In this Mobvoi TicWatch S2 Review we take a look at a budget WearOS sports watch which, interestingly, is sometimes marketed as a SWIM watch.
The S2 is certainly also ‘smart’ and offers quite a lot more than smart and swim, so let’s see how it performed…
Price - 90%90%
Apparent Accuracy - 65%65%
Build Quality & Design - 70%70%
Features, Including App - 85%85%
Openness & Compatability - 90%90%
The Mobvoi TicWatch S2 review ed here is a decent, entry-level WearOS samrtwatch for those of you interested in a watch that will also live up to some of the rigours of your athletic endeavours. The onboard, Tic apps are alright but the main part of this review gives some pretty awesome free alternatives that you should go for instead.
As a smartwatch the TicWatch S2 is fairly good value-for-money and I suspect the price will fall steadily over the coming months in line with new technology being released. Yet, I’m somewhat torn in how I describe it as a ‘sports watch’ as the accuracy of onboard sensors is lacking. However for the casual runner or gym goer then that might not bother you too much. But set against that are the many great, free sports apps I was just talking about…and there are EVEN MORE besides on the Google Play Store.
Music and Maps are an even bigger positive as those features can VERY SIGNIFICANTLY increase the cost of sports watches but they effectively come as free, bundled-in features with WearOS.
Battery life is stated at 2 days but the reality is that you should comfortably get a full day’s worth of reasonable use out of it and I would recommend overnight charging…just in case.
It’s never going to stack up against an Apple Watch but you might prefer a durable, little watch like this rather than risking breaking a much more expensive Apple Watch as you progress through life’s adventures.
- A lot of apps to choose from
- Music support
- Maps support
- Rugged construction
- Screen is great in shade
- Generally a responsive watch to interact with but…
- It’s a shame Google Payments are not supported
- Sport sensor accuracy
- Somewhat plasticy feel
- Sometimes can’t read the screen in direct sunlight
- Touchscreen can be temperamental, specially when wet.
- Occasionally the watch pauses for notable periods of seconds eg when switching apps
TicWatch S2 – What’s New? What’s the same
The Ticwatch E2 and S2 are the current WearOS-based models from Mobvoi. They are essentially identical, except the S2 is suitable for outdoor use with US Military Standard-810G ruggedness built-in. You can still swim equally as well with the E2.
The Ticwatch S (ie S1) is also virtually identical to the S2, with the main difference on the inside being the superior SnapDragon 2100 processor and significantly increased battery life (>30%) delivered by the S2. The 2100 processor (the one in the S2) was superseded in 2018 by the 3100 but there’s not too much difference there to worry about. The bottom line is that the S2 might be a bit speedier and more battery-friendly than the previous S model.
There’s also a confusingly named Ticwatch 2 but that runs a proprietary TicOS and not Google’s WearOS.
I’m glad I cleared all that up!
TicWatch S2 – Appearance, Design & Usability
The TicWatch S2 is made of polycarbonate with a silicone strap but let’s just call it a plastic-cum-silicon watch. It’s budget-grade material but, as we’ve already said, it’s rugged. So we’re talking about a lightweight sports watch that’s comfortable to wear.
It’s a one button+touchscreen design which works well with WearOS despite not being to my personal taste.
The screen is GREAT. It looks really vibrant and super nice. As a touchscreen it’s not brilliant when in use and the touch performance suffers a little bit further when wet but, as touchscreens go, I guess it’s as good as many others. The bezel and case are nicely designed to be raised above the screen which should go a long way to protecting the screen when in use.
The straps are standard interchangeable 22mm, all is good.
Generally, I like how WearOS works compared to Apple’s WatchOS. Whether you love it or loathe it, the Ticwatch S2 has essentially the same implementation of WearOS as all the other WearOS watches – of which there must now be more than 20.
TicWatch S2 – In the Box & Key Bits On the Watch
It comes in a nice enough box with a charging disc. You know what to do.
The watch strap is easily interchangeable and you can see the standard-looking optical HR sensor on the rear as well as the charging electrodes next to it. The single button is to the right-hand side of the watch.
Ticwatch S2 Specifications
Here is the formal specs for those of you interested in that sort of thing. Of particular note here are the optical HR sensor, the half-decent battery, the good screen and the support for GPS+GLONASS and, apparently, Galileo as well.
|Model||TicWatch E2||TicWatch S2|
|Dimensions (mm)||46.9 * 52.2 *12.9||46.6 * 51.8 *12.9|
|Colors||Black||Black, White (available later in Q1 ‘19)|
|Watch Strap||Silicon (interchangeable), 22mm||Silicon (interchangeable), 22mm|
|Operating System||Wear OS by Google||Wear OS by Google|
|Phone Compatibility||Android, iPhone||Android, iPhone|
|Platform||Qualcomm® Snapdragon Wear™ 2100||Qualcomm® Snapdragon Wear™ 2100|
|Display||1.39″ AMOLED (400 x 400 px)||1.39″ AMOLED (400 x 400 px)|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth v4.1, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n||Bluetooth v4.1, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n|
|Built-in GPS||GPS + GLONASS + Beidou + Galileo||GPS + GLONASS + Beidou + Galileo|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Heart-rate sensor, low latency off body sensor||Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Heart-rate sensor, low latency off body sensor|
|US Military Standard||No||US Military Standard-810G: Withstands -30℃ to 70℃ temperature shock, operational between -20℃ to 55℃, 57kpa pressure, 44℃ solar radiation, 95% humidity, salt fog, sand and dust, shock|
|Waterproof rating||5 ATM (swim and surf ready)||5 ATM (swim and surf ready)|
Ticwatch S2 Review – Software Features
This is where it gets exciting.
Because the Ticwatch supports WearOS there are an AWFUL LOT of things you can do with it. You get great apps, great smart features and even the ability to link to external sensors if that’s your thing (it’s my thing, bear with me).
So you might choose STRAVA for running and cycling and you might choose the swim.com app for, you guessed it, swimming. That’s a great start for your sporting endeavours as those apps are standard and open. OK, they are somewhat limited in functionality on the watch compared to a Garmin or Polar sports watch but either those apps or some other sports app will sort out the sporty needs of most of you.
You could always use the proprietary Tic apps that are pre-installed on the Watch…I did briefly and they seem to work. Moving on…
Of course there’s more than that. As it’s WearOs you get Spotify support and Google Play support. Who makes WearOS..why Google of course and so unsurprisingly apps like Google Maps can give you maps.
I’m just scrolling through some of the other apps & functionality I have on there – ghostracer, endomondo, find my phone, Google Fit, Nest Home, Google Assistanct, Weather, Endomondo, wunderlist, uber, audio recorder, Glide, Runkeeper, cardiogram. T
Ticwatch Review – The STRAVA WearOS App
Here are a few real screenshots of my STRAVA app on the TicWatch. The images mostly cover the entire scope of the STRAVA WearOS app which is much more limited than the STRAVA functionality on your smartphone and online. As you can see the STRAVA app is essentially a workout capturing app that has limited display abilities. It does have the basics like information for splits, pace, distance and time. That’s enough for many casual athletes.
Here’s why YOU should use STRAVA
- Much of the online functionality is free and useful once you sync your completed workout
- A reputable company who will fix bugs
- It’s a very popular SOCIAL sports platform, probably used by many of your friends
- Whilst the WearOS app is ‘simple’ there are many advanced social and aspects to the rest of the platform
- TECHY TIP: You can export your workout data from STRAVA to use elsewhere simply by adding /export_tcx to the end of a workout url on the web
The Swim.Com WearOS App – Ticwatch Review
Like most WearOS sports apps, the Swim.Com app is somewhat spartan. But it shows and records the basics of swim time, rest time, strokes, lengths and the more advanced ‘SWOLF’ measure of swimming efficiency. Once you get that swim data up on to the watch app/web platform then there is more analysis and detail to look at. Just like the STRAVA app, with Swim.Com you can also export your data to use elsewhere (.FIT file).
I’m an OK swimmer and I do have a very advanced swim watch (Garmin 945), however, I confess to probably not using that much more swim data on the watch than is offered by this app. I do more analysis after the workout (see further below) and also add in my swim HR data to the analysis mix. Indeed that’s the one aspect of the swim.com app that I don’t like, which is that the HR is NOT recorded – the inbuilt PoolSwim app by TicWatch is the same, that doesn’t record it either. Having said that most devices find it very hard to get half-accurate HR measurements from the wrist whilst swimming.
Google Play Music & Spotify Apps
#CoolStuff. Kinda. Half.
You can control the music on your smartphone or use the Watch-based app as you run and leave the smartphone at home. Of course, to run without your smartphone you need to download the music to the watch and, as far as I know, you can NOT do that with Spotify (yet). But you can with Google Play Music.
Nevertheless, there are still some cool ways to use Spotify, below. For example, you can cast to connected speakers to make up for the lack of onboard speaker (yep, some WearOS smartwatches DO have speakers).
Google Maps & View Ranger
I had a few issues with Google Maps so instead used View Ranger. View Ranger is a good hiking app used, for example, to great effect by the Casio WSD-F30. There is a LOT you can do on the app and the following images give a flavour of how you can use View Ranger to get TBT directions to a local POI; view and follow popular routes; check your progress on either a satellite image or one of many other map types. If you are a walker or hiker then DEFINITELY check this app out.
Google Pay App
Google Pay is a great payments solution for your SMARTPHONE but unfortunately does NOT yet work with the TicWatch S2. Grrr.
Mobvoi TicWatch S2 – Activity, Smarts + Watch Faces
As a WearOS watch the TicWatch is highly configurable for all the smart functionality – you get steps and notifications and much more besides, all implemented well by Google.
The WearOS watch faces are generally superior to most that I come across with sports watches and here are a selection of a few that look quite nice to me.
Mobvoi TicWatch S2 – Accuracy
The TicWatch does not claim to be a high-precision sports watch. However the overall accuracy of the GPS and HR sensors might be classed as ‘alright’ for the casual fitness enthusiast.
The GPS accuracy will be fine when you look back at any route you have taken when exercising, although you might notice the odd detour near tall buildings or trees. That’s true of other, more expensive sports watches too. But the issue with the TicWatch is that the GPS is unlikely to give you accurate real-time running speeds or distances.
It’s a similar case with the optical HR which, for me, was not accurate. Then again I’ve levelled that exact same criticism at some $600 sports watches and the truth is that optical HR accuracy will vary by person as well as by watch brand.
One saving grace here is that some advanced WearOS sports apps like GhostRacer and Sporty Go! will support external sensors. So you may well be able to use an external bluetooth chest strap and external footpod, like STRYD, to get HIGHLY accurate heart rate and running pace. However, that is beyond the scope of this review and is one of the things I hope to look at in June/July 2019 when I have some more time to devote to it WITH THIS WATCH. But you should note that the rather awesome and competing Huawei Watch GT does NOT, I believe, support external sensors like the TicWatch does.
I digress. A nice find was that the POOL SWIM performance was not too bad at all, so the manufacturer’s marketing aimed at making this a swim watch is probably a good call by them and focusses on one of the watch’s stronger points.
Here are the results of SOME of the tests I’ve done. I’d probably normally do more tests but the results became somewhat predictable.
GPS Accuracy – Ticwatch S2 Review
Here are some examples when running in ‘normally easy’ conditions. You can see the TicWatch is far from perfect but does beat the more expensive Garmins, from time-to-time. It scored 62% in a one-off GPS accuracy test (results here and my overall view is also based on my ‘normal’ usage and time with the watch.
On a different day but up against the same watches the performance in the ‘park’ is nice enough but you can see that when running down my local high street the TicWatch finds it especially hard to know where it is. This is because the GPS signal bounces off buildings and so appears to be coming from somewhere else (reflected image/location), nevertheless the Garmins faced the same conditions but fared better. This sort of performance is not unusual and in a buit up urban area would be potentially worse. Whilst you might think it does not matter too much that you will not get a pretty post-run track it WILL matter if you are looking at your distance run or your running pace…each of which will be wrong.
Another day, another place, different watches, similar results.
Optical HR Accuracy – Ticwatch S2 Review
I don’t want to labour this point but this workout was typical enough. The TicWatch started off JUST ABOUT acceptably but ended up copying my running cadence (a not uncommon problem). So, to re-iterate what I said earlier, you might get lucky with the TicWatch on your HR accuracy…or not.
Pool Swim Accuracy
There’s a video here of someone else testing the same watch out in the pool. My results follow it
I used swim.com to record my swim in this Ticwatch S2 Review and set the results against a top-end Garmin 945. I’ve not fully bedded in my Garmin Forerunner 945 yet but my previous 935 was eventually pretty good at getting stroke detection just about right all the time.
This is the result from an easy-enough mile at my local pool (HOP=36m). You can see that the Garmin 945 only made one mistake with with stroke identification, whereas the TicWatch got 8 lengths wrong and recognised 6 stops when, in fact, there was only one very brief stop. The SWOLF scores at 56/58 were similar enough though on both devices.
I had only a couple of other swim sessions with the Ticwatch and they were similar but I don’t have any comparative data for them. Anecdotally the Ticwatch may have been a bit better. Nevertheless, I’d say that the TicWatch S2 plus Swim.Com app is a nice enough combination for a casual swimmer.
Price, Discount & Availability
The Mobvoi Ticwatch S2 review ed here is widely available – as is the near-identical E2 model
The lowest price is linked to and the current going rate is $180 and £160 but I would expect prices to fall to around $140/£130 as we progress towards Christmas 2019 and this will be a likely contender for a good Black Friday Deal for 2019.