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Review: Unihertz TickTock 5G smartphone

The quirky $369 Unihertz TickTock is a great budget smartphone that separates itself from the pack with its small, second screen.

unihertz ticktock smartphone second screen
Image: Matthew Hughes / KnowTechie
The Good
Bold design stands out from others on the market
The phone and second screen perform well
Great battery life
Secondary screen is genius
The Bad
The camera comes up a bit short
The screen is lacking in color and brightness
7.5
Overall

Dual-screen phones. They’re the smartphone industry’s mythical white whale. Countless vendors — both plucky startups and industry stalwarts — have flirted with this experimental form factor, with varying levels of success. 

Most dual-screen phones are aimed at casual users, with their second display serving as a fashion statement or facilitating gaming binges and long Netflix marathons.

Then there are the productivity-focused devices. Phones like Microsoft’s Surface Duo use the extra screen real estate to help their users manage their emails and Word documents. 

And then, you have the outliers. Dual-screen phones that fit into neither category. The quirky $369 Unihertz TickTock is the best example of this.

In addition to its primary display, it contains a secondary smartwatch-sized screen. Nestled within the phone’s rear, it provides quick access to notifications and certain built-in apps.

And it’s genius. I’m sorry. I know I’m jumping ahead. Reviews are supposed to simmer. They’re like a crescendo of thoughts, bubbling towards a fiery conclusion, where the reviewer gives their final verdict.

Editor’s Choice
unihertz ticktock screen

Quick Verdict

The quirky $369 Unihertz TickTock is a great budget smartphone that separates itself from the pack with its small, second screen. The phone effectively combines two items — a smartphone and a smartwatch — into a single product. And it makes sense.

Sure, the Unihertz TickTock is far from being a perfect phone. There’s plenty I can (and will) grumble at.

And yet, it’s also the best example of a dual-screen phone I’ve ever seen. The diminutive secondary display doesn’t feel superfluous. It’s useful, but it also doesn’t get in the way.

A brief Introduction

smartphone and packaging
Image: Matthew Hughes / KnowTechie

Before I delve into things, it’s worth re-acquainting you with Unihertz. We last covered them in 2020, following the launch of its diminutive Jelly 2 smartphone. Its business model is as unusual as its output. 

Put short: Unihertz makes phones that cater to a small (but passionate) demographic. The Titan series, for example, offers a Blackberry-style physical keyboard paired with a modern Android experience.

These niche devices are a gamble, to be sure. That’s why Unihertz relies on crowdfunding campaigns to test the waters.

Indiegogo and Kickstarter are great places to see whether there’s a market for its latest devices. In the case of the TickTock, Unihertz clinched over 600 preorders with a book value of HKD$1.34m (roughly $180,000 at current exchange rates). Not bad.

After the brief initial crowdfunding feeding frenzy, Unihertz will release its devices to the wider public. In the case of the TickTock, consumers can buy it directly from Unihertz’s website or through Amazon

I don’t want to get too sidetracked here. In short: Unihertz is one of the weirdest, most experimental brands in the mobile space.

But it’s also proven itself capable of executing. The diminutive Jelly and Atom lineup is surprisingly usable. The physical keyboard on the Titan series rivals anything BlackBerry ever produced, surpassing even the venerable Bold 9700. 

The Unihertz TickTock: an overview

unihertz ticktock screen
Image: Matthew Hughes / KnowTechie

Okay, let’s look at the specs. Unihertz doesn’t make flagship-speed phones, and the TickTock is no exception. On paper, it inhabits the familiar mid-range of the mobile market. Here are the highlights:

Product Specs

  • A MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G platform 
  • 8GB RAM
  • 128GB UFS 2.1 storage 
  • A 6.5-inch primary display (1080×2340)
  • A 1.3-inch secondary display (360×360)
  • A MicroSD slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack
  • A 6,000mAh battery with 30W fast charging 
  • IP68 dust/water resistance 
  • A 48MP primary camera 
  • An 8MP secondary camera 
  • NFC and IR (infrared)

As I said. We’re in mid-range territory. But, despite that, the Unihertz TickTock provides strong foundations. There’s nothing here that screams “compromised.” 

The MediaTek Dimensity 700 — although hardly a speed demon — is capable at performing most day-to-day tasks. There’s plenty of storage for apps and videos.

unihertz smartphone screen
Image: Matthew Hughes / KnowTechie

There’s plenty of RAM for multitasking (and gaming). The capacious battery offers enough endurance to last two days between charges, and the inclusion of 30W fast charging is a lovely touch. 

And then there are features you wouldn’t really expect in the crowded middle ground of the smartphone market. Unihertz included an IR port — a rarity in 2022 — allowing users to convert their phone into a universal remote control.

NFC lets you make payments with Google Pay. And the hardy IP68 rating guarantees a level of protection against the elements. 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Bold design stands out from others on the market
  • The phone and second screen perform well
  • Great battery life
  • Secondary screen is genius

Cons

  • The camera comes up a bit short
  • The screen is lacking in color and brightness

Look and feel

When you pick up the Unihertz TickTock for the first time, you notice its incredible weight. It tips the scales at 308g (about 10.8oz), or almost double that of an iPhone 12. It feels ludicrously heavy. Conspicuous, even. 

Heft is a common theme within the rugged phone space. It’s easy to forgive the Unihertz TickTock’s weight when you consider it serves a purpose.

That includes the strong metal frame of the device, the rubberized surroundings that dampen the consequences of unexpected drops, and the large battery. 

The Unihertz TickTock’s aberrations don’t stop at the secondary display. It bucks the trend for Candybar-shaped phones with a hexagon-like frame.

smartphone screen showing knowtechie website
Image: Matthew Hughes / KnowTechie

This approach isn’t too far from the norm within rugged smartphones. Tapered corners help absorb the impact of drops. They play a major role in survivability.

Additionally, the TickTock’s screen adopts a wider aspect ratio than you’d likely expect from a conventional consumer-grade smartphone.

It’s stout, not tall. This didn’t bother me. Wider screens are, for the most part, better for reading web content and emails. 

The phone’s 8MP camera sits at the top of the display. The volume and power buttons adorn the TickTock’s sides.

The phone also contains two programmable buttons. The USB-C port is protected by a rubber flap, which helps to protect against water, but does limit the kinds of charge cables you can use. 

You’ll spot the phone’s infrared port towards the top of the device. The TickTock comes with a pre-installed universal remote control app, with support for a surprising array of compatible TVs and appliances.

Performance

picture of flowers taken on smartphone
Image: Matthew Hughes / KnowTechie

With a bargain-basement price tag, the Unihertz TickTock was never going to astound you with its ability to number crunch.

Its MediaTek Dimensity 700 platform deftly renders web pages with little latency. Apps open at a brisk pace, albeit without the snappiness expected from a top-of-the-line flagship.

The generous (for the price) RAM configuration makes multitasking a relatively frustration-free experience. 

The TickTock uses a relatively-pristine version of Android 11. There are a few extra apps — like the aforementioned remote control app — but none of the bloatware that’s far too common in the mid-range market.

The extra bundled applications largely served a purpose and didn’t feel extraneous. 

As you perhaps would expect, there’s no wireless charging. That’s hardly a dealbreaker, however. The sizable 6,000mAh battery lasts at least two days between charges, assuming moderate use.

The 30W fast charging — although hardly the nimblest on the market — means you can replenish your battery in less than an hour. 

The camera isn’t the strongest, even by the standards of the mid-range segment. The pictures I took with the device felt flat. They lacked the sharpness of a more potent camera array. 

Similarly, I wasn’t impressed by the color accuracy of the primary display. Despite the high resolution and solid pixel density, colors felt washed out and dull.

If you’re accustomed to the vivid color fidelity of an AMOLED display, this will feel extremely conspicuous. 

The second screen

unihertz ticktock smartphone second screen
Image: Matthew Hughes / KnowTechie

Remember how many mid-2000s flip phones had a monochrome display that allowed you to check the time and view notifications without opening the device?

It was a great concept, and sadly, one that has been consigned to the scrap heap of technology history. 

The Unihertz TickTock effectively replicates that long-abandoned functionality and refines it in a way that makes sense for a 21st-century audience. Yes, it’ll show you the time and your push notifications. But it does so much more. 

Swiping left and right allows you to cycle through the various installed applications that are compatible with the second screen.

You can, for instance, control music playback. If you’re geocaching, you can see the phone’s compass without the power drain of the main display.

And you can even use it to take selfies with the phone’s rear-facing camera. Look, ma. No hands.

camera screen on smartphone
Image: Matthew Hughes / KnowTechie

In essence, it replicates many of the functions of a smartwatch. I’m reluctant to call this a gimmick. 

If you’re trying to limit the number of distractions, the second screen is incredibly useful. It acts like a filtering mechanism.

You can see notifications in real time without necessarily breaking your train of thought. It becomes so much easier to see what requires your immediate attention, and what doesn’t. 

Unihertz makes it easy to customize the secondary display’s functionality. Most of its settings — like when it goes to sleep, and how to wake it up — can be found with a couple of taps. 

That said, it’s easy to accidentally wake the screen without realizing, particularly if you aren’t careful when holding the phone. I inadvertently took several pictures of my thumb just by accidentally grazing the rear display.

Alternatives

The TickTock isn’t the only phone on the market that is afford and offers rugged and niche features.

ImageㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤProductPrice
Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro9.0

Samsung Galaxy XCover ProName-brand option

  • Extremely Rugged
  • Comes from a known brand
  • Enhance Touch for gloves 
  • $300.00
Learn More
Nokia G50 5G9.5

Nokia G50 5GBest Budget Pick

  • 5G
  • Affordable
  • No second screen
  • $289.99
Learn MoreRead the Reviews
Unihertz Titan9.0

Unihertz TitanRugged alternative

  • Physical keyboard
  • Android 10
  • IP67 certified
  • $349.99
Learn MoreRead the Reviews

Conclusion

The Unihertz TickTock is an imaginative take on the dual-screen paradigm. It’s one I’d love to see other vendors replicate.

The phone effectively combines two items — a smartphone and a smartwatch — into a single product. And it makes sense. 

Although the Unihertz’ primary display and camera setup left me wanting, I can’t heap enough praise on the phone’s rugged design, capacious battery, and relatively performant interior.

The inclusion of an IR blaster and 3.5mm headphone jack is a nice touch, too. 

The Unihertz TickTock won’t be for everyone. If you want a more conventional rugged device, check out the Samsung Galaxy XCover 5 and XCover Pro.

These devices benefit from a long-term update schedule and Samsung’s excellent customer support.

Similarly, if you want a small secondary screen, there’s the Motorola Razr (2022 edition). This is an alternative, albeit an expensive one. It’s also exclusive to China, although a Western release is on the cards.

But if you don’t mind taking a walk on the wild side, the Unihertz TickTock is a capable and affordable device. It is available on Amazon and directly from Unihertz.

Review

Unihertz TickTock 5G smartphone

The quirky $369 Unihertz TickTock is a great budget smartphone that separates itself from the pack with its small, second screen. The phone effectively combines two items — a smartphone and a smartwatch — into a single product. And it makes sense.

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Editors’ Recommendations:

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The Good
Bold design stands out from others on the market
The phone and second screen perform well
Great battery life
Secondary screen is genius
The Bad
The camera comes up a bit short
The screen is lacking in color and brightness
7.5
Overall

Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Past work can be found on The Register, Reason, The Next Web, and Wired.

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