Mobvoi TicWatch E Review

  • Battery: 300mAh
  • 1.2GHz dual-core
  • Processor: MediaTek MT2601 1.2GHz dual-core
  • Screen: OLED 1.4in (400x400px, 287ppi)
  • RAM: 512Mb
  • ROM: 4Gb
  • Bluetooth: 4.1
  • WiFi: 802.11 b/g/n
  • Sensors: GPS, heart-rate monitor, proximity sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass
  • Size: 44mm wide, 13.55mm thick
  • Waterproofing: IP67 (splashproof, swimming not recommended)
A close up image of the TicWatch E showing a watchface
There are plenty of watch faces to choose from. I like this simple style, which can be customized to show the exact information you need.

Originally launched in late 2017, Mobvoi’s TicWatch E is an entry level Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) smartwatch which represented the brand’s first major push into western markets. Although clearly a budget model, with basic design, the TicWatch E nevertheless provided buyers with a real smartwatch experience at an affordable price.

I first bought mine because, although I liked the idea of a smartwatch, I didn’t really know whether I would find one genuinely useful in day-to-day life, so I was happy to find a model that enabled me to try living with a smartwatch for a while without having to spend a lot of money. I used mine for a year before I eventually decided that I would use a smartwatch enough to make it worth buying a more upmarket model and upgraded to a TicWatch Pro 2020.

Design

Compared to more premium models, the TicWatch E looks very basic with its black polycarbonate case, single side-button, and silicon wristband. A white version is available, and you can change the wristband to a different style. One of the benefits of the resin case is that it’s lighter than metal cases, and you barely notice that it’s on your wrist.

Wear OS offers a random daily quote feature, which isn’t always as motivating as you might expect

If you’re the kind of person who likes wearing something impressive on their wrist, then you probably won’t like this, but personally I was always more interested in functionality than aesthetics and its looks never really bothered me.

To me, the TicWatch E always looked functional and understated. People never really noticed or commented on it, the watch just sat quietly on my wrist without demanding attention from the world. In this way it kind of reminded me of the old Casio digital watches I used to wear – they’re simple, robust, and effective, not showy. The TicWatch E has an almost military-style rugged utilitarianism about it.

There are a wide range of digital watch-faces you can use with this device, whether you prefer simple and minimalist, or you want to cram as much information as possible on the home-screen.

Screen

The touch-screen on this watch looks great. It’s a 400 by 400 pixel 1.4inch OLED display that’s perfectly bright and sharp, matching what you might expect to find on much more expensive devices.

The screen uses anti-scratch glass, and the case bezel rises just a little above its surface to protect it from knocks and drops. In a year of daily use I didn’t manage to damage it even slightly.

There are five brightness levels, the dimmest of which is only really visible in dark environments and is quite hard to see when you’re outdoors, even if it’s not particularly sunny, while the brightest is easily visible in all conditions.

You can choose between having the screen always-on, or only coming to life when the watch senses that you are looking at it – this is based on gesture control, so when the internal sensor detects you tilt your wrist up, the screen comes on for a short while, or you can turn it on manually by tapping it.

Some people like to use the always-on mode because it feels more convenient, but the downside is that battery life will suffer, especially at the brighter screen settings. Once you get used to the gesture control, you’ll find it easy to turn on the screen at the flick of a wrist and you’ll get much longer battery life.

Battery

Image Credit: Jess C

I found that I could usually get a full day of use from the TicWatch E, although I purchased an additional charging cable so that I could give the battery a top-up on my desk at work if I was going out in the evening and wanted to be sure it would last until beyond midnight.

With limited use and the screen brightness set low, you could probably keep the watch running for more than a day between charges, if you really needed to. But since you can fully charge the device in under an hour, I rarely found myself in a situation where it was necessary to stretch the battery life to its limits. If you really need a smartwatch that can last a couple of days or more on a single charge, there are newer models that offer this.

It’s supplied with a USB charging cable that simply clips magnetically to the back of the watch, and you can also buy a charging dock which neatly holds the watch in an upright position, and looks a bit smarter than the basic cable.

Fitness Features

One of the most popular uses for smartwatches is fitness tracking, and the TicWatch E offers the most commonly used features for that purpose. The built in heart rate sensor can be used either to take a one-off measurement of your pulse, or you can leave it on permanently to track your heartbeat throughout all of the day’s activity.

There’s also an internal GPS tracker, which can help track your runs, rides, and other outdoor adventures more accurately. The good news is that having a GPS built into the watch itself (rather than relying on being paired with a phone) means that if you don’t like to lug your phone around while you go for a run or cycle, you can just leave it behind and the watch will still track all the important data.

If GPS is an important feature for you, it’s worth considering the TicWatch S which is very similar to the E in terms of overall specification but has an improved GPS sensor built into the strap which, apparently, helps with accuracy. The S (for Sport) model costs slightly more, but not much.

Mobvoi provides its own fitness tracking app, which is perfectly functional, but if you prefer other apps such as Google Fit, Strava, Runkeeper, etc, it’s easy enough to switch to those instead. If you are working out while wearing this watch, the good news is that the case and silicon strap are very easy to clean.

The watch has an IP67 rating, which means it should be able to keep harmful dust out and it offers a limited degree of water resistance, stated as being able to survive up to 30 minutes under water of less than 1 meter depth. So, it can survive if you forget to take it off in the shower, or if you drop in in the bath-tub, but it’s not advisable to wear it during a swim, and especially not in salt-water.  

Connectivity

The TicWatch E uses BlueTooth v4.1 to connect to your phone (or headphones, if desired), as well as 802.11 b/g/n WiFi for connecting to the internet. It’s compatible with phones based on Android 4.3+ and IOS 8.0+

The watch also features a built in speaker and microphone, which you can use with Google’s voice assistant – I found this particularly useful when driving.

Operating System and Software

The TicWatch E was originally built on Google’s Android Wear smartwatch OS, and that system has since changed name to Wear OS, as well as being updated numerous times. When I first set up my watch and connected it to the internet, it automatically updated itself to the most recent compatible version of Wear OS.

As of February 2021, the most recent version that seems to be available for the TicWatch E is Wear OS 2.9. Although this was released in July 2019, it is still able to provide a modern and functional smartwatch experience for users, and performs well on the device.

Wear OS gives you access to a huge eco-system of apps, so whatever you want to do with your smartwatch, you’ll find some software to help. I specifically wanted a smartwatch to help me check notifications when I couldn’t access my phone – for example, where I live it’s illegal to use a phone when driving, even if you are not moving, so a smartwatch would enable me to quickly check messages while I was sitting at traffic lights without breaking the law. All of the popular messaging and social media platforms have smartwatch apps that worked perfectly well with my TicWatch E. And the voice assistant meant I could dictate replies without taking my hands off the wheel or eyes off the road.

I also find the Google Keep app very useful – this lets me write notes on my PC, and display them on my watch screen, which is useful for situations where I need to remember some important points without looking at my phone.

Hardware

The TicWatch E is based on the MediaTek MT2601 dual core processor, which is designed precisely for this kind of entry-level smartwatch application, with 512Mb of RAM (the memory used for actually running applications, rather than storage). For almost all every-day smartwatch use, you’ll find the device responsive and stable – most users are unlikely to spot any difference in performance between this and more high-end smartwatches. It can handle pretty much any job you might throw at it.

In terms of storage, there’s 4Gb of ROM, which is enough for plenty of apps and maybe a little audio if you want to keep some music or podcasts on the device – although most people will use this watch paired with a phone, so it’s unlikely they’ll want to keep media files on the watch itself.

Is it Still Worth Buying a TicWatch E?

There are a lot more modern smartwatches on the market these days, including the updated TicWatch E2, and other higher end models in the Mobvoi range. But the original TicWatch E remains a great option, offering a full Wear OS experience for a ridiculously low price.

It absolutely cannot be beaten in terms of value for money. New models are getting harder to find, but they’re still out there for around $100-150, or you can pick up a used one on eBay for $50-70. For that price you get a smartwatch that gives you most of the functionality of much more expensive devices.

The only other smartwatches in this price range are very poor-quality Apple Watch knock-offs, or low end devices that only offer limited fitness tracking capability without the full Wear OS application ecosystem. You can do a lot more with the TicWatch E, and it has proven reliability and performance.

If you want NFC (for Google Pay), a blood-oxygen monitor, multi-day battery life, or more storage memory, then it’s worth spending more money (the TicWatch Pro 3 is a great option) but if you can live without those things then this watch is a bargain. Especially if, like me, you’re not 100 percent certain that you even want a smartwatch and would rather not waste a ton of money while you make up your mind.  

What the Reviewers Said:

TechRadar

Score: 4.5 out of 5

“The Mobvoi Ticwatch E is for tech lovers itching for an affordable, well-built wearable that’s just oozing with features.”

Wareable

Score: 4 out of 5

“The Ticwatch E is an affordable and well-balanced Android Wear smartwatch, with enough of Mobvoi’s own flavours to help it stand out from the increasingly crowded family of Google watches.”

Tech Advisor

Score: 4 out of 5

“With solid performance and a cute (if chunky) design, this is one of the best value smartwatches around.”