When it comes to smartwatches, Apple rules supreme with the Apple Watch while Google barely manages to make a dent in the wearable category, despite the fact that Android is the number one mobile operating system. After using the TicWatch Pro for two weeks, the device that is considered to be among the best smartwatches with WearOS currently on the market, I think I understand why Google’s wearable OS did not get any major traction.
TicWatch Pro Design
If you read our unboxing, you already know our first impressions. The TicWatch Pro is an elegant device that manages to give a really good first impression. Its body is made of carbon fiber with a very plasticky look and feel, the top dial and the back cover are made of metal and there are two round, metal buttons on the side. It resembles a business-casual watch that can be worn both when running and at a fancy dinner. The metal dial has black seconds marks on the side and two arrows on top and bottom. Sadly, the dial does not turn, something that I’ve been using quite a lot on the Galaxy Watch that has been my main up until now.
It is hard not to compare the TicWatch Pro with other similar devices and having a Samsung Galaxy Watch at hand made things easier. The TicWatch Pro is a bit bigger and thicker than my other wearable, so it may not be the best device for everybody. There isn’t a smaller version available, but Mobvoi does have other smartwatches that may suit you better. The TicWatch Pro gets extra points for the strap. Where most other manufacturers include a silicon one, Mobvoi offers a leather/silicon hybrid that looks elegant and feels good. The “hybrid” part comes from the fact that the outside is made of leather, but on the inside, where the strap touches your hand, it has a silicon layer that offers extra grip and is skin-friendly.
On the back, you will find a 4-pin connector that is used for charging using the included magnetic dock, the heart rate sensor and 4 screws. You will need special equipment if you want to open it, but we don’t recommend that at all since you will probably lose the water resistance. Yes, the TicWatch Pro is IP68 certified, which means that you can wear it while you swim without risking damage. All in all, the watch has a premium look-and-feel that can rival other devices from more famous brands, despite its bigger footprint.
TicWatch Pro Screen(s)
The TicWatch Pro is unique when it comes to the display. Where all other devices offer a single LCD or AMOLED screen, the TicWatch Pro comes with a secondary, old-school-style, FSTN LCD display that only shows the essentials: time, date, steps, and battery. Usually, you only need this simple screen that helps save battery, and when you actually want to use the smart features, you can easily switch to the more advanced WearOS interface that is shown on the AMOLED display. The TicWatch Pro can switch between the two with ease when you raise your hand or it can be set to use only one of them. Here I must mention that there is a slight delay of approximately one second when the switch is made from the LCD screen to the AMOLED one. I really hope that the next version would make this transition seamless and with no delay since as it works now it gives the TicWatch Pro a lag sensation.
Moving to the AMOLED display, I am happy to say that the quality is as good as other devices, including the previously mentioned Samsung Galaxy Watch. Colors are vivid and it has good brightness levels. When set to automatically I found that in most cases it is a bit dimmer than my other watch, but when set manually, even at level 4 out of 5, the screen has really good brightness and can easily be seen under sunlight.
Software on the TicWatch Pro
The TicWatch Pro runs on WearOs, a stripped-down version of Android that is made to work on smartwatches. If you are like me, you may anticipate this entire portion of the article. All my expectations related to the operating system were true, the good and the bad ones as well. The interface is easy to use and right from the start you are greeted with a simple tutorial that teaches you how to see notifications, how to go to the app drawer and how to navigate between screens. Setup was also really easy and pairing with your smartphone was a breeze. The integration with the Android operating system on the phone is done well and there is nothing to complain about here.
The number of applications available for WearOS is decent, with an app being available for almost all tasks you could wish to be doing on a smartwatch. And even if an application is not available, because of the good integration with your phone, you could still use basic functionality when a notification appears. As an example, let’s take a look at GMail. There is no official GMail app for the smartwatch but even so, I can read the introduction of the email, delete it or mark it as “Read” straight from the watch. Similar to Youtube Music, where I can control the track that is being played, skip it and even see the album art on the watch when my music is playing.
The software, however, is far from perfect. Sadly, there is not much that Mobvoi can do about it since Google is the one that is neglecting WearOS and does not strive to make it a true competitor for Apple’s WatchOS or even Tizen. There are artificial limitations that I don’t really know why they exist. For example, you can only have a maximum of 5 widget-screens at a time. Google Assistant also gives errors sometimes and Play Store or any other applications are a bit slow to open. There is also a bit of lag from time to time, especially if you were not using the watch for a while. And this takes me to the next chapter: Performance
TicWatch Pro Performance
When reviewing performance for the TicWatch Pro, I had mixed feelings. Sometimes, the device performs quite well and on par with other smartwatches, however, there are moments when it lags or has a “hiccup” in performance. This usually happens when you haven’t used the watch for a while and you hop right in and try to do something more than just look at the time. This lag can also happen for simpler tasks, like swiping right to the widgets or opening the notifications. Another thing that I disliked, but may not be related to lag, is how actions on notifications are handled. If I receive an email for example and want to delete it from the watch notification, there is about 1.5 seconds delay from when I press the “Delete” button and when the “Done” message is displayed. Another issue that I’ve been having related to lag or delays is for incoming calls. When I receive a call the watch starts to vibrate almost instantly, however, the number or caller name is not displayed right away and there is a rather big delay, maybe even up to 7 seconds, which bothers me quite a lot. I can reach for the phone in the time it takes for the caller to get displayed.
Part of the blame for this inconsistent performance is attributed to Google. I believe that if the company would focus more on their WearOS and optimize things, most of the problems would disappear. You don’t need a lot of processing power for a smartwatch, just consistent performance and navigation. However, Mobvoi has it’s share of blame. Even though the TicWatch Pro is elegant, well build and with some interesting features not found on other smartwatches, it does come with the old Snapdragon Wear 2100. A better and newer chipset could drastically improve performance, however, which chipset to choose can be a real problem, since even the newer Snapdragon Wear 3100 does little to address these issues.
Some applications are also really slow to open. The best example I can give here is the Google Play Store. When opening it the watch almost freezes most of the time and takes so long that the screen turns off two or three times. Things are better if the application was opened recently, but otherwise, it can be a frustrating experience. Sometimes I could see how the watch was struggling to keep up with my tasks of opening the Play Store, going back to the home screen and then back again to the store, and all this without actually having a download in the background. Luckily, for most other applications this is not an issue, so it may be just bad optimization on Google’s part.
TicWatch Pro Battery Life
Performance can be directly linked to battery life and despite the essential mode that Mobvoi introduced. They claim that the watch can last between 2 and 30 days on a single charge, but so far my experience hasn’t been up to those standards. I am a heavy smartphone user and I get a big share of notifications daily. Emails, social networks, games that I am playing and many more push notifications on a regular basis and I use my smartwatch to dismiss them all the time. Paired with continues heart-rate monitoring at regular intervals means that I get only 2 days of usage on a single charge.
Under similar usage patterns, on my personal Samsung Watch, I get double the time only needing to recharge once every 4 days. Now, there are a few key differences. On the Galaxy Watch, the screen is completely turned off when not in use, while the TicWatch Pro goes to the essential mode screen. This makes the TicWatch more useful since you have a few key aspects displayed and it does not look like an unpowered device all the time. Still, if what you need is good battery life while still using the smart features, TicWatch Pro may not be the right choice. When using essential mode Mobvoi’s offering greatly exceeds other devices on the market. I did not have time to test the full 30 days claim, but when I switched to Essential-only mode, I only lost about 4 or 5 percentages in the battery during the day.
TicWatch Pro Fitness Functions
In many cases, people choose a smartwatch not only for the capacity to reply to emails and messages without the need to take out their phone but for its fitness and activity tracking capabilities. The TicWatch Pro is no exception and Mobvoi knew that they had to include good fitness tracking functionality if they wanted the device to succeed. It is at this chapter that I discovered the true advantage that WearOS has over other operating systems. Not only does it have good tracking capabilities out of the box thanks to Google Fit and Mobvoi’s suite of applications (TicHealth, TicPulse and TicExcercise), there are alternatives you can install with ease. Together, they can satisfy basic fitness tracking needs and even more advanced ones.
TicPulse, as the name suggests, is capable of monitoring your heart rate and it can be set for continues tracking or when it detects that you are doing an exercise. It can also do fancy graphs and statistics if you are into that. TicExcercise is the main hub for your fitness tracking needs. You can manually start it and choose the type of exercise you are doing from a predefined list, or you can let the watch detect automatically. It can handle both outdoor and indoor running, walking, cycling and freestyle exercise. Furthermore, you have stats related to the duration and type of activity. TicHealth tracks how long you exercise, how long you are inactive and offers sedentary reminders. All data is also available in the Mobvoi application which offers nice graphs and stats that are easy to read and follow. Data is automatically synced with the watch.
If all these are not enough, thanks to a decent application ecosystem, you can download even more from the Play store. You have Strava as well as Adidas Running, both really good applications that add good features to your device. There is no pre-installed sleep tracker, but you can easily download one yourself in case you need it. Comparing it again to the Samsung Galaxy Watch, the TicWatch Pro stands better, not only because the apps are slightly better made, but also because there are more alternatives available.
Automatic detection of exercise is pretty accurate as well. Once you start walking or running the device will detect the activity and will start tracking it until you stop. Information related to your exercise is displayed on the essential screen so you won’t have to switch to the more power-hungry mode to see your stats. Furthermore, the heart-rate is tracked throughout the activity and you can see the evolution at the end.
The TicWatch Pro is certainly an interesting smartwatch. It has great fitness tracking capabilities and WearOS has a far better application selection and ecosystem than other operating systems. The essential mode is great for when you want to extend battery life but still have access to basic features and the AMOLED screen is great with vivid colors and the overall build quality is good as well. Sadly, the old Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset that is powering it combined with an OS that is a bit neglected by Google means that you will have a bit of lag in certain tasks and battery life certainly has to suffer, with only two days of intense usage.
The TicWatch Pro manages to play in the big leagues, despite the fact that Mobvoi is a lesser-known company that does not have the resources that Samsung or Apple has. The smartwatch is not perfect, but it manages to do quite a lot considering the limitations imposed by the hardware and software available. I honestly think that the TicWatch Pro 2 will be an even better device if Mobvoi decides to launch one. The Mobvoi TicWatch Pro can be bought for $250 and at this price you may find a discounted Samsung Galaxy Watch which offers better battery life, however, if you can get the TicWatch Pro at Around $200 or $220, I recommend you get one.
- Good build quality and materials with a strap that is of far better quality compared to the competition
- Good AMOLED screen with vivid colors and response time
- Essential Mode is awesome and should be something more manufacturers should include
- Fitness and activity tracking capabilities are accurate and offer useful information at a glance
- WearOS still needs some work and optimizations
- The now old Snapdragon Wear 2100 does not always keep up with tasks and can induce lag in certain actions
- mediocre battery life when in non-essential mode