A mysterious smartwatch with features you didn’t expect

Nov 30, 2018 10:00 GMT  ·  By  ·  Comment  · 
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Ticwatch Pro
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   Ticwatch Pro

If you clicked this review, you either know what Tickwatch is or you’re simply interested in smartwatches and just want to know everything about the devices that are currently up for grabs.

No matter the case, there’s a lot to discover in this review because [spoiler alert] the Ticwatch Pro is quite a capable smartwatch that comes with features you totally didn’t expect at this price point. But let’s take everything one at a time to see what this is all about.

First, some context. If you’ve never heard of Ticwatch, here’s a quick rundown of how it came to be. The device is made by a company called Mobvoi and based in China. Originally focused on voice recognition software and AI technology, Mobvoi expanded to hardware that could run on such technology.

The company includes all kinds of experts that previously worked for tech giants like Google, Nokia, Yahoo, Tencent, and others. So their products are based on the know-how of engineers that have an impressive experience in the tech field, which means devices like Ticwatch are at least worth a chance.

The Ticwatch Pro isn’t the first smartwatch of the company, but it’s the first to introduce a series of innovations like the display that we’re going to detail in just a minute.

This smartwatch is available for quite an affordable price as compared to the other high-end products on the market in this particular category, as it can be yours from online retailers like Amazon for just $249.

Ticwatch Pro

Mobvoi claims the Ticwatch Pro is first and foremost a “premium smartwatch.” So despite the rather small price, you should still expect a compelling feature package that makes sense on a high-end device.

At the same time, the company also promises stunning battery life, though its claim is at least questionable. The Ticwatch Pro should provide “2-30 days of battery life on a single charge,” as per Mobvoi’s very own words.

The design of the watch is totally unexpected. The first Ticwatch I reviewed lacked the premium touches of high-end product, but as it turns out, the company has learned from its past mistakes and improved the attention to details that it offers during the manufacturing process.

The Ticwatch Pro comes with a rather large case, and for me, this is quite a drawback. I have small hands, so having a 45mm watch on my wrist all the time not only that looks awkward, but also feels painful at certain times. Don’t get me wrong. The Ticwatch Pro isn’t a heavy smartwatch, but I think it makes more sense on larger hands than mine.

The premium touch that Mobvoi promised can be observed right from the case. The company used materials that you don’t normally see on a smartwatch, like carbon fiber reinforced with high strength nylon. This makes the device overall super tough and durable, and that’s definitely a good thing when combined with the IP68 rating. It’s worth knowing, however, that taking this watch for a swim isn’t recommended.

Ticwatch Pro

And then, it continues with the straps. The watch comes with what is being described as a hybrid leather strap, which is actually a mix of leather and silicone. If this sounds awkward, it’s because it really is, as the strap uses leather on the outside and silicon on the inside.

However, the whole idea, and I must say from the very beginning that I’m impressed with it, is that you can use the same strap for both everyday wearing and workouts. The silicone is comfortable and breathable, which makes it right for exercising, while the leather looks good with both a casual outfit or with a suit. Smart.

Ticwatch Pro comes with a 1.39-inch display that features a resolution of 400x400 pixels and which once again uses an approach that you don’t see too often.

The Chinese parent company has turned to a mix of two different screens with the final goal of offering high-quality graphics with uncompromised battery life. To do this, they implemented a layer-based system with an AMOLED screen inside and an LCD screen at the top. The AMOLED panel only lights up when you wake up the device, otherwise you only see its LCD sibling that shows only the essential data and has a lower impact on the battery life.

Depending on the used display, the Ticwatch Pro offers two different modes. First, it’s the smart mode, which relies mostly on the AMOLED screen and which offers somewhere between 2 and 5 days of battery life per charge. And second, it’s the Essential mode that is focused on fitness and displays basic info with high sunlight readability, boosting battery life up to 30 days per charge.

Ticwatch Pro

It all sounds good on paper, but let’s dissect this approach a little bit and see what it’s all about.

First and foremost, if you’re here for a truly capable smartwatch, the AMOLED screen is just wow. It looks stunning, colors are really vivid depending on the brightness level you configure, touch is very responsive despite the additional LCD layer on top of it, and it actually offers good visibility in direct sunlight too.

Needless to say, the more you use it, the faster the battery life goes down. This display also lets you customize your watch with additional faces from the store.

On the other hand, the LCD screen, whose full name is Film compensated Super Twisted Nematic (FSTN) LCD display, is there to offer up to 30 days per charge ONLY if you use it exclusively. This means that the second you remove the watch from the charger you also manually enable the Essential mode, thus use only the LCD screen. Otherwise, this mode is turned on automatically when you are running out of battery, and you thus get some extra five days of battery life in addition to two to three when running in the smart mode.

So overall, the Ticwatch Pro offers approximately 7 days per charge, which is impressive for a modern smartwatch anyway.

The LCD screen offers only essential information like the time, date, steps, and heart rate, and Mobvoi says this is specifically optimized for fitness. I think tracking your workouts, however, require many more statistics, but for those who aren’t necessarily into heavy exercising, that should be quite fine.

Getting back to the 415 mAh battery, Mobvoi decided to go the same way as nearly every other smartwatch maker out there and offer a charging mode based on a dock. This is inconvenient, to say the least, as you have to carry this dock with you wherever you go. The charging process doesn’t take more than two hours, and while for many this is fast enough, I really feel the need for a fast charge mode too.

Ticwatch Pro

Despite the small price, the Ticwatch Pro comes with impressive hardware, and it includes an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a magnetic sensor, a heart rate sensor on the back, an ambient light sensor that helps adjust brightness and turn off the AMOLED screen when not needed, and a low latency off-body sensor.

Plus, it comes with Bluetooth 4.2 for connecting to your phone, but also with Wi-Fi support, which is just awesome for software updates. This means new firmware doesn’t have to be downloaded through the mobile companion app, but directly using a wireless Internet connection.

And speaking of mobile apps, while you can sync your data with Google Fit thanks to wearOS integration, Ticwatch also requires you to download the other companion apps, which offer rather basic fitness tracking. This is one of the areas that the company needs to focus on heavily for future-generation products, as at this point, this is among the most basic solutions in the wearables market.

You can track steps, burned calories, heart rate activity, and other similar data, but you won’t get an in-depth look at more advanced details, despite the hardware is there.

Living proof that when it comes to software this device isn’t the most advanced is the way calls are handled. While you can actually answer a phone call using the smartwatch, it’s automatically routed to the phone, so you’ll have to use your phone to talk to whoever is calling. Despite the device coming with a microphone and a speaker, which at a technical level, makes this possible.

Thanks to wearOS, which is the rebranded Android Wear operating system, you get all kinds of software gimmicks like Google Play and support for Google Assistant, so you can perform a series of tasks wirelessly without even touching the device. This once again shows that Mobvoi has a long experience in the AI field, and Ticwatch Pro makes full use of it.

Ticwatch Pro

WearOS also opens the door to a long list of applications that can be installed on the watch, a plethora of faces, plus advanced notification support, though it goes saying that Android is required on your phone to be able to interact with your apps, respond to notifications, send messages and other things like that.

The device runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip paired with 512MB RAM. This is one of the most advanced processors for wearables right now, and this once again makes the watch pretty impressive given its low price. You also receive 4GB storage for music if you want to listen to your favorite tunes when running without the need for a smartphone. And thanks to GPS support, it can route your workout, and then sync all the data to your mobile phone.

The device currently lacks LTE support, which means it’s not completely independent from a mobile phone, but Mobvoi could release an upgraded version of the watch, though I think the company would rather go for a completely new model with such capabilities.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Ticwatch Pro isn’t the typical smartwatch that you can buy right now, but at the same time, it’s not an Apple Watch killer either. And above all, it’s not a watch for everyone.

I think Mobvoi has tried to offer a little bit of everything while at the same time scoring extra in terms of innovations with the mixed display technology and the hybrid straps.

But in this effort to achieve such a goal, the company has also neglected other areas like fitness tracking, which although may not be everyone’s cup of tea with such a large device, it is something that is supported on the device with a rather base implementation.

The overall design of the watch also makes it a device that’s not suitable for all hands, though I must admit that it does boast a premium design. And that’s totally impressive given the $249 price tag.

But when it comes to features, almost everything is powered by wearOS and Mobvoi’s experience in the AI business. The sensor arsenal and the innovative approaches mentioned above make it one of the most powerful devices in the smartwatch market, but on the other hand, it’s not among the most capable.

This is because it still leaves some things to be desired, and hopefully, the parent company would continue improving the software side of this device.

Right now, it’s pretty clear the company is heading in the right direction. And with a little bit more attention to feedback, because I’m pretty sure it receives lots of suggestions on its products, Mobvoi can eventually compete with the big guys.

Without a doubt, it doesn’t have the marketing resources of large companies like Apple and Samsung, but offering a compelling feature package is often the best way to stand out from the crowd. And this is what Mobvoi is doing right now.

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