Mobvoi, the company behind the TicWatch smartwatches, made its India debut in September. The company is trying to compete with Fossil, which is the most prominent company with a Wear OS smartwatch. Both Fossil and Mobvoi have been helping Wear OS by Google stay relevant in the market. Even Google seems to be doing very little to make its wearable OS competitive but these companies are not giving up on it just yet. In India, Mobvoi has launched five different smartwatches running Wear OS, and the TicWatch E2 is the mid-range model.
Why do you need a smartwatch? It is an important question to ask before buying a new smartwatch. You might need one to mirror your smartphone notifications or one to act as your fitness companion. You might also be looking for a smartwatch that allows you to leave the smartphone behind. The TicWatch E2 is a smartwatch that is a companion to your smartphone and not a replacement. Available at a price of Rs 13,999, it makes for a smartwatch that is not half baked as say an Amazfit GTR. So, is this the smartwatch to buy if your budget is around Rs 15,000. Let’s find out.
Design and Display
Mobvoi is one of those wearables makers still sticking with the traditional design of smartwatches. The TicWatch E2, like other TicWatch models, has a circular watch face. While Fossil opts for a subtler look, TicWatch goes with a rugged look. It uses a polycarbonate watch case, which makes them secure against drop. They are also not prone to scratches against rough surface. The display is recessed inside the case, which makes it even more secure than dome shaped displays on other circular smartwatches. They come in black color and sport a 22mm interchangeable silicone strap.
The TicWatch E2 sports a 1.39-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 400×400 pixels. It is not as vibrant or color accurate as the Amazfit GTR, which also has a 1.39-inch circular AMOLED display. For me, the biggest problem was the lack of light sensor, which means this smartwatch does not automatically change display brightness. It has standard brightness setting from 1 to 5, and I mostly found 2 or 3 as the optimum brightness setting. It is important to note that high brightness can severely affect battery life. However, the display works well and touch response is really fast.
Unlike Fossil Gen 5, which has a circular crown, the primary way to interact on TicWatch E2 is through the touchscreen. The fact that it is not the sharpest seems a disappointment, but it is far from the worst in this segment. I switched to TicWatch E2 from a Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle HR and I immediately started missing the crown. Yes, the TicWatch E2 has a crown but you cannot rotate it. So, if I’m playing music on Spotify on Fossil, I could rotate the crown to increase or decrease volume. The same is not possible on TicWatch E2. The wearable from Mobvoi also misses out on pushers, which means I cannot quickly reach for an app or activity tracker.
Based on its price, the TicWatch E2 seems to be designed as a best bang for the buck. It has a design that will make Casio G-Shock owners feel at home. The design also gives an assurance that is not possible in this age where devices are getting thinner and complicated with choice of materials. The display is not sharp but it is not garbage either. The most important thing to know is that we are looking at a functional design that works and does not force you to remember things or know the limitations in advance.
Hardware and Software
The TicWatch E2 is powered by Snapdragon Wear 2100, which is an older platform made by Qualcomm. The wearable is equipped with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. When I compare with Fossil Gen 5, which has Snapdragon Wear 3100, 1GB RAM and 8GB storage, the TicWatch E2 definitely feels slow. There is a longer delay when moving through screens or tiles. When you open apps, there is a considerable amount of wait time. Like other Wear OS devices, the TicWatch E2 also suffers from standard problems. Hardware is only part of an experience and software is the real linchpin.
In the case of Wear OS, the software is a clear second class citizen. So, for starters, Wear OS is designed to be all about swipes. You swipe right or left to navigate between tiles. You swipe up or down to scroll through apps or notifications. These gestures are not as intuitive as one would expect from a mainstream wearable platform. The poor user interface goes also extends to the app ecosystem. Some of the native Google applications don’t work as well as they do on Google’s mobile operating system. Google Assistant works but it is extremely slow and you would be better off getting those actions done on your smartphone.
One of the big problems is Play Store, which takes longer to load and has poor selection of apps. From the selection of watch faces to first party apps, the experience is definitely not akin to a flagship platform. If you can live with minimal applications then Wear OS is not that bad. Some apps like Uber, Shazam, Google Fit work extremely well but most other applications feel not updated in years. First, Google needs to make Wear OS interesting and second it needs to convince developers to build better applications.
Fitness Tracking and Battery Life
The real advantage with a wearable like TicWatch E2 is evident with time keeping and fitness tracking. In comparison to a budget fitness tracker, the TicWatch E2 tracks steps with much more accuracy. When you are in a bus or a train, it won’t count that as steps taken by you. While Google Fit is the primary application for recording this data, TicWatch has built its own suite of apps. These include TicExercise, TicHealth and TicPulse. TicExercise is meant to track all your exercises while TicHealth will store these data. TicPulse measures your heart rate.
While I was skeptical at first, the TicExercise ended up being a useful application for tracking exercises. It has a good set of features like dedicated setting for active hours where the watch will alert you to walk 250 steps and stay active. Apart from active reminder, it also has goal reminder, alerting you to achieve your goal. While it is a great application, it lacks the convenience of Google Fit. For instance, when I switched from Fossil Gen 5 to TicWatch E2, Google Fit carried over all the data from that wearable. If you go for a run everyday then you already know that data showing your pace over a period of time can be really useful. With TicExercise, you are restricted to just the TicWatch despite the app being really good.
TicWatch E2, despite being a budget Wear OS device, excels in an unexpected area – battery life. By default, the TicWatch E2 is meant to last for at least a day and a half. If you try to be conservative by disabling features like tilt to wake, always-on display and set the brightness to 1, you can easily push it past the second day. It is really rare to find a smartwatch that you don’t need to watch overnight and TicWatch E2 is a clear exception. I had the brightness set to 3 and had most features enabled and yet, I was able to get more than a day of juice. The 415mAh battery and Mobvoi’s optimization definitely do some trick here.
Should you buy?
If you read my review of Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch then you would know that I am not a fan of Wear OS by Google. It was decent when it came on Huawei Watch in 2016. In the past three years, however, Google does not seem to have changed the experience in a big way. The development around the wearable platform seems to have become stagnant. As a result, it becomes disappointing on an expensive device like the Fossil Gen 5. However, on TicWatch E2, which costs less than Rs 15,000, Wear OS is a welcome addition. It costs as much as a budget wearable from Amazfit, but offers proper smartwatch OS.
In comparison to Amazfit GTS or Amazfit GTR, you can not only see notifications on TicWatch E2 but also respond to them. Say, you get a two factor notification from an app, you can simply accept it from the watch to get authenticated. This is the kind of convenience you expect from a smartwatch. If you are planning to buy a smartwatch and want Wear OS then TicWatch E2 is a great option. Its real USP is the attractive price. The user experience is not quite there but it is a tradeoff one must be willing to make if they are in the Android world and cannot use an Apple Watch.