The Ticwatch E was released in 2017 by Chinese company Mobvoi and received great reviews at the time for being the first truly affordable Android Wear smartwatch with decent build quality. Why am I reviewing 2 year old tech? Two reasons; to see how the hardware stacks up after 2 years on the market but mainly because I just got one…
Update: Mobvoi have released the new Ticwatch E2 and Ticwatch S2 sporting updated processors, larger batteries and swim ready waterproofing. They have dropped the speaker and there is still no NFC unfortunately. If you can live without these features and want a faster smartwatch, that you can also take poolside, the E2 and S2 offer considerably better value than the old models. Mobvoi’s latest offerings will likely enjoy longer support and Wear OS updates going forward and
are currently priced the same as the originals.
Before I start I must thank the Redditors over at https://www.reddit.com/r/WearOS/ and I highly recommend searching past posts or asking questions there if you have any queries about WearOS or the Ticwatch E.
This smartwatch has had several operating system updates over its short lifetime. Originally released with Android Wear OS which – lets be honest – was a little bit crap, it now rocks Google’s revamped Android wearable operating system called Wear OS. Google dropped the “Android” label in order to appeal to Apple iPhone users as the watch will work with iOS. I’ve italicised the word work as you unfortunately lose some functionality when paired with Cupertino’s mobile phones.
My first impressions were very good. The case the watch comes in is decent although Mobvoi could perhaps make more of an effort with the interior. Lots of cardboard is used when foam would look better but I did only spend £110.99 with a £30 voucher applied at Amazon on this so maybe I am being too fussy. The watch itself is nicely understated. Soft touch matt black plastic looks really good and blends well with the screen. A small lip on the screen bezel will protect against most knocks but screen protectors are available for those working in more active environments or who are just plain clumsy. I bought this 3 pack of Youniker Screen Protectors although I haven’t felt the need to fit one yet.
I went for the “Shadow” black, but the Ticwatch E is also available in “Ice” white.
If sportier looking watches appeal to you more; the Ticwatch S has exactly the same internals but a more active looking case. It is available in “Aurora” yellowy green, “Knight” black and “Glacier” white. Its also £30 more expensive and I’m not entirely sure this is justified by the different design. If you know of any other differences please let me know in the comments below!
Both the S & E have a single button on the left hand side (ignore Youniker’s image above – they have clearly flipped it before applying graphics for the screen) which some people hate but, given that I wear it on my left hand, allows me to use my thumb to press it and stops my hand activating it if I bend my wrist back.
The watch is powered by a MediaTek MT2601 chip rather than the usual Qualcomm Wear 2100 that is behind most other Wear OS watches on the market. End results are similar though and you shouldn’t notice any differences in day to day usage. A new Qualcomm processor was released at the end of last year but most users of watches with the Wear 3100 don’t report any increase in performance or battery life at the moment. This may change with future updates to the operating system but with only two smartwatches currently using the chip there isn’t much choice in designs available.
Charging the Ticwatch E is quick at about 1 hour or so using the supplied magnetic charging lead connecting via pogo pins to four pads on the back of the watch. The four pins mean that the lead is also able to transfer data so those who like to mess around with ABD can do so. My first full battery lasted about five hours but that is to be expected as unfortunately every update since the release of the watch has to be downloaded and applied. Tip: Disabling Bluetooth on your phone will force the watch to download updates using the inbuilt Wi-Fi and this is waaaaaaay faster! Whilst expected, this is a huge pain and Mobvoi need to look into either shipping with later firmware or creating software that users can run on their computer to easily update the watch over ABD directly to the latest release.
My second charge lasted over 24 hours. Doing three full charge/discharge cycles improves this and ensures you get the maximum battery life out of your watch. To increase this further you can disable inbuilt (system) apps you don’t need such as TicHealth if you are using Google Fit to measure your steps and heart rate. Which you should given the inaccuracy of Mobvoi’s step counting algorithm. You’ll have to uninstall app updates for the app before you can disable it. A few people have complained about not being able to change the default fitness tracking app that appears when you swipe left but this is as simple as tapping and holding the centre of the screen when on TicHealth and choosing your preferred tracking app from the list that appears. Noticeable increases in battery can be achieved by having a mostly black watch face. Others suggest disabling wi-fi and GPS but as these are only used when required I don’t see the point. If a watch lasts all day that is good enough for me. I don’t like wearing a watch in bed and I don’t care about sleep tracking so it’s easy to pop it on charge on my bedside table.
I bought the Soarking Charging Dock shown above for charging at night and I have the supplied charger in my drawer at work in case I forget to charge it overnight. I recommend this dock over cheaper versions for its weighted base which keeps the watch from moving or toppling over. It also has the data pins for you ABD geeks out there whereas a lot don’t include these or fail to wire them to the USB connector on the other end.
Unfortunately, like every other dock on the market, it holds the screen sideways and Wear OS doesn’t let you rotate the screen. If it did then you’d be able to decide which side you want the single button. Rotating the display when charging would also allow it to be used as a desk clock but maybe it doesn’t matter as it charges so quickly and, well, you wear it on your wrist. For that hour it charges or if you have it on your bedside table like I do, it would be nice to have it the correct way up. I sleep on the left side of the bed so annoyingly the text is upside down when I’m lying on my side. It is baffling that this feature isn’t baked into WearOS when it seems like such an obvious omission and would be so easy to add.
Asides from the heart rate monitor, step counter (accelerometer), gyroscope, e-compass, GPS, GLONASS, Wi-Fi and proximity sensors, the Ticwatch E comes with a microphone and speaker so not only can you make and receive calls directly from your watch you can also make use of Google Assistant. It’s not quite as smooth or fast as I’d like but I find myself “Ok Google”-ing to set reminders and turn on or off Philips Hue lights at home. There is something beautifully geeky about talking into your watch. I may not look like Pierce Brosnan – nor do I have a laser, tranquilliser dart or powerful electromagnet built into my watch – but my God can I turn off lights like I’m James Bond!
The capacitive screen on the Ticwatch is large (1.4″), with decent pixel density (287 ppi) and I think it looks great! Swipe down for quick settings, left for fitness, up for notifications and right for Google Assistant where you can see upcoming events, parcel deliveries and weather; just like on the phone version. There is also a daily quote at the bottom which is a nice touch. Today’s is particularly poignant I think!
Just because you are happy it does not mean that the day is perfect, but that you have looked beyond its imperfections.Bob Marley
The watch straps use a quick release mechanism and are replaceable with most, if not all, 20mm watch straps. Remember to buy appropriately sized watch pins if you buy a strap that isn’t quick release. I’m happy with the OEM strap for the time being. It is decently made and other reviews I have seen suggest you shouldn’t expect it deteriorate like others can.
One of the great things about smartwatches is replying to a message directly from your watch without removing your phone from your pocket, by simply writing on the screen as it slowly scrolls along. You can also dictate to it or use a small on-screen keyboard if you prefer. I like to use the “swipe” method on the tiny keyboard which seems to work well – just spell out the word by tracing over letters without removing your finger from the screen.
Being able to customise your watch face to your mood or style is a major selling point for smartwatches. There are so many watch faces available from the Play Store and my favourite is Twelveish for its low battery usage, simplicity and fun way of displaying the time. I have only the written time (“Around Eight/Eightish” for example) on the ambient screen that displays when the active screen times out (it’s like a low power mode when you are not tapping on the screen). On the active screen I have the exact time displayed on a digital clock, the date and battery percentage. You can enable and disable Elements to display on both active and ambient screens as well as change the colours, font and size of the text. You can also customise which Complications are shown. Complications act as shortcuts or simple display elements or both; imagine them as you would widgets on your phone. You can see above that I have mine set for Phone, Play Store and Weather.
You can also use apps like the highly recommended Pujie Black to build your own watch faces or download user created faces. Pujie is known to not be a battery hog like other watch face making apps can be.
Like many people, my New Years resolution is to lose weight and the Ticwatch E allows me to connect Bluetooth earphones and listen to music without dragging my phone to Park Run. I went for these Joyroom T04 Bluetooth earphones from Banggood:
while my friend decided to go for these TWS Earphones from Gearbest for his Rollerblading marathon (he’s crazy but we like him):
Summary: Smartwatches aren’t for everyone and the Ticwatch E is not perfect nor is it the best; however it is a very affordable way to try a Wear OS watch. I bought it with the aim of upgrading to something better if I got on well with it but I can’t see that happening now. Not because I’m not impressed with the watch or the operating system but because I cannot see the point in changing it! I love my Ticwatch (like a friend, not romantically…) and, other than lacking NFC which would allow me to pay for things using Google Pay by holding my watch against contactless card readers which would be badass, it suits me perfectly. Understated and smarter than it looks; the Ticwatch E is truly the incompletegeek of smartwatches.
Alternative Smart Watches:
For Battery Life
Ticwatch Pro – Clever second overlaid screen, long 2-30 day battery life (with caveats), NFC is another benefit over the E & S models. It can also be bought with a silver bezel. Screen quality is reduced by the inclusion of the second screen in some lighting conditions.
For Build Quality
Huawei Watch 2 Sport – Great option for those who want to use Google Pay from their wrist! The classic version is better looking but this is cheaper and has same internals, NFC is a nice touch and a bigger battery and smaller screen results in less trips to the charger. A version can be bought with 4G sim card slot but would require another PAYG or contract. It is probably not necessary for most people and as it also adds battery drain should be a carefully considered extra. The Watch 2 was £329 when first released so can be considered a bargain at current prices.
Fossil Sport – The only affordable 3100 Wear processor watch on the market currently. Lazy styling but a must have if you’re a regular swimmer and want to track your pool time. Edit – reports coming out of early failures of the charge ring coming away from the body of the watch. It seems like Fossil have some QC issues so hold off on this for the time being.
Skagen Falster 2 – Highly regarded by owners. Same internals as Fossil Gen 4 Explorist HR but better build quality. Elegant but subtle styling.
For Smaller Wrists
Michael Kors Access Runway – Designed for women but I think would look equally good on anyone with thinner wrists or those who prefer a more traditional smaller watch case.
Money Is No Object
Montblanc Summit 2 – Other than the Fossil Sport this is the only other Wear OS watch with the new Qualcomm Wear 3100 processor inside, it is quite simply gorgeous but expensive for a watch you will probably only use for 3 years!
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 – Clever modular design means that you can replace the electrical internals with a mechanical watch centre when the watch finally pops it’s clogs. You may even be able to upgrade the electronics if Tag update it in the future (and offer it as an upgrade). Atom processor from Intel instead of the usual Qualcomm processors found in most Wear OS wareables. Does this justify the frighteningly expensive price tag?