The Ticwatch S is a functional, reasonably priced smartwatch. If you aren't a Android Wear fan, then this is unlikely to convert you. However, the Ticwatch S is a respectable entry to the market, even if the lack of NFC and cellular support disappoint.
Smartwatches: every company has made one, but consumers just don’t seem to be interested. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reasons that smartwatches haven’t caught our imagination. It could be the cost. It could be the design. Many people just see them as glorified notification screens. Despite these criticisms, smartwatches do have many great features that should make them a must-have gadget.
That’s what makes Mobvoi’s Ticwatch S so intriguing. The Chinese AI firm has designed a smartwatch that aesthetically recalls the early days of Pebble — before it’s unfortunate demise. However, the watch itself is distinctly modern, even running the latest version of Google’s smartwatch platform, Android Wear. With its blend of the old and the new, how does the Ticwatch S stack up? Keep to reading to find out in our Ticwatch S review, and at end we’ve got one to giveaway to one lucky reader!
- Screen: 1.4 inch OLED display, 287dpi
- Weight: 45g
- Operating System: Android Wear 2.0
- CPU: MTK MT2601
- Memory: 4GB, 512MB RAM
- Positioning System: GPS, Glonass, BeiDou
- Bluetooth 4.1
- Wi-Fi: 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n
- Battery: 300mAh
- Sensors: Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Dynamic Optical Heart Rate, Proximity, e-Compass
- Water Resistance: IP67
Hardware & Design
At first glance, the Ticwatch S — the sportier cousin of the Ticwatch E — could be mistaken for the original Pebble smartwatch. The TPU strap even feels like the Pebble when on your wrist. Unlike the Pebble though, the Ticwatch S doesn’t have replaceable straps. This could be seen as a mark against the watch. However, there is a reason for this — the GPS unit is built into the strap itself. Mobvoi hasn’t been clear on the reason for this, but promises that it increases the GPS accuracy. The lack of replaceable straps is particularly frustrating since the silicone material of the strap lends itself to picking up dirt and dust.
The watch head is undeniably bulky. It sits quite far above the wrist, and, on occasion, I even had trouble fitting it under coat sleeves. There is a numbered bezel, but it’s there only to provide context to what’s shown on the screen.
On the underside of the device you’ll find the optical heart rate monitor, and the magnetic charging point. As with many smartwatches, the charger is proprietary, which means there is yet another cable to add to your collection. The connection between the watch and the charger is surprisingly easy and uncomplicated.
The only physical button on the device is on the left side of the watch face. This is a little unusual as most watches have the buttons or physical elements on the right, so it takes a while to get used to. A short press brings up your app list, while a long press activates the Google Assistant. You can talk to the Assistant using the in-built microphone. There is also a speaker in the watch, so you can download music or podcasts to the 4GB of internal storage for playback directly on the watch. Sadly, the Ticwatch S lacks NFC (so no Android Pay) and cellular support.
Android Wear 2.0
Despite appearances, the Ticwatch S is not Mobovi’s first time at the rodeo. The company’s first two attempts at a smartwatch — Ticwatch and Ticwatch 2 — were crowdfunded on Kickstarter and ran their own proprietary operating system, Ticwear OS. The watches were well received in their native China, but in an effort to appeal to a global user base, Mobvoi opted for Android Wear this time around.
Android Wear was first launched in 2014, and after nearly four years on the market, it has become a mature operating system. In early 2017, Android Wear underwent its largest update to date, adding new features and revamping the watch UI. The Ticwatch S ships with Android Wear 2.0, so expect it to be reasonably futureproof.
That said, there are a few niggles. When you first setup your watch, the default behaviour is to process all calls through the watch. There is a logic to that if the watch has cellular support. However, the Ticwatch S requires a Bluetooth connection for phone call support. This means that every time I’ve set up an Android Wear device, its a scramble to see if its my phone, wireless headphones, or watch that I need to talk into. This can be turned off in the watch’s Bluetooth settings, but for anyone new to Android Wear, this is likely to cause a lot of confusion.
Unlike with the main Android operating system, Google has locked down the Android Wear operating system. This means that picking up any Android Wear watch is a consistent and familiar experience. However, it also means that the main differences between all the various devices is the hardware. This is both a blessing, as it’s easy to move between devices, and a curse, as each watch is defined by its aesthetic design.
As they aren’t able to control the Android Wear experience, many manufacturers preinstall their own apps. The Ticwatch S comes bundled with a few Mobovi fitness apps, which function, but don’t stand out. In order to view the data on your phone, you need to download the Ticwatch app. However, that’s all you can do with it — there’s no additional settings or features. Ultimately, I can’t think of a reason to use these packaged apps over Google Fit which comes as part of the Android Wear system.
The Ticwatch S features the MTK MT2601 System On A Chip (SoC), designed exclusively for use in Android Wear devices. However, it was launched almost three years ago in 2015, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that performance would be less than stellar. You’d also be pleasantly surprised, as the Ticwatch S is incredibly snappy with no noticeable lag. In fact, after a couple of weeks of testing, I didn’t see any bugs at all.
The watch comes equipped with a 300mAh battery, which is almost the same capacity as the Apple Watch. Apple commits to up to 18 hours, but the Ticwatch S outperforms its pricer competitor. The battery would easily last almost two days between charges, so no need to charge overnight each day. This meant that you could wear it at night and make use of some of the platform’s sleep tracking apps.
The Ticwatch S retails for around $180, making it one of the most affordable Android Wear watches on the market. It is available in three colors; Knight, Glacier, and Aurora. Or, in non-marketing speak: black, white, and lime green.
For comparison, the entry-level Apple Watch retails at around $330 with similar features. Android Wear watches have the advantage of working across both Android and iOS platforms too. A premium Android Wear device like the Huawei Watch 2 is priced at around $250. This shows the Ticwatch S to be a comparatively affordable device.
Should You Buy It?
The Ticwatch S is a worthwhile entry into the smartwatch market. The price alone sets it apart from the competition, where premium devices are all the rage. It is surprising just how snappy the watch feels, especially considering the lag we saw on the pricey Huawei Watch 2. You can even expect to get at least a couple of days from the Ticwatch S between charges.
However, an affordable device often comes with compromises and the Ticwatch S is no exception. The lack of replaceable straps is a major stumbling point. As is the overall design of the watch, which is excessively bulky. Fortunately, that doesn’t prevent it from being one of the most competitive Android Wear watches around. Will it convert the skeptics? Probably not. However, for the rest of us, there’s finally an affordable Android Wear watch worthy of our wrist.
What do you make of the Ticwatch S? Are you a smartwatch convert? Or do you think smartwatches just aren’t worth it? Let us know in the comments!