It is safe to say that smartwatches, the once-derided mash-ups of digital guts and analog bodies, have graduated from passing fad to budding business. You need look no further than timepieces like the $1,500 Tag Heuer Connected 2, Movado’s $700 Bold, and Michael Kors’ $350 Access for evidence that smartwatches aren’t just novelties anymore — they’re functional accessories. And they’re also a market that Chinese smartphone maker ZTE can’t wait to break into.
ZTE’s Quartz, which leaked prematurely a few weeks back, is a first step in that direction. It runs Android Wear 2.0, the newest version of Google’s Android operating system, and in many ways, it’s an amalgam of current smartwatch trends.
The Quartz boasts a unibody design with a 1.4-inch, Gorilla Glass 3-shielded circular touchscreen (400 × 400 pixels) that can withstand water and dust. Under the hood is a step-tracking accelerometer, a gyroscope, a pressure-sensing barometer, and a GPS. A 1.1GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor and 768MB of RAM handle the heavy software lifting, and 4GB of storage provides ample space for music and apps.
But there’s more to the Quartz than meets the eye. Like the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition and Samsung Gear S3, it has a speaker, microphone, and a built-in cellular antenna that can handle phone calls, texts, and data.
The Quartz taps T-Mobile’s network for connectivity, and will eventually support the carrier’s Digits service (currently in beta) to deliver a seamless calling experience. With Digits enabled, the Quartz will be able to share your smartphone’s number.
NFC is a notable omission — the Quartz doesn’t support Android Pay’s tap-to-pay feature, so contactless transactions are a no-go. But ZTE has taken advantage of the extra space to stick a massive 500mAh battery inside, which it said should last a full 36 hours off the charger.
Lack of NFC also helped ZTE get the Quartz’s price down to $192, making it far and away the cheapest smartwatch to ship running Android Wear 2.0. Considering competition like LG’s $350 Watch Sport, which ships with a 430mAh battery and smaller (1.38-inch) screen, that is not a bad deal.
ZTE is a brand best known for its killer phones and awesome accessories. Sales of the blockbuster Axon 7 propelled the Chinese smartphone maker’s shipments to a record 15 million phones in the U.S. With the Quartz, the firm is trying to replicate that success in the wearable space.
“The ZTE Quartz is the industry’s best introductory smartwatch that allows you the opportunity to experience Android Wear 2.0 without breaking the bank,” a ZTE spokesperson said. “The ZTE Quartz smartwatch evokes a solid and sturdy, yet stylish design that blends form and function.”