Mobvoi is primarily known in China for its voice assistant and search service, Chumenwenwen, which is used in apps like WeChat. Android Wear smartwatches in China have been using this technology because Google and its services are blocked by the Chinese government — it is why it is one of the first Chinese companies Google has backed since it left the country in 2010.
Last year, the company released the Ticwatch 2, which ran a proprietary operating system called Ticwear. The new Ticwatch E and Ticwatch S, short for Express and Sport, run Android Wear 2.0 instead. The reason for the change? Apps.
“Our international community has helped us in improving Ticwear a lot.”
“Our international community has helped us in improving Ticwear a lot, but one of the critical value add for them is a stronger ecosystem,” Ying Zhou, business director at Mobvoi, told Digital Trends. “After deliberating internally, we recognize that — especially with the overseas market — we should understand our position in the overall ecosystem and contribute to it instead of replicating or competing with it. That’s why we decided to switch to Android Wear: To provide a better ecosystem to the user, but also keep our own apps like fitness apps and the music player, and contribute to the Android Wear ecosystem as a strong choice.”
It is difficult for small companies to provide a robust mobile ecosystem without supported apps — even big companies have had poor luck, like Microsoft with Windows Mobile, or Samsung’s Tizen. Android and iOS are the reigning platforms and it is tough to convince a developer to port an app to an operating system that does not have a large user base.
Zhou said the Ticwatch E and S are more like a Ticwatch 2.5, rather than the Ticwatch 3. Apart from having unique designs and dimensions, both the Express and Sport have almost the same internal specifications. They are powered by MediaTek’s MT2601 processor, have a 1.4-inch OLED display, 300mAh battery, 512MB of RAM, as well as 4GB of internal storage. They each pack a heart-rate monitor, proximity sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, and have an IP67 water-resistance rating. There is only one button and it is on the left of the watch case.
So what are the differences? The 45mm Ticwatch S GPS is “slightly more accurate,” because it is embedded in the silicone band itself. That means you can only swap out bands with the 44mm Ticwatch E. Visually, the two look quite different. The Ticwatch E has a transparent plastic cover over the watch case, whereas the Ticwatch S looks more sporty and rugged.
Both devices will come with Mobvoi’s apps pre-installed and you will get native Android Wear features like Google Assistant. Sadly, the watches do not have NFC so you will not be able to use Android Pay.
Regardless, the real spotlight is the price tag. Mobvoi is offering pre-orders on Kickstarter, where the early-bird price will start at $100. The retail price for the Ticwatch E is $160 and the Ticwatch S will cost $200. Early-bird pricing aside, the retail price makes the two watches some of the most affordable Android Wear smartwatches on the market.