There are a lot of players in the smartwatch field now, whether it be Samsung and the Gear S2/S3, the plethora of Android Wear OEMs from Huawei, to Sony, to Motorola and others, and Lastly Apple with the Apple watch, there are no shortages, but there is a shortage of Quality smartwatches, especially since FitBit bought and shuttered both Pebble and Vector. So I turned to some others, without wanting to go budget crazy and buy the cheapest one I could off of Gearbest, and so I found the TicWatch 2 from Mobvoi.
Disclaimer: Mobvoi did not send me this TicWatch 2, It was purchased with my own funds and all opinions are my own. I took delivery of the TicWatch 2 on January 16th 2017, and have been using it every day since.
Mobvoi have provided us with a referral code, which allows you to get $20 off any order : GCJGSG
Speeds and Feeds
- 1.4” 400×400 OLED screen
- MediaTek MT2601 SoC
- Bluetooth v4.1
- WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
- 512mb RAM, 4GB ROM
For a more in-depth look at the specifications on offer, check out the page on the TicWatch Website.
I’ll just come out and say it, The TicWatch 2, especially in the “Oak” trim that I have here, just looks like a really classy watch, and after coming from 2 Generations of Pebbles and before that the Sony Smartwatch 2, having a watch that looks like a watch is
very pleasing to me.
The main body of the TicWatch 2 (at least on the Oak and Onyx models) is a medical grade, 316L stainless steel chassis paired with a plastic base and scratch resistant cover glass. On the Onyx version that glass is swapped out for an artificial Sapphire, which would have been nice to see on both higher end models, but I digress. At 11.95mm thick I was expecting to hate the thickness and think it’d look like a bulbous wrist computer, but do to the sloping back and the fact it is black, it fades in and actually gives the appearance of a much thinner watch, which is really nice.
I Keep mentioning Oak and Onyx, these are the two higher end models of the TicWatch 2, but there is also 2 lower end models, Snow and Charcoal. The Differences between these 4 watches is almost purely aesthetic. Whereas the Oak and Onyx are made from 316L stainless steel, the Snow and Charcoal are made from Aluminium which is lighter as well as cheaper, but it is less durable than the stainless steel, the other changes are the stock bands. The Onyx has a metal link bracelet, the Oak has a leather strap and the Snow and Charcoal come with either a white or a black silicone rubber band. The best bit about all this though? The TicWatch uses a standard 20mm watch strap, meaning you could buy the Snow version and put a nice 20mm watch strap on it, and unless you knew what to look for, you could tell people you had the Oak one. The last change is specifically for the Onyx, and as I said whilst the other 3 use scratch resistant glass the Onyx uses an artificial sapphire panel to go along with it’s higher price tag.
On the left side of the watch there is the crown, and yes, it is technically in the wrong place, but just forget that, it actually works really nicely and instead of using your index finger, you use your thumb to actuate the button, simples. On the other side we have seemingly nothing, but instead, we actually have this watch’s standout feature, the Tickle Strip.
Yup, that is its real product name, now let’s move on.
The Tickle strip is a new type of way to interact with a smartwatch. Apple has the digital crown and Samsung has the rotatable bezel, and Mobvoi has the tickle strip. It is a hidden capacitive strip hidden under the plastic on the right side of the watch, and when you tickle the side of the watch, it allows you to scroll through things in the interface, and it works really quite well. If I had one gripe with it, is that it seems that there might be a slight issue with electrical grounding, and by that I mean it sometimes feels like i need to put a finger on the other side of the watch on the metal bit in order to close the circuit, for lack of a better term. It is a little bit of an intermittent problem, and it could just be he severely damaged fingertips I’m trying to use not making full contact, but I thought it should be mentioned.
Flipping it over, we see the plastic rear cover with a hole in the centre for the optical heart rate sensor and some regulatory information due to the wireless radios inside of it. Something that cannot be seen but is definitely here is the Qi wireless charging coil under the plastic cover. The fact that the TicWatch uses standard Qi charging is magnificent it means that all of those Qi chargers I bought back when I had the Nexus 4 and have been sitting mostly unused since then, can be used again, I can use the actual charger in the volcano dock (pro tip, don’t waste the $10) in my room on my bedside table, and have a normal Qi charger at my desk in the office and one in my travel bag. Qi is pretty damn great, and for a smartwatch is makes the most sense.
TicWear, TicWear is the name of the custom Android 5.1 build that Mobvoi have created for this watch, and I am on build 4.5.1-Intl, meaning that this is the international build of TicWear. I’m also on the stable build, because,much like ChromeOS, there is a Beta build channel that you can freely switch to, and it tells you the differences, it tells you that things’ll likely be less stable, and to expect that, I personally stayed on the stable channel as I don’t feel the need to be on the bleeding edge of software for my watch.
The OS has been customised to work really well with the circular screen as well as the Tickle Strip (seriously guys? It doesn’t get any easier to say it). For the most part, I’d be hard pressed to know this was Android aside from the “Android is optimising” on first boot. The folks over at Mobvoi have made a stable, refreshing interface and It is really a joy to use.
From the main watch face, a swipe up from the bottom gets you to the notification shade, of which you can use the Tickle strip to triage through if you let enough of them build up. Tapping on a notification opens up the card, and you can scroll with the screen or the tickle strip, and these are the scenarios that the tickle strip was designed for, interactions without obstructing the screen, and depending on the type of notification, you get different actions, sometimes it is a reply with canned messages or voice input, sometimes it is an open on the phone prompt, or just the standard “clear”, which is what i use the most because ignoring people is remarkably easy with a wearable.
Swiping back from top to bottom closes the shade and goes back to the watch face, swiping from right to left gets you into the app launcher, and by default there is a dialer app, a calendar, the health app, a fitness app, weather, stopwatch, music player, sound recorder, timer, alarms, calculator and settings. Of course you can slide through them with the touch screen, but once again, I almost always use the tickle strip for it, because it is just such a natural way to interact with a wearable, and I’m surprised it took so long to get here.
Swiping left to right gets you back to the watch face, the mainstay of the TicWear experience. Swiping from top to bottom opens up a sort of quick access panel. First panel is a notifications one, you can put the watch in silent mode, where it only vibrates instead of making a noise, you can put it into DND or Do Not Disturb mode, meaning no notifications give any audible or tactile alert, lastly there is a button for airplane mode which, as you guessed turns all radios off. There is also a pair of battery percentage indicators, one for the watch and the other for the phone it is connected to.
Swiping left from that panel brings you to the next quick access panel, with a 3 stage brightness toggle, a toggle for enabling and disabling the twist to wake gesture, a button to jump into the full on settings menu, a button to ping your phone if it is within bluetooth range but you don’t know where it is, and lastly a button to jump into the sound settings of the watch. Swiping over once more gets you to the music remote, giving you play/pause, for ward and back on the tracks, and underneath that you get a volume slider, which, once again can be controlled by the touch screen or the tickle strip (seriously guys). Lastly, one more swipe over gets you to the step counter, and a single swipe more takes you back round to applet number one.
Swiping up from the bottom once more takes you to the watch face… again. Sliding left to right from the homescreen gets you to Tico, the Watch’s AI/Personal assistant, and Tico is… Okay, I’ve honestly not had much use for him, I turned the “Okay Tico” detection off, because it seems tuned for US not UK and could rarely pick me up without a fake US accent, and the people I know have very strange and non english names a lot of the time, something that Tico struggles with. Strangely enough, voice dictation for replies works miraculously, so it’s just names it seems to struggle with.
To cut a long story short, TicWear is very impressive to me, It walks the line of being a full functioning wrist computer and a notification screener, and it walks it well, the interface is simple enough that it took me a few hours before I was comfortable, and with a device you use as often as a smartwatch, a few hours is nothing really.
This is where the TicWatch 2 starts to look a little less appealing. It isn’t like the first gen of android wear watches, where an every night charge was mandatory, and you’d be lucky to get to the evening, the TicWatch 2 often gets between6-48 hours of battery, so a day and a half to 2 days, but in the later parts of the second day it might go into low power mode, but as a mentioned earlier with the Qi chargers, if i’m at my desk and that happens and I know i’ll be here a while, a quick 15 minute top off on the Qi charger and i’m back up to 50% or so so i can continue the rest of the day in full power mode ready for a full overnight recharge that night.
I can easily run the watch down in a day, i run it at 100% brightness, have bluetooth to a phone and a set of earbuds as well as WiFi on, I’ll also play music on the watch, or ask Tico a load of questions, use voice replies a lot etc. I can run this thing down in a day, but it’s easier for my normal use to end the day with about 45% left, and when I go to bed, I’ll turn the watch off meaning that when Ii wake up, that 45% will be for that day. Sometimes it’s more than 45% and sometimes it is less, but it takes a lot for me to get a single day’s use down below 30%.
So what about the miscellaneous things that don’t require an entire section? Well, the stock leather band for the Oak model feels cheap, as in you almost question whether or not it is actual leather feeling cheap. Luckily, the TicWatch 2 uses standard 20mm watch straps, so you can buy any 20mm watch strap and be in heaven compared with what ships.
The Speaker is kind of weak. So the TicWatch 2 has a speaker, and it is intermittently kind of weak. When playing back music in a quiet environment, it is perfectly adequate, I’d almost say it is loud, but when talking on the phone or getting the weather application to speak out the current wet is ridiculously quiet, I don’t know if this is just a software glitch, or if they are overdriving the speaker when it comes to playing music, I just know it is a little bit of an inconsistent experience.
So, should you buy a TicWatch 2? Honestly, I’d say yes if u are in the market for a very nice looking watch that also does notifications really well, the TicWatch 2 does it’s job really well here. It doesn’t have a buttload of third party applications, but I don’t need those. I need the TicWatch 2 to function as an “Is it important” machine, and It does that very, very well.
I paid over £255 for my TicWatch 2 Oak, including shipping and VAT, and If I did it again I might have gone with the Snow Sport version to save an extra $50 and just used an old watch band I have, but I do not regret buying the Oak version, and It also seems to attract a lot of attention when people realise it is a smartwatch, because it isn’t always very obvious.