With a market flooded with smartwatches at every price imaginable, it has become hard to discern between a cost-effective option that gives you the functionality you need, versus a gimmicky, cheap product that ends up frustrating you more than helping you, but our recent test session with the new TicWatch GTH showed us that you can get value for money entry-level options. Our Marketing Director, Roxanne Martin, put the watch to the test.
When it comes to smartwatches, I have tested and played with quite a few, from all the big sports brands, so I have a fair idea of what to look for when a new one lands on my desk. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the TicWatch GTH, because its price of R1999 points to it being very much entry-level, but sometimes one can be pleasantly surprised.
The Setting Up Ritual
It doesn’t matter who you are, first impressions last, and there is always an element of judgement when you receive a new product. Taking the box out of the plastic courier bag and seeing it for the first time plays a big part in forming your initial opinion, and in a review piece these things matter, so here’s what I thought:
- The first thing you see is an image of the watch on the front of the pull-over sleeve around the box. It is sleek-looking, all in black, exuding style, and you actually feel like you are unboxing something that costs a whole lot more. Turning the box over, the printed info gives you your first glimpse into how many features this watch offers, and the promise of 11 key features had me intrigued. Would it live up to the initial excitement?
- Next was the unboxing… simple and understated, the watch immediately stood out, square face, slightly bigger than the iWatch. The black strap means it is versatile and can be worn with a large variety of colours, but it doesn’t fade into the background, it commands attention and stands proud. I was impressed.
- Taking it out the box, I was surprised that it was so light, and when you put it on, the only way you know you are wearing anything is when you look down and actually see it on your wrist.
I immediately started setting the watch up, which proved to be really simple. In fact, this was probably the most straight-forward smartwatch I have ever set up. Turning it on, a QR code appeared on the screen, which I scanned on my phone. That took me to the app, which I downloaded and synced the watch to my phone. I was seriously impressed with this, because I have an iPhone, and this step usually requires some form of admin, as not all systems are compatible with apple, but this watch made it all smooth, quick, and easy. I was set up and ready to go in less than a minute. The only little tweak needed was syncing it to apple health and Strava… because, you know, Vitality goals are important!
Features and More Features
I love versatility, and this TicWatch GTH offers a lot. For starters, you can measure your temperature, and I was really keen to test this feature, as we have all had the experience of thermometers at a shop entrance that tell us we are actually dead. I mean, 32 degrees Celsius would mean I was close to rigor mortis, but I digress… The watch is also waterproof, which I find handy, as you can go about your daily life without worrying about it getting wet – a real saver when you want something you can wear all day.
It also has the ability to measure your SpO2 (saturation of peripheral oxygen) level, which in layman’s terms means it can measure the oxygen level in your blood. Why is this important? Well, with the global COVID-19 pandemic, people infected with the virus need to monitor this level closely, because when it drops below 80% it usually signals the need for hospitalisation and to be put on oxygen. As a result, every community WhatsApp group and their aunty is selling oximeters now, but with this watch, you won’t need that, because it has you covered. I just happened to have a doctor’s appointment for the dreaded winter flu a few days later, and when she tested my SpO2 level, I asked if we could compare it with the watch, and the good news is that the watch matched her measurement. So, in my books, that is quite handy!
The watch monitors your heart rate (HR) to give insight into your stress levels, and your sleep, so in terms of health it gives you an overall picture of how you are doing. I wore it for a week, and compared with my current watch, it was pretty accurate in what it told me. It gives you time of sleep, if you woke up, deep sleep versus light sleep, so a good overall picture. In today’s world, it’s important to be able to monitor these things, as anxiety has never been higher, and sleep poorer, so by being able to monitor those aspects of your daily life, you are able to identify potential problem areas, and better yet, give your doctor accurate information that can go a long way to treating you for anxiety and sleep problems!
Time to Get Sweaty!
Gym and exercise have changed a lot since we went into the lockdown period, with many of us following exercise regimes online, as our ‘normal’ just wasn’t available. That has seen us using digital platforms such as Zwift, for instance, which offers both running and cycling as disciplines. I only use the cycling element on Zwift, and it is a good way to test a sports watch, as I can see my HR on screen via a HR strap and compare how accurate the TicWatch GTH is. So, the watch and I got on to the indoor trainer and began riding.
With all watches that I have tested, I have found that it takes a few minutes to read the HR correctly, as wrist measuring seems to need a bit of moisture to get it reading correctly, and it was no different here. The one negative on the first go was that it did take longer than normal to give a reading, but the simple trick of wetting my wrist with a little water and then putting the watch back on sorted that out.
My first workout with the watch was tackling a dreaded interval session, and the watch tracked the ups and downs accurately. Offering 14 workout modes, it gives you a wide choice – whether you are running, walking, cycling, swimming, or hiking, it has you covered. However, as it does not offer GPS tracking, I was more interested in the heart rate monitoring… but saying that, as soon as it picks up that you are elevating your HR, it asks if you want to start a workout, and running after my almost-four-year-old son ‘earned’ me a few such notifications! So, if you’re like me and sometimes need a reminder to put work aside and hand the energetic toddler to Dad for a while so that can get in your daily workout, this watch will do it for you!
Now, for me, there is something that I have to have when I work out, and that is music. This watch is great for that, giving you the ability to skip tracks, stop and play, etc. It actually synced seamlessly with my iPhone in that regard, which was an important tick in its favour from me. Lastly, the important question about battery life, and here again I was impressed. I tested it for a full week, and the battery lasted the entire time. It requires a somewhat lengthy charge time of two hours, but since you will only be doing that once a week, it won’t impact much on your workout time.
Things They Could Improve
No product will be perfect for every user, and I found a few small things I did not enjoy. For starters, the font for the messages was a bit hard to read when doing quick looks, and the watch face reactiveness wasn’t always great – sometimes I would have to turn the watch towards my face a few times before it finally woke up, whereas it would sometimes light up at inopportune moments, like when I was asleep and turned over. Suddenly a bright light would shine up from my wrist, causing my light-sleeping husband to mumble a few choice words in my direction. Apparently, he doesn’t enjoy discussing the features of smart watches in the early hours of the morning…
I also had a few issues syncing to Discovery, but to be fair to the watch, I think that is more down to the Discovery app and the maze of trying to connect apps, and not the watch itself. Lastly, getting back to the watch face, I just found that there were way too many options. I acknowledge that this is very much a personal preference, but I would say in this regard that less is more… because I am indecisive at the best of times, and giving me a million options isn’t always a kindness!
You Can Get It Here
At R1999, the TicWatch GTH comes in at a really great price point for the features that it offers, and I would highly recommend it for someone looking to get their first smart watch, and who wants something that offers sport features and all the cool gadgets that we need in our modern lifestyle. You can get the watch at a Vodacom store, or order it through Takealot, Agent Zero or TechnoMobi.