Smartwatches have always been somewhat of a hard sell for average consumers. Some just plain don’t want them — they see no reason to carry and charge yet another device just for notifications that they can see by just pulling their phone out of their pocket.

Others are less put off by the concept of smartwatches, and more dissuaded by the execution of them. They don’t look as fashionable as a traditional watch, and they’re just too expensive.

While the ZTE Quartz doesn’t do anything to dispel complaints of unattractive design, it’s the most affordable smartwatch we’ve seen running Android Wear 2.0 for just $192. That low price doesn’t come without compromise … but the right user might not mind.

Hardware |

Function over form is the name of the game with the ZTE Quartz. The stainless steel chassis feels decently well-constructed, and — to the undoubted joy of our readers, the rounded face bears no “flat tire” array of proximity and light sensors taking up the screen. The 1.4-inch AMOLED display is fairly sharp with a 400 x 400 resolution, and it’s satisfyingly bright and vibrant.

The Quartz is a thick watch at 14.5mm, and it takes up a lot of space on the wrist, though thankfully most of that space is screen. I appreciate the attention to detail on some of the small things, like the off-center power button to avoid accidental presses with a stretched hand (a problem I always used to have with my Moto 360). It’s also a nice touch that the hour marks around the display bezel have a tinge of blue in them to match the accents on the watch band.

The texturized rubber watch band included with the Quartz is easily the cheapest-feeling and most unattractive part of the watch. Thankfully it’s only held in place by two metal pins, and can be swapped out with any 22mm watch band. To its credit though, the included band is able to get surprisingly tight; even tight enough to fit my tiny wrist.

Inside of the Quartz is a 1.1 GHz Snapdragon Wear 2100, the same SoC found in many, far more expensive smartwatches, along with 768 MB RAM and 4 GB of on-board storage (for storing music for runs and workouts). There’s also an impressive 500 mAh battery tucked inside, and ZTE even managed to sneak in GPS and cellular radios — more on that in a bit.

Notably, the Quartz is missing some pretty important features, including NFC and a heartrate sensor, making Android Pay and in-depth workout tracking a no-go. Some will find these missing features a bigger deal than others, but I’m just thankful ZTE didn’t also skip out on IP67 dust and water resistance.

Software |

I was surprised by how well Android Wear 2.0 runs on the Quartz. The other smartwatches I’ve tested with the Snapdragon Wear 2100 (at about twice the price) were typically sluggish and laggy, but no matter what tasks I threw at the Quartz, it refused to slow down.

As I previously mentioned, there’s no Android Pay support due to the lack of NFC, but what you get instead is support for T-Mobile’s EDGE and HSPA networks. It would’ve been nice to have LTE, but 3G should suffice for downloading small apps or streaming music on the go.

You’re also able to make calls with the Quartz, using an independent phone number on a smartwatch-specific plan. The built-in microphone is surprisingly good; callers on the other end of the conversation couldn’t tell the difference in sound between the Quartz and my Galaxy S8. The speaker gets plenty loud for speakerphone conversations, though it’s not exactly ideal for playing music out loud — save that for a nice Bluetooth headset.

Battery life |

Endurance is just as impressive as performance on the Quartz, thanks to the combination of the abnormally large 500 mAh battery and the AMOLED display. With normal use, mainly receiving notifications and controlling my Spotify playlists, I found myself easily making it through a full day and about halfway into the next before needing to recharge.

Phone calls do significantly impact battery life, however. A half-hour conversation can drain as much as 5-10%, so while the Quartz is a capable standalone device, you’ll want to keep the charging dock on hand if you plan to make a lot of phone calls throughout the day.

Final thoughts |

Obviously, if a heartrate monitor or NFC is a make-or-break deal for you, then there’s no reason to look at the Quartz. While it’s strange to see a heartrate monitor missing, given that it’s a staple to nearly every smartwatch, this was undoubtedly a matter of savings — though it’s likely that the omission of NFC is due to its lack of traction in the US.

If your primary use for a smartwatch is checking notifications, or if you’re looking for a smartwatch alternative for workout routines (or if you’re looking to replace your phone entirely for … some reason), it’s hard to justify spending the extra money on a different Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch over the Quartz unless you really just can’t stand the design. Something to keep in mind, though — the Quartz will be offered exclusively through T-Mobile, meaning you’ll need to pay for their $5 monthly smartwatch plan to use features like calling.

There’s an argument to be made that older smartwatches like the Moto 360 and original Huawei Watch are receiving Android 2.0, and are more aesthetically pleasing and able to be picked up for even cheaper these days. However, going that route means sacrificing features like cellular connectivity and excellent battery life. If you ask me, the Quartz is the new best smartwatch deal, so long as you can live with the minor tradeoffs.

Where to buy |

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About the Author

Hayato is an Indianapolis-based writer and video producer for 9to5Google.