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, but the TicWatch 2 is different. Hitting US soil for the first time this September, Mobvoi has confirmed to Wareable that it will be "priced south of $200", with reports over at XDA Developers suggesting that early birds will be able to pick up a TicWatch 2 Global edition for just $100 (while stock lasts) when it goes on sale via Kickstarter on July 26.
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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.
The Chinese version of the TicWatch 2, which was designed by Frog, featured an eSIM for 3G connectivity, but we understand that the technology won't make it to the global version. However, it will have GPS built-in, making the TicWatch 2 one of the more sports friendly devices on the market.
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.
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.
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.
TicWatch 2 also keeps a full record of all notifications, which aren't dismissed like Android Wear and the Apple Watch. 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.
The TicWatch 2 is going to hit KickStarter on 26 July, reportedly with an early bird price of $100, although that's unconfirmed. Our understanding is that TicWatch 2s should ship by late September. Until the Kickstarter goes live you can join the closed Facebook group.