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October 2, 2018

Mobvoi Ticwatch S review

by John_A


Research Center:

Mobvoi Ticwatch S

Mobvoi’s Ticwatch S — short for Sport — is one of the most affordable Wear OS smartwatches on the market. For $160, you’ll not only get built-in GPS but also a heart-rate sensor — adding more capability to your workouts and daily activity tracking. Mobvoi is a Chinese company that’s mostly known to sell affordable Wear OS smartwatches in the U.S; the Ticwatch S sits above the even cheaper Ticwatch E, but it ranks a little lower than the more recently announced Ticwatch Pro.

While the features under the hood are impressive, the aesthetic of the smartwatch doesn’t give us the same excitement. Even though it is a “sport” smartwatch, it looks and feels cheap — especially after wearing sleeker, sportier smartwatches with a similar price tag. But with jam-packed features essential for health and fitness and a bargain price, is it enough for us to look past the unique design? Let’s take a closer look.

Lightweight and comfortable, but looks cheap

The Ticwatch S is large, but it sits comfortably on the wrist. There’s a 1.4-inch fully-round OLED display in a 44mm polycarbonate body that’s about 13mm thick. It’s extremely lightweight, but it looks and feels too chunky. As a unisex smartwatch, men may not find the size too different than others available on the market for them, but women might feel like it’s too big on their wrists. While we appreciate the larger screen size, which makes it easier to read alerts and track activity during workouts, the size does standout a little too much on our wrist — and not in a good way.

Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

The smartwatch comes in a variety of colors — Knight (black), Aurora (neon yellow), and Glacier (white). Each one comes with watch straps to match the case, which disappointingly aren’t interchangeable. We tested the all-white Glacier color, which is loud on the wrist. It looks best with workout or casual wear, but this is not a watch you can take to more formal events. That being said, the white option is significantly more subtle than the neon yellow variant, but your best choice for a toned down aesthetic is the black.

The size does standout a little too much on our wrist — and not in a good way.

One part of the design that may split opinion is the placement of the crown, which is on the left. It works as your navigation tool — you can use it to access installed apps, call upon Google Assistant, or go back to the watch face. We’re used to wearing smartwatches with crowns on the right, and we found it a little difficult to get used to using our thumb to press the crown. The button is also bulky and looks unnatural; it unnecessarily and unattractively jets out from the watch face.

The silicone band didn’t attract a ton of dust and lint — at least as much as some other watches we’ve worn — and the white model kept its bright color even months after wearing the watch.

The Ticwatch S can look comical on some wrists, but it looks best when paired with workout gear. With other outfits, it can look a little like a toy.

Solid performance, large display

Unlike most Wear OS smartwatches that are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 2100 processor, the Mobvoi Ticwatch S is features MediaTek’s MT2601,1.2GHz dual-core processor. It packs 4GB of storage and 512GM of RAM — allowing you to store music and play it via Bluetooth-connected earbuds. We surprisingly didn’t run into too many issues with performance. We were able to open apps relatively quickly and respond to notifications with ease, though we did see some lag when trying to access the Google Play Store or Google Fit.

Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

With a 400 x 400 resolution, the OLED screen is incredibly sharp and the colors pop. But the screen does falter in broad daylight, as you’ll need to turn up the brightness when outdoors to see anything.

Wear OS works better with Android phones

The Mobvoi Ticwatch S runs Google’s Wear OS. While Google removed the Android name to help people better understand these smartwatches work with iPhones too, there are still limits when using it with iOS.

For people on Android, the Ticwatch is extremely simple to use even if you’ve never owned a Wear OS smartwatch. Swipe down to access your settings, swipe up to view your notifications, and swipe to the left or right to change your watch face. Swipe left or right to clear specific notifications. You can type replies to messages, as well as use quick replies without having to use the keyboard. There’s also the option to swipe to type or use your voice to reply. With such a large display, it’s actually comfortable to type with responses — something we’re not used to on a lot of smartwatches. Some of these gestures will be changing in an upcoming Wear OS update that simplifies the usability of the operating system.

With such a large display, it’s actually comfortable to type with responses.

When connected to an iPhone, Wear OS is a tad more limited. As with Android, you have to download the Wear OS app but you’re required to keep it running in the background at all times. Otherwise, you’ll have to reconnect it to the app each time in order to receive notifications and track activity. When that did happen, it took us many attempts to reconnect it — at one point, we had to reboot the Ticwatch completely and start over. While you can view notifications, you can’t interact with them. Calls can also be accepted or denied right from the watch face.

The Ticwatch S uses the all new Google Fit to track your activity via Move Minutes and Heart Points, which you can learn more about in our Google Fit hands on. You can also use Mobvoi’s own built-in apps, which we’ll get to later.

Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

Google Assistant is triggered by holding down the crown button, and you can use it to set reminders, ask for weather updates, ask about directions to work, control smart home products, and more. Those with an Android phone can also ask the Assistant to send messages.

The pre-installed watch faces are standard — with options for analog or digital. But since this is a “sport” watch, most of the faces are geared more towards highlighting metrics such as step count and calories burned. You can customize parts of each one, to better suit your look for the day — whether it be for the gym or a casual day out.

Easily track daily activity

The Mobvoi Ticwatch S includes a heart rate sensor, allowing you to track your heart rate throughout the day and also during workouts. While heart-rate tracking capabilities aren’t new, there aren’t a lot of other Wear OS smartwatches out there with a sensor for $160. The closest competitor is the Misfit Vapor, which is $200.

Unfortunately, the smartwatch doesn’t track heart rate automatically like the Vapor. You’ll have to manually tap the heart rate app to begin measuring — swiping up within the Heart Rate app will bring you to a history of your heart rate measurements that you’ve taken throughout the day. It is automatically tracked during workouts, which is nice. There’s also the option of downloading the third party Mobvoi app Heart Trace, which will then sync your data with Google Fit.

You can use Google Fit and Fit Workout to track your activity or you can sync your smartwatch to the Mobvoi app on Android and iOS. We used TicExercise to track our outdoor runs — but you can also track indoor runs on the treadmill, biking sessions, and there’s also a free style option like weight training or other cardio. After starting your workout, you’re able to see the smartwatch track your path on the display itself. Thanks to the built-in GPS, you won’t have to carry your phone on you to track your runs.

Other pre-installed Mobvoi apps include TicHealth, which allows you to check in on your daily activity straight from your display. There’s also Step Ranking that provides you with your current steps for the day and ranks them in comparison to those around you based on your location — in an attempt to give you a bit of a motivational push to keep going in attempt to stay ahead.

The smartwatch doesn’t track heart rate automatically.

For music you’ll have to sync your playlists from Google Play Music, which is annoying if you don’t use it on a regular basis. Since we use Spotify, we still carried our phones to listen to music but tracked our run via the smartwatch. While running, we were able to glance at the Ticwatch to see metrics like distance, heart-rate, and calories burned. With an auto-pause feature, the workout would pause whenever we took a break or waited to cross the street at a light.

As our heart-rate was tracked in real-time, the smartwatch would also label which stages we were in — like cardio or fat-burning. Whenever we pushed ourselves a bit too hard, bringing our heart rate up to 194 BPM, the smartwatch would label our heart-rate as “dangerous” — letting us know we should slow down. But we wouldn’t have known that unless we glanced at our watch every so often, and wish it would vibrate every time our heart-rate would get to that point. Even though at times we found the heart-rate sensor overcalculated, it was reasonably accurate for the most part.

While you can see a summary of your workout on the Ticwatch, you can refer to the Mobvoi app for a more in-depth analysis. This is where you can see a graph of your heart rate, pace, step frequency, step length, along with your distance and route. You can also see detailed data of your daily activity too such as steps, active hours, exercise, and heart rate.

Mobvoi Ticwatch S Compared To

Fossil Q Venture HR

Apple Watch Series 4

Garmin Fenix 5X Plus

Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30

Alpina AlpinerX

Fossil Q Venture

Garmin Vivoactive 3

Emporio Armani Connected touchscreen…

Apple Watch Series 3

Diesel On Full Guard Smartwatch

Huawei Fit

Garmin Vivoactive HR

Apple Watch Series 2

Asus ZenWatch 2

Garmin fenix 2

The Mobvoi app calculates and tracks activity differently than what some might be used to — but is extremely similar to the newly-designed Google Fit. On the Mobvoi app, you’ll see Active hours, which only counts during hours that you take more than 250 steps (similar to Google Fit Move Minutes). There’s also Exercise, which measures the intensity level of your exercise (Just like Google Fit’s Heart Points) — so every time you go for a power walk or do some high-intensity cardio, the Ticwatch’s heart-rate sensor will recognize the increase in heart-rate and the app will track it under the Exercise category. Aside from that, your steps, calories burned, heart-rate, and distance are tracked normally.

Unfortunately, there’s no built-in sleep tracking capabilities. It’s a feature that’s available on other smartwatches, but with the Ticwatch S you’ll have to use third-party apps instead.

Standard one-day battery life

The Mobvoi Ticwatch S has a 300mAh battery that the company claims can provide up to 48-hours of use. In reality, we found that it lasts a little over 12 hours at most. After taking it off the charger at 100 percent around 8:30 a.m., it was at 59 percent by 2:23 p.m.. By the time we got home from work at 6:30 p.m. it was at around 30 percent, and 19 percent when we went to bed at 10 p.m. — and that’s with all the notifications on and without using its built-in GPS. That’s no where near the two full days Mobvoi claims its smartwatch can last.

In reality, we found that it lasts a little over 12 hours at most.

When we did workout with the Ticwatch S, we took it out at about 9 p.m. — when it was charged at about 83 percent, and found that it was already at 20 percent by 1 a.m. — which is only about five hours. This was after using built-in GPS, heart rate sensor, and Mobvoi’s TicExercise app to track our run.

Even though it doesn’t last us the entire 48-hour day, we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly it charges. After plugging it in at zero percent, we never had to wait more than an hour for it to charge back up to 100 percent. It’s especially useful for days when you want to make sure it’s fully charged for your evening run after work or a late-night gym session, and don’t want to wait a long time before it’s ready to be used.

At the same time, it’s important to note that our battery life tests were made when the Ticwatch S was connected to an iPhone, and may differ with Android.

Warranty information

The Mobvoi Ticwatch S costs $160, and is for purchase available through Mobvoi’s site. It’s also available through other retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy, but the price may be a little closer to its original $200.

As for warranty, Mobvoi offers a one-year warranty that covers against any defects, but it doesn’t cover accidental damage to the case, strap, or battery.

Our Take

The Mobvoi Ticwatch S is a comfortable smartwatch that features a large, vibrant OLED display. While the built-in heart rate sensor and GPS is a bargain for $160, the loud design makes it a smartwatch you won’t want to wear everyday.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes. If you’re looking for a sleeker smartwatch that has similar capabilities, there’s the Misfit Vapor for $200. While it doesn’t come with built-in GPS, it does feature a heart-rate sensor, large 1.30-inch AMOLED display, and unique touch-sensitive bezel. It also comes in a variety of different colors and interchangeable watch straps for a more customizable look.

There’s also the Samsung Galaxy Watch for $330, which comes in two different sizes to accommodate those with larger and smaller wrists. As the successor to the Gear Sport, Samsung’s latest smartwatch comes with a heart-rate sensor, beautiful design, and packs a ton of fitness tracking features. Depending on the size of the smartwatch, it lasted us between two to four full days — that’s including tracking workouts and receiving notifications.

There’s also the Fitbit Versa — Fitbit’s latest smartwatch that launched back in March for $200. With a 1.34-inch LCD display, interchangeable straps, tons of fitness features and a beautiful design, it’s an accessory you can wear everyday regardless of the occasion. Its battery can also last for up to five days on a single charge, depending on how much you use it.

We do recommend waiting until the end of the year to see all the new Wear OS watches coming with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor, which will be far more efficient, powerful, and offer longer battery life.

For those with an iPhone, we recommend the Apple Watch Series 4. That way, you’ll be able to easily take advantage of all its features without having the same limitations you would with an Wear OS.

How long will it last?

The Mobvoi Ticwatch S should last you beyond the one-year limited warranty. But the battery will deplete overtime, and it’s unclear how long it will receive software updates. We expect it to last around two years before you’ll want to replace it. The smartwatch has an IP67 water resistance rating, so you can take it underwater up to 1 meter for 30 minutes.

Should you buy it?

No. At $160, you are getting a bargain with the Ticwatch S, but there are better alternatives available at similar prices that would let you wear a smartwatch in any occasion, including the Fitbit Versa.

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