Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE review

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Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE

“You won’t find a more feature-packed Wear OS smartwatch than Mobvoi’s 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

Cellular smartwatches are few and far between. Your best options revolve around Samsung’s Galaxy Watch or the Apple Watch Series 5, 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 smartwatches running Wear OS, is here to fill the gap with the 4G LTE version of its TicWatch Pro.

The TicWatch Pro launched last year, but the 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 costs $299, easily making it the best Wear OS smartwatch you can buy if you’re looking for connectivity even without your phone.

4G LTE

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.

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Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

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 monh (if not more).

For the most part, I wasn’t in many situations where I left my phone behind, but on the occasions I did, it was nice to still be able to see notifications come through on the watch — and respond to urgent messages. It’s even more helpful for people when exercising and you don’t want to lug your phone around.

For my lifestyle, where I usually have my phone in my pocket, I wouldn’t say cellular is a must-have addition for the TicWatch Pro. But if you’re someone who frequently does leave your phone at your desk or in a bag, but still want connectivity to stay in the loop, it’s worth considering. 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.

Similar design

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.

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Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

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.

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Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

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 40 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 drains faster when it’s connected to a 4G LTE network, but I’ve still managed to maintain a full day of use with around 20 percent left around 7 p.m. — this is with using the watch to respond to notifications, so it might not last a full day if you have a particularly long exercise session and use the 4G connectivity a lot.

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.

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Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

I like Wear OS’s design because it looks slick, but Google and third-party developers need 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 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.

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Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

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.

Mobvoi has also added the option to track sleep — you’ll need to download an app on the watch called TicSleep. It’s surprisingly accurate, at least for me, offering up detailed metrics of how long I slept, breaking the data down to show how much of my time was in deep sleep, REM, light sleep, and if I was awake. If you want, you can set it to deliver an alarm based on the time it thinks you should wake up (after you nabbed 8 hours of sleep).

I went to bed with around 25 percent remaining and woke up to find the watch at 6 percent. I popped it on the charger and after I did my usual morning routine, it was good to go. It might require a charge before bed if you’ve used the watch quite a bit during the day.

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 is $299 and is available now from Amazon and Mobvoi’s own website. Remember, adding LTE connectivity (from Verizon) means you’ll need to pay an additional $10 a month.

Our take

The TicWatch Pro 4G LTE is a feature-packed Wear OS smartwatch to date and one of the few on Google’s platform that offers 4G connectivity. It’s best for those that want to leave their phone behind often — whether it’s because you’re exercising or you want to cut down on screen time — but especially for people who are fans of Google’s Wear OS software.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch and Galaxy Watch Active 2 are better smartwatches, as well as the Apple Watch Series 5 if you use an iPhone. All of those options have more third-party app support as well as software that doesn’t feel sluggish, with more features to boot, along with cellular connectivity.

For those refusing to part ways from Wear OS, Mobvoi’s TicWatch Pro 4G is the best you can buy — if you prioritize cellular connectivity. If not, take a look at the Fossil Gen 5 smartwatch. It offers many of the same features and looks and feels significantly better on the wrist. Check out our guide to the best smartwatches for more.

How long will it last?

The Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 4G LTE will last you two to three years, if not a little more, but the battery will start to depreciate by then. It’s IP68 rated for water and dust resistance, so it should be able to handle the elements.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you want a 4G smartwatch that runs Google’s Wear OS, this is a solid alternative. Mobvoi frequently discounts its watches during big sales events, so it might be a good idea to wait until you see a deal.

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