A big complaint about smartwatches thus far is that without a smartphone, they aren’t very useful. That’s an especially big deal for runners who don’t want to be weighed down by a smartphone, but it’s also an issue for anyone who might want to rely on their phone a little less. That’s why we’ve seen quite a few new smartwatches with LTE connectivity since the Android Wear 2.0 update, including some from LG and Huawei (Samsung’s Gear S3 also has LTE, but runs Tizen instead of Android Wear). The latest option is from ZTE, and it’s the cheapest one yet.
The ZTE Quartz is a true standalone smartwatch, with LTE connectivity, a microphone, and a speaker — yes, that means you can make calls on it, no phone required. Like the other smartwatches we’ve seen recently, it runs Android Wear 2.0 on the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset, which along with the more optimized Android Wear 2.0 interface should make for a much faster, more responsive smartwatch than what we’ve seen in years past. They’ve also used a 1.4″ AMOLED display, so it should be easy to read and see in daylight, as well.
The AMOLED display and LTE connectivity are going to put quite a strain on the battery. The good news is that ZTE has used a pretty robust (for a smartwatch) 500 mAh battery, which should keep this watch ticking through an entire day and then some (something way too many smartwatches haven’t been able to manage.
ZTE has made the Quartz IP67 waterproof, so while this watch can’t take a dive into the deep end, it can survive a short trip underwater with no problems. If you do plan to get it wet, you’re free to swap in a silicone band — the watch takes any 21 mm band.
As much as we’d like to say nothing was sacrificed to get to a low price, that’s not true. While the watch has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity along with LTE, it lacks GPS and NFC. No GPS means that the watch won’t be able to track routes for runners and cyclists as accurately, while the lack of NFC means the watch can’t be used with contactless payment apps like Android Pay.
LTE and that huge 500 mAh battery are great to see, but the cost is that the watch is massive. It’s got a 46 mm diameter, which makes it a non-starter for anyone with smaller wrists. But, that seems to be the way the smartwatch market is going, and until many of these components can be shrunk down, there’s not really any way around it.
The ZTE Quartz will launch as a T-Mobile exclusive this Friday at $192. It’ll be available online on Friday, and will arrive in T-Mobile stores next Friday, April 21 (keep in mind you’ll need to add it as a device to a T-Mobile plan). That’s considerably cheaper than the watches on offer from Huawei and Samsung. If you want a new Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch and are willing to do without GPS and NFC, the ZTE Quartz looks like the best deal on paper right now — we’ll know for sure when we do a full review soon.