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We’re into 2021 and the Ticwatch Pro 3 still has no competition in Wear OS world

The Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 processor was announced in June 2020, and the first watch to use the chip, the Mobvoi Ticwatch Pro 3, arrived in late September. I say, “first,” but it also remains the only Wear OS smartwatch to use the new Qualcomm chip. All other Wear OS watches released recently, frustratingly, still use the old Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip.

Mobvoi has even brought out a 4G LTE version of the Ticwatch Pro 3 during this time, and as I was taking a closer look at this model, it seemed like the ideal time to revisit the Ticwatch 3 Pro as a whole. Is it really still the best Wear OS smartwatch you can buy? And just how much are we missing out on with it being the only available Snapdragon Wear 4100 watch?

The battery. Oh, the battery

Yes, the Ticwatch Pro 3 is the best Wear OS smartwatch you can buy at the moment. Not solely because it has the Snapdragon Wear 4100 inside, but because of what it and other optimizations do for the battery life. It’s stellar. I wore the Ticwatch Pro 3 for five days, turning it off overnight and with only basic functions enabled, and the battery still had more than 10% remaining at the end of that time. I didn’t have the heart rate sensor active all the time, but it did still receive notifications from my phone, tracked workouts, and stayed connected to Wi-Fi.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Use it more rigorously and the battery still lasts for days. After the watch had been on my wrist for a day-and-a-half with the heart rate tracking active and all the other features enabled, it has 77% battery remaining. Track an hour of workouts without GPS and it takes about 7% off. Three days is still easily achievable when it’s working hard. For comparison, I went on to wear a Snapdragon Wear 3100-powered smartwatch straight after, and the battery was down to 70% after a single morning and 40 minutes of workout tracking.

The Ticwatch Pro 3’s secondary LCD screen Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Ticwatch Pro 3 is obviously immensely power-efficient, and that’s before you use the Essential Mode. This turns off many features and switches to use only the secondary LCD set over the AMOLED, showing the time, date, battery, and step count. This really is a smartwatch you can wear and mostly forget for a month in this mode.

I found the battery life to be very good when I first reviewed the watch, but the LTE model has different firmware, and it seems to have improved the battery life even further. Crucially, these figures are without the LTE feature active. More on that later, but if you want a fully functional smartwatch you don’t need to charge each day, the Ticwatch Pro 3 is the one for you.

Wearing the Ticwatch Pro 3

When I first reviewed the Ticwatch Pro 3 I wasn’t enamored with the design, and that hasn’t really changed. It’s not ugly, but it’s not a watch I put on and steal glances at, because it’s just a little too generic. From the chronograph-style markings on the bezel to the any-color-as-long-as-its-black case, the Ticwatch Pro 3 doesn’t make a statement on your wrist at all. Not even the watch faces are very inspiring and that’s a shame, as technically it’s a smartwatch I want to wear, but the design isn’t one that makes me want to put it on.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

However, I’m pleased to say the problematic button pushers on my pre-release review model have been improved. I was concerned about the build quality before, but it appears none was needed, as both buttons are not only easier to press, but have a more positive action here too. They still don’t feel premium, they’re too clicky for that, but the action is precise and they don’t feel like they’re going to get stuck anymore.

The only downside that remains in this area is the lack of a rotating crown, which really would smooth out the whole experience. Yes, the display is large enough to interact with, but there’s a natural flow to using a rotating side button to navigate.

Using it with iOS

Rather than connect to an Android phone as I do usually during a full review, I took the chance to try the Ticwatch Pro 3 with an iPhone SE 2020 instead. The Wear OS app can be downloaded from the App Store and is functionally identical to the Google version. Linking the watch and the app was easy, and arguably quicker than it is on Android, and provided you leave the Wear OS app open in the background it remains connected reliably. If the watch disconnects for whatever reason, the app often has to be restarted before the watch will reconnect.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

This is the first sign you’ll have to get used to limited functionality using a Wear OS watch with iOS. Many functions just don’t work. The Weather Tile wouldn’t always connect, for example, and Google Maps requires the Wear OS app to have constant location access to operate, draining the phone’s battery. App selection is limited to whatever is offered in the onboard Google Play store, and that doesn’t include apps like Outlook, for some reason. Outlook does deliver notifications to Wear OS without it though, unlike when connected to Android.

Using a Wear OS watch with an iPhone is still a finicky experience.

Otherwise, notifications are, if anything, a little more reliable in terms of delivery than they are when connected to an Android phone. However, you can’t interact with them at all. Google Fit operates as usual, with workouts tracked on your watch transferred over to the iOS Fit app, but it doesn’t sync with Apple’s Health app. What is a fully functional smartwatch on Android, turns into a very basic smartwatch when connected to iOS. Yes, many Wear OS watches are cheaper than the Apple Watch, but the saving does not make up for the drop in features and functionality.

Back on the positive side, Mobvoi has really improved the raise-to-wake feature over my early review model. It actually works here, and moderately swiftly too, meaning you can see notifications just by raising the watch up, rather than tapping the screen to wake it up. This was not the case before. There’s also another software update expected soon, which promises to refine this and other features even further.

LTE on a smartwatch

What about choosing the Ticwatch Pro 3 with a 4G LTE connection? You may not actually have the chance to do so, but if you do, is it worth it? Currently, the LTE version of the Ticwatch Pro 3 is only available in the U.K., where it is linked to the Vodafone network, in Spain, and in Germany. It costs 330 British pounds, which is about $450, or 40 pounds/$55 more than the normal Wi-Fi version. The smartwatch uses an eSIM card and requires you to have a phone contract with a number sharing option, which on Vodafone is the OneNumber option.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The process of linking your phone SIM and contract with the watch’s eSIM was supposed to be straightforward, but it was not for me. The instructions I was provided indicated Wear OS would guide me through the setup, but this did not happen on iOS. Trying to get it working required Vodafone’s app and some more fiddling around on the watch. Setting up a Cellular version of the Apple Watch takes moments.

I swapped the SIM to an Android phone, the OnePlus 8 Pro, and set the watch up again. This time the app prompted me to log into Vodafone’s service to set up the eSIM, making it less of a pain. Get past the awkward setup process, and having LTE on your smartwatch is still of questionable benefit.

Having LTE on your smartwatch is still of questionable benefit.

For a start, it costs more money, but worse it sucks more battery, and only really makes sense if you dislike carrying your phone around with you. It’s moderately convenient if you exercise without your phone and want to remain connected, perhaps more so if you’re concerned about safety. Otherwise, because the Ticwatch Pro 3 will make and receive calls on your wrist when you have your phone with you, many may find the LTE connection is a relatively unnecessary feature that puts additional strain on the best thing about the Ticwatch Pro 3 — the battery life.

Where is the competition?

Whether LTE is worth it will be down to your personal circumstances and how you want to use the watch. If LTE isn’t a concern, and poor battery life has put you off owning a smartwatch in the past, the Ticwatch Pro 3 is still our best Wear OS recommendation if you own an Android phone. If you own an iPhone, you should buy an Apple Watch.

If revisiting the Ticwatch Pro 3 has done one thing, it’s to prove we need more smartwatches with the Snapdragon Wear 4100 inside. While I understand it takes time to integrate a new chipset into new products and to refine software, after over six months I’d have expected to see at least one other option to consider by now.

If you want a fully functional smartwatch you don’t need to charge each day, the Ticwatch Pro 3 is the one for you.

The benefits surrounding the Snapdragon Wear 4100’s efficiency, performance, and battery life are just too big to ignore, and it’s frustrating there isn’t a wider choice of designs available. For now though, the Mobvoi Ticwatch Pro 3, whether you opt for the 4G LTE version or not, is leagues ahead of the competition in these three areas, making it the one to buy.

Editors' Recommendations