In this Mobvoi Ticwatch S Review we take a close look at the Sport (S) model.
I’m reviewing this watch as it’s an indicative device for where much of the future direction of the sports watch market might head in 2018 and beyond. ie We are going to start getting lots of relatively fully-featured watches selling for reasonable prices. The Ticwatch has onboard music, access to a wide range of sporty apps with Wear OS (AndroidWear) and a keen price tag.
Mobvoi is a relatively unknown brand but has made the smart move to use Google’s Wear OS (AndroidWear) operating system, meaning ‘all’ Mobvoi had to do was concentrate on making a good job of the hardware and their own app.
Wear OS will already include navigation, music-on-watch, smartphone integration, apps like STRAVA and much more. Re-inventing all of that from scratch would have been a MAMMOTH undertaking.
For an approximate $/£/Eu180 price tag, what’s not to like?
Superficially the cost-per-feature looks ridiculously awesome. But does it work? Let’s see.
Versions & Contents
This is Mobvoi’s first watch to make use of the latest Wear OS software from Google (v2.0). The Ticwatch Sport (S) also comes in a slightly cheaper, non-sporty Express (E) version. The S version is slightly heavier with a slightly superior bezel. The other noteworthy difference is that the Sport version apparently has elements of the GPS antennae built into the non-interchangeable band.
|Ticwatch Sport||Ticwatch Express|
|Size||45mm diameter,13mm thick||44mm diameter,13.55mm thick|
|GPS integrated watch band||√||×|
|Watch bezel for superior display||√||×|
|OS||Android Wear2.0 aka Wear OS|
|Chipset||MTK MT2601,1.2GHz dual-core|
|Display||1.4 inch OLED display,400×400,287dpi|
|Sensor||Heart-rate monitor,Proximity sensor,Accelerometer,Gyroscope,e-Compass|
|Battery life||48Hrs+ (depending on the usage)|
|Charging||Magnetic connecting pin charging|
|Others||Vibrator, Fuel gauge|
Ticwatch S Options & Accessories
There are 3 colours: Lemon (Acidic Green), Ice (White) and Knight (black)
Straps are NOT interchangeable on the S model. The GPS antennae is inside the band/strap.
Mobvoi’s Other Watches
Don’t get confused by the Ticwatch Active, the Ticwatch 2 or the Ticwatch Classic.
Another series of Mobvoi’s watches are the Ticwatch 2 series. The sporty model there is the Ticwatch Active, which also comes in at about $200. The Ticwatch 2 series do NOT run Android Wear and instead runs the proprietary Ticwear OS. Other than that, the hardware specification looks broadly similar. The Ticwatch 2 also comes as a ‘dress watch’, the Ticwatch Classic.
Whilst some of those models might look nice they are completely different on the inside, running the Ticwear OS and NOT running Wear OS.
Unboxing and Contents
It comes in an unusual cubic tin and you get a USB charger that fixes to the watch by means of a magnet that is a little too weak. But which still works. There’s a free smartphone app for the Ticwatch and numerous free Wear OS apps.
There were NOT any headphones. But I have several old pairs including these from Jabra.
The Ticwatch integrates well with an Android smartphone via Watch OS. There are LOTS of bits of functionality available, far to broad in scope for me to cover here. A summary of all of that functionality that I used would be that it seems to ‘work’.
Cool ! Off to a good start.
Openness to sensors
I’ll cover music and headphones later.
Pairing a Bluetooth chest strap HRM or arm band HRM to your Ticwatch will increase both HR accuracy and battery life. If you try to pair such a Bluetooth sports sensor to the Ticwatch it probably will not work. Instead you need to pair it within the app. Not all apps will have this. For example, with the STRAVA app I could not pair any heart rate device
Conversely, your headphones would pair to the watch rather than the music or sports app. #ClearAsMud?
This won’t work trying pair to the watch
But this will..Pairing to the Runtastic app seemed good with the Polar OH1:
Generally I did NOT use an external HR monitor as I was looking at the accuracy of the Ticwatch oHRM.
Openness to data export
The Ticwatch S is as open as the apps that you run on it. For example the STRAVA app quickly syncs online and it can do this via wifi or via your smartphone.
From STRAVA’s free online platform you can get your data pretty much anywhere else eg you could use syncmytracks or fitnesssyncer or tapiriik to send data to Garmin Connect, should you so desire.
Most, if not all, of the other well-known Wear OS apps seem to work in the same way on the Ticwear S.
Openness to iOS/Android Versions
You will get more functionality when using with an Android smartphone but the Ticwatch will work under iOS (not tested by me). According to Wareable.com a “high” number of iPhone users use a Google smartwatch – so it must be true (link to: wareable.com).
These are the supported operating systems on your phone
- IOS 8.0+
- Android 4.3+
Openness to sensors like STRYD? nope.
Wear OS (AndroidWear) Software
Wear OS features include: voice recognition; smartphone connectivity; inbuilt sports functionality; onboard music (limitations apply); and map-based navigation.
For an app to work on your watch there must be a special version that exists for Watch OS. Any-old Android app will not work on your new watch.
The Ticwatch App
The Ticwatch activity app follows a similar aesthetic vein to Apple. Which is fine.
The FITNESS app on the watch has similar basic bits of activity info as other Wear OS apps. Pretty basic stuff, but I guess it covers the bases.
Wear OS – Noteworthy Settings
I’ve not used Wear OS for a while so I was pleasantly surprised with some of the incremental improvements made over recent months. I’ll mention a few here, just out of interest.
Watch Faces – The inbuilt watch faces were somewhat limited in number but there are lots on Google’s Play Store to download, some you have to pay for. A watch face can contain a ‘complication’. A complication is a bit of widgetesque functionality that you can customise. On my watch face I was allowed 2 complications and I chose to make one a shortcut to the Wear OS STRAVA app and the other a link to the Wear OS Runastic app.
Google are working on improving battery life at many levels. One of the key setting affecting battery life must probably be screen brightness when the screen is on. A mid-range brightness setting makes the colours more natural in my opinion. In bright sunlight the display is NOT readable with one of the lower brightness settings.
I like how larger font sizes are now available, at least compared to those on the Polar M600 they are now available.
The AndroidWear app (Wear OS app) can take a screen shot of the WATCH. Cool.
You are somewhat spoilt for choice. The main caveat, as shown below with the Google Fit , is that SWIM is not supported. The Ticwatch is stated as “Water Resistant IP67” in my terms this means ‘don’t swim with it’.
The Ticwatch has their proprietary Fitness app that syncs to their Ticwatch smartphone app. It’s a slightly more comprehensive app than other apps you can download and includes: various sport types; goal settings; multicoloured display metrics; workout summary. Like this
I did much of my testing with STRAVA. Mainly because I knew I would be able to link and sync my data elsewhere for comparisons but if you use one of the big name apps then the data from your watch will sync readily enough to their online platforms.
The STRAVA app is a basic workout recording app. These screenshots pretty much cover it all!
Lots of sports apps run Wear OS. I used STRAVA, Runtastic and Endomondo to soem degree. All worked well and the ones shown below (from 2016) should mostly still be available be too.
All is good in music land. I connected up some relatively old Jabra Bluetooth headphones, downloaded Google Play to the watch and listened to Enema of the State, my favourite running album for the occasions I need to run to music. Ah, the small things.
Wear OS supports the following music services; Play Music, iHeartRadio and Pandora.
Download the Google Maps app.
GPS Accuracy – Pace Accuracy
I look at GPS accuracy both formally through a repeatable test and informally over all my test runs and rides.
The full formal test files, methodology and table of results are here, link to the5krunner.com.
The Ticwatch performed quite badly in the formal test. It was frequently off-course, recording ‘jagged’ tracks. Overall it got the distance about right but at the more detailed level it was notably ‘off’. This will lead into pace inaccuracy. As far as pace goes; the Ticwatch was often out by 30secs/km. Which is not great but you can find similar discrepancies on many more expensive sports watches too.
In other usage, outside of the formal test, the track that was recorded did seem superficially a little better. If you want GPS to record a pretty track of where you have just been then the Ticwatch will be perfectly fine, if you want accurate distance and speed/pace display and recording then you might be lucky depending on the kinds of workouts you do. Or you might be unlucky…
The oHR is sometimes good but generally ‘not great’. Looking at a steady-state run with HR ranging from around 145-150bpm we should see 3 lines that track each other well. We don’t.
Then again, here is a similar run but essentially varying over two endurance speeds with two short sprints at the end. Ignoring the first 5 or 6 minutes the Ticwatch actually performs well. Better than some MUCH more expensive sports watches.
But do a similar sort of thing on the bike and it all goes crazy at times and, indeed, the watch may well have turned itself off going down a vaguely bumpy hill at speed after 20 minutes. #Sigh
Bugs, Quirks & Noteworthy Stuff
I went for a 2 hour run with the screen always on, GPS on, HR on, no music and the screen brightness set to the lowest. This got through 60% of a full battery.
On another workout I went for a bike ride with 30% charge left. It didn’t make the hour.
Other times I made the full hour when starting out with less than 30%.
I suspect that the charge indicator might not be super accurate 🙂 Either that or there are significantly differing levels of battery consumption whilst exercising. All my exercises used the oHRM and GPS with no smartphone nearby.
Price, Competition & Availability
The Garmin Forerunner 645 Music would be $450 and the best Watch OS sportswatch, the Polar M600 (review), would be about $300. So the Mobvoi Ticwatch S review ed here is notably cheaper. If onboard music was your thing you could even take a punt with the cheaper-still TomTom Runner 3 Music (review).
My heart wasn’t really in this review. At least it wasn’t by the end.
You have to have a passion for what you do. And I do have that passion…most of the time.
My heart wanted a market-shaking watch. My brain urged caution; naturally I ignored it.
The box opened…WOW beautiful screen and a decent-looking overall package that came with the familiarity of the apps we know and love on Wear OS. My heart missed a beat.
I was prepared for the vagaires of optical HR. The Ticwatch’s optical HR was as good, or as bad, as most other vendors’ similar offerings. Mehness seeped into my sporty heart.
The problem was I just kept running out of battery. Either it died or the screen turned off and went into power save mode. Sure, I could have had it on charge more often. I could have done lots of things differently. I could have changed my life…around a watch. Or not. I chose ‘not’.
With part of the GPS antennae built into the strap I hoped for something clever for the price. I didn’t get it. The GPS seemed to smudge its way through activities. Mehness returns.
To save my sporty heart being broken I have to put this one down to experience. I can’t really recommend the Ticwatch S for sports usage. I always try to find someone, somewhere who a product might be right for. There seem to be quite a few people submitting positive Amazon reviews for the Ticwatch S, if they are genuine reviews then I am clearly missing something. The truth is this is an awesome little Wear OS toy. You can play with it for sports. It looks fine, is built fine and works well as a smart watch linking to your phone.
But that’s it. As far as sports usage goes, it’s a toy. And a toy with a dubious battery.
Hey, I still like toys. As long as I am playing not running.
Don’t forget. This is the Ticwatch S…S stands for SPORT. It’s not the Ticwatch T…T is for Toy
And to be clear, Google’s Watch OS seems perfectly fine to me. It’s Mobvoi’s hardware that I take issue with. But even then I have a pang of guilt saying that. Mobvoi have genuinely tried to produce a nice all-round offering. For once the software/apps are alright.
Stick a more predictable battery in it and I could construct a more favourable argument around the ‘not great’ GPS & oHR vagaries.
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