TicWatch S2 Review
The TicWatch S2 is a feature-packed smartwatch that is, unfortunately, held back by its outdated hardware and poorly optimized software. It is a usable watch but is surely not the most optimal Wear OS experience.
Please note, we purchased the TicWatch S2 on mobvoi.com on 03/04/2021, click here to check the current price on the S2.
|✅ Wear OS platform gives plenty of features||❌ Wear OS Bugs and Sluggish Software Performance|
|✅ Durable Design||❌ Lack of speaker for Phone Calls and Google Assistant Response|
|✅ Good Health and Fitness Tracking Features||❌ Short Battery Life|
Wear OS smartwatches have lots of functionalities and are the closest thing that you will get to a miniature Android device. But with its feature-set and advanced internal components, these watches do not come cheap.
However, Mobvoi is attempting to recreate the Wear OS experience at a budget price point with the TicWatch S2. This watch promises to be affordable without sacrificing essential features.
Their pitch is great and their track record suggests that they are the company that can present innovation at any price point.
But with that said, there are lots of challenges with creating a budget Wear OS watch. Google’s platform has lots of well-known issues.
Even the higher-end and better spec’d TicWatch C2+ that we recently reviewed was not perfect when it came to the execution of its software.
So with these challenges, can the TicWatch S2 rise above and be the gateway for entry-level users to the world of Wear OS? Keep reading to find out.
Mobvoi TicWatch Brand Overview
Mobvoi Information Technology Company Limited is a tech company based in Beijing, China. They were founded in 2012 by Google AI experts, Nokia employees, and researchers from top universities such as Harvard and Cambridge. The primary goal of this company is the integration and advancement of voice AI communication.
Some of their revolutionary products include voice search engines featured on WeChat. Mobvoi has also developed its own voice search app engine called Chumenwenwen.
It was in 2014 when Mobvoi started venturing into the consumer electronics market. They developed an Android-based smartwatch operating system called TicWear OS. And soon after, they worked together with Frog Design to release the TicWatch.
The TicWatch brand differentiated itself from other smartwatches by having a strong integration with their AI technology. Its launch was very successful and only trails behind the Apple Watch in the domestic Chinese market.
Today, Mobvoi continues to bring their expertise to the smartwatch market with the newer versions of the TicWatch. And with each new iteration, TicWatch gets one step closer to fulfilling its dream of ushering in the next generation of human and computer interaction.
Learn more about Mobvoi in our full TicWatch Brand Review.
Packaging & Accessories
One of the first things that we check in a smartwatch is its packaging. This doesn’t affect the performance of the watch, but it shows how committed the manufacturer is in presenting their products to the customers. This is one area where Mobvoi always seems to deliver regardless of the price.
The TicWatch S2’s box is small and compact. It has all the details, such as the specs on the sides, and has a very nice image of the watch on the front. The unboxing is rather straightforward, but the presentation is very impressive since it mimics that of a premium wristwatch.
The design language of the packaging is very consistent with other models such as the TicWatch E2 and TicWatch GTX. This means that Mobvoi has a clear vision of how they want to design their products. And for the S2’s case, it immediately made us excited to test out the product.
Design and Build Quality
The TicWatch S2 is well built but does not seem to hold up with the other budget smartwatches
The TicWatch S2 is very similar to the TicWatch E2 in terms of its design and build quality. It has an all-black design and is mostly made of polycarbonate material. But compared to the TicWatch E2, the S2 has a bulkier and more rugged design that is more optimized for sports.
The materials used allow the TicWatch S2 to be light and comfortable. It isn’t as light as the smaller TicWatch C2+. However, we did not have any problems with casually using the watch or with outdoor activities.
The immediate tradeoff of the materials used is the look and feel. The TicWatrch E2 feels less premium than competing watches that use materials such as aluminum. This makes the watch feel more like a piece of tech rather than a fashion accessory. And while some may be fine with that, we believe that smartwatches should look as good as they perform.
The TicWatch E2 does try to add some flair to its design by incorporating some engravings on the bezel. The effect is very subtle and helps keep the low profile look of the watch. However, the execution still isn’t as good as competing watches such as the Huawei Watch GT 2.
In terms of durability, Mobvoi promotes the S2 as having a US Military Standard 810G rating. And while it does feel sturdy, it still does not feel as durable as reliable as Mobvois’ higher-end watches. In fact, other budget watches that use both aluminum and plastic feel more reliable than the TicWatch S2.
In terms of its button layout, the TicWatch S2 only features a single low profile button. This feels like a misstep, especially for a fitness-focused watch. Having only one button means you are missing an assignable button for different health and fitness apps.
Of course, there are alternative ways to access these apps, such as the Google Assistant. However, this is still not a reliable way, and we will tell you why once we get to the software performance of the watch.
Overall, the design and build quality of the TicWatch S2 did not impress us. It does not have any major flaws that make the watch unusable. However, compared to competing watches such as the Huawei Watch GT 2 and GT 2e, the TicWatch S2 doesn’t seem to stack up.
It is almost as if Mobvoi was trying to keep the price of the TicWatch S2 as low as possible. And unfortunately, this means that the TicWatch S2 won’t physically give a similar experience to its flagship watches.
The TicWatch S2’s display is sharp and vibrant and is easily one of its best features.
Despite its less exciting build quality, the TicWatch S2 has a great display. It is equipped with a high-quality AMOLED display that is capable of displaying sharp and vibrant images.
Throughout our testing, the TicWatch S2 can get very bright and can easily be seen both indoors and in bright outdoor environments. The image quality displayed on the S2 was great and compliments the well-designed icons of Wear OS.
Additionally, the TicWatch S2 utilizes Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for its glass protection. This ensures that the TicWatch S2’s screen can be used without the fear of scuffs, scratches, or even shattering.
In terms of its size and resolution, the TicWatch S2 has a 1.39” display with a screen resolution of 400×400 pixels. It is wide enough to fit Google Wear OS elements. Custom watch faces also looked great on this screen, and small widgets and details could be easily seen.
The TicWatch S2 is one of the most feature-packed budget watches
Being a Wear OS watch makes the TicWatch S2 a step above its competitors when it comes to its features. At the time of writing this review, the TicWatch S2 is running the latest version of Wear OS (Wear OS 2.25). This gives it compatibility with most apps on the Play Store as well as optimizations from Google.
The first noteworthy feature of the TicWatch S2 is its notification support. Of course, almost all modern smartwatches can do this. However, most watches’ notification support isn’t as good as Google’s approach.
Notifications from different apps are sorted together and are easy to access and clear. Additionally, the TicWatch S2 can reply to messages using different input options such as your voice, the onscreen keyboard, or your handwriting.
The TicWatch S2 also covers most of the basic smartwatch essentials. Weather updates, reminders, and news can be easily accessed and customized. And, of course, all of these can be easily controlled using the Google Assistant.
However, it should be noted that you have to manually read the Google Assistant’s responses since the TicWatch S2 does not feature a loudspeaker. This also means that you cannot make or answer phone calls which can be a deal-breaker for some.
Another great feature of the TicWatch S2 is app installations via the Google Play Store. This is very similar to Android smartphones, where you can install third-party apps that can either change the Wear OS experience through a custom launcher and custom gestures or add unique functionalities such as “Drink Water Reminder.”
The app selections are great, and we satisfied most of our needs. The only major downsides with the TicWatch S2’s feature set are the lack of an automatic sleep tracking app and the lack of NFC.
The lack of a sleep tracking app isn’t Mobvoi’s fault since all Wear OS watches are lacking this feature. Mobvoi has made the TicSleep app as an alternative. However, TicSleep is currently not supported on the TicWatch S2. There are alternatives found on the Play Store, but we did not find one that worked automatically and flawlessly.
NFC, on the other hand, is only available with Mobvoi’s more premium watches, such as the TicWatch C2+ and TicWatch Pro 3.
Health and Fitness Tracking
The TicWatch S2’s health and fitness tracking features are also very impressive. The preinstalled apps from Mobvoi and Google are well designed and competes well with the Health and Fitness tracking implementation from other companies. Right out of the box, you get Google’s Google Fit and TicWatch’s TicHealth and TicExercise.
Both apps have similar features and offer similar performance. We tested both with activities such as indoor cycling and running, and the statistics and other data retrieved were fairly consistent. The GPS was also quick to lock in my location and worked flawlessly.
Additionally, both apps feature a huge range of workout activities. Anything from common exercises to sports and other specific exercises can be found here. The only real difference between these two apps is the user interface.
Mobvoi has opted to use a more traditional approach when displaying health stats. TicHealth shows your active hours, steps, calories burnt, heart rate, etc., and also gives you the ability to set your goals.
Google Health, on the other hand, shows your stats as heart points. This condenses the information to help you understand your stats easier.
The graphics used makes the UI very similar to a video game which can surely appeal to non-fitness enthusiasts. Additionally, Google Health offers additional relaxation exercises such as breathing exercises which are also added to your heart points.
One thing to note is that you have to use the TicHealth App to get continuous heart rate monitoring. Google’s heart rate monitoring app requires manual activation.
Since you can alternate between Google and TicWatch apps, this normally wouldn’t be an issue. However, since these apps do not share data, this can become a bit annoying.
Additionally, both apps require separate accounts. This makes a lot of sense for the security of your personal data. However, it can become a tedious process for users who have never used TicWatch’s services.
Both apps lack workout routines or a workout coach to guide and help you achieve your goals. However, the Play Store has some great alternatives, such as Fitify.
Overall, the TicWatch S2 has an impressive feature set that makes it almost like a miniature Android smartphone. However, it is in the execution of these features where the TicWatch S2 fumbles.
TicWatch S2 Software Performance
The TicWatch S2 is held back by its outdated processor and poor software optimization
Despite having a very impressive feature list, the TicWatch S2 has a hard time implementing them. This is due to a combination of outdated hardware and poorly optimized software.
The TicWatch S2 is using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 2100 processor that was first introduced in 2016. Mobvoi insists on using this chipset and still uses them for more expensive models such as the TicWatch C2+ and TicWatch Pro 2020.
As seen on our TicWatch C2+ review, the Snapdragon 2100 was still able to perform well. But in this case, the TicWatch S2 is only utilizing 512 MB of RAM. This greatly affects its performance and creates a very negative user experience.
When we first opened the TicWatch S2 and prepared it for the setup process, the S2’s lackluster performance was already very apparent. The watch was encountering lots of freezes and slowdowns.
The S2’s performance did get better after updating and setting up the device. However, the performance was not always smooth and became more sluggish once we populated it with apps. It is usable but definitely not enjoyable.
Navigating the UI worked most of the time. However, there were lots of instances where the UI became laggy and unresponsive. This was very annoying, especially when trying to check the notifications or quickly trying to launch apps.
And speaking of apps, opening them was also quite slow. This was apparent with third-party apps such as A/D Watch Faces. These apps with lots of customization options were very demanding, and the TicWatch S2 simply couldn’t keep up.
Additionally, opening the Play Store was very slow. And sometimes, it even crashes.
And to add up to the list of issues, key features such as the Google Assistant do not work consistently. Sometimes, the Google Assistant will not correctly register commands. And in some instances, the Google Assistant can altogether stop working.
In contrast, other watches that we have reviewed, such as the Huawei Watch GT 2 and GT 2e, had more reliable software. Sure, they don’t have voice commands, app installations, or any other fancy features. But at least they work consistently, which is very crucial for emergency situations.
There are ways to potentially speed up the Wear OS experience. You can go to developer options to adjust animations. However, we believe that a good product should be ready to go out of the box and should not need user modifications to make it usable.
Overall, the TicWatch S2’s Wear OS implementation is a big letdown and is not very enjoyable to use.
Wear OS Smartphone App
In terms of its companion app, the TicWatch S2 uses the Wear OS app. You do not need any other apps from Mobvoi to set up the S2.
The Wear OS app is fairly basic. You can change your watch face, customize tiles, change notification settings and agenda settings. You also get more advanced functionalities such as checking the storage and battery of the watch and modify behavior such as always-on display and tilt to wake.
Having these settings on the smartphone app is very helpful, especially since navigating the settings of the TicWatch S2 is very sluggish. Overall, the Wear OS is easy to use and has everything you need to set up the watch.
Aside from its software performance, the other major downside of the TicWatch S2 is its battery life. Again, this isn’t Mobvoi’s fault since Wear OS watches aren’t particularly well-known for their battery life.
Mobvoi claims that the TicWatch S2 could last up to two days. While this is possible, we could only last up to a day while using most of the features. Using the essential mode can prolong the watch’s life. However, we think that defeats the purpose of this watch.
The magnetic charger that comes with the TicWatch S2 isn’t great either. The charger’s cable is non-detachable, meaning that you have to carry the whole charger around with you if you were to go on a road trip.
If you hate having another device that needs to be recharged daily, the TicWatch S2 will probably not cut it for you.
The TicWatch S2 was very promising given how many features it had. However, we simply had a hard time enjoying it due to its lackluster software performance. It felt as if Mobvoi made too many compromises in the wrong areas.
If Mobvoi disabled features and optimized the software experience out of the box (instead of having to do it manually via the developer options), then maybe the TicWatch S2 would have better performance.
Or maybe if Mobvoi spent more time in making sure the aesthetics were on point, then this would be a more competitive watch.
But as it stands, it feels like Mobvoi just wanted to have a budget Wear OS watch and did not mind if it was competitive with other offerings in that price point.
If you want to try if the Wear OS platform suits your lifestyle, then feel free to give this a go.
However, if you want a smoother experience with fewer lags, slowdowns, and freezes, we highly advise going straight to Mobvoi’s flagship TicWatch Pro 3.
And if you have a more limited budget, watches such as the Huawei Watch GT 2 and Huawei Watch GT 2e outperform the TicWatch S2 both in terms of aesthetics and software experience.