mobile
Durability: IP67
Sensors: accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer
Battery: 500mAH

Buy Now: $192

“There’s something very specific in Android Wear 2.0 that we were waiting for — Google Assistant,” said Yee. Instead of finding a way to type on a watch’s tiny display, you can tell Google Assistant to type it for you. You can also quickly tell the smartwatch to send a text, make a call or set an alarm, all without ever touching your phone. “That to me is where we crossed the chasm to the mainstream where it becomes very simple and easy, but yet practical for users.”

It should be noted that all Android 2.0 smartwatches have Google Assistant — you can do the same thing with the Huawei Watch 2 ($300), LG Watch Sport ($349), and LG Watch Style ($249) — but they’ll cost more. That said, they look the part — expensive does earn design.

The Quartz has a simple design — there’s only one button on the side. There is no rotating bezel like on the Samsung Gear S3 (which I quite liked, so I count that as a downside). You use the button like your phone’s home button, unlocking the screen and accessing apps, and it’s also how you activate Google Assistant. The watch is also fairly thick, but that comes with the connected smartwatch territory.

“Really, the key value proposition for this watch is the price,” said Yee. “An MSRP of $192 is going to be half what you find in the LG Watch [Sport], which is probably the closest thing to it, given that it’s an Android Wear 2.0–connected watch.” Other than price, the Quartz has a few other things going for it. It’s intuitive, fast and bright, and it comes with an all-day battery.

As a smartwatch “designed to bring technology to the masses,” as per Yee’s description, the Quartz has some major shortcomings. If you don’t have T-Mobile, it’s not worth your money, even if it’s less than $200. If you have an iPhone, it’s also probably not worth it. And, though the price is right, the design is wanting — so be sure to assess whether you’ll happily glance down at this on your wrist, every minute of the day.

Buy Now: $192

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