Ticwatch E - Android Wear Journey Begins

Ticwatch 2 has ruled my wrist for the past one year. Mobvoi, the makers of Ticwatch, managed to impress users with constant updates and features to TicOS. In 2017, Mobvoi and Google collaborated to bring an optimized version of the Android Wear to Ticwatch. Mobvoi launched another Kickstarter campaign for two new watches to the market. The Ticwatch S (sports) and Ticwatch E (express). The price of both the variants was nominal. Ticwatch E was $99, and Ticwatch S was $119. Ticwatch E grabbed my attention over the sports variant. It looked more like a dress watch and a decent casual wear time-piece. Finally, after a lot of delay and confusions, the package got delivered early December. The arrival of a new toy always creates the excitement; this was no different.

Teaser video from Mobvoi, showcasing Ticwatch E and S.

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Mobvoi announced extra charging cable and tempered glass protection for Kickstarter backers. It was good news as Ticwatch uses a proprietary magnetic charger. For backers who supported the previous campaign of Ticwatch 2, Mobvoi announced a surprise gift. These were an extra charging cable and a fidget spinner (the world is going crazy). Yes, that's a total of three charging cables received.

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Packaging & Setup

Mobvoi packed up the Ticwatc E in a premium looking metal box, which included one charging cable. The package had more boxes, two extra charging cables, tempered glass and the fidget spinner. It'd have been an eye candy to see it all packed in a single box. Managing these boxes was a task in itself. Once you get past these and unbox the watch, this is where the game begins. The Black Shadow Ticwatch E looks classy in an all-black casing and same tone silicone band.

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The new version of the Ticwatches, run on Android Wear. Android Wear works with iOS, with few limitations. As iPhone 6S is going to be the primary phone for connection, it's an important heads-up. To begin, download the Android Wear app from App Store. Launch the app, and setup would prompt for Google account to continue. Ensure to turn on the Bluetooth to pair up with the watch. Follow the prompts, and you are good to go.

PS: Setup on Pebble and Ticwatch 2 was simple, compared to Android Wear.

Once the setup is complete, the stock watchface will welcome you. A simple left or right swipe gesture will take you to the watchface collection on Ticwatch to choose. Google recently updated the Android Wear to 2.0, which was immediately available on Ticwatch. Android Wear ecosystem brings along many apps and watchfaces to install. Some of these are available on the watch using the Play Store app. Others are accessible via the phone running Android. The phone installation part is where the iOS limitation kicks in. When connected to an iPhone, there are only handful of applications. To enjoy Android Wear recommend an Android phone. That might be a new challenge in itself, as the features list will multi-fold compared to iOS.

Specs & Overview

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The design of Ticwatch E comes from Ticwatch 2. It follows the same form factor as well. The button placement is on the left, as on the Ticwatch 2. The finish of the watch is smooth. The weight of Ticwatch E is a compliment as it does not bother while worn. The black bezels make the dark watchfaces look stunning and sharp with white elements.

Ticwatch E includes built-in speaker and microphone. Allowing to answer and make calls from the watch itself. Android Wear 2.0 brings Android Assistant capabilities to Ticwatc E. The voice command "Ok Google" works fine on the watch for search. But, calling for "Ok Google, activated the Assistant on the Nexus 6P. We'd soon have too many devices allowing Assistant access. The watch speaker comes handy for music and notification tones but, seldom used.

Ticwatch E comes with Heart-rate monitoring as with most of the Android Wear watches. Ticwatch E poses as a half fitness device too, while Ticwatch S is more inclined to the sports. Take it out for your morning run, leaving the phone behind. Once back home the data sync with the running apps like Strava and Map my Run. The step count is enough, even when they are not so accurate. The steps data sync with Google Fit and iOS Health app.

The watch band is of silicon material and is comfortable for the day-long wear. The design follows the current trends of the hot-swap pins. Making them easy for replacement or switching.

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Android Wear

Ticwatch E is running Android 7.1.1 and Android Wear 2.0. Google has listed both Ticwatch E and Ticwatch S to be eligible for Android 8.0, to be available soon. Android Wear is an optimized version of Google's Android, designed for wearable devices including smartwatches. Launched in 2014 Android Wear has evolved well over the last three years. Held the Moto 360 running Android Wear and still love its design.

Android Wear ecosystem is more mature with a large number of apps for the smartwatches, compared to Pebble and TicOS. Both these lack the numbers where Android Wear scores. Android Wear allows installation of apps on the watch for access. The apps like Google Maps, Telegram Messaging, Play Music, Calculator, Compass, and Uber are a few to name. Accessibility of these over the smartwatch is good. The base rule of a smartwatch is to show notifications from the phone, and that works well on Ticwatch E.

Some of the watchfaces via Android Wear and favorites from Watchmaker app (paid version available for Android & iOS) used frequently.

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Ticwatch E vs. Ticwatch 2

During the past year after switching from Pebble, Ticwatch 2 has been performing well. The battery life was decent at one day use (will always miss the Pebble's battery standby). Thanks to Android Wear 2.0 the battery is more optimized and gives better standby. Ticwatch E stays powered up little more than 18 hours with everything running and all notifications. The regular update to the OS and features on Ticwatch 2 kept it ticking. It had a custom Android-based operating system, called TicOS. Few features that are missing in Ticwatch E.

  • Tickle strip on the side was one of the USP of the Ticwatch 2. The touch panel on the side bezel made it stand apart from the other smartwatches. Swiping the tickle up/down to navigate in menus, ensured smudge-free screens.

  • Shortcuts on TicOS allowed quick action via the button press. A quick 2 button click captured the screenshot on the watch screen and saved it to the photos gallery. The feature was convenient to share the watchface, app, a milestone achieved or notification in a layout of the watch (added automatically). To save the battery, the brightness of Ticwatch 2 could be set to minimal while indoors. Once you step outside, pressing the button three times boosted the brightness to the max for a short period. It was useful for checking the notification or the time on the watch in the sun.

  • Quick Access menu on swipe down from the watchface made available information like the weather updates, music player access, connection status, and health. Allowing to customise the order via the Ticwear app.

Things to fix

Android Wear has advanced over the years and has come along way. There are but few things that are lacking for better user experience over both Android or iOS. There are few personal feature requests for both Google and Mobvoi to consider. These could be available for Android Wear or via custom features by Mobvoi:

  • Pinning the notifications is one feature request being long awaited. The need for the same was first raised to Mobvoi for TicOS as well, but still waiting for it. The same was then mentioned on r/androidwear/ sub-forums on Reddit for Android Wear users.

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The feature has a simple use case, during the day we receive multiple notifications for information, while there is one or two that we may need to access later during the day. The feature would allow the user to Pin this notification and be available on top of others existing or future ones.

  • Play Store for Android Wear should be accessible from the app on iOS. Allow users to access the watchfaces/apps via the Android Wear app. Thereby, allowing them to install them using their iPhones. Pebble was able to achieve this couple of years back, while Android still struggles. Pushing watchface/app through the Play Store via Web or Android phone connected to the same Google account. A user when browsing the Play Store on the Web or an Android Phone may push the compatible version to their watch. The feature would work over iOS as well. It may need connectivity to WiFi and same Google Account.

Conclusion

Ticwatch E is fantastic hardware running Android Wear. It is a great experience kickstart into the Android Wear ecosystem. The battery life is satisfactory, yet still needs charging every day. You'd barely notice the weight as the day starts and ends. There is nothing more expected from hardware at this cost. Thanks to Mobvoi to deliver the trustable Android Wear device. Inexperience, Android Wear is a little complicated for a smartwatch device. It does bring a large platter of apps and watchfaces in the ecosystem received a warm welcome.

Ticwatch E is here to stay. If you are looking for a first or a new smartwatch, Ticwatch E is a good to start the journey.

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