There’s plenty of Android Wear watches on the market, but the latest to be released is the Mobvoi Ticwatch S (and E, but we’ve got the S for now). The watch is their larger model with a sports focus, incorporating GPS, heart rate monitor and all the usual sensors to allow you to get a good workout, while taking advantage of the breadth of the Android Wear app eco-system.
The Ticwatch S has seen a lot of coverage due to its feature set and low price, and at just $253.63AUD to order from Mobvoi which includes free shipping the Ticwatch S is hard to pass up for the budget conscious users out there.
There’s three colours on offer from Mobvoi: Glacier (White), Knight (Black) and Aurora (Yellow) and after years of black and white smart watches I grabbed the Aurora colour because, well, why not? And after wearing it for a week there has been some great feedback from people loving the colour. Scott has a Black Ticwatch S, and it looks pretty good too with the yellow highlights.
So, it looks great, has a bunch of hardware you want inside and it’s cheap – so should you buy one? Well, let’s find out.
Hardware and Design
The design of the watch is pretty well what you’d expect from a modern watch, it’s got a fully round (no flat tyre) 1.4″ 400×400 resolution OLED display with anti-scratch glass. The display is quite nice to look at with the deep blacks you associate with OLED displays there. It’s easy to read inside, but has some issues when in direct sunlight even when at full brightness.
Surrounding the display is a numbered, non-movable bezel. I’m not a diver so I’m at a bit of a loss as to why I would need a rotating bezel, but I’m also at a loss as to why it’s got a numbered bezel as well. Still, it sort of makes it look more like watch, so that’s cool.
One big design change the Ticwatch series boasts is the move of the crown from the right hand side to the left. This change puzzled me, but after using it for a week in daily life and at the gym, I’m actually finding I’m Ok with it.
For daily use, the crown on the left is fine, I can press it with my thumb or if you’re wearing it on your right wrist (lefties represent!) you can use your index finger for a change. It’s at the gym where it comes into its own with the crown on previous Android Wear watches I’ve used getting pressed when using certain weight machines. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s been pleasant for me to not wake my watch when working out.
The case is made of polycarbonate and it’s got an IP67 rating meaning the case is strong, and has the bonus that you can go for a swim or shower with it without fear. I wouldn’t be going diving while wearing it as IP67 only allows for immersion between 15 cm and 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.
The rear of the watch has a 2-LED PPG (Optical) heart rate monitor, and some POGO pins for charging. The 2-LED setup is fairly standard for most Android Wear watches and it falls into the range of ‘good enough’ when it comes to basic fitness tracking. It’s not going to measure up to the Polar M600 and its 6-LED PPG heart rate monitor but it’s ok.
The band on the Ticwatch S is fixed, it contains the GPS antenna, so it’s a like it or lump it option in terms of comfort. The band is rubberised and has two rings for holding the excess strap in place so it’s not flapping about. It’s comfortable enough to wear and feels chunky enough that it doesn’t immediately feel like it’s going to fall apart at the drop of a hat.
Internally, the Ticwatch S is powered by a Mediatek processor (a dual-core 1.2GHz MTK MT2601 to be precise), but all the other hardware reads like a standard Android Wear device: 512MB RAM, 4GB of internal storage and a 300mAh battery.
The Mediatek processor is definitely up to the task, it’s designed specifically for wearables by Mediatek and runs almost like any equivalent Snapdragon 2100 or Intel based Android Wear watch I’ve used so far. There’s slight lag you may notice between when you lift the watch up and when the display lights up, or when you wait for Google to respond to the ‘Ok Google’ voice command, but it’s mostly fast. Battery life is essentially on par with those other branded processors as well, averaging around a day.
The watch supports dual-band WiFi to connect to the internet, as well as Bluetooth 4.1 (Low Energy) to connect to your phone or to connect a bluetooth headset to play music while you workout. It also comes with GPS (Glonass+GPS+Beidou and AGPS) support which is amazing for the price. It doesn’t have NFC which was a bit controversial, but considering the price you’re paying and the hardware already jammed in here I’m Ok with that.
Full specs include:
|Key Specifications:||TicWatch S|
|Resolution||400 x 400|
|Charging method||Magnetic connecting pin charging.|
|Android OS||Wear OS 2.0|
Battery Life and charging
The Ticwatch series uses POGO pins to charge the watch with a magnetic connector. The cradle is actually pretty decent, but it’s not perfect. You do have to ensure the connector is lined up and the watch is charging before you place it down for the night – or while it’s charging. One of the first nights I wasn’t so careful and it didn’t actually charge the watch, but it didn’t matter greatly because for charging, the Ticwatch is super fast, taking a mere 60 minutes to go from completely flat to 100% charge.
In terms of battery life, that night not charging the watch allowed me to get a good idea of the battery life. I used the watch with Always On Display turned Off and screen brightness at full and got about a day and a half, so it’s about on-par with other Android Wear watches.
The Ticwatch S runs Android Wear 2.0 – or to be more precise Android Wear 220.127.116.11604017. The watch is running the October 5th security patch which was updated as soon as I connected the watch. I haven’t seen an update to the November security patch, nor to Android Wear 2.6 which is rolling out to some watches but with Google controlling updates I have no doubts it will be along shortly.
As usual with any Android Wear watch release Mobvoi has released some specific watch faces for the Ticwatch series. There’s a number pre-installed: Simple Sport, Sport, Sport Heartbeat, Sporter, Wander, Blues, Colorful, Atom, Castle, Tourbillons, Ticwatch x MLGB, Steck, Calendar, Golden Coffee, NOMOS, Simple Green LED and Elements Pointer.
You can as usual install third party watch faces to the Ticwatch, there’s the Google Play store on the watch.
The one great feature from the Mobvoi Ticwatch S is the inclusion of GPS. For runners looking to get into fitness tracking on the cheap this is great. As far as GPS tracking goes, it’s good, it’s really good. After the requisite few seconds required to lock onto a GPS signal, the GPS is great tracking your run, bike ride or walk.
Once you end the exercise in the Fitness app on your watch, the data is synced to your phone to the Ticwatch app, along with all the other data like distance, duartion, calories burned. You also get your heart rate data, pace, step frequency, step length and of course the all important map showing where you went.
As far as pre-installed apps go, there’s the Fitness app, as well as a Health, Step Ranking and Heart rate monitor apps. You get the usual Google apps such as a Flashlight (turns your screen white and goes to full brightness), as well as Agenda, Alarm, Contacts, Find my Phone, Google Fit/Google Fit Workout, Phone, Stopwatch, Timer, Weather and Contacts apps.
Google Play is there so you can install all your favourite Android Wear apps as well.
The Ticwatch S comes with a bunch of sensors inside – GPS, Heart-rate monitor, Proximity sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, e-Compass – most of which are designed to help track your movements and hence your fitness. As well as hardware there’s also a software component with a ‘Fitness’ Android Wear app installed.
The Ticwatch Fitness Android Wear app ties-in with the Ticwatch app on your phone. On your wrist you can track a run/walk both inside and outside, or you can track a bike ride with the outside and cycle options obviously using GPS to track you. You can also do a ‘Freestyle’ workout which appears to be aimed at tracking a weight workout.
My running days are slowly coming to an end with my knees only capable of sporadic runs, so my main choice of cardio is the elliptical machine. Unfortunately the Ticwatch S doesn’t seem to be able to track correctly. I was disappointed to see an average of 800 steps added to my daily total after my usual half-hour workout, which other fitness trackers have logged at between 5,000-5,500 steps.
So, I’m left with the problem of if your fitness tracker doesn’t record your workout – did you really do it?
That said, walking and running you get a good step count on par with other fitness trackers and Android Wear watches so I’m happy with the results here.
The Ticwatch S is a pretty great smartwatch full stop, even if you don’t take into account the almost stupidly cheap price.
The issue of not tracking my elliptical workouts is annoying, but it’s not a massive issue for most people, especially if that’s not your preferred method of exercise. All the other fitness tracking through GPS and step counts work perfectly so that’s a massive tick right there.
The watch runs smoothly on the Mediatek processor and the inclusion of all that hardware is pretty amazing when you do take into account the cheap price of the watch.
I would prefer NFC to be in the watch, but until NAB or St George start supporting Android Pay it’s not completely necessary for me, but for others who do use Android Pay it may be a bit of an issue. Then again, tapping and paying with your phone or your Credit Card isn’t that big of a hassle so that’s all you may need.
There’s very little around on the Android Wear landscape that comes close to the Ticwatch S in terms of hardware and price, its sporty design may not be for everyone but at this price why not have a sports watch for workouts and a dress watch for business or pleasure?
The Mobvoi website is selling out of the Ticwatch S so I recommend you check it out post haste, for me I’m glad I got in on the Kickstarter because this watch is pretty darn nice.