Ticwatch E review : Affordable doesn’t have to mean big compromises

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The Ticwatch E is an affordable and well-balanced Android Wear smartwatch, with enough of Mobvoi’s own flavors to help it stand out from the increasingly crowded family of Google watches. Looking for a serious fitness watch? This isn’t it. But as far as Android Wear goes, the Ticwatch E is a strong performer for the asking price.

Hit
  • Tic apps
  • Affordable
  • Room to customize
Miss
  • No Android Pay
  • Plasticky design
  • Heart rate iffy in workouts

Ticwatch E

Mobvoi has always promised that its Ticwatch smartwatchescan deliver things all the other smartwatches do at even better price points, and that’s no different with the new Ticwatch E.

E in this case stands for Express, which is a good word to describe what this watch aims to do. It wants to be the quickest and most affordable way for you to get into the smartwatch world, and it’s not just content with giving you features, it wants to give you a fairly intriguing design at the same time.

While doing all of that, the Ticwatch E also ditches the Ticwatch 2’s proprietary OS for Android Wear 2.0, while adding some ideas of its own into the mix.

It’s also joined by the sportier Ticwatch S, and a full review of that is on its way. But for now, is the Ticwatch E as much of an appealing smartwatch as it is affordable? Here’s the verdict.

Design

Ticwatch E review: A stylish, affordable smartwatch that mostly does it all

There’s something nostalgic about wearing the Ticwatch E. It kind of feels like a Swatch (if Swatch made smartwatches), utilizing a simple design made splashy by a clear plastic coating that gives it an interesting sheen. The white “Ice” version is especially eye-catching, and I’ve had a couple of people over the course of two weeks asking what I was wearing. It’s also a good size at 44mm wide.

All that said, it’s not up there with the Michael Kors Access Grayson/Sofie or the Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon, and nor would we expect it to be. But it’s cute. One odd design decision here was to put the single button on the device on the left of the case, rather than the right.

This feels a little strange at first, and like me you might be wondering if you’ve accidentally activated “lefty” mode. On the plus side it keeps the back of your palm from accidentally hitting buttons when you fold your wrist back for any number of reasons. In that way, it’s actually nicely convenient once you’re used to it.

That clear plastic covers a white bezel around a 1.4-inch OLED display that sports a 400 x 400 resolution. It’s a good, bright screen that’s easily viewable in the glaring outdoor sunlight. The display isn’t quite up to matching the Gear Sport, but it’s good enough.

Ticwatch E review: A stylish, affordable smartwatch that mostly does it all

On the underside, you’ve got a heart rate sensor, and inside there’s GPS, which differs from the GPS of the Ticwatch S, which has the GPS chip built into the strap in an effort to provide better GPS performance. You’ve also got IP67 water resistance here, so don’t you worry your brow over getting caught in the rain, but it’s not made for swimming.

The straps on the Ticwatch are comfortable and light, but you can also easily swap them out for other 20mm bands, giving you some nice potential customization. Like I said, the E isn’t an ugly watch, but it doesn’t scream premium design, so being able to swap in your own bands will allow you to spruce it up.

Features

Ticwatch E review: A stylish, affordable smartwatch that mostly does it all

The basic lining of the Ticwatch E is Android Wear 2.0, and that means everything you know, love and hate about Google’s smartwatch OS. You don’t have Android Pay (due to no NFC), but you do have music, notifications for every app on your phone and the Google Play Store, where you can download a host of apps for your watch.

This is a departure from the Ticwatch 2, which ran Mobvoi’s proprietary OS. In a way it’s a shame to see Mobvoi fall back onto Android Wear, but this way it has the whole library of Wear apps available out the gate.

There are 21 watch faces you can choose from by default on the Ticwatch E and S. None of them do anything too special, but they are nicely customizable, with a good number of them including complications that you can swap out for practically any app on your device. Others are built for fitness, like the Sport face, which has a little ring around the watch face to help count your activity. The Sport Heartbeat takes this a step further by, you guessed it, giving you a real-time look at your heart beat.

My favorite faces, however, were the ones bent more toward fashion. Specifically, the Fantasy, which has a bunch of zigging and zagging white and black lines, and Ticwatch x MLGB, a camo-like design, watch faces fit in perfectly with the icy white Ticwatch E. These faces aren’t as exciting or as unique as something on the Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon, but they give you a lot of options, and there are also plenty of them, unlike, say, the six on the Diesel On Full Guard.

Ticwatch E review: A stylish, affordable smartwatch that mostly does it all

Android Pay is a big exclusion here, which is a disappointment because the Ticwatch E has everything you want from an Android Wear smartwatch save for standalone capabilities. On the other hand, Mobvoi has done a good job complementing Android Wear 2.0 with some of its own apps.

Health and fitness

The Ticwatch E isn’t being heavily aimed at the fitness enthusiasts; for that, there’s the Ticwatch S. But health and fitness do make up the most interesting addition to the watch, the main one being the Tic Health app, which lets you keep track of your activity and exercise in a style that Apple Watchfans will be familiar with – rings. In fact, they’re pretty much copy and pasted.

The three rings are exercise minutes, steps and active hours. You can adjust these in the settings, and you can customize your goals and set reminders for activities and goals. Swiping down from the rings will give you a visual overview of your day.

This utilizes the round display of your watch to present your information in an intuitive way. Just as an example, when I look at my day I can see that most of my steps occur in the morning and evening, with small bursts throughout the day.

The great thing about these apps is that they’re incredibly pleasant to use. Like me, you’ll probably find yourself Tic Fitness over the Google apps, unless there are third-party options you prefer. You’ve got five workouts to choose from here: Outdoor run, indoor run, outdoor walk, cycling and free style, which lets you break up reps for gym workouts but won’t auto-detect reps like some other watches (try to) do. The Tic Fitness workout screens are good too, presenting metrics like pace and heart rate in real-time. Swipe the entire screen over and you’ll see your GPS map. Easy, simple, clean.

Ticwatch E review: A stylish, affordable smartwatch that mostly does it all

That said, the heart rate sensor was about what we were expecting: fine for moderate activity, but not good at high intensity workouts. It’s a problem we come up against time and time again, and in running while also wearing the Garmin Fenix 5S, we found the Ticwatch E struggling a lot more to keep up with the chest strap – a Polar H10 in this case. Because Mobvoi is pushing the S as the fitness watch, we’re more willing to let some of these gripes slide. However, despite Mobvoi building the GPS into the case and not the strap on the Ticwatch E (and therefore setting out expectation a little low), we found it performed admirably.

Ticwatch E review

Ticwatch E heart rate data on the top; Polar H10 chest strap on the bottom

There are a couple of other apps to be aware of too, including Step Ranking, which will take how many steps you’ve stepped during a day and compare you with nearby Ticwatch users on a leaderboard. If you’re impressed with someone else’s stepping, you can throw them a big like. It’s also another incentive to get moving each day.

There’s also Mobvoi’s music player, which will let you sync over music from your Android or iPhone via Bluetooth, and Mobvoi’s heart rate app, which will allow you to get a quick read on your heart rate. If you swipe up, you’ll also be able to see where your heart rate has been charted throughout the day.

The Ticwatch E doesn’t have the features to set your world on fire. In fact, most of it is what feels like the bare minimum for what a smartwatch should do – except for, well, NFC payments, which is a disappointing exclusion.

Its advantage, however, is that what it does it does well. Tic Health and Fit are more user friendly than Google Fit and Health on the device, and overall it feels like Mobvoi has put more of its own stamp on Android Wear than we’ve seen from other OEMs.

The app

Ticwatch E review

Mobvoi also has its own smartphone app for the Ticwatches, and I’m a big fan. Again, the rings you’ll see when you open the app are very reminiscent of Apple’s, giving you an overview of your day, but you can also really dig down into your workouts. There are nice colorful graphs breaking down heart rate, pace, step frequency, step length and distance, along with a map showing your running or cycling route.

It feels like a proper fitness suite, and while the more granular data may be more popular with Ticwatch S buyers, the day-to-day fitness stuff is there too, all of it presented in a nice, easy-to-read way. I also like how once my watch was paired to Android Wear, the Ticwatch app automatically synced it.

Pricing and Battery life

The Ticwatch E comes in at a cool $159.99, though there are already some deals in place to get it at a lower price. Supporting the Ticwatch E on Kickstarter, for example, can get you the watch for a lower $119.99, while Amazon has a deal that’ll get you the watch for $127.99.

So it’s an affordable smartwatch that’s also pretty capable, undercutting the LG Watch Style and plenty more in the Android Wear family.

Mobvoi promises around a day and a half to two days of battery life with the Ticwatch E, and in our tests we’ve found that to be plenty accurate. For the most part, we hit a day and a half, which can turn into a scary bit of battery anxiety on that second day. This isn’t a hybrid like the Kronaby after all.

Depending on your use – not using too much GPS, for example – you should be able to get to two days pretty easily. However, you’ll probably want to just charge the E every night so that you’re fully rested for the day ahead. After all, Android Wear isn’t too hot when it comes to sleep tracking.

(wareable.com, https://goo.gl/T8ky4S)

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