Hands on: Ticwatch S2 review

A rugged, yet cost-effective, smartwatch

What is a hands on review?
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Early Verdict

A rugged-looking smartwatch that promises to stand up to whatever you throw at it, and keep chugging along with your fitness regime.

For

  • Clean design
  • Bright screen

Against

  • A little on the chunky side
  • Not all features live yet

We’ve already seen the Ticwatch E2, but it was joined at CES 2019 by the Ticwatch S2, a more rugged version of the device.

While packing many of the same internals (OK, all of them) the exterior of the S2 is more rugged-looking, and it’s also just been approved as US military-grade robust, so you can tumble down a mountain and it’ll just be your bones that break… not your smartwatch.

While more expensive than the Ticwatch E2, the S2 still remains pretty cost-effective (if the price lands as we expect). These aren’t smartwatches that necessarily re-invent Google’s Wear OS, but they still impress.

Ticwatch S2 price and release date

The Ticwatch S launched at $199 / £178, and that was already an appealing price for the tech on your wrist. While we don't have final numbers, we're expecting the Ticwatch S2 price to be roughly equivalent.

The release date hasn't been set yet, but given these watches feel pretty finished we're not expecting it to be too much longer before they'll be gracing wrists.

Design

The Ticwatch S2 features some pretty nifty design tweaks to help it feel rugged without being too overbearing on the wrist - although it's a little larger than a standard watch, thanks to the larger 415mAh battery packed inside.

The button on the side, used for commanding the app list on the watch, is wider and more ridged to find easily with wet hands.

The slippery digits element is important, as the Ticwatch S2 is 5ATM-rated, meaning you'll be able to splash around in the pool or the sea to your heart's content without the watch giving up the ghost.

On the rear we've got a heart rate monitor that will be able to tell you how hard your ticker is going, as well as monitor your efforts during exercise.

The raised bezel on the Ticwatch S2 does tell a more rugged about this smartwatch, making it look more sporty, but it feels largely aesthetic.

If this is your first smartwatch, then you'll probably struggle with the additional depth initially - but thankfully it's not too heavy.

Features

It's clear that the Ticwatch S2 is a watch for the fitness buff, as while it's got the same Wear OS platform many have come to expect from a Google-powered smartwatch, it's also got some clever tech on top from Mobvoi.

There's the pre-requisite GPS on board, and also SWOLF tracking to make sure you know how hard you're working when swimming or playing golf. Or both at the same time... do what you want, we're not judging you.

The 1.39-inch OLED screen is clear and bright and shouldn't suffer in direct sunlight - we found it easy to scoot through the menus and open Google Fit with a simple swipe.

The new range of Ticwatches will offer more features than previous models, with automatic exercise and sleep detection up there as the most useful.

Actually, they're the only things (apart from SWOLF) that will launch as new on the watch, with things like fall detection, gesture control and personalized workouts coming in the future.

In our limited time with the smartwatch, we couldn't really test the full breadth of new features on the Ticwatch S2 - but we found that the combination of Google Assistant and Fit offered a lot of what we wanted.

However, we're hoping that the range of features that Mobvoi has added on will make this a cut above the rest of the smartwatch market, as there's still a slight apathy to what a watch like this can do beyond acting as as second screen.

Early verdict

Some people dream of a new smartwatch that will change their life in some way - but that misses the point of the tech.

The Ticwatch S2 is impressive because of its combination of high-end tech and lower price (if it does appear as we think) - and while it won't change your life, some of the new features (controlling a drone with gestures, anyone?) could be cool.

We really feel the need to test this new smartwatch properly before we can properly give it a verdict though - it could be really cool and continue in the 'great value' category we expect from Mobvoi, but we can't say that for certain just yet.

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What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.