TicWatch C2 review: An (almost) perfect Pixel Watch blueprint

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It’s taken just over two years for China’s Mobvoi — ostensibly an AI company — to cement its place as one of the hottest smartwatch makers on the planet.

From ultra-affordable Wear OS watches to innovative, high-end wearables, Mobvoi’s TicWatch range boasts some of the best smartwatches money can buy.

That’s why I was really excited to try out the latest member of the TicWatch family, the TicWatch C2.

Intended to fill a niche between the fully kitted out TicWatch Pro and the more affordable and only recently announced TicWatch S2 and E2, the TicWatch C2 also has a legacy to live up to as the follow-up to the TicWatch Classic (aka the “tickleable” TicWatch 2), the first watch from the brand to reach a global market.

Can the TicWatch C2 live up to the brand’s growing reputation for delivering the best Wear OS smartwatches? Find out in our Mobvoi TicWatch C2 review!

Mobvoi TicWatch C2 review notes: I’ve been using the TicWatch C2 (model WG12036) as my main smartwatch for just under a month, running Wear OS 2.2 based on Android 8.0 Oreo. The watch was connected to a Google Pixel 2 XL for the first two weeks. I switched to a Pixel 3 XL for the remainder of the review.

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Design

TicWatch C2 review design

Pitched as a perfect blend of sleek, premium style and an elite smartwatch with all the best Wear OS features, the TicWatch C2 certainly achieves the former thanks to its stainless steel finish and unfussy design.

The C2 comes in three color options: black, platinum, and rose gold. I tested the black variant for this review, which is undoubtedly the least ostentatious of the three. I also handled the other two briefly at the C2’s launch in London.

While the silver and black models are identical aside from the finish, the rose gold variant sports a curvier look with rounded physical buttons, softer edges, and brings the display almost flush with the surrounding bezel.

The TicWatch C2 is a stunning timepiece that oozes class.

The rose gold version is also thinner than the black and platinum models, coming in at just 12.8mm thick. Mobvoi says the rose gold model is built for slimmer wrists, but you only have to look at its advertising to see that it wants the variant to appeal to women.

While catering to different builds is worth applauding — especially as smartwatches tend to be quite bulky — that the thinner version is only available in a shade of pink is a little cynical. I’m sure there are plenty of women (or anyone with thinner wrists, for that matter) who would prefer a thinner smartwatch with a more traditionally gender-neutral color option.

The underside of the TicWatch C2 ditches the steel in favor of plastic, but it blends in well enough to not spoil the aesthetic. Here you’ll also find the heart rate sensor and magnetic charger contacts. The heart rate sensor juts out more than I’d like, and it leaves a mark on your wrist, but it never caused me any discomfort, even during or after exercising.

TicWatch C2 review heart rate monitor

The physical buttons sit on the right side of the watch, with a microphone in between for Google Assistant voice commands. You’ll have to live with verbal responses coming only from your phone, as unlike the TicWatch Pro, the C2 doesn’t have a speaker.

You also don’t get a fancy rotating crown like you’d find on the Skagen Falster 2, but the two hardware buttons are nice and tactile and compliment the touchscreen controls. You can also remap the lower button, but I’ll get more into that in the software section.

One thing I don’t particularly like is the large orange dot engraved into the center of the top button as it sticks out like a sore thumb when viewing the watch from the right side.

I also wasn’t completely sold on the included watch straps. Despite “genuine leather” being embossed on the underside, the straps have a very plastic feel. This eased a little after a few weeks with the watch, but they still don’t quite match the quality of the watch itself.

The black and platinum models have 20mm straps, while the pink gold version has 18mm straps. Mobvoi sells silicon straps (say that fast ten times!) compatible with the two thicker models, but if you like metal straps you’re currently fresh out of luck.

While I have a few nitpicks here and there with the TicWatch C2’s design, in general this is a stunning timepiece. It’s incredibly comfortable, subtle enough to suit any outfit or occasion, and oozes class.

Hardware and performance

TicWatch C2 review Google Assistant

Regardless of which model you buy, the TicWatch C2 sports a 1.3-inch AMOLED display with a 360 x 360 resolution.

This is pretty standard stuff for modern smartwatches at this point, but the C2’s AMOLED display still impresses with deep blacks and bold, contrasting white text and vibrant colored icons. The high contrast AMOLED panel also ensures viewing angles are great even in direct sunlight.

The most significant hardware downgrade is that the C2 lacks of the Pro’s celebrated dual-display technology. Without the Pro’s secondary FSTN LCD display, your only options are an always-on watch face outline or a completely black screen when the watch isn’t awake. Inevitably, this has a huge impact on battery life.

The 400mAh battery inside the C2 is, again, pretty standard for a smartwatch of this size.

The most I managed to squeeze out of the cell was two days on a single charge with very light usage (only occasionally checking incoming notifications), and with the always-on display and constant heart rate monitoring switched off.

When used more frequently with those settings on, the C2 usually makes it through around a day and a half. If you take it for a long morning run or a lengthy gym session, you might end up reaching for the charger that same night. Generally, however, the C2 offers decent, if unremarkable battery life that can’t hold a candle to the TicWatch Pro’s maximum of 30 days on a single charge.

Other notable hardware features include NFC support for Google Pay, GPS/GLONASS/Beidou location tracking, and 4GB storage and 512MB RAM. The C2 is also IP68 rated for splash- and sweat-proofing, but you absolutely shouldn’t take it for a swim.

All in all, it’s a nicely kitted out Wear OS device that ticks all the right boxes — with one notable exception.

Despite Qualcomm having finally released a new flagship smartwatch platform — the Snapdragon Wear 3100 — the TicWatch C2 is powered by the ubiquitous Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset, which at time of writing is a month away from its third birthday.

A three year old chipset is powering a flagship smartwatch in 2019.

The TicWatch C2 suffers from lag when first booted up and occasionally when using apps (especially third-party apps). On the whole, this isn’t something you’ll notice for swiping away notifications, skipping tracks on Spotify, tracking your workouts, or anything in regular day-to-day use.

However, Wear OS has evolved by leaps and bounds in the past year, and there’s always the risk the next major software update will have a much larger impact on performance. When buying any modern tech product, it’s often best to mitigate the threat of obsolescence by seeking the most up-to-date hardware possible. Unfortunately, the C2 can’t quite deliver that.

It should be noted, however, there are valid concerns that even Qualcomm’s latest wearable SoC doesn’t stack up to wearable chips from Samsung, Apple, or even Fitbit.

Related: Withings Move and Move ECG hands-on

Ignoring ultra-premium options like the $1,000 Montblanc Summit 2 and Louis Vuitton’s latest, the only other Snapdragon Wear 3100-powered smartwatch to hit the market so far is the $255 Fossil Sport, and reviews have suggested the processing leap isn’t drastic enough to deliver a significant boost to either battery life or performance.

There’s every possibility Mobvoi made the right call here to keep the C2’s price down. That said, it’s still worth bearing in mind that a three year old chipset is powering a flagship smartwatch in 2019.

Software and fitness tracking

TicWatch C2 review Wear OS

Prior to strapping the TicWatch C2 onto my wrist, I hadn’t actually taken Google’s recent Wear OS redesign for a spin. Considering how much I didn’t care for Google’s OS in its original Android Wear guise, I wasn’t expecting miracles, and while it’s still far from perfect, I was blown away by just how much Wear OS (now in V.2.2) brings to the table.

Swipes and taps now take you directly to the most important features like notifications, quick settings, and Google Assistant. Much like Google’s launcher on Pixel phones, the search giant’s digital butler almost forms the core of the Wear OS experience, acting as both a voice assistant and a go-to feed with all your appointments and reminders available at a quick glance.

If you’ve tried out Wear OS 2.2 you already know all of this, but it’s worth highlighting how streamlined and “pure” the OS experience feels on the TicWatch C2. If you took away the TicWatch-branded watch faces and Mobvoi’s four pre-loaded fitness-focused apps, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally stumbled upon a some kind of Google Pixel Watch prototype.

Related: 10 best Wear OS watch faces

This might be a bit of a turn-off if you like your watches jam-packed with extra software features, but there’s not much you can’t find on the Play Store. All the basics are here, including Google Pay, so you won’t have to fumble around for your card or phone when buying your groceries or on the subway.

The only other giveaway that this isn’t a Google-made product is the lower physical button and the swipe left gesture, both of which take you straight to Mobvoi’s TicHealth app instead of the new and improved Google Fit like other Wear OS devices. Not only can you remap the physical button to whatever app you like in Settings > Personalization, you can also toggle between Google Fit and TicHealth as your default tracker by long pressing after swiping to the left — an option only recently added to TicWatch’s smartwatch range.

While you can ignore it completely in favor of Google Fit, the TicHealth app is clearly intended to act as the C2’s main fitness app. TicHealth links directly into the Health Center inside the Mobvoi smartphone app, but it hasn’t improved much since our other TicWatch reviews. It’s designed to cater for TicWatch users and Mobvoi’s wider smart home range, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s really there to peddle ads.

Thankfully, you can forget the smartphone app even exists as all of the crucial fitness data can be accessed directly on the watch. Visually the TicHealth app is very Apple-esque, with simple diagrams and a circular, color-coded chart used for tracking your daily steps, workouts, and active hours. You can also set step goals and goal or activity reminders, which if you’re like me are great nudges to get you off your backside every now and again.

There are three other pre-installed TicWatch health-centric apps that link into TicHealth — TicExercise, TicPulse, and TicRanking.

TicExercise helps you track your distance, heart rate, speed, and more, for outdoor runs, outdoor walks, indoor runs, and cycling presets. If you want more granular results you’ll need the Health Center in Mobvoi’s phone app, but generally there’s enough in the watch app to monitor your workouts. Of course, if you’re more of a dedicated fitness buff, there are plenty of other Wear OS-compatible health apps available on the Play Store.

TicWatch C2 review Mobvoi app on Pixel 3 XL

TicPlus, meanwhile, links in with the heart rate monitor. You can set it to track your heart rate over 24 hours for better overall results, but it impacts the C2’s battery life. The heart data is also compatible with Google Fit, Runkeeper, and Strava.

Finally, TicRanking pits you against other TicWatch users in your nearby area as you compete to gain the highest step count. As with the rest of Mobvoi’s app suite, there are plenty of privacy prompts to avoid sharing any data without your permission.

Mobvoi has promised the TicMotion features of the TicWatch E2 and S2 will also be come to the C2 and the rest of its Snapdragon Wear 2100-powered wearables in the future.

Price and the competition

TicWatch C2 review watch face

I really like the TicWatch C2 — so much that I’m still wearing it while writing this review, long after I’ve finished testing it.

If Google doesn’t have a “Pixel Watch” waiting in the wings already, I suggest it looks to the C2 for inspiration.

The fittingly “classic” design, extensive list of hardware features, and the clean software experience remind me a lot of Motorola’s short-lived, but much-loved Moto 360 series — simple, stylish, and timeless (pun intended). It’s also priced perfectly at $199 (179 pounds if you’re in the U.K., like me), making it one of the best value Wear OS smartwatches on the market.

There are a handful of lingering quibbles, however.

The TicWatch Pro’s dual-display is such a killer feature and it’s hard to argue its not worth the extra $50.

The aging Snapdragon chipset is still a concern. In spite of the agonizingly slow adoption of Qualcomm’s latest wearable platform and its reported diminishing returns, the C2’s processor is so long in the tooth at this point that you can see it dangling out of the horse’s mouth.

If Google doesn’t have a ‘Pixel Watch’ waiting in the wings, the C2 would make a mighty fine blueprint.

Seemingly every Wear OS smartwatch debuted at CES 2019 is sticking with the Snapdragon Wear 2100, so the fragmentation issue isn’t going away any time soon.

Unfortunately for the TicWatch C2, Wear OS isn’t the only player in town. The Apple Watch Series 4 is far and away the best smartwatch money can buy. For Android phone users, the Samsung’s Exynos/Tizen OS-powered Galaxy Watch still has the edge.

In the land of Wear OS, however, Mobvoi’s TicWatch brand is currently the undisputed king, and the TicWatch C2 is a more than worthy addition to its burgeoning royal family.


What do you make of the TicWatch C2? Do you still prefer the TicWatch Pro, or are you waiting for the E2 and S2? Let us know in the comments.

via Android Authority

January 13, 2019 at 03:30AM