The moment we talk about smartwatches, by now you all know I'm a big time Pebble fan. I currently own - Pebble Original and Pebble Time Steel. Another smartwatch that I'm fond of is the Moto 360 (1st generation) and always wanted to get it. I stumbled across something different - Ticwatch 2 by a Mobvoi. Looking at the title, my first question was why did I not ever hear about the Ticwatch . This got answered after I went through the details of the campaign. The 1st generation of Ticwatch was China specific and only supported the Chinese language. Mobvoi targeted Ticwatch 2 for a worldwide launch of the smartwatch. I chose the Oak version for $159 + shipping (retails for $250). The other models are Charcoal, Snow and Onyx.
Being a Kickstarter, it is always a gamble. The product may not get delivered or about its stability. Hats off to Mobvoi for delivering a pleasant experience, though a month late. Mobvoi ensured timely updates to the project. During the project, they even listened to the backers. Mobvoi decided to refund the courier handling charges implied by DHL. After being a funded, Mobvoi even added a complementary Silicon watchband with each order. The quick release mechanism on the watchband seems to have become the standard.
Packaging & Setup
Ticwatch 2 arrived in a premium package. The additional watchband packed. A simple yet elegant looking black box with Ticwatch branding. Opening the box, the watch dial is the first thing that strikes you. Digging inside the box, there is a user manual (few people still read it), a magnetic wireless charger and a micro-USB cable. The magnetic charger circular disc. To charge the Ticwatch, just place it over the disc. While charging it displays the charging status with a bedside watchface just like Moto 360.
As with any smartwatch, Ticwatch requires a companion app - Ticwear. The app is available on both Google Play Store and Apple App Store. I choose to pair it with my iPhone 6S. I'm well aware of the challenges with iOS, being a closed system it restricts non-Apple devices.
Turning on the Ticwatch is a little more exciting. There is a boot animation while its loading and ends with a ding tone. Pebble experience is nothing fancy. Turn on Pebble and it is just a simple flash of"pebble" displayed on the start screen when turned on.
To setup, launch Ticwear on the phone. Ticwear prompts you to login or creating an account using Facebook or Google. No more details required for the login. Ticwear requests for access to Bluetooth (for communication with the watch) and Camera (to scan the QR Code). The pairing between the phone and Ticwatch happens via the QR Code displayed on the watch. Scan the code and the pairing process takes place. Ticwatch takes a while to complete the setup after the successful pairing. On completion of setup, a basic watch appears.
A quick rundown of the Ticwatch specs has nothing unusual to offer. They are like other Android Wear smartwatches.
One feature which made it stand out is the Tickle strip. Tickle is a touch strip located on the side of the watch. Tickle allows scrolling the screen, slide app menu, control screen brightness and manage the volume. Tapping on the tickle strip allows for a tap on the screen. Being a Pebble user I'm quite comfortable with the buttons. Ticwatch brings along a touch screen experience. First for me. This is definitely as welcome move with few shortcomings.
Ticwatch 2 has a built in microphone and speaker. It allows enables Ticwatch 2 to answer phone calls from the watch itself (iPhone works too). Ticwatch can also record voice notes and playback the notes on the watch. Ticwatch also supports the voice interactions. It gets activated by "Ok, Tico". Though I haven't used it much during my owning the Ticwatch for the past few weeks. "Ok, Tico" enables the voice search. Voice search support information on nearby restaurants, weather, reminders, news, joke, timers etc. You can even order an Uber taxi via voice (needs setup in the companion app).
If touch screen and tickle strip were not enough for control, Ticwatch supports Gestures. Ticwatch includes gesture control feature as well. Gestures work for a quick phone call, activate voice interaction, control the quick menu and scrolling through the timeline. The knock gesture on the tickle strip enables to shuffle songs on the phone.
The latest trend of the all the smartwatches is to act like a pseudo-fitness tracker. To fit the trend, Ticwatch has a GPS and Heart-rate tracking. These sensors track real-time heart rate data, speed, distance and location. Additionally, Ticwatch captures this data standalone without the phone. So you can go run and come back to have the data synced to Google Fit! or iOS Health app via Bluetooth. Talking of Bluetooth, you can pair wireless headphones to listen to music on the go, direct from Ticwatch.
One more feature where Ticwatch wins over Pebble is Find My Phone. There will be never a misplaced phone (while in connected range). Ring your phone (even iPhone) via Ticwatch.
On the software, Ticwatch runs on Ticwear OS. This a custom OS based on Android (currently 5.1.1). It uses a 4-way user interface, called Cubic UI.
Ticwear OS is new, hence Mobvoi promises frequent OTA updates to squash the bugs. So far they have been delivering frequent patches as well with bug fixing. Ticwatch uses WiFi to download the firmware updates. Pebble requires the companion phone app for the firmware updates. Ticwear OS packs few apps as default like dialer, calendar, fitness, weather, calculator, stopwatch, timer etc.
Another small addition to the OS is the tweak for taking a screenshot of the watch. Double clicking the crown snaps a screenshot and saves it in Photo Gallery of the phone (iPhone in my case). The screenshot is then presented in a nice frame with a branding - Ticwear.
Ticwatch 2 vs. Pebble
Pebble has been my first smartwatch…then the second one (Pebble Time) and third one too (Pebble Time Steel). The first difference between the two is shape - regular round vs. square. The appeal level is higher. Ticwatch manages to look like more formal than Pebble. The crisp display, touchscreen, heart-rate monitor, tickle strip, watchface choices, built-in WiFi, speaker/mic to take calls and listen to music are features that won the heart.
Pebble has ruined me when it comes to battery life (8 days vs. just 20 hours); buttons for navigation (touchscreen does lead to accidental touches) and the voice dictation. Ok, Ticwatch is trying to compete with voice dictation and taking one step at a time.
MacID is one feature which does not work with Ticwatch. Pebble compatibility allowed me to lock/unlock my MacBook without having to type my password via iPhone. I'm currently back to keying my password or using the TouchID on the iPhone.
My original Pebble has stood through showers, white-water rafting, swimming, bathing the kids and even occasional under tap visits. I would sport Pebble on the wrist and let it stay there until the battery died down (straight 5 days). Ticwatch feels too sophisticated to handle those situations.
Ticwatch and Pebble are at par when it comes to functionality when connected with iPhone. The restrictions imposed by iOS plague all smartwatches compared to Apple Watch, for obvious reasons. Pebble however, is a notch above by including an app store for watchfaces and apps within the phone app. Meanwhile Mobvoi is still looking for solution to tackle the limitation.
Things to fix
Ticwatch needs to iron out few creases to win the market. Today the key to a successful device is the apps ecosystem. While Ticwatch has abundant apps and watchfaces for the Chinese specific model, yet they are not compatible for the international release. They need to address the below challenges:
- Enable more apps for the international platform
- Allow installation of compatible Android apps
- More watchfaces for all occasions
Ticwatch 2 is a promising featureful smartwatch. The Tickle strip is the unique feature-packed. Being new in the market (international environment) Mobvoi has lots of hurdles to cross. It has shown an immense willingness to expand their reach by listening to the Kickstarter backers on both processes and bugs. The weekly firmware updates speak of this commitment.
I'd definitely recommend Ticwatch 2 to people who would not pick up Pebble for its looks and feel. There are a variety of choices of Ticwatch models starting with $199.99 to $299.99. Check out the official website for Ticwatch 2.