I've been testing out the Ticwatch E for the past 10 days, and I thought I'd share some of my thoughts.
I had been hunting around for a replacement for my Pebble watch for the last few months, based on the fact that Fitbit are shutting off the servers that support it in a few months. I also wanted to see what advancements had been made with Android Wear since the LG G Watch I bought 4 years ago.
My requirements for a smart watch were that it had to:
- Work with my Android phone – thus ruling out the Apple Watch
- Have a simple design, a round face, and not look like a sports watch
- Be easy to update and install apps
- Be not too expensive
The Ticwatch E runs on Android Wear version 2, which is a new development for Mobvoi, as their previous Ticwatch models ran on a bespoke operating system called Ticwear OS. The support of Android Wear was important to me, as I would be free to install whatever apps I wanted, rather than having to wait for the manufacturer to decide to provide updated.
Android Wear 2 seems to be a big step forward from the original Android Wear OS, and it's good to see the Google are providing regular updates that bring additional refinements. At the moment it's on version 2.8, which brought improvements to notification displays and battery life.
I had been slightly concerned that the battery life for the watch, as some reviews had expressed problems with it running out of juice during the day. And indeed, when I first got the watch, the battery did seem to die quite quickly. But after 2 full zero-to-full charges, the battery life improved considerably.
Ten days on, I find that I'm disconnecting the charger cable at roughly 7.00am every morning, and by the time I go to bed at 11.00pm there's about 40% left of the battery. I keep the screen brightness set at level 2 (out of 5) which is plenty bright to see inside – although it could be a bit dim in bright conditions outside.
I put mine on to charge every night, but if you wanted to use your watch for sleep tracking then you might need to find another time during the day to charge it.
I like the simplicity of design of the Ticwatch E, and the fact that it doesn't have thick bezels with numbers written on them. The watch case is quite visibly made of plastic, and doesn't look very "premium" when compared to other smart watched that cost twice the price. It's more like a Swatch watch, and more suited towards casual dress rather than formal-wear.
One thing that may annoy some people is that the watch has it's one physical button on the left side of the dial, which is the opposite side to pretty much every watch ever sold. I'm not sure why they made this decision, but it suits me rather well. I'm left-handed, and wear my watch on my right wrist, and so I can press the button on the left easily without obstructing the screen. Right-handed people may not like this design feature as much!
The watch face that I use is one of the ones from the Pear Watch Face app.
I'm not sure whether I'll stick with the silicone watch strap. It's fine and does the job well, but I may switch over to a leather strap in the coming weeks. The supplied strap comes with quick-release notches that would make swapping to another 20mm strap quite easy.
The watch comes with step tracking, inbuilt GPS and a heart rate monitor. I've not tested these features very much. The step tracking between my phone and watch seems to differ during the day, but the Google Fit app seems to decide upon one of the values to use.
The heart rate monitor is not running all the time – presumably to save battery life – but can be enabled on demand when you're exercising.
This isn't the watch for you if you want a lot of fitness tracking features. You might be better off with a Fitbit or another dedicated fitness tracker, but it does seem to do the basics quite well.
I got my Ticwatch E from Amazon, and it cost £117 (approx. €132). You can alternatively buy direct from Mobvoi for around €123 at the moment with after a 20% promotional discount has been applied.
When you compare this to the likes of the Apple Watch which costs between €279 (series 1) and €379 (series 3), and the Samsung Galaxy Gear S3 watch that cost around €300, then the Ticwatch is quite cheap in comparison.
UPDATE: Six weeks on
It's not good news. I'm close to abandoning my Ticwatch and going back to using my Pebble.
It's the not the fault of the Ticwatch itself. I don't particularly mind the sub-premium rubbery plastic styling of the watch. The fault lies with Android Wear, or rather Wear OS as it's recently been renamed as.
It really bugs me that the left and right swipe actions are dedicated to changing watch faces – and that a long press on the screen changes the watch face settings. Who changes their watch face that often that half the touch screen gestures have to be dedicated to the action? I've had countless occasions when I've done something as innocuous as folding my arms, only to discover that I've inadvertently changed the watch face.
Managing battery life is also an issue. On most days I'm pretty happy with the battery. I take the watch off charge in the morning, wear it all day, and when I put it back on charge at bedtime I still have around 45% of battery left. However, yesterday the watch battery died at 5.00pm – for no apparent reason. I hadn't been doing anything abnormal with it. I'm guessing some rogue app got itself into a flap and drained all the battery.
But that's my main gripe. I can't be doing with things that aren't reliable. A product is no good if it works most of the time – it needs to work all of the time. And I don't think that the Android designers and engineers have put enough effort into Wear OS to make it a mature reliable operating system. So for now, I think I'm going to put the Ticwatch away in the drawer, and hope that Wear OS gets an overhaul.