Ticwatch 2 hands-on: Forget expensive Apple and Google watches, this $200 smartwatch packs it all in
The wearable market continues to struggle, and it's tough to justify a smartphone companion priced at $350 to more than $1,000. Mobvoi's Ticwatch 2 offers all you need, including GPS, music storage, voice assistant, vibrant display, and heart-rate monitor.
Kickstarter campaigns sometimes never deliver, like Pebble Time 2 and Pebble Core, but we also see successfully funded products that end up providing what was promoted. The Ticwatch 2 campaign began in late July and reached its funding goal of $50,000 in just 10 minutes.
While I did not back this new smartwatch, I was recently sent an evaluation Ticwatch 2 Active to test. I've used it over the past couple of weeks and think it is a watch you may want to consider if you are interested in wearables but don't want to commit $300 to $1,000 or more to see whether you really need a companion to your smartphone.
Specifications of the Ticwatch 2 include:
Processor: 1.2 GHz MediaTek 2601 dual-core
Display: 1.4 inch 400x400-pixel resolution MOLED, 287 ppi
Operating system: Android 5.1 with Ticwear OS layer on top
Storage: 4GB internal storage
Wireless technology: 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1
The Ticwatch 2 is lighter than the Apple Watch and Samsung Gear S3. I can wear it comfortably for long periods of time and barely even notice it is on my wrist.
The Ticwatch 2 is constructed primarily of polycarbonate material -- matte finish on the top and glossy on the bottom. A standard 20mm-size silicone band is included with the active version, but there are other strap options available. Quick release pins are positioned on the strap, too.
The watch doesn't look particularly remarkable, but when you make a gesture to turn on the display, you see that the 1.4 inch OLED looks fantastic. There's an always-on mode, too, so you can see the time and other information without turning on the display.
The OLED is bright with crisp, colorful icons and text. The display is touch-enabled with a single crown button to take you back to the watch face.
On the side opposite of the physical button, you will find the "tickle strip" that lets you control the device without covering the display. With this strip, you can scroll, select, and change the volume.
An optical heart-rate monitor is found on the back, and unlike some watches, it is flush with the back of the watch.
The Ticwatch 2 is based on Android 5.1, with the custom Ticwear layer powering the user interface. When you first turn on the display, you are taken to the watch face. There are 35 watch faces to choose from on the smartphone app, with the ability to download more watch faces, too. I've been quite pleased with the available options. Some watch faces provide various status updates, but none of these areas of information can be tapped or are actionable.
Swipe from left to right to launch the included voice control interface. Swipe from right to left to open the app launcher. Swipe down to view the status screen, and then scroll right to left to view the quick cards. You can also swipe up from the bottom of the watch face to view your notifications.
Ticwatch 2 hands-on: in pictures
Apps installed on the Ticwatch 2 include a phone dialer, calendar, health, fitness, weather, stopwatch, music player, voice recorder, timer, alarm, and calculator. Settings can also be accessed from the app launcher, and there are plenty of options in there to customize your experience.
The health app can be used to track your steps, remind you to stand regularly, and check your heart. You can view some details of your activity on the watch, but more info is visible on your connected smartphone.
Use the fitness app to initiate a focused activity, including outdoor run, outdoor walk, indoor run, cycling, and free style weights. I used it for outdoor running with the GPS. Unfortunately, like we see on the Apple Watch and Gear S3, these smartwatches with GPS provide a very basic experience that doesn't even show you the GPS connection status when you start a run, so the beginning of your run is often not accurately tracked.
The voice control system works fairly well -- with the option to use gestures or key word phrase "OK, Tico" to initiate the system. When you ask questions, it primarily brings up web search results, but it can also be used to make phone calls, check the weather, reply to messages, and more.
Like other smartwatches, the Ticwatch 2 can be used to initiate or accept phone calls, so you can talk to people through the embedded mic and speaker. This provides for a very good hands-free experience, and the speaker sounds good.
You can send text messages through the dialer app, with the text for the message being entered via voice transcription.
The Ticwatch 2 works with both Android and iOS. Most all of the functionality is the same with both operating systems, but there are just a few limitations with iOS because of the way Apple locks down certain aspects of its operating system. These include the following:
Third-party watch faces
SMS reply with voice
Third-party application quick cards
The Ticwear smartphone app is primarily used to customize the settings on the Ticwatch 2. On an Android phone, you can optimize notifications, choose your watch face, select quick cards, view your activity data in the health center, add weather locations, select music to transfer to the Ticwatch 2, access your voice recordings, choose to sync your fitness data with Google Fit, Runkeeper, and Strava, and set up a link to your Uber account.
There are fewer options on an iPhone, including notifications, watch faces, contacts, health data, and Uber. You can set up fitness sync to Apple Health within the Health app on your iPhone.
The watch app also provides you with the Ticwatch 2 battery status and step count.
There is a Mobvoi store that can be installed on your Android phone, but you first need to go into the settings on the watch and then initiate the store app download from the watch. The Android store app comes in the form of an .APK file, so you need to allow unknown sources to install the store app. The store primarily contains watch faces, so if you are satisfied with the available selection on the Ticwatch 2, then I wouldn't worry about installing the store app at this time.
The Apple Watch, Android Wear, and Samsung Tizen watches are the main competition for the Ticwatch 2. The Apple Watch is limited just to iOS devices, so if you are an Android user, then its not even an option. Android Wear watches now work with iOS and Android, similar to the Ticwatch 2.
The Apple Watch Series 2 ranges in price from $369 up to more than $1,299. The Series 2 watches have integrated GPS and are water resistant, along with vibrant color displays.
There has been a hiatus in the Android Wear world lately, with manufacturers looking toward 2017 and a new update to Android Wear. The best current Android Wear watch is the Polar M600, available for $329.95.
Pebble is now out of the smartwatch game, so there is no reason to consider one of those devices. Thus, for $199, the Ticwatch 2 is the lowest-priced option to try out a wearable to see if you want to spend hundreds more for a smartphone companion.
Daily usage experiences and conclusions
The Ticwatch 2 charges wirelessly via the included proprietary charging cradle. You can but the Ticwatch 2 at Amazon in black or white for $199.99. You can also pay another $50 for a stainless steel model with a leather band or another $100 for a stainless steel black one with metal band.
Mobvoi is an AI startup supported through investments from Google. I honestly did not know what to expect from the company and am very impressed by the capability and performance of the Ticwatch 2.
The Ticwatch 2 is advertised to function for one to two days, depending on your usage and wireless connections. When I used the Ticwatch 2 for running with GPS enabled, heart-rate monitor tracking my heart rate, and music streaming to my headphones via Bluetooth, I found a battery consumption rate of about 1 percent discharge for each minute. Thus, I could use it for my typical 5- to 6-mile workout, but not for too much longer.
When used as a smartwatch, and not for a dedicated fitness activity, I was able to easily go a full day. Since sleep tracking is not supported; simply place the Ticwatch 2 on the charger at night, and it should perform well for you.
There is about a gigabyte of available space on the Ticwatch 2 for music storage, and you can only transfer music to the watch via an Android device. It took a long time to select songs and transfer them since it was carried out over a Bluetooth connection. The music player is very basic, but you can choose to listen to music over Bluetooth or the embedded speaker in the watch. The watch speaker isn't great for music, but if your headphones die, at least you can still enjoy some music.
With GPS, a heart-rate monitor, IP65 dust and water resistance, and music support, the Ticwatch 2 is a good recreational runner watch available at a price less than other GPS sports watches with these capabilities.
Overall, I was very pleased with the Ticwatch 2, and it's a great option for those looking for an affordable smartwatch.