SmartQ’s $99 Z Watch smartwatch reviewed

The whole smartwatch category is pretty new, but we already have the first of the budget devices, with SmartQ delivering Android on a wristwatch for $99. Is it worth your money, or should you just spend the extra?

Features

Cast from a similar set of specs as many a phone, the SmartQ Z Watch aims to start the budget smart watch category off with something like a device you may already own.

Like other smartwatches, the Z Watch is built to be small, and provides a screen just big enough to provide the time, updates, and a little control over your phone from afar.

To make this happen, there’s a 1GHz processor inside the Z Watch, supported by 512MB RAM and 4GB of storage, with only two gigabytes available to you.

A smartwatch isn’t meant to replace your phone, and as such, there is no microSD slot here, so you’re stuck with the storage capacity you’re given, though you can attach the watch to a computer to move files to it by way of a USB to 3.5mm cable, which also charges the handset.

Wireless support is built into the Z Watch, as it wouldn’t be a “smart” device if it skipped it, and includes 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 with support for Bluetooth LE, while the wired connections are all handled through the 3.5mm headset jack.

A vibration motor provides alerts in a tactile haptic form on your wrist, and you can even take the Z Watch into water, with IPX7 resistance capable of taking up to one metre of water for as much as 30 minutes.

This technology sits under a 1.54 inch touchscreen, capable of running a resolution of 240×240, accompanied by two physical buttons for power and back, both of which sit on the right edge of the wrist watch.

The SmartQ Z Watch runs on a 300mAh battery which is not removable.

Performance

Are we really there yet, in a place where smartwatches are coming in below the $150 price point?

It seems we might be, with Australian e-tailer Millennius getting its hands on the SmartQ Z Watch, one of the first budget wrist-based wearables, relying on a 1.54 inch screen sitting atop what basically constitutes a modem-less Android phone, except for your wrist.

Design-wise, you’re not looking at something where a classy fashion designer has given it the look a lot of time and pride, unlike Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, which is shiny, special, and looks like it could blend in with the company’s smartphones.

Rather, it’s a basic black square on an even more basic rubber band, and brings to mind the sort of aesthetic that would be churned out by someone who wasn’t thinking about looks, and only concentrated on functionality.

Unfortunately, that part isn’t well handled either.

But before we get to that issue, we need to talk about the box, which is pretty barebones.

Open it up and you’ll find the watch around a cushion, and a 3.5mm to USB cable underneath. That’s the entire package, so if you’re the sort of person that needs manuals, look elsewhere, as there’s none to be had here.

Grab the watch and switch it on, and you’ll be greeted to a very customised take on Android. Using the watch requires using your fingers, which given the touchscreen display makes a lot of sense.

To get around, you’ll be swiping from left to right, tapping on apps to enter them, and using two fingers in a broad stroke down to leave them.

There are two physical buttons for you to use, with the first acting as a power button, and the second working for a back button, though as soon as you press that physical back button, the Z Watch’s software will politely remind you that you should be swiping down with two fingers to go back, not using the button that you so pleasantly pushed.

The apps provided for you are reasonably limited, and include some pretty obvious ones such as a timer, weather app, file explorer, music, and links to applications that rely on your phone, including SMS, notifications, call logs, calendar, and contacts.

The menu system for the Z Watch. These are the app you get.

“Sleep” seems to be one of the most reliable apps, tracking your sleep patterns as long as you keep the app open, which could prove interesting if you start to toss and turn. Close it and it turns off, so just don’t close it until you’re awake.

“Recorder” is exactly what it sounds like, providing a voice or sound recorder on your wrist, with the files available as soon as you plug the Z Watch into a USB port using the special 3.5mm to USB cable that comes with the watch.

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7 Comments

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  1. Leigh :) Stark
    March 05, 16:15 Leigh :) Stark

    Adam, we can only review based on the experience we had with the unit. In this case, our review sample Z Watch may not have performed to the best of its ability, compared against another unit.

    It’s possible the Z Watch we were working with may have had issues, but, as I said, we can only review what we’ve been supplied. If there are supply issues, we’ll let Millennius and SmartQ come back to us on that, and if we have time later on, we can revisit the review.

    It needs to be acknowledged, though, that not everyone’s experience is going to be the same, and compared against the two other smartwatches we’ve reviewed on GadgetGuy, this was easily the weakest, even if it had the most affordable price point.

    Reply this comment
    • adam
      March 05, 16:42 adam

      I agree with you that everyone has different experiences. Its like with anything out there.
      What I’m saying is I don’t think this is a true reflection on this product.
      To be quite frank, I purchased two of these watches and I do believe they sold out within weeks.
      But comparing your review against other users and myself, well its a contrast.

      Reply this comment
      • Leigh :) Stark
        March 05, 17:22 Leigh :) Stark

        As I said, I can only review what’s supplied to me. Talking to PR, there’s a possibility mine may have issues with it, but I have experienced loads of slow downs, frequent crashes, and some weak connectivity.

        We’ll send it back to Millennius and might look at it later on if we get a new unit, but if it’s a supply issue, I don’t think I can be held responsible for that.

        Most items that come to us for review our at production level, and from the box I saw here, this was no different (pre-production boxes are generally not even marked and totally white). This one feels production level, but our unit didn’t perform.

        I’ll happily admit if I felt it under-performed based on something I was doing, but I’ve been a technology journalist for enough years now that I don’t think it’s me, rather the unit I had to work with.

        Still, as I said, we’ll see if we can get another unit. I’m not doubting experiences by others in the slightest, but ours wasn’t fantastic.

        Reply this comment
  2. probstc
    March 31, 03:13 probstc

    I have had my SmartQ Z for about a week now, and I am impressed with what you get for $99 USD. I must confess that the out of the box product is quite simplistic, but does the job, pairing with both Android and iPhones, giving you key notifications. To really get the maximum out of the device you have to tinker with it, side loading apps. So far here are the Pros, Cons and technical challenges I have faced:

    Pros:

    – cheap, as in price, NOT quality (for a Chinese product it is very well built)
    – with the install of key apps, and use of its WiFi and Bluetooth, watch can do a lot of neat things
    – waterproof: I have tested in shower and pool, and no issues
    – good looking and gorgeous color screen

    Cons:

    – battery life – not sure about others, but I am lucky to get 4-5 hours of heavy usage. I need to close almost everything for it to last the day.
    – slow performance – to be expected with single core, 1 GHz processor
    – poor instructions
    – both WiFi and Bluetooth can be finicky and lose connectivity, with WiFi more prone to disconnects

    Technical challenges:

    – synchronizing with my Windows 8.1 PC (success!)
    – installing a video player that works (success!)
    – input of text (success!)
    – customization (ex. Wallpaper – success!)

    All in all, a device with tons of potential at a great price!

    Reply this comment
    • Sai Hegde
      May 18, 00:21 Sai Hegde

      I bought this watch from their site about a month and a half ago. Took 15 days for the damn thing to arrive. Was having all kinds of problems with it… but I was okay using the very basic features… like using it just as a watch…
      Then 2 days later, it decides not to come up… just stick in bootloop… I contacted their customer support and they are not very helpful either… They won’t respond for days together and when they do they give you one line answers like they don’t care.. actually, they don’t.
      Then I was told to ship it back to China for repair. I spent 25 dollars on the shipping for the repair and 10 days later when I still hadn’t received a response from them, I decided to follow up to which a couple days later, the Customer support responds saying that the watch was broken in transit and he refused to pick it up from the Post Ofiice. Funny thing… he sends me a picture of the opened package and the screen broken… (remember, this is a package he refused to pick up from the post office)
      And to add to that, they are demanding more 25$ to fix that watch…
      Now was I rude when I told him to flush it down a toilet? Anyhow, there should be an option like no stars at all for the reviews.

      Reply this comment
  3. Mike S.
    September 25, 03:17 Mike S.

    I just bought one on ebay, new in box, for $22 (including shipping).

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