Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE hands-on
“You won’t find a more feature-packed Wear OS smartwatch than Mobvoi’s latest TicWatch Pro.”
- Unique dual-display technology
- Two-day battery life
- Cellular connectivity
- Accurate fitness and heart-rate tracking capabilities
- IP68, NFC for Google Pay, GPS, internal storage
- Performance occasionally stutters
- Bulky, masculine design with ugly preinstalled watch faces
- 4G LTE is limited to Verizon subscribers
Cellular smartwatches are few and far between. Your options revolve around Samsung’s Galaxy Watch or the Apple Watch Series 4 or 3. But what about 4G LTE watches on Google’s Wear OS platform? The last few launched in 2017, including the Huawei Watch 2 LTE and the failed Verizon Wear24, so it’s slim pickings for Wear OS lovers. Mobvoi, known for making ultra-affordable Wear OS smartwatches, is here to fill the gap with a 4G LTE version of its TicWatch Pro.
The TicWatch Pro launched last year, but the new TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is slightly different. Not only does it have a cellular connection (which means you’ll need to pay a monthly data plan for the watch), but it also bumps up RAM for improved performance, and has subtle design changes. It’s feature-packed, and it has an early-adopter price of $279. That easily makes it the best Wear OS smartwatch you can buy.
But first, a quick word on the watch’s 4G LTE connectivity. It only works through Verizon, so you’ll need to be a Verizon subscriber to make use of the TicWatch Pro’s cellular connectivity. Mobvoi may open up the LTE connectivity to other carriers, but further support hasn’t been announced at the moment.
Mobvoi also said this LTE connectivity won’t be available until one month after launch, which is why it’s discounting the watch to $279 until August 10. After that date, the watch will cost $299 and LTE connectivity through Verizon will be available.
What does 4G LTE connectivity offer? You can leave your phone at home and still get texts, make and receive calls, and receive any other app notifications. It’s ideal for runners who don’t want to bring their phone along, or anyone who wants to reduce smartphone screen time, but still receive alerts wherever and whenever.
You’ll need to be a Verizon subscriber to make use of the TicWatch Pro’s cellular connectivity.
The downside is you do need to pay a monthly fee for the smartwatch’s data plan, which will likely set you back $10 a month (if not more). I recommend really thinking about whether a cellular smartwatch is worthwhile for you. It’s important to note you can use the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE without paying for LTE — you’ll just have to keep your phone nearby.
My review unit hasn’t been set up with LTE connectivity yet — Mobvoi said I’ll need to wait two weeks from July 10 — so I’ll update this review with further thoughts on LTE connectivity with the TicWatch Pro, and how it affects battery life.
The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE looks better than last year’s TicWatch Pro, but the changes are ever so slight. The bezel around the screen is textured, and the numbers on the bezel no longer stand out, making them harder to read; I think it makes the watch look more elegant and less sporty. The sides of the two buttons on the right edge are also textured for visual flair.
It comes only in black this time and it’s 11 grams lighter than the previous TicWatch Pro, but that’s about it for the differences. The 45mm watch otherwise has the same thickness, and looks just as bulky and masculine. It’s thick because there’s some clever dual-display technology inside, but we’ll get to that soon; I wish Mobvoi took the past year to try and slim the watch down, or at least offer a version that wasn’t so bulky for those with smaller wrists. Even on my large wrist, the TicWatch Pro looks big.
The lugs slope down a little, enough so there’s not much of a gap between my wrist and the watch, which is nice. The buttons are clicky and are accessible, though none rotate so you can’t use it to scroll through the Wear OS interface.
The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE undeniably looks like a “techy” watch even to the untrained eye, and even though it can’t match the beauty of watches like the Skagen Falster 2 or the Kate Spade Scallop 2, it’s not unattractive. It just doesn’t make much of an effort to stand out, and focuses largely on function over form. That theme continues with the preinstalled watch faces, most of which are ugly (you might think otherwise). I like the Google Fit watch face, but I have zero desire to use any of Mobvoi’s offerings. Yuck.
The 45mm watch otherwise has the same thickness, and looks just as bulky and masculine.
Thankfully it’s comfortable to wear, largely due to the included 22mm silicone strap. It’s soft and sits snug, though it does attract dust, lint, and sweat tends to collect underneath. It’s interchangeable, meaning you can swap the band out for another if you want a different look.
Despite its comfort, you won’t forget the TicWatch Pro is on your wrist. It’s a massive watch, so those with small wrists should keep in mind that it will look comically large. I didn’t have a problem wearing the watch all day, but I also felt a bit of relief taking it off when I arrived home.
Dual display and battery life
What makes the TicWatch Pro stands out from other smartwatches is its dual-screen technology. Just like last year’s TicWatch Pro model, there’s a 1.39-inch, 400 x 400 resolution OLED panel for display Google’s Wear OS interface. Above it rests a Film compensated Super Twisted Nematic (FSTN) LCD panel (what a mouthful), which acts as the watch’s ambient screen. The switch happens seamlessly — you can’t tell there are two displays at all — and the benefit is the LCD screen uses very little battery life.
Tap the screen and you’ll be greeted to a colorful, high-resolution screen that shows off Google’s Wear OS software. The screen is large, making it easy to read notifications and the like. It gets bright enough to read outdoors as well.
Don’t use the watch for a few seconds and it will swap to the LCD panel, which is monochrome and looks like digital watches of old. It just displays the time and date in this mode, as well as step count and battery life. It’s also perfectly readable in sunny conditions, though I do wish you could customize the look of the clock. This switch between the LCD ambient screen and the OLED main screen means you get two days of battery life, which solves a major pain point with most smartwatches.
Using the TicWatch Pro for checking and responding to notifications, as well as controlling music playback, I frequently had around 50 percent in the tank by 8:30 or 9 p.m. (that’s after taking it off the charger at 8 a.m.). That’s great compared to almost every other Wear OS smartwatch; two days is easily possible. Throw a workout in there and the watch will last for a full day, if not a little more. It’s also quick to recharge using the charging puck.
All smartwatches should have a feature like Essential Mode.
The 415mAh battery will drain faster when it’s connected to a 4G LTE network, but since connectivity hasn’t been available yet, I’ll have to wait to see how much it affects battery life.
The best feature is Essential Mode, which lets you turn on only the LCD screen. It shuts Wear OS down, so you can see the date, time, battery life, and step count, but nothing else. In this mode, battery life is extended up to 30 days (depending on what the watch’s battery life is when this mode is turned on). It’s excellent.
All smartwatches should have a feature like Essential Mode (we are seeing more and more devices with something like it), as it’s especially handy when you’re traveling and forget to pack a charger; you don’t need to look silly with a dead smartwatch on your wrist.
Software and performance
The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE runs Google’s Wear OS platform, and it’s dead simple to use. Swipe left from the watch face for customizable Tiles, which are like widgets; a swipe down from the top will pull down quick settings; a swipe to the right will open up Visual Snapshot with Google Assistant, which displays relevant information like tracking data for packages, calendar events, and more. A swipe up will give you access to notifications.
You can respond to notifications (either through voice typing or swiping on a keyboard), but the interactions don’t feel as elegant as responding to messages on the Apple Watch. There’s also a distinct lack of good apps for Wear OS, which can make it feel limiting. The Facebook Messenger Wear OS app, for example, doesn’t let you look at all your conversations on the watch — you can just see message history when notifications come in.
I like Wear OS’s design, because it looks slick, but Google and third-party developers needs to add more functionality and features to make the platform more robust.
Support for 4G LTE adds a few features you won’t see on other Wear OS smartwatches, like the ability to call people, a speaker so you can listen to calls, an SOS mode for emergencies, and music streaming without the need for a phone.
Other quality-of-life features include NFC, so you can make contactless payments with the watch through Google Pay, and 4GB of internal storage in case you want to store some songs for offline playback.
Performance is surprisingly decent, considering the watch is powered by Qualcomm’s aging Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor. It does tend to stutter with some tasks, like during setup when it installs or updates various apps, and calling Google Assistant is an arduous process. But most of my day-to-day interactions with the watch have been smooth and problem-free. It’s likely due to the RAM bump to 1GB (previously 512MB).
I’m not sure why Mobvoi didn’t use this opportunity to use the newer Snapdragon 3100 processor, which would have delivered even stronger battery life and better fitness tracking.
Fitness, health, and GPS
Mobvoi’s Wear OS watches offer two types of preinstalled fitness tracking methods: Google Fit and Mobvoi’s own suite of apps. It can be confusing, but the choice is yours on what you want to use. I’ve found both to offer similar data, but I prefer Google Fit’s approach of hitting heart point and move minute goals. Google’s Fit app also looks a lot better, whereas Mobvoi’s mobile app looks downright ugly and is very basic.
Mobvoi’s apps include TicExercise, for tracking workouts, TicHealth, for looking at daily activity data, and TicPulse, for measuring heart rate. They often provide richer information on the watch, and Mobvoi’s heart rate monitor tracks heart rate 24/7 and is much faster at capturing data than Google Fit, so there are perks to using them over Google’s options. You can even use TicPulse during Essential Mode, and it will capture your heart history for up to 30 days;
During a workout, the data is easy to see and you can cycle through information with just a swipe; the Autopause function works well, understanding when I took a break and pausing the workout. TicMotion 2.0, which is the name of the overarching software from Mobvoi, is supposed to be able to automatically log workouts, but it failed to log a run — I had to start the tracking manually. The TicHealth app does deliver reminders suggesting I go for a walk when the watch believes I’ve been sedentary for some time, but they don’t come as frequently as I’ve seen on the Galaxy Fit or the Apple Watch.
After a workout, the onboard GPS shows a map of where you ran, which is a nice option for those who want to track runs.
How accurate is the data? I strapped the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE on next to a Galaxy Fit and the Apple Watch Series 4, and the results were close across all three devices. The Galaxy Fit and TicWatch Pro had similar step tracking results, but the Apple Watch was under by about 100 steps. The TicWatch did often over-calculate distance, but only by about 0.10 miles over the Fit and the Apple Watch. Heart rate was consistently similar on all three wearables.
There are a plethora of activities you can track — whether you’re using Google Fit Workout or TicExercise — including swim tracking thanks to the watch’s IP68 water resistance rating. You’ll be satisfied with the fitness features the TicWatch Pro offers, particularly if you’re a casual athlete, and it will be even better if you add LTE connectivity as then you can leave your phone at home or in the car.
Price and availability
The TicWatch Pro 4G LTE costs $279 and is available now from Amazon and Mobvoi’s own website. Come August 10, the watch will cost $299. Mobvoi said LTE connectivity from Verizon won’t be available until after August 10, which is why there’s an initial price drop at launch. Remember, adding LTE connectivity means you’ll need to pay $10 or $20 a month on top of your current phone bill.
The TicWatch Pro 4G LTE is the most feature-packed Wear OS smartwatch to date. I think Samsung’s Galaxy Watch and Galaxy Watch Active are better smartwatches, as well as the Apple Watch if you use an iPhone, but for those refusing to part ways from Wear OS, Mobvoi’s latest is the best you can buy.