There are a mass plethora of Android Wear 2.0-connected smartwatches available right now. Choosing between the dozens of varieties can be really overwhelming, especially if you don't even know where to start. But I think the ZTE Quartz is a fantastic option for people in this particular conundrum. It's not the most exhilarating smartwatch, in the sense that it doesn't exactly push the wearables industry forward, but it's basic enough and cheap enough that it can be appealing for those who are merely looking for an entry point into Android Wear.
The ZTE Quartz has a massive battery, too, so for those of you in need of something more utilitarian, it may be worth the consideration. It's also got some extra features you won't get with other wearable devices for under $200, like 3G-connectivity. Overall, it has only a few drawbacks, including the fact that it's achingly plain and that it's presently limited to use on T-Mobile's network.
Plain smartwatches require a little imagination
ZTE doesn't seem to have major plans for the Quartz other than it exists solely as a showcase of what it's attempting with wearables. The result of this is a decidedly plain-looking smartwatch that's 46mm in diameter and 14.5mm thick. The Quartz is a little big, by which I mean that it's only incrementally larger than the LG Watch Sport. If you didn't consider the latter too honking for your wrist, you'll be fine with the Quartz.
The ZTE Quartz has removable watchbands.
Unlike the Watch Sport, however, the Quartz has removable watchbands, which you'll want to swap out immediately after you take the device out of its box. This is the stiffest watch band I've ever worn — that I can remember, at least. But I've been around Android Wear devices since their inception, and I don't remember the first-generation LG Watch being this uncomfortable to wear.
That said, I still didn't mind the style of the Quartz, despite its masculine sway. I can get away with wearing it with a sportier outfit, just as it will pair nicely with a suit or ripped up jeans. It's a plain, silver smartwatch, but nothing that a MODE watchband from Google can't spruce up.
Big battery means more playtime
The ZTE Quartz runs on a Snapdragon 2100 processor, which is made especially for wearable devices. It's packed with 768MB of RAM, 4GB of onboard storage for music and the like, and a whopping 500 mAh battery. The charging dock it comes with may make it feel antiquated, however, with its outdated Micro-USB connection. But the tradeoff is substantial battery life, which should help keep you from grumbling.
On standby, the watch managed about two days before I had to plug it back in. While actively wearing it, it lasted from morning to morning without too much worry, though it's not comfortable to wear to sleep. It's also worth noting that I keep notifications to a minimum, and I tend to use Theater Mode during work hours. I also had GPS set to rely on the phone's location, rather than the watch's. However, you should be able to make it through a comfortable day of hiking before the watch needs charging with its GPS turned on.
Use the watch to make phone calls or navigate the trail without your phone in hand.
I like the Quartz's 1.4-inch AMOLED display, too. Colorful watch faces appear nice and vibrant on screen, and I actually like that the bigger screen helps make Android Wear 2.0's font and icons more legible. Bear in mind that the display doesn't have an ambient light sensor, so you will have to adjust the brightness as you see fit for the situation. It's not the easiest to see outside in direct sunlight.
Perhaps the most compelling feature of the ZTE Quartz is its built-in 3G connectivity. You can use the watch to make phone calls or navigate the trail without your phone in hand with the aid of T-Mobile SIM. And while it's nice to have the watch take on the bulk of the cellular work the phone would normally do during an outdoor expedition, I personally feel silly carrying on a phone call with the watch out in public.
It's a pretty good deal
The ZTE Quartz does require you to compromise on a few technological advancements that have since come to wearables. For instance, you won't have NFC capabilities with this Android Wear device, which means no Android Pay without your phone. It also doesn't have a heart-rate sensor, which doesn't make it the best smartwatch for fitness buffs, though I didn't find it comfortable enough to wear while sweating it out anyway.
Still, at $192, with the inclusion of other specifications you don't normally get at this price point, it's a worthy consideration for anyone curious about what it's like to wear an Android Wear 2.0-powered watchphone on their wrist.