Mobvoi’s cheap, crowdfunded watches punch well above their weight in terms of both features and performance
- Very cheap
- Runs Android Wear
- Heart-rate monitor
- Inferior build quality
Mobvoi’s Ticwatch Express (E) and Sport (S) were launched via a Kickstarter campaign last summer, raising an impressive $3.2m (£2.3m) in funding in the process. The very earliest backers could get their hands on the Ticwatch E for only $99 (£57) and the Ticwatch S for $119 (£85), which sounds almost too good to be true for a watch that runs Android Wear and includes GPS and a heart rate monitor.
While they’re not available at those ludicrously low prices any more, the watches are now for sale directly from Mobvoi’s website at £120 and £150, respectively.
That’s considerably cheaper than any of their similarly specified rivals, the question is are these watches the real deal or does it make more sense to save your hard-earned cash for something from a well-known brand such as Samsung or Huawei? Also, how do the two models differ from one another?
Mobvoi Ticwatch E and Ticwatch S review: What you need to know
The Ticwatch E and S were launched via a single Kickstarter campaign, so we’re going to cover both in the same review. Beyond the obvious aesthetic differences, which are described in more detail below, the main distinction between the watches is the more expensive Ticwatch S has the GPS built into the integral watch strap, while the Ticwatch E has a traditional replaceable strap and GPS built into the watch body.
The watches both run Android Wear 2.0, now known as Wear OS, meaning they can be used with both Android and iOS phones, though features are limited for Apple handsets. Both are powered by the same 1.2GHz dual-core processor and have a 1.4in 400 x 400 OLED display. They have optical heart rate sensors, are waterproof to the IP67 standard, meaning they can withstand being submerged under 1m of water for 30 minutes, and include 4GB of storage. There’s Wi-Fi support and a microphone and speaker on both models, but neither includes NFC for making contactless payments and there’s no altimeter for tracking staircases climbed.
Mobvoi Ticwatch E & S review: Price and competition:
The Ticwatch E costs £120 and the Ticwatch S £150, which is considerably less than any new Android Wear watch with comparable features. The Huawei Watch 2, for example, which includes GPS and a heart-rate monitor – along with NFC – will set you back £270. The Fossil Q Control is also £280 but you’re largely paying for the name because there’s no built-in GPS or speaker. The Samsung Gear Sport, which runs Tizen rather than Android Wear costs a smidge under £300, but if you’re looking to spend that much money, you’re probably best off with the Apple Watch Series 3 – providing you own an iPhone of course. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to spend as little as possible, you could also consider the incredible £45 Amazfit Bip.
Mobvoi Ticwatch E & S review: Design
Despite having the same display and practically identical internal components, the Ticwatch Express and Sport look quite different. This is mostly down to their very different straps: the Ticwatch E has a regular 20mm silicone rubber watch strap that you can swap out, while the Ticwatch S includes a more sporty band that’s non-removable (because it contains its GPS antenna) and is made from TPU to make it more breathable for exercise.
In terms of size and weight, there’s very little to separate the models. The Ticwatch S is 45mm in diameter, 13mm thick and weighs 45.5g. The Ticwatch E, on the other hand, is 44mm in diameter, 13.6mm thick and weighs 41.5g. Although it’s 4g heavier than the E, the Ticwatch S doesn’t feel bulky, and it’s considerably lighter than it’s more expensive rival, the Samsung’s Gear Sport, which weighs 67g. The heart rate sensor sits flush with the back of the casing on both devices, making them perfectly comfortable to wear for hours at a time.
Both Ticwatch models have the same 1.4in 400 x 400 OLED touchscreen display, which looks good, but not great. My main criticism is that it’s isn’t as vibrant as I’d like it to be, even if you increase the brightness in the settings menu. On the left side of both devices, there’s a single button for navigation. In both instances, it feels a little stiff and unresponsive, and the S model can feel fiddly at first because the button is flush with the housing around it.
I have to say, neither watch has the build quality to match more expensive watches like the Gear S3 or Fossil Q Control. The first clue that the Ticwatch E costs only £120 was that it’s strap emitted a horribly plasticky smell for the first couple of days. Its strap lugs also feel quite sharp around the edges and the join between the display and the bezel is quite crude compared to pricier devices. Things are a bit better with the S model but the arrow on the button housing looks fuzzy around the edges and the strap buckle is clearly made from cheap plastic. However, both devices feel sufficiently solid and nobody commented on their appearance beyond the colour schemes they use.
On both devices, charging is carried out using a magnetic four-pin pad not dissimilar to the one that comes with the Fossil Q Control (£300). The good news is the Ticwatch charger is much better than the Fossil one and, despite being quite small the pad has a strong magnet that successfully connected every time I used it.
Mobvoi Ticwatch E & S review: Features and performance
Although the E and S stand for Express and Sport, the Ticwatch models are practically identical in terms of their capabilities. The standout feature for both watches is undoubtedly the built-in GPS.
Watches like the Fossil Q control depend on your phone as a crutch to accurately track your activities but with both Ticwatch models you can leave your phone behind when going for a run or bike ride and still get a reasonably accurate readout of pace and position. The only difference is the Ticwatch S has its GPS antenna built in to the strap, which supposedly improves accuracy, while the E model has it in its casing.
With both watches, I was able to get a location fix quickly, even in a built up area like Central London. The S model usually got a fix a few seconds quicker than its less expensive counterpart when I tested them simultaneously, but I struggled to tell activities apart when reviewing them in Strava afterwards. Over an 8km run in my hometown in Sussex, the path logged by the Ticwatch S looked a little imprecise when compared directly to a dedicated multisport watch (the TomTom Spark), but the total distance logged varied by no more than 100m or around 1%.
In addition to the GPS, there’s also an optical heart rate sensor on these watches. Although these sensors are notoriously inaccurate compared to the chest-strap variety, whenever I checked my pulse during an activity, it was roughly in line with what I expected to see and was some way more accurate than the the Q Control. Similarly, when I asked the Google Fit app to measure my resting heart rate, the app gave a reading within a few beats of what I had measured manually.
Although there’s no altimeter to measure the number of staircases you climb, the watch will keep track of your steps and calories burned throughout the day, and you can you can review this info from Google Fit or choose a watch face that displays it on the home screen.
Unfortunately, Android Wear 2.0 doesn’t support sleep tracking or swim tracking natively. The latter can be fixed by installing a third-party app like MySwimPro but I’d advise some caution if you’re hoping to swim lengths with your Ticwatch, because it’s it’s only rated to the IP67 standard, which means it can only be submerged under 1m of water for up to half an hour; this is no diving watch.
As far as battery life is concerned, Mobvoi claims the watch’s 300mAh capacity cell will give you around 48 hours between charges, depending on usage. This sounds about right, because when I set the display to “always-on”, the watch would normally last for around a day and a half but not much beyond that.
That’s on par with watches like the Apple Watch Series 3 and Fossil Q Control and slightly worse than the Samsung Gear Sport, which can last up to around three days between charges. It’s a long way behind the Fitbit Ionic and Garmin Vivoactive 3 which offer between four and six days of use. Plus, if you’re using the GPS a lot you can probably expect to charge the Ticwatch E and S every evening.
Although there’s no NFC for making contactless payments, you do get a microphone and speaker with both models of Ticwatch. The microphone is especially useful, because you can use it to send messages, get directions and check calendar entries with Google Assistant, while barely touching the watch’s screen. It’s also possible to make and receive calls from the watch, providing your phone is still within Bluetooth range, although as you’d expect, the speaker won’t blow you away in terms of either quality or volume.
Finally, the Ticwatch E and S both come with 4GB of internal storage for apps and music. In reality, you can only use about 2GB of this space, because the operating system takes up a considerable chunk, but it’s still plenty enough room for installing your favourite apps and a few playlists from Google Play Music. You also start with many of the most useful Android Wear apps including Agenda, Contacts, Fit, Keep, Reminders and Weather pre-installed.
Mobvoi Ticwatch E & S review: Verdict
The Ticwatch E and Ticwatch S are both remarkable watches in terms of the value they deliver. With either model, you get a comfortable Android Wear watch with built-in GPS, a heart-rate monitor and 4GB of storage, along with a microphone and speaker. The only noteworthy feature missing is NFC, which is by no means a deal breaker at this price.
There are a few clues that the watches are cheaper than their rivals from Samsung, Huawei and Fossil but you’ll quickly forget about these after you’ve worn them for a couple of days. In short, both devices offer almost everything you’d want from an Android Wear smartwatch at a fraction of the price of what you’d expect to pay.
If a competent all-round smartwatch is what you’re looking for, either of these will fit the bill admirably.