Google and its WearOS platform is in a bit of limbo at the moment. The much vaunted saviour of WearOS, the new Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100, is having a very slow roll out and by all reports it is far from the saviour that WearOS requires. In the meantime smartwatch manufacturers are having to make do with the current state of WearOS and attempt to improve it on their own.
Mobvoi are one such company who have continued to buck the trend and release smartwatches that perform well. Having released a few decent smartwatches in the previous year or two Mobvoi has just released the TicWatch S2, a smartwatch designed for outdoor use. As such it is waterproof, durable and features in-built GPS with proactive sports tracking.
Design and style
I purchased the TicWatch S first generation from Kickstarter and was very impressed with the hardware on it. It had a nice big display and a simple design with a relatively comfortable band. Its a fairly simple formula but it is all that is needed for a watch and with the TicWatch S2 they have stuck to that formula.
The design is now more detailed and looks like a sports/outdoors watch and gives the appearance of being more rugged – the casing is polycarbonate. The 1.39-inch AMOLED display is just under 20% bigger than my usual smartwatch, the Huawei Watch 2 — and it feels it. Side by side it is only marginally bigger than the HW2 but when it is on the wrist it is not noticeable as it is only 0.3mm thicker.
The watch I received from Mobvoi is all black, there is not silver/white/flair of any kind anywhere, but it is available in white as well. The band is a standard 22mm band so you can accessorise it yourself with whatever band takes your fancy — as long as it’s 22mm. The band included is a very soft silicon and is very comfortable to wear all day.
The button on the side is now incorporated into the design of the smartwatch with the semi-flush square button sitting on a small bump that is also present on the opposite side of the watch. This gives it a very symmetrical appearance which helps its appearance no end.
Inside the TicWatch S2 is everything you expect and have seen in WearOS smartwatches for well over 12 months. Unfortunately the Snapdragon Wear 3100 did not make it into this watch although its benefits seem to be very little by all accounts.
The smartwatch has the usual 4GB of internal storage paired with 512MB of RAM and a Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor. There is of course Bluetooth 4.1LE, Wi-Fi and a nice addition is in-built GPS. Unfortunately with all that there was no room in the budget or the watch for an NFC chip. If you use Google Pay etc with your smartwatch you are out of luck here — personally I never use Google Pay on my watch as I can’t be bothered with a lockscreen on it.
Other extras which make this a great outdoors smartwatch are the US Military Standard 810G durability – “built to withstand extreme temperature fluctuations, shock, dust, and water” – a 24 hour heart rate monitor and it is waterproof to 5 ATM (you can swim up to 50m under water with it).
Is the battery life really 48 hours?
Mobvoi state that the TicWatch S2 has a “2-day battery life*” but of course the devil is in the details. The two day battery life is of course based on how you use it. For me I did not manage to achieve anywhere near two days which I am not sure whether that is 48 hours or one day at work then turning off until the next day.
The TicWatch S2 was about on par with every other smartwatch I have tried. It lasted for a day wearing from around 8am until about 6pm where I turned it off. It would then last most of the next day, but not all of it. I’m okay with charging it every night as I do my phone anyway as I’m sure most of you would too.
The watch is charged using a proprietary charging cradle which is magnetised so that the watch slots into the correct position each and every time and charges relatively quickly.
How does it run?
This is the part I’m sure most of you are interested in. The bane of WearOS watches is their lagginess. The slowness of the display and smartwatch responding to gestures and button presses — some put this down to the chipset but most to the optimisation of WearOS.
I’m not sure what Mobvoi have done with the Ticwatch S2 though. The Ticwatch S suffered from the usual WearOS lag, quite a bit, but the Ticwatch S2 is nearly bereft of any lag — I say nearly bereft because it is still WearOS so there still some lag present. It is without a doubt the smoothest and fastest WearOS watch I have ever tried. Swiping up to view a notification results in instantaneous action, as does swiping in any direction for any of the functions located there.
What about any extra software?
Some manufacturers make a big deal out of the custom watchfaces they make. For me I never end up using the manufacturers’ watchface, instead preferring to choose one of the bazillion located on the Play Store, Watchmaker and Facer repos.
Mobvoi has included the usual range of watchfaces and they are as good as any other manufacturer’s watchfaces. I didn’t mind the look of a few of them and was quite happy using them for the review period. I still prefer a watchface from Facer or Watchmaker where you can have more customised complications on a watchface – give me all the shortcuts.
What I liked about the Ticwatch S2?
- Fastest, smoothest WearOS watch I’ve ever used
- Good looking and yet still rugged design
What I disliked about the Ticwatch S2?
- Not 48 hours battery life
- No NFC
Would I buy one?
Last time I looked at a smartwatch it was a tough decision as to whether it was worth purchasing because the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 was right around the corner. Now that we have real world results from the SD3100 it seems that it is not all we hoped it would be. As such the performance of smartwatches in unlikely to improve dramatically with this new chipset.
As a result it might be best to go for the best available right now. I’ve used the Galaxy Watch and it left me underwhelmed (Tizen, like Bixby, just doesn’t cut it and they need to realise soon – on both counts). I have used countless WearOS watches and been left thinking the same thing each time – lag, lag and more lag.
Mobvoi have really got a great watch on their hands with the Ticwatch S2. It may have last generation’s chips (SD2100) but it has somehow been optimised extremely well. There is very little, if any, lag on the Ticwatch S2. It is light, it looks good and has a decent waterproof rating of 5 ATM, it is rugged with a ruggedness rating, has built in GPS and heart rate monitoring and is affordable.
The battery life, when using all the functions is not 48 hours but that is all that I could fault on this smartwatch. Unlike so many other smartwatches, this smartwatch comes in under $300 ($282.99) making it a perfect buy for those looking for a smartwatch. You can get it from the Mobvoi website in either Midnight or Glacier White.
Mobvoi have just shown other manufacturers that WearOS CAN be optimised. They have set the bar high and it is up to the other manufacturers to stop pumping out the same laggy smartwatches and start doing some software optimisation.