The smartwatch world needs a budget powerhouse to emerge from China. The country has fuelled the fitness tracker market with the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 and given us a boggling array of decent smartphones – but the smartwatch world is still left wanting.
The simple truth is that most smartwatches are too expensive. Sure, there are some ageing bargains to be had if you're happy to wait for the end of the life cycle for a cheap smartwatch, but the Ticwatch 2 is different.
Hitting US soil for the first time this September for $199 following a barnstorming Kickstarter campaign that's raised in excess of $1.6 million, the Ticwatch 2 is a serious piece of hardware. We've got our hands on an early preview sample, so read on for our first impressions.
Big on specs
First there's the screen, easily the standout feature of the Ticwatch 2. A 400 x 400 OLED panel with a swashbuckling 287ppi, it's vibrant and bright, and the colourful TicWear 4.0 interface is certainly eye-catching.
And the eye-popping visuals don't make for a chunky watch. The build itself is one of the slimmest we've seen, and really no bulkier than most dumb analogue watches. As an ensemble, it's highly impressive.
Back to the look and feel of the Ticwatch 2, it features a brushed metal bezel, which looks fairly premium, even if that's not really translated through the feel of the device. The metal part of the bezel is merely a thin veneer,and ends halfway down the casing side, below which lies the Tickle strip – which enables you to control the smartwatch by stroking up and down with your finger.
Pre-installed apps include Dialer, Calendar, Health (including heart rate, steps etc), Fitness, Weather, Calculator, Stopwatch, Timer, Recorder, Alarm, Music control and Find My Phone. We assume the fitness app will use GPS for now, but it's not made it to the preview device we've played with.
Borrowed design cues
This is just one of the design cues that appear to have been taken from the Samsung Gear S2. The TicWear OS feels like a translation of Tizen, especially in the health and fitness features, with the bright orange icons and bold primary colours. The watch face selection screen is also a dead ringer for Android Wear, which has certainly been a massive influence.
There's a heart rate monitor built-in, and we've been told it's the latest generation of the same sensor used in the Apple Watch. It can measure your heart rate through the app, but continuous tracking isn't available.
TicWatch OS utilises what Mobvoi calls a 'cubic UI', featuring four screen swipes. Slide off to left for voice control and right for the apps list. Once in a menu, you can scroll using the Tickle panel, by sliding your finger up or down the right-hand side of the case. It's impressively smooth and akin to Samsung's rotating bezel both in usage and responsiveness.
For those who haven't heard of Mobvoi, the company's bread and butter is natural language search, and it's the lynchpin of the TicWatch. The company markets itself as "Google Now for China". Ironically Mobvoi is going to use Google's Voice API for its global version, but we got a quick demo and it looked pretty slick. Not only can you bark commands such as "find a restaurant nearby", when it locates one, it will add a card to your notifications list, so you can find it later.
This hasn't been working on our preview device so far, so there's certainly work to be done before the full device goes on sale.
Ticwatch 2 also keeps a full record of all notifications, which aren't dismissed like Android Wear and the Apple Watch. Notifications can be read in full, and are nicely displayed on the crisp screen, although they are a little slow to appear.
It's compatible with iOS and Android phones and will offer single-day battery life from a 300mAh cell, which isn't surprising given the brightness of the screen.
There's just hours left of the Kickstarter campaign. You can also join the Facebook group where Ticwatch staff are answering questions about the device.
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