These new Android Wear watches start at under $100
Last year, Mobvoi, a Chinese voice assistant company, brought its Ticwatch 2 smartwatch to Kickstarter. For a $99 starting price the watch was a good deal, but the catch was it ran Mobvoi's own version of Android, and Mobvoi's own voice assistant. After polling its users to see what they would prefer, and, just as importantly, proving to Google that it can actually make and sell watches, Mobvoi has licensed Android Wear for its two new Ticwatch models: Ticwatch S and Ticwatch E.
The only real technical difference between S and E is the location of the GPS antenna: the more expensive S "Sport" model has the antenna built into the watch band for better tracking, while the E "Express" model has traditional replaceable straps and GPS built into the watch body.
I got to try on both models, and found my wrists are too thick for the Ticwatch S. Portions of the strap are rigid and at a set angle, so the watch body was lifted up off my wrist. On a very small wrist the same feature means the watch band flares away from the wrist before wrapping around. So, I don't know, maybe check to see if you have an average-sized wrist before buying this model.
The materials of the Ticwatch S do look and feel a little more premium than the cheaper E model, but I like how minimal the E version is. It's not trying to hide the fact that it's a smartwatch. Also, it fits on my wrist. The S model is also a bit heavier, at 45.5 grams, versus the E's 41.5 grams.
Software-wise, Ticwatch is going for the best of both worlds. It has ported nearly all of its Android software over to Android Wear. For instance, you can use Mobvoi's Tic Fit software if you prefer it to Google Fit for some reason, and Mobvoi's music player can play music offline after transferring it from your iOS or Android phone over Bluetooth. But despite the additions, the watch is fully compatible with Google Play and all things Android Wear 2.0.
The watches each have a 1.4-inch OLED display at 287 ppi, Bluetooth 4.1 (including Bluetooth Low Energy), 802.11n Wi-Fi, GPS, heart rate sensors, and a 300mAh battery. They're IP67 rated, so they’re not ideal for swimming. To keep the price down, neither watch has the "tickle strip" the Ticwatch 2 had for scrolling.
Of course, now that Ticwatch is running regular Android Wear, the biggest differentiator is price: the Ticwatch E starts at $99 for the "Super Early Bird" fast movers on Kickstarter, and will go for $159 at retail. The Ticwatch S starts at $119 and will be available for $199 when it hits the market. Mobvoi plans to ship to early backers by October, which is aggressive for a traditional Kickstarter but the chipset in here is very standard and the company has successfully shipped before. ■