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TicWatch Pro 4G review: a solid option in a small market

TicWatch Pro 4G review: a solid option in a small market

When Mobvoi launched the TicWatch Pro in autumn 2018, we really liked it. Now, the Chinese manufacturer is back with an updated version that supports 4G/LTE. For fans of Wear OS, this is good news. Google's wearable software platform has been lacking a proper, worthy opponent to the Apple Watch for ages. Is this it?

Rating

Good

  • Well manufactured
  • Plenty of features
  • Clever dual-display technology

Bad

  • Big and bulky
  • 4G/LTE kills battery life
  • Wear OS is still just OK

TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE release date and price

The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is has a recommended retail price of $299, but is currently available on the official Mobvoi website for $224.25. In Europe, the TicWatch Pro 4G/ LTE is now available on Amazon and on the Mobvoi website for €329.99. Vodafone is the mobile provider chosen for the smartwatch in this region, where customers can activate the LTE functionality for a one-time fee of approximately €40. You'll then be able to make phone calls, receive SMS and receive app notifications without connecting the watch to your smartphone.

The company has partnered with Verizon in the United States to offer a data plan for the smartwatch. The price is $20 a month, or you can add the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE to your existing Verizon Unlimited plan.

The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is only available in black at the moment.

 

Big, bulky and well-built

The first version of the TicWatch Pro was, in my opinion, not exactly what you'd call a looker. Compared to something like the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, the Mobvoi is a real chunk of a timepiece. The new model is 11 grams lighter than its predecessor, but that's a bit like saying the tortoise is faster than the sloth.

Whichever way you look at it, the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is a watch you will know you are wearing , at all times. It's a 45mm watch that is doesn't try to be slim. Mobvoi does not really seem to be in the business of making sleek smartwatches. Even the E2 and C2 we tested this year are fairly bulky. The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is at least comfortable to wear, once you get used to the weight.

AndroidPIT Ticwatch Pro 4G LTE Buttons
The watch case is quite thick, even for a smartwatch / © AndroidPIT

The build quality, however, is excellent. The case is made from polyamide and glass fiber, the bezel is stainless steel, and the rear panel is aluminum. The silicone strap that comes in the box is also removable if you want to swap it out for something else compatible.

The display is a 1.39-inch AMOLED (400 x 400 pixels) FSTN LCD. The smart dual-display technology that we saw last year is also back again. I'll get back to that in the battery life section, as that's really where the advantages of this idea lie. The display itself is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

The smartwatch is dust and water-resistant to IP68+ and features a PPG heart rate sensor, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, an e-compass, an ambient light sensor, and a low latency off-body sensor. It comes with NFC technology as standard, allowing contactless payments to be made via Google Pay. There's no SIM tray for the 4G/LTE connectivity, as the watch uses an eSIM.

AndroidPIT Ticwatch Pro 4G LTE Strap Change
The silicone straps are interchangeable / © AndroidPIT

4G/LTE via eSIM

With the second version of TicWatch Pro, you can now make calls and receive SMS. A voice-to-text option is also available so that you don't have to do the laborious task of typing on a smartwatch. A connection with your smartphone is no longer necessary, and your existing phone number can also be used with the smartwatch. This also applies to app notifications, which are displayed directly on the watch via cloud synchronization. You'll need to talk with your carrier to activate all of this of course.

The 4G/LTE module also adds new features you don't get on a smartwatch that relies on a connection to your smartphone. Aside from calling, SMS and reading notifications, there's an SOS mode and - the feature that means the most to me - the ability to stream music without your phone around.

AndroidPIT Ticwatch Pro 4G LTE Logo Close Up
No SIM tray, of course, it uses an eSIM / © AndroidPIT

I admit that I am still not completely convinced by smartwatches with 4G/LTE in general. Even when testing the new TicWacth Pro, the number of times I find myself needing to use it are few and far between. If I am going about my daily routine, my phone is always in my pocket, on my desk, or somewhere in my apartment within range of the watch. The only time I really need 4G in a smartwatch is when I go running. For this use, it's fantastic. But is the extra cost of the device and the additional data plan worth this luxury? I'm not so sure.

Wear OS is still the second best smartwatch OS

The manufacturer says that an improved heart rate monitoring sensor also provides accurate heart health information. The TicPulse app enables 24-hour heart rate measurement, among other things. The smartwatch can also create a real-time log and display the hourly updated step count without connecting to your smartphone. Additional apps can be downloaded from the Google Play Store and used on TicWatch, too.

During my testing, the heart rate monitoring was not quite as accurate as I'd hoped. During one 10km test run, the TicWatch measured my heart at 193 BPM for long periods. I run fairly regularly and train somewhere between 170 and 180 BPM. It could have been a one-off, and it's possible I just worked a bit harder than normal unexpectedly, but I was hesitant to trust the reading completely after this.

ticwatch pro exercise
Tracking your exercise is easy with the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE / © AndroidPIT

TicMotion 2.0 has been improved to detect more real-time movements, including fast walking, running, and swimming activities. TicMotion automatically logs movements and records time, speed and distance. Mobvoi also pre-installs in-house apps such as TicHealth and TicExercise on the smartwatch.

The TicSleep app automatically detects and tracks sleep when the user is wearing the TicWatch Pro. The sensors on the smartwatch show a detailed analysis of sleep duration and heart rate in each sleep phase. In addition to last night's sleep duration, a seven-day weekly average can also be viewed to obtain a detailed picture of the entire sleep cycle. Given the size and weight of the watch though, I would be surprised if anyone was willing to sleep whilst wearing it - I certainly wasn't!

AndroidPIT Ticwatch Pro 4G LTE Morning
Google Assistant is also included / © AndroidPIT

The software on the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is fine, but I have to mention the same old criticisms as always when reviewing a Wear OS device. There are still not enough great apps, it's still too sluggish overall, and Apple still does just about every aspect better than Google in this department.

The Snapdragon Wear 2100 delivers good performance

The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 platform. The decision not to go with the Snapdragon 3100 processor is a strange one, given that the launch price was the best part of $300. The RAM has also been doubled on the new version from 512MB to 1GB. There's also 4GB of internal storage in the watch, the same as the non-4G version.

AndroidPIT Ticwatch Pro 4G LTE Run
Performance is more than sufficient for fitness training / © AndroidPIT

Overall, I was satisfied with the performance of the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE. I experienced a couple of stumbles and slowdowns but nothing more than you get on any other Wear OS smartwatch. For fitness tracking, reading notifications and transversing the menus, the hardware is more than sufficient in terms of performance.

Clever battery management

Mobvoi has equipped the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE with a 415 mAh battery, the same as the original TicWatch Pro.  Also like its predecessor, the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is equipped with a multi-layer display. You can switch from the energy-saving Essential Mode to the Smart Mode back and forth to extend the battery life from two to up to 30 days. The two screens are layered on top of each other, but you wouldn't be able to tell just by looking at it.

The fact that when you switch to monochrome essential mode - which can be done automatically if you don't touch the watch for a while - all of the hardware needed to run Wear OS is turned off means that two days of usage is easily achievable. However, there is a huge caveat to all of this. The multi-layer display was hugely successful on the original TicWatch Pro, but that didn't have 4G/LTE. The truth is, when you use the mobile networking capabilities of the new version, battery life if severely impacted.

AndroidPIT Ticwatch Pro 4G LTE Back
The charging connectors are located on the underside of the watch / © AndroidPIT

During my tests, I could get just about a day's worth of usage out of the smartwatch with everything activated and turned on. It does seem a shame to turn of 4G/LTE to save battery life when this is essentially one of the defining features of the smartwatch.

Charging is done via a USB charging dock included in the box. It features four magnetic pins that hold with a decent amount of force. There's no charging brick in the box, so you'll have to find one lying around the house or plug it into a USB outlet if you have one.

AndroidPIT Ticwatch Pro 4G LTE Battery Saving Screen
The second display kicks in to save battery / © AndroidPIT

Final verdict

The TicWatch Pro is packed with features and is very well-made. The 4G/LTE connectivity and the extra RAM are worthy upgrades on last year's TicWatch Pro. The former, however, does impact battery in a way that not even a really clever battery management system can save. I can't praise the layered display technology enough on its own though, it's surprising that every smartwatch manufacturer isn't not already doing this kind of thing.

AndroidPIT Ticwatch Pro 4G LTE Weather
The display is bright enough for a (relatively) sunny day n Berlin / © AndroidPIT

The only real downsides to this smartwatch are its size and weight (something that is very subjective), and the limitations of the Wear OS operating system (something that every Android smartwatch suffers from). The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is sleeker and prettier, but you can't call your mum from it or listen to Spotify while running unless you take your smartphone with you.

So, despite there being some fairly obvious drawbacks, for someone shopping for a Wear OS smartwatch with 4G/LTE connectivity, the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE still a great option. That says more about the market right now than it does about this particular smartwatch though.

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