Ticwatch E2 and S2 are imperfect but likable mid-range smartwatches
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Ticwatch E2 and S2 are imperfect but likable mid-range smartwatches

Coming up with a definitive smartwatch recommendation for people who use Android phones is tough. No matter which device you choose, you're making a compromise somewhere. Samsung and Fitbit for example make great watches that some will find a bit too constricted, while Google's inconsistent approach to its WearOS software can make many devices based on it hit and miss.

My current advice is last year's TicWatch Pro, from Chinese company Mobvoi, which boasts good performance and excellent battery life despite some clunky additions to WearOS. It's a competent fitness tracker, it looks great and its innovative layered screen lets you see info on a basic LCD to save juice. The biggest downside is that you're looking at around $350 to own one.

You can save a bit of money by going for the "classic" Ticwatch — the latest version of which is the $300 C2, which keeps the good looks but drops the battery-saving screen — but the latest models are even more affordable.

The Ticwatch S2 and E2 are essentially the same watch, but the S2 is a bit hardier.

The Ticwatch S2 and E2 are essentially the same watch, but the S2 is a bit hardier.

There's a lot to like about the $240 Ticwatch E2 and $280 S2 (for "express" and "sport" respectively), and the only difference between them is that the more expensive S2 is built a bit more rugged for outdoorsy types. But there are some compromises to consider too.

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Both are quite thick at 12.9mm and have a very plastic feel, looking somewhere between a nice watch and a dedicated fitness tracker. Mobvoi's built-in watch faces are very nice and customisable, which is great given what a slog it is to get more from Google's store.

The watches come with GPS and a heart-rate monitor, and unlike the C2 and Pro they're designed so track swimming as well as your less aquatic exercise. The downside is that, unlike the C2, these do not support contactless payments. The battery struggles to make it to two full days, meaning they like an overnight charge and so aren't great for sleep tracking.

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Unlike Android, WearOS doesn't feel like software that scales especially well to lower-powered devices. I found it quite laggy on these two watches, and I had unusual gaps in my Google Fit record where it doesn't seem like they were keeping track of my activity. If I manually started an activity, like jogging for example, they worked just fine, but left to their own devices performance was spotty.

And speaking of activity tracking, these watches follow their predecessors by including Mobvoi's own suite of fitness apps, which mirror the functionality of Google's. It's an annoying double-up that makes managing your data annoying, and I'm sure it can't help the watches' performance.

Overall the Ticwatch E2 is barebones smartwatch at a great price, if you can deal with the occasional hiccup, and could be perfect if you're not going to work your watch too hard and just want notifications on your wrist and some light fitness tracking. An additional $40 for military grade durability seems reasonable if you're into that sort of thing, but if you don't need the protection of the swim-tracking you might consider the C2 or even the Pro instead.

Tim is the editor of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald technology sections.

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