Mobvoi’s Journey from China to a Global Ticwatch 2
Article Updated: 7/14 11:30am CT
It’s no mystery that Google has faced its own challenges in China; but an alternative to their apps was bound to happen. Mobvoi was founded by a former Google employee in 2012 to bring some of the solutions available outside of China into the country.
First it worked on a voice search engine for WeChat, China’s largest messaging applications in 2013. Later that year they released an independent app based on voice search called Chumenwenwen. In 2014 they went beyond apps and released a custom version of Android for smartwatches called Ticwear. Since Google Apps are not available in China, they offered their voice search engine and apps popular in China such as WeChat.
In late 2014 they partnered with Frog Design on their next goal – a smartwatch built truly for the Chinese consumer. It took until June of 2015 when they launched the equivalent of a Kickstarter for the Ticwatch. Their hopes were to reach approximately $15,000 USD in purchases. Individual levels started as low as approximately $150 USD to purchase a Ticwatch. The result was astounding – the goal was shattered within days of launching. With over $1.2 million USD and over 15,000 backers, the Ticwatch has been the most successful smartwatch ever in China. A strategic partnership with Android Wear last year was influential to the Moto 360 launching in China with Mobvoi apps in place of blocked apps by Google. Google even took the unusual step of investing in Mobvoi in 2015 — the amount was never disclosed but has been defined as a minority stake.
As news made their way out of China, Mobvoi received requests from Ticwatch fans outside of China to make it global. After all, who wouldn’t want to see a $160 smartwatch bring a challenger to the market? Translation is obviously part of it but does very little good if the translations are not tested and practical to the users. So in April they put out the call on Facebook for 100 testers who would help test Ticwear’s upcoming English support. When I found out about this I was naturally interested. I applied and was accepted into the program, receiving the original Ticwatch about 10 days later. (Contributor’s Note: I disclosed to Mobvoi in advance that I would may want to write about the Ticwatch during the interview process for potential testers but no guarantee was given to do so.)
During the past 3 months, I and others have been offering feedback to the Mobvoi engineers to help better tune in that translation effort to make sure what releases is both stable and easy to use for English users. The feedback has been great, not only in the UI but also general functionality. Mobvoi’s voice search engine is still a work in progress — it can do functions like tell the weather and start a phone call, but sometimes may send to a search engine instead of a different answer. Because the Ticwatch doesn’t come with Google Apps it is paired with a companion application. This companion app helps set some of the more common settings for Mobvoi’s apps such as locations and health information on the wearer. In the companion app is also an interface to the Mobvoi app store that houses different watch faces and applications, which at the moment is still highly tailored to the Chinese market. Mobvoi has mentioned in discussions that they are considering reaching out to developers to try and help expand the market by inviting apps into their app store.
All of this will culminate in the global launch of the Ticwatch 2. While it launched last month in China, Mobvoi will do the global release via Kickstarter, currently estimated to begin on July
19th 26th (updated earlier today by Mobvoi). Four models have been already announced from the Chinese lineup: An all-white or all-black sports model with silicon strap; an-all black model with a steel strap; and a silver watch with a brown leather strap. Mobvoi’s Sixuan Gong has asked that if anyone is interested in finding out more prior to the Kickstarter launch to join their Global launch page on Facebook. They have also provided the specifications and sample photos of the models slated for global release, which are included below for your viewing pleasure. And while the levels have not yet been confirmed for the Kickstarter campaign Mobvoi has confirmed that there will be a level offered under $100.
I have reached out to Mobvoi for a possible Q&A at the time of the global launch. If it happens we will be happy to include that along with the details of the Ticwatch 2 global launch once it appears on Kickstarter.
Ticwatch 2 (Global) Specifications:
- Screen: 1.4″/36mm OLED display, 287 ppi
- Processor: MediaTek MT2601, 2 cores @ 1.2GHz
- Memory: 512MB RAM, 4GB Storage
- Communication: Bluetooth v4.1 (low power), 802.11 b/g/n
- Sensors: Dynamic optical heart rate sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, GLONASS/GPS
- Other H/W: Linear motors, anti-noise mic, speakers
- Waterproofing: IP65 rating
- Strap: 20mm (width)
- Battery: 300mAh with TiCharge enabled (allowing for full charge in about 1.3 hours)
- Tickle Strip hidden under the shell. This is apparently different from the side location of the original Ticwatch.
Ticwatch 2 (Global) Sample Photos:
So what do you think about the Ticwatch? At an estimated $160 USD would this get your interest? Feel free to continue the discussion by commenting below!