- Solid and rugged construction
- Clear display and loud audio
- Excellent battery life from 5,200mAh battery
- Rear 'clock' display doesn't really add much to the overall package
- 60Hz refresh rate feels low-rent on a modern device
- Best as a work phone than a device for gaming or media consumption
- Cameras only work well in good light
Another niche phone review, and another phone from Unihertz – a company that specialises in producing anything but boring, basic, black slabs. This time it’s the dual screen TickTock-S.
Featuring a ruggedised shell, the latest smartphone from Unihertz could be mistaken for any other rugged smartphone, of which there are many. Unlike the massive power-monster TANK, this is a far more regular looking phone but still with a twist that you’ve come to expect from the brand.
The twist in this case is its rear display, which principally serves to tell the time (hence its round, clock-style, shape) but also doubles up as a secondary display for notifications, music player controls, and a viewfinder for the rear-mounted cameras.
Let’s see if this actually serves to offer a good experience in a sea of durable phones.
Design & Build
The TickTock-S feels extremely solid, with a mix of rubber and metal surrounding the phone. It’s IP68 rated, and there’s a large 6.53-inch display on the front, along with the secondary 360×360 pixel 1.3-inch touch-enabled display on the rear.
Up top is an Infrared transmitter, and on the left hand side – as with other Unihertz devices, two programmable shortcut keys that can perform six independent tasks (based on a single tap, double tap, and long hold).
There is also a toolbox app to offer many other functions, such as a noise meter, compass, torch, heart rate monitor, speedometer and more. There’s even an FM radio included, although I am not sure people are quite as enamoured with things like that these days.
The front display is an LCD display with a Full HD+ resolution (1080×2340 pixels) and it only has a 60Hz refresh rate. This can take a bit of adjustment if you’ve used phones with 90 or 120Hz displays. With some devices reaching 144Hz or even higher, the phone has to be marked down for this.
That said, acting as devil’s advocate for a moment, many people wanting a phone like this might be less worried about smooth scrolling than being able to make calls, text, email and use work-related applications in all conditions.
The phone also only has a single rear-firing speaker. While loud and fine for a conference call, this phone really isn’t for watching content or playing games.
The camera setup here is pretty simple. The main wide camera is a 64-megapixel sensor of unknown origin and with an aperture of f/2.8. There’s support for video stabilisation (electronic), which itself tops out at 1440p, but there’s no optical image stabilisation for stills.
To the other side of the rear display is a macro camera (2-megapixel) f.2.8, which can be accessed for stills or video within the main camera application.
There isn’t much to be said about either camera, other that they’re functional and perform eloquently enough in good light. Unihertz is yet to include a specific night mode on its camera app, so there’s no way to get a good quality image in the dark. You’ll either need to employ the bright LED flash, or find another way to light the environment.
Although I don’t know the manufacturer of the image sensor, I can’t help but feel there should be some scope to capture more light with a longer exposure, and perhaps using some of the power of the MediaTek Dimensity 700 SoC to reduce image noise.
Again, if the likely use cases are taking photos on a site, or sending non mission-critical photos on a Teams chat, the camera will do fine for both photos and video.
The 32-megapixel selfie camera on the front is okay, but a key feature of this phone is that secondary display to allow you to use the 64-megapixel camera instead. Flip the phone over, and you can use the rear display as a viewfinder and take photos with the superior camera.
All in all, the cameras aren’t particularly exciting and Unihertz does need to work on improving its camera application if it wants to make its devices more appealing to a wider audience.
The outer screen is a nice feature, but I’m not sure it brings that much to the table. You can choose in the settings what watch face you’d like to display, as well as how long you want the display to be active. You can enable it with a short tap of one of the shortcut keys, or a double tap on the display itself.
Alternatively you can choose to have it on all the time, but even with the sizeable 5,200mAh battery it will see you drop 1 or 2% per hour.
Scrolling through the different pages isn’t lightning quick but it works good enough for basic notifications, or controlling your music.
While it is clearly a design feature, it would have probably been fine to have put in a regular square or rectangular display that could have shown more useful information, and still had round watch faces if you wanted.
Features and Performance
Dimensity 700 is one of MediaTek’s entry-level chips to include 5G and dual-band Wi-Fi (which tops out at 433Mbps on 5GHz) so while the TickTock-S doesn’t offer a class leading performance, you do get a good, solid, battery life that will last two or three days with ease.
Charging tops out at 30W, but Unihertz does not include a power supply in the box. It’s a shame that Unihertz couldn’t include wireless charging support. The USB-C port is covered by a rubber flap so wireless charging would save messing around with cables even with a further drop in charging speed.
On the plus side, you won’t need to buy a case, which means that despite being bulkier for the rugged shell, it ends up little thicker than a normal phone put in a third-party rugged case.
The TickTock-S comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of non-expandable storage. 8GB of RAM is fine and storage wise, 256GB is ample too, especially if you’re not filling the phone up with large apps, games, or recording hours of video – all things you’re rather unlikely to be doing with this phone.
If combined with a cloud based storage service and a SIM with ample amounts of data (and 5G access) then you are better off storing most of your content off the device. For companies, this is quite likely the norm these days because however durable the phone is, if it gets lost or stolen then you’ll need that data securely backed up. The Dimensity 700 chip means backing up over mobile data or Wi-Fi is easy.
To keep data safe, the phone has an integrated fingerprint sensor on the side-mounted power button. It’s easy to register, and these are still one of the more reliable methods of unlocking compared to hit and miss in-glass readers on a lot of low to mid-range phones.
In conclusion, the TickTock-S is trying to offer something a bit different in the rugged market, but I am not sure Unihertz has quite hit the mark. While adding a large battery and 5G support is welcome, the overall package is a little bit forgettable.
I have however tried to review the device with a mind of the intended audience for the phone, and consider how my needs might be if I was using a phone in a hostile environment where I couldn’t afford to be without a working phone for any length of time. In this regard, the TickTock-S ticks all the boxes.
But the key question is, does the secondary display really help much? In my opinion, probably not. It’s nice enough and helps make the phone stand out, something Unihertz is so good at, but it doesn’t feel like something you’d miss. Indeed, to stretch the battery life out to the fullest, you may opt to disable it entirely.
The relatively low price of the TickTock-S might make this a phone you’d like to try though, as for the money it does have features that combine to offer a good and very affordable package overall for outdoor workers.
Pricing and Availability
The Unihertz TickTock-S is currently available for US$269.99 (approx £225 before shipping) and can be purchased on the Unihertz Website. Shipping will commence from the end of March 2023.
|Size/Weight||168.5 x 82.5 x 14.3mm|
|Screen||6.53-inch TFT LCD|
1080 x 2340 pixels
60Hz refresh rate
Panda MN228 Glass
|Audio||Mono (rear-firing) speaker|
|Chipset||MediaTek Dimensity 700 (up to 2.2GHz)|
|Camera (front)||32MP Fixed Focus|
|Camera (rear)||Primary: 64MP Autofocus|
Macro: 2MP Fixed Focus
Video: 1440p 30fps
|Connectivity||Dual band Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac)|
5G with VoLTE and VoWiFi
|Other||Dual 5g Nano SIM|
Side-mounted fingerprint sensor/power button
Two programmable shortcut keys (short press, long press & double press functions)
|Price||$269.99 (at time of publication)|