The smartwatch market may not be the next big thing as many hoped it would be, but that isn’t stopping countless smaller companies from trying to take a piece of the pie. The latest effort comes from a Chinese company called Mobvoi and is an Android-based smartwatch complete with its own proprietary software and voice assistant. The Ticwatch 2 is launching through a Kickstarter campaign today and is expected to hit retail availability in the US and Europe this fall. The starting price for backers is under $100.
The Ticwatch 2 originally debuted in China earlier this year and follows the original Ticwatch that launched last year. Though it runs an Android-based operating system, the Ticwatch 2 is not an Android Wear watch. Its software is called Ticwear and has a custom user interface and voice-controlled assistant that is independent from Google’s voice assistant. The Ticwear interface shares a number of traits with Android Wear, including long-presses and swiping gestures for navigation.
The watch’s hardware is understated, but it includes most of the features you’d expect in a smartwatch. It has a fully circular, always-on OLED display, heart rate sensor and step tracking, GPS tracking, quick release 20mm straps, and a metal frame. It has a button on one side and the unfortunately named "Tickle" touch-sensitive strip on the other. The touch strip can be used for scrolling or zooming without obstructing the view of the screen, much like the Apple Watch’s Digital Crown. There is also a built-in speaker for taking phone calls, audible alerts, or text-to-speech dictation. Battery life is expected to be a full day and the watch charges through a magnetic pad.
The Ticwatch 2 is compatible with iOS and Android devices, though it will have more capabilities when paired to an Android phone. On both platforms it can display notifications, send replies to incoming messages, control music playback on the phone, perform voice searches, and track physical activity. Android owners will be able to install third-party apps to the device and Mobvoi says the watch will have a compatibility mode to support Android Wear apps and watchfaces.
The key piece of technology in the Ticwatch is the voice-controlled assistant. Mobvoi developed the assistant on its own and it can be used to perform web searches, call Ubers, look up nearby restaurants, reply to messages, create reminders and calendar appointments, and more. Like Siri and Google’s voice assistant, it can be activated by a voice command (the fairly awkward "Ok Tico") or a swipe from the left side of the watchface. It uses a natural language interface and Mobvoi says its capabilities will be expanded over time.
The Ticwatch 2 will be available in four color options, including silicone, leather, and metal link bands. The retail prices are expected to be between $200 and $300, but the Kickstarter campaign will offer the entry level version for under $100. Mobvoi says it will be shipping devices to backers in September with retail availability to follow shortly after that.