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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