Proper smartwatches are expensive. But if you're in the market for one that runs on Google's Wear OS and don't want to break the bank, we usually point people in the direction of Mobvoi's Ticwatches. The TicWatch E2 once again fits that profile.
The Ticwatch E and S launched on Kickstarter in 2018 and marked the first time the Chinese company ditched its own OS for Google's. The affordable smartwatches focused on health and fitness tracking, and while the watch duo didn't deliver perfectly on all of those sports-centric features, they did enough in our eyes to make them two of the best Wear smartwatches you could get your hands on.
Wareable verdict: Ticwatch S2 review
The E impressed us a little more than the S, particularly for the price. With the arrival of the E2, Mobvoi's affordable smartwatch is now better equipped for more of your sports and fitness tracking needs. And the big news here is that we finally get a waterproof design, making it fit to jump in the swimming pool with. It also brings swim tracking features to give you more reason to get into the water.
Mobvoi says it's also improved battery life performance, so the E2 should last around one to two days depending on usage. Crucially, it's still really cheap for a proper smartwatch. The E2 will cost you $159.99 ‚Äď the same price as the E ‚Äď making it comfortably one of the cheapest Wear smartwatches you can buy.
So does Mobvoi still offer great value for money with its latest sporty smartwatch? I've been running, swimming and using it day-to-day to find out. Here's my full verdict on the TicWatch E2.
Ticwatch E2: Design and comfort
Before I get into its sports tracking abilities and those general smartwatch features, let's talk design. This is a smartwatch that doesn't do high-grade materials, but that's not to say this is a cheap or tacky watch to wear. It's all polycarbonate with a 22mm interchangeable strap completing its sporty, durable look. It's not the most exciting to look at and only comes in black. It's a safe design to go for and despite the plastic, it does at least feel like a well made watch, and it's comfortable to wear.
Essential reading: Wear OS apps to download first
It's jumped up in size though, moving up from a 44mm case to a 46mm one, but it's the thickness of E2 that really stands out. It measures in at almost 13mm thick, which is about the same as the E. But if you've lived with Fossil's latest Wear watches, which pack in a lot of the same features as the E2, you can appreciate that others have managed to make these feature-packed smartwatches slimmer. It's hard not to notice that bulky exterior.
What does stand out for the right reasons is the display. It's a lovely 1.39-inch, 400 x 400 AMOLED display and it's a beaut in terms of quality. It's sharp, vibrant and offers strong visibility in and out of the water. Speaking of water, the E2 carries a 5ATM rating, which means you can take it for a dip at up to 50 metres depth. One aesthetic change worth noting is the solitary physical button. The E had one as well, but bizarrely placed it on the left hand side of the watch bezel. Now it's over on the right, which just makes a lot more sense.
Bottom line, the E2 isn't a massive departure from the E from a looks point of view. If you liked the look of the original and don't mind a bit of a chunky watch to wear, then you'll probably like living with the E2 too.
Ticwatch E2: Wear OS and Tic apps
So this is a Wear OS smartwatch of course, and running Wear OS 2.2 at the time of writing. Google's Wear OS H update hasn't landed yet, but will be rolling out imminently, I'm told. Everything is in normal working order here, from notification support (the feature I used the most) to the new more gesture-centric user interface, with apps like Google Fit and the Play Store on board.
It's all very familiar here and thankfully it's smartwatch software that is improving, but still leaves room for improvement. There is one notable Wear OS feature missing in action though and that's Google Pay. If you want this smartwatch to make payments, you're sadly out of luck.
As with most watches running Wear these days, Mobvoi does include some of its own apps to accompany Google's standard selection. Once you've gone through the pretty standard pairing process with the Wear OS companion smartphone app, you'll need to download the TicHealth app to your phone to make use of those software extras. These are TicHealth, which is an Apple Watch-esque Activity Rings way of monitoring your fitness tracking progress throughout the day, and TicExercise, which will let you track running (indoors and outdoors), cycling, walking, freestyle workouts and now swimming.
Unlike a lot of software extras you find Wear smartwatch makers throwing in the mix with Wear, it does feel like the ones on the TicWatch E2 add value to the experience. Mobvoi's own watch faces to a lesser extent, but TicHealth is well optimised for that round display, TicExercise makes it easy to get your sports tracking up and running while TicRanking and TicPulse apps are nice additions too.
Ticwatch E2: Sports tracking
If you're hoping you can put the TicWatch E2 into the same sporty smartwatch bracket as the Apple Watch Series 4 or something like the Fitbit Ionic and save yourself some money, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed.
While it does manage to make room for a heart rate monitor, built-in GPS and swim tracking to match those pricier smartwatches, the experience of using them is not quite the same.
GPS accuracy compared: TicWatch E2 (left and centre) and Garmin Forerunner 935 (right)
Take the GPS performance, which does offer the full suite of satellite support, something you wouldn't find with a lot of running watches at this price. It's rapid at picking up a signal ‚Äď quicker on most occasions compared to the Garmin Forerunner I was testing it against, in fact. For shorter runs, say 5k or 4-5 miles, the GPS accuracy seems fine. As soon as you start to crank up the mileage, the inaccuracies start to creep in. I started to see around 700-750 metres difference in what the E2 was recording compared to the Garmin Forerunner 935 I tested it against.
The experience reminds me a lot of what I found with the GPS tracking on Fossil's 4th Gen Wear watches and Tag Heuer's smartwatches. It's going to be good for a short run, but when you start thinking about big miles, you might be left disappointed. One thing worth mentioning is that you do have Google Fit, Runkeeper and Strava support here so your data can live in those popular third-party apps too.
Heart rate tracking compared: TicWatch E2 (left) and Garmin HR chest strap (right)
As for the heart rate monitor, I didn't have high hopes, especially when the monitor on the E offered a middling performance. On-the-spot readings are generally okay, but were often 4-5 BPM out from the Garmin chest strap I wore to compare it against. When it comes to putting it to the test for workouts, I pulled out a screenshot of a sample run where I mixed up the intensity levels. For starters, the average heart rate was 10 BPM higher than the chest strap, while max HR was significantly higher too.
GPS and heart rate monitoring were already features Mobvoi included on the E. The headline feature here is the waterproofing, which also brings swim tracking. Tracking a swimming session is done from the TicExercise app where you can simply select your pool swim. There's no open water option, so this is all about the indoor action. Once you've picked your pool length (25m or 50m), you also have the option to start tracking or a set a target amount of laps, workout duration, calorie burn and distance. Then you've got a three second countdown before the watch starts tracking.
Swim tracking compared: Ticwatch E2 (left and centre) and Garmin Forerunner 935 (right)
From the display you can see distance, laps and an additional screen that shows time per 25/50 metre lap and calorie burn. When you need to end a session you swipe the screen to call it a day. The experience of using it in the water is an interesting one. Without that physical button enabling you to navigate through screens you need to use the touchscreen and that can be tricky in the water. In fact just the slightest bit of water on the display causes problems, and meant I had issues getting a swim tracking session started. During your swim the screen is locked, so if you want to see that additional data screen, you'll need to unlock it (by pressing the button) first and that can make things a little bit fiddly.
On the more positive side, the screen makes it very easy to view progress in the water ‚Äď more so than the Garmin I was testing it against. The workout summary is nicely presented on the watch as well, giving you a quick breakdown of the session. From an accuracy point of view, it's a similar story to what I found with running. Keep those sessions short and it's fine, with plenty of interesting data to dig into. Put in bigger sessions (40 minutes and above) and I started to see a bigger difference in distance and lap counts. It's a shame really, because I'm a big fan of the way Mobvoi presents data on the watch and inside its companion app.
TicWatch E2: Battery life
The E2 doesn‚Äôt pack the new battery-optimising tech on offer through Qualcomm‚Äôs Snapdragon 3100 processor. In spite of that, Mobvoi claims you should get improved battery life compared to what it delivered on the TicWatch E. It‚Äôs now packing a 415mAh battery, which should give you between 1-2 days on a single charge depending on usage. Based on my experience, 2 days is optimistic, even when you‚Äôre not putting its sports tracking features to good use.
I generally managed around a day and a half, inching into two days if I didn't use the additional sensors like GPS or heart rate, or have the screen on always-on mode. In terms of GPS battery drop-off, over an hour of running knocked the battery by about 25% from 100% charged. A 30 minute swim was around 15%. If you‚Äôre serious about your sports tracking, you‚Äôre not going to get mammoth stamina levels here, but that‚Äôs entirely to be expected when you consider the price and power-sapping features like that screen and those sensors.
- Feature packed
- Comfortable to wear
- Great screen
- Tic software complements Wear OS
- Sports tracking iffy for long sessions
- Still on chunky side
- Battery life still just okay
- Another physical button would be handy