Mobvoi Ticwatch S review

The Mobvoi Ticwatch S feels as cheap as its price tag

With heart rate and built-in GPS, the Ticwatch S is a bargain, but you won’t want to wear it everyday.
With heart rate and built-in GPS, the Ticwatch S is a bargain, but you won’t want to wear it everyday.
With heart rate and built-in GPS, the Ticwatch S is a bargain, but you won’t want to wear it everyday.

Highs

  • Solid performance
  • Large and vibrant display
  • Affordable
  • Standard day-long battery life

Lows

  • Massive on smaller wrists
  • No NFC
  • Looks cheap, no interchangeable bands

DT Editors' Rating

Mobvoi’s Ticwatch S — short for Sport — is one of the most affordable Wear OS smartwatches on the market. For $160, you’ll not only get built-in GPS but also a heart-rate sensor — adding more capability to your workouts and daily activity tracking. Mobvoi is a Chinese company that’s mostly known to sell affordable Wear OS smartwatches in the U.S; the Ticwatch S sits above the even cheaper Ticwatch E, but it ranks a little lower than the more recently announced Ticwatch Pro.

While the features under the hood are impressive, the aesthetic of the smartwatch doesn’t give us the same excitement. Even though it is a “sport” smartwatch, it looks and feels cheap — especially after wearing sleeker, sportier smartwatches with a similar price tag. But with jam-packed features essential for health and fitness and a bargain price, is it enough for us to look past the unique design? Let’s take a closer look.

Lightweight and comfortable, but looks cheap

The Ticwatch S is large, but it sits comfortably on the wrist. There’s a 1.4-inch fully-round OLED display in a 44mm polycarbonate body that’s about 13mm thick. It’s extremely lightweight, but it looks and feels too chunky. As a unisex smartwatch, men may not find the size too different than others available on the market for them, but women might feel like it’s too big on their wrists. While we appreciate the larger screen size, which makes it easier to read alerts and track activity during workouts, the size does standout a little too much on our wrist — and not in a good way.

Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

The smartwatch comes in a variety of colors — Knight (black), Aurora (neon yellow), and Glacier (white). Each one comes with watch straps to match the case, which disappointingly aren’t interchangeable. We tested the all-white Glacier color, which is loud on the wrist. It looks best with workout or casual wear, but this is not a watch you can take to more formal events. That being said, the white option is significantly more subtle than the neon yellow variant, but your best choice for a toned down aesthetic is the black.

The size does standout a little too much on our wrist — and not in a good way.

One part of the design that may split opinion is the placement of the crown, which is on the left. It works as your navigation tool — you can use it to access installed apps, call upon Google Assistant, or go back to the watch face. We’re used to wearing smartwatches with crowns on the right, and we found it a little difficult to get used to using our thumb to press the crown. The button is also bulky and looks unnatural; it unnecessarily and unattractively jets out from the watch face.

The silicone band didn’t attract a ton of dust and lint — at least as much as some other watches we’ve worn — and the white model kept its bright color even months after wearing the watch.

The Ticwatch S can look comical on some wrists, but it looks best when paired with workout gear. With other outfits, it can look a little like a toy.

Solid performance, large display

Unlike most Wear OS smartwatches that are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 2100 processor, the Mobvoi Ticwatch S is features MediaTek’s MT2601,1.2GHz dual-core processor. It packs 4GB of storage and 512GM of RAM — allowing you to store music and play it via Bluetooth-connected earbuds. We surprisingly didn’t run into too many issues with performance. We were able to open apps relatively quickly and respond to notifications with ease, though we did see some lag when trying to access the Google Play Store or Google Fit.

Mobvoi Ticwatch S lifestyle
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

With a 400 x 400 resolution, the OLED screen is incredibly sharp and the colors pop. But the screen does falter in broad daylight, as you’ll need to turn up the brightness when outdoors to see anything.

Wear OS works better with Android phones

The Mobvoi Ticwatch S runs Google’s Wear OS. While Google removed the Android name to help people better understand these smartwatches work with iPhones too, there are still limits when using it with iOS.

For people on Android, the Ticwatch is extremely simple to use even if you’ve never owned a Wear OS smartwatch. Swipe down to access your settings, swipe up to view your notifications, and swipe to the left or right to change your watch face. Swipe left or right to clear specific notifications. You can type replies to messages, as well as use quick replies without having to use the keyboard. There’s also the option to swipe to type or use your voice to reply. With such a large display, it’s actually comfortable to type with responses — something we’re not used to on a lot of smartwatches. Some of these gestures will be changing in an upcoming Wear OS update that simplifies the usability of the operating system.

With such a large display, it’s actually comfortable to type with responses.

When connected to an iPhone, Wear OS is a tad more limited. As with Android, you have to download the Wear OS app but you’re required to keep it running in the background at all times. Otherwise, you’ll have to reconnect it to the app each time in order to receive notifications and track activity. When that did happen, it took us many attempts to reconnect it — at one point, we had to reboot the Ticwatch completely and start over. While you can view notifications, you can’t interact with them. Calls can also be accepted or denied right from the watch face.

The Ticwatch S uses the all new Google Fit to track your activity via Move Minutes and Heart Points, which you can learn more about in our Google Fit hands on. You can also use Mobvoi’s own built-in apps, which we’ll get to later.

Mobvoi Tichwatch S apps
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

Google Assistant is triggered by holding down the crown button, and you can use it to set reminders, ask for weather updates, ask about directions to work, control smart home products, and more. Those with an Android phone can also ask the Assistant to send messages.

The pre-installed watch faces are standard — with options for analog or digital. But since this is a “sport” watch, most of the faces are geared more towards highlighting metrics such as step count and calories burned. You can customize parts of each one, to better suit your look for the day — whether it be for the gym or a casual day out.

Easily track daily activity

The Mobvoi Ticwatch S includes a heart rate sensor, allowing you to track your heart rate throughout the day and also during workouts. While heart-rate tracking capabilities aren’t new, there aren’t a lot of other Wear OS smartwatches out there with a sensor for $160. The closest competitor is the Misfit Vapor, which is $200.

Unfortunately, the smartwatch doesn’t track heart rate automatically like the Vapor. You’ll have to manually tap the heart rate app to begin measuring — swiping up within the Heart Rate app will bring you to a history of your heart rate measurements that you’ve taken throughout the day. It is automatically tracked during workouts, which is nice. There’s also the option of downloading the third party Mobvoi app Heart Trace, which will then sync your data with Google Fit.

You can use Google Fit and Fit Workout to track your activity or you can sync your smartwatch to the Mobvoi app on Android and iOS. We used TicExercise to track our outdoor runs — but you can also track indoor runs on the treadmill, biking sessions, and there’s also a free style option like weight training or other cardio. After starting your workout, you’re able to see the smartwatch track your path on the display itself. Thanks to the built-in GPS, you won’t have to carry your phone on you to track your runs.

Other pre-installed Mobvoi apps include TicHealth, which allows you to check in on your daily activity straight from your display. There’s also Step Ranking that provides you with your current steps for the day and ranks them in comparison to those around you based on your location — in an attempt to give you a bit of a motivational push to keep going in attempt to stay ahead.

The smartwatch doesn’t track heart rate automatically.

For music you’ll have to sync your playlists from Google Play Music, which is annoying if you don’t use it on a regular basis. Since we use Spotify, we still carried our phones to listen to music but tracked our run via the smartwatch. While running, we were able to glance at the Ticwatch to see metrics like distance, heart-rate, and calories burned. With an auto-pause feature, the workout would pause whenever we took a break or waited to cross the street at a light.

As our heart-rate was tracked in real-time, the smartwatch would also label which stages we were in — like cardio or fat-burning. Whenever we pushed ourselves a bit too hard, bringing our heart rate up to 194 BPM, the smartwatch would label our heart-rate as “dangerous” — letting us know we should slow down. But we wouldn’t have known that unless we glanced at our watch every so often, and wish it would vibrate every time our heart-rate would get to that point. Even though at times we found the heart-rate sensor overcalculated, it was reasonably accurate for the most part.

While you can see a summary of your workout on the Ticwatch, you can refer to the Mobvoi app for a more in-depth analysis. This is where you can see a graph of your heart rate, pace, step frequency, step length, along with your distance and route. You can also see detailed data of your daily activity too such as steps, active hours, exercise, and heart rate.

The Mobvoi app calculates and tracks activity differently than what some might be used to — but is extremely similar to the newly-designed Google Fit. On the Mobvoi app, you’ll see Active hours, which only counts during hours that you take more than 250 steps (similar to Google Fit Move Minutes). There’s also Exercise, which measures the intensity level of your exercise (Just like Google Fit’s Heart Points) — so every time you go for a power walk or do some high-intensity cardio, the Ticwatch’s heart-rate sensor will recognize the increase in heart-rate and the app will track it under the Exercise category. Aside from that, your steps, calories burned, heart-rate, and distance are tracked normally.

Unfortunately, there’s no built-in sleep tracking capabilities. It’s a feature that’s available on other smartwatches, but with the Ticwatch S you’ll have to use third-party apps instead.

Standard one-day battery life

The Mobvoi Ticwatch S has a 300mAh battery that the company claims can provide up to 48-hours of use. In reality, we found that it lasts a little over 12 hours at most. After taking it off the charger at 100 percent around 8:30 a.m., it was at 59 percent by 2:23 p.m.. By the time we got home from work at 6:30 p.m. it was at around 30 percent, and 19 percent when we went to bed at 10 p.m. — and that’s with all the notifications on and without using its built-in GPS. That’s no where near the two full days Mobvoi claims its smartwatch can last.

In reality, we found that it lasts a little over 12 hours at most.

When we did workout with the Ticwatch S, we took it out at about 9 p.m. — when it was charged at about 83 percent, and found that it was already at 20 percent by 1 a.m. — which is only about five hours. This was after using built-in GPS, heart rate sensor, and Mobvoi’s TicExercise app to track our run.

Even though it doesn’t last us the entire 48-hour day, we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly it charges. After plugging it in at zero percent, we never had to wait more than an hour for it to charge back up to 100 percent. It’s especially useful for days when you want to make sure it’s fully charged for your evening run after work or a late-night gym session, and don’t want to wait a long time before it’s ready to be used.

At the same time, it’s important to note that our battery life tests were made when the Ticwatch S was connected to an iPhone, and may differ with Android.

Warranty information

The Mobvoi Ticwatch S costs $160, and is for purchase available through Mobvoi’s site. It’s also available through other retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy, but the price may be a little closer to its original $200.

As for warranty, Mobvoi offers a one-year warranty that covers against any defects, but it doesn’t cover accidental damage to the case, strap, or battery.

Our Take

The Mobvoi Ticwatch S is a comfortable smartwatch that features a large, vibrant OLED display. While the built-in heart rate sensor and GPS is a bargain for $160, the loud design makes it a smartwatch you won’t want to wear everyday.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes. If you’re looking for a sleeker smartwatch that has similar capabilities, there’s the Misfit Vapor for $200. While it doesn’t come with built-in GPS, it does feature a heart-rate sensor, large 1.30-inch AMOLED display, and unique touch-sensitive bezel. It also comes in a variety of different colors and interchangeable watch straps for a more customizable look.

There’s also the Samsung Galaxy Watch for $330, which comes in two different sizes to accommodate those with larger and smaller wrists. As the successor to the Gear Sport, Samsung’s latest smartwatch comes with a heart-rate sensor, beautiful design, and packs a ton of fitness tracking features. Depending on the size of the smartwatch, it lasted us between two to four full days — that’s including tracking workouts and receiving notifications.

There’s also the Fitbit Versa — Fitbit’s latest smartwatch that launched back in March for $200. With a 1.34-inch LCD display, interchangeable straps, tons of fitness features and a beautiful design, it’s an accessory you can wear everyday regardless of the occasion. Its battery can also last for up to five days on a single charge, depending on how much you use it.

We do recommend waiting until the end of the year to see all the new Wear OS watches coming with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor, which will be far more efficient, powerful, and offer longer battery life.

For those with an iPhone, we recommend the Apple Watch Series 4. That way, you’ll be able to easily take advantage of all its features without having the same limitations you would with an Wear OS.

How long will it last?

The Mobvoi Ticwatch S should last you beyond the one-year limited warranty. But the battery will deplete overtime, and it’s unclear how long it will receive software updates. We expect it to last around two years before you’ll want to replace it. The smartwatch has an IP67 water resistance rating, so you can take it underwater up to 1 meter for 30 minutes.

Should you buy it?

No. At $160, you are getting a bargain with the Ticwatch S, but there are better alternatives available at similar prices that would let you wear a smartwatch in any occasion, including the Fitbit Versa.

Deals

Walmart drops prices on Apple Watches and other fitness trackers

Smartwatches, fitness trackers, and wearable heart rate monitors from Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, and Garmin are popular gifts. Wearables are smarter and more capable than in earlier years. We found the best wearables deals on Walmart.
Mobile

Walk, run, and stretch with these handy iPhone fitness apps

Working out and getting yourself in shape isn't easy, but it's easier with the right set of apps. These best iPhone fitness apps will help you to track your calories, monitor your sleep, and achieve your fitness goals.
Mobile

Google Fit app finally gets a widget, among other new features

Google Fit hasn't received any new features since its redesign. This week, the company is rolling some new tools; users will be able to add a widget to their Android home screen, adjust the intensity of their workouts, and more.
Outdoors

Crush your next workout with the best Fitbit for every activity

Fitbits are amazingly helpful tools for setting fitness goals and tracking progress. However, different activities require different metrics. We've gathered a list of the best Fitbits for running, swimming, biking, and other activities.
Deals

Check out the best Green Monday deals for those last-minute gifts

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, but that doesn't mean you've missed your chance of finding a great deal. We're talking about Green Monday, of course, and it falls on December 10.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Mobile

New Apple Watch begins saving lives one week after getting EKG feature

The Apple Watch Series 4 was updated almost a week ago with a new feature that allows users to take electrocardiogram tests -- and already it seems like the new feature is saving lives.
Wearables

These are the best smartwatches for everything from fashion to fitness

Tempted to buy a smartwatch? If so, then the growing number of great models available means you've got plenty to choose from. But which one should you pick? Here is our list of the best smartwatches.
Wearables

How to use the ECG app, set up irregular rhythm notifications on the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch Series 4 is the best smartwatch iPhone owners can own, and it just got even better with the addition of the ECG app and ability to identify irregular heart rhythms. Here's how to set it all up.
Home Theater

Common AirPods problems, and how to fix them

Apple’s AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds we’ve seen, but they’re not perfect. If you’re having trouble, take a look at our guide to the most common problems and what you can do to fix them.
Mobile

The LG V40 ThinQ, G7 ThinQ, and Watch W7 are discounted for the holidays

LG announced a series of deals for the holiday season where you can buy the company's two flagship phones, the V40 ThinQ and G7 ThinQ, as well as its latest smartwatch, for between $150 and $200 off, depending on the device.
Wearables

Our favorite fitness trackers make it fun to keep moving

Looking for your first fitness tracker, or an upgrade to the one you're already wearing? There are plenty of the wrist-worn gadgets available. Here are our picks for the best fitness trackers available right now.
Wearables

The best Wear OS watches

There are a ton of different Wear OS watches out there, but which one's right for you? No matter what you're looking for from a smartwatch, here are the best Wear OS watches out there.
Deals

The best Apple Watch deals for December 2018

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.