So the state of smartwatches in late 2018, where do we start?
TicWatch E/S & Wear OS
Late 2018 Review
Author: Jules Beshears @epic_engineer
If you own an iPhone you can use any of the Wear OS smartwatches, but let’s be honest most iPhone owners will opt for the Apple watch… and they should. The Apple watch is arguably one of the best smartwatches, and the new series 4 takes the Apple watch to new heights in terms of looks and functionality.
But what if you don’t own a iPhone?
Ticwatch E / S, maybe just what you’re looking for. The Ticwatch E and S are produced by the company Mobvoi after successfully raising more than 3 million in funds from kickstarter. The second largest campaign ever for a wearable device. Mobvoi currently makes the Ticwatch E, Ticwatch S, and Ticwatch pro.
(Side note: Pictures of the Ticwatch E2 were leaked on 9-22-2018, no specs are known at this time other than a higher level of water resistance)
I want to let you readers know that the Ticwatch E and S are currently on sale for $129 and $179 respectively, also both watches are nearly identical with these exceptions. The Ticwatch E has replaceable 20mm bands, the Ticwatch S places the GPS into the band for even better tracking in workouts and the watch band is NOT replaceable. *I’ll provide specs at the end of the article as specs don’t always translate into user experience.
Now to the review, I chose the Ticwatch E because I like the style and the replaceable bands. The Ticwatch S looks fantastic but if I had to choose one watch to wear when I’m working out or going out for the night; the E just works better for me personally. It has a design that looks more traditional and the color black doesn’t just jump out and draw much attention. I myself like the stealthy look of the black. I like the vibrancy of the yellow and white models but I feel they would be a task to keep them looking clean.
The band is a much softer silicon than I’m used to. It feels much softer than the genuine leather of my Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch(my previous daily driver). I also want to mention that this is the lightest smartwatch that I’ve ever felt and I’ve owned a few. On the wrist I don’t really even notice it, the combination of the super soft band and light weight really shine.
Now that you know what it looks like and how it feels on the wrist you’re probably thinking “Well, what does it do?”. I’ll tell you, but first you need to know how google and Apple are approaching smartwatches in 2018.
Google and Apple have found that most smartwatch users use 3 functions on the smartwatches 95% of the time. Those 3 functions are
- Tell the time (obviously)
- Read and or respond to notifications
- Health and fitness
The other 5% of the time are more power hungry apps ( games, streaming music, misc apps). This is the reason that Apple and Google have revamped Watch and Wear OS this year. Apple’s newest WatchOS version launched alongside the apple watch series 4 and Wear OS revamp launches in October. (It might be out by the time you read this).
Now that you know the functions that are most used, let’s jump into the features. Obviously as a watch that tells time it works great, there are a dozen or so faces that are built into the wear OS along with the faces that Mobvoi app provide. If that’s not enough for you (and it never is) there are thousands of free and paid faces available to download in the play / wear os store. Now if your more of the creative type like myself you can download an app like Facer and create your own faces or download faces that other users have created.
Google, like Apple, also allows the use of what they call complications. Complications are nothing more than small widgets that provide informations such as the weather or launch other apps. These complications appear on the watch faces normally in tiny bubbles to signify that it can be pressed to open the full app but they don’t have to be for a cleaner look.
Next I’ll talk about notifications. Again nothing but good news to discuss here. Personally I get 4 types of text notifications, I get messages from Google Allo my prefered messaging app, from a normal text messaging app, from Google hangouts and lastly I get game chat from Discord. All of these work seamlessly, and I don’t see why most other messaging service wouldn’t work equally as well. Wear OS displays a small bubble icon that informs you of that app that is being used, below that is the message that can be touched to expand if necessary, below that is a arrow that you can tap to reply. It’s that easy!
As far as replies go, the Ticwatch E and Wear OS provides you multiple ways to reply with the responsive, bright touch screen. The first option is voice reply, with the decent microphone and google AI replying by voice is fast and easy. The second option is emoji, you can either scroll through your typical emoji list or you can use your finger to sketch your favorite emoji. Sketching emoji like voice replies work great thanks to google’s Wear OS and AI. The last way to reply of course is the keyboard. The keyboard despite its size allows the user to type by swiping (I’m a swype fan) and it works better than I could ever hope making swiping text fast, fun and easy. If your not the swyping type you can peck out text just as easy, so all in all there is a way to reply that should work for everyone.
Now for other notifications, they work much the same. Google launched its first smartwatches over 4 years ago (I owned the Moto360) so I’d expect that they would have notifications down. Google was the first smartphone manufacturer to include the pull down notifications panel. All said notifications in my experience work flawlessly across ANY app that would notify you. While we’re on the subject of being notified, you can, of course , block apps that you don’t want notifications from. It really comes in handy when you don’t want constant notifications from free to play games or if you have multiple calendars.
Now that you have your new smartwatch and feel good…it’s time to get fit and look good. I know by now I’m sounding like a broken record but again the Ticwatch E/S and the recently revamped Google Fit and/or Mobvoi fitness app have you covered. Google revamped the Fit app earlier this year making it easier to use for most people. Like most other fitness app Google’s Fit app allows you to create a user profile including weight, height and fitness goals. Once you’ve enter that info Fit will help track you goals and adjust them as you progress. The GPS in the Mobvoi’s Ticwatch E and S is fantastic and accurate which is important as Fit allows you to start workouts suchs a running or biking from your wrist.
The Ticwatch’s have you covered in the trifecta that Google and Apple say we smartwatch owners use to most but what about 5% of usage. Well……. Mobvoi and Google have you covered there as well. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the google assistant is the best assistant available and It’s baked into Wear OS already. Assistant will be front and center along with notifications and fitness when Wear OS is revised in a few weeks. What that means to the average user is you have a world of data on you wrist, Business hours, movie info, conversions, calculations etc.
Apps, Apps, and more Apps. Wear OS isn’t short on apps. Uber, Nest, Camera, Google Translate, Spotify, Agenda and I could just go ON and ON and ON.. you get the picture, Wear Os has your other 5% covered rather well.
I know most of this article seems to be the state of Wear OS in late 2018, but the vehicle that I chose to explore Wear OS (right now ) is the TicWatch E. I’ll try to sum up what I haven’t stated above when it comes to the Ticwatch E.
The battery is 300mah and with using it without really thinking about it after cycling the battery a few times I can average 30 hours of power on time. Realistically most people charge their phones and watches overnight and I’m never up 30 hours straight so battery life is fantastic. (not something I could say for my Samsung Gear S2)
The display is 1.4in and is 400×400 pixels, this is considered the upper range as far as pixel per inch goes in smart watches. All this means is that the watch screen looks great, and as I said before it is bright…. If you choose it be. One of the trade offs that I’ve found at this price point is no ambient light sensor. It’s not really a problem but it’s a nice feature to have if you’re used to it like I am.
Heart rate sensor, It has one it functions as expected and is as good as any heart rate sensor that you’ll find on Wear OS watches that cost 3 times as much.
Ticwatch are known for having some of the better GPS tracking modules and they do. No matter if you’re using google maps or tracking a run you’ll be happy with the GPS module that Mobvoi has installed in the Ticwatch E. The Ticwatch S has the Gps antenna located in the bands for even more precision but it really doesn’t matter. The GPS in the Ticwatch E(express) is dependable and accurate.
The state of Wear OS, as it sits today before the upcoming revision planned for late September/ October is more than good. The revision is designed to put Notifications , Google assistant and Fitness front and center. It is reasonable to assume that Wear OS will only become better once the revision is live. All said if you bought a Wear OS Smartwatch today you’d probably not regret it, If you bought a Ticwatch E ($129 at this time) you’d be getting more than your monies worth of features and performance.
If you don’t like the style of the Ticwatch E/S I’d point you to the Ticwatch Pro which has 2 displays, gets days to weeks of battery life and has NFC. If you have the patience for it Qualcomm has released the 3100 series smartwatch processor to manufacturers, and you’ll start seeing models for varying style, price and features launching this year. I expect watch models with the 3100 series chip that aren’t the high dollar boutique brands to launch next year first or second quarter.
Stay tuned to TLR Technology for more reviews and first looks of smart watches in the future.
Jules Beshears is a Mechanical Geek by trade and Technology Enthusiast by day. Jules has developed prototype robot technology. Designed and custom built quad-copters known today as drones. Designed and custom built airplanes for hobby. He owns a 3D printing business. He has a massive background in sound quality in equipment and/or technology. Formally owned a car audio retail and installation shop. Enjoys disc golf and video gaming.
Follow IG: @epic_engineering. http://www.youtube.com/c/monstermini225.