Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Ticwatch Pro Review

The problem with most smartwatches is that their batteries don’t last very long on a single charge. Mobvoi’s latest Ticwatch Pro smartwatch tries to address that issue by adding a second not-so-smart watch to it that claims to have have 30-days battery life.

The Ticwatch Pro is a premium Wear OS smartwatch that builds upon the Chinese company’s success with last year’s Ticwatch S (read my review) and Ticwatch E. While Mobvoi turned to Kickstarter for those two smartwatches, and another prior to that, the Ticwatch Pro was not crowdfunded. The company was founded by ex-Googlers and is backed by Google.

While being fundamentally a Wear OS smartwatch with an AMOLED screen, the Ticwatch Pro special feature is its second transparent LCD screen layered on top of the first screen. This LCD screen, based on Film compensated Super Twisted Nematic (FSTN) technology, draws very little power, and is activated whenever the main AMOLED screen is turned off. Mobvoi call this Essential Mode.

You can think of Essential Mode as a dumb LCD watch, except that even in this mode the Ticwatch Pro can still show more than just date and time. Essential Mode will continue to keep track of your steps and will display that on the screen. It also shows your last measured heart rate. The watch face in Essential Mode is fixed, no doubt due to the display technology.

The Wear OS side of the Ticwatch Pro, or Smart Mode as Mobvoi calls it, is not unlike any other Wear OS smartwatch. Two buttons on the side of the Ticwatch Pro add more input options beyond the touchscreen display. Touch inputs work well, and I like that the buttons are where they are, more comfortable for right-handed people, unlike where Mobvoi’s previous Ticwatch S (and E) had its button.

In terms of design, the Ticwatch Pro is distinctly more premium than last year’s Ticwatches. The metal bezel and metal back sandwich a well-constructed reinforced nylon body. You can’t have all metal if you want wireless signals to get through the body easily.

The standard watch strap provided with the Ticwatch Pro is leather on the outside, and a breathable silicone material on the underside. This combination of materials not only looks good, but at the same time is sweat resistant and comfortable to wear even during sports. This strap works well for me, but if you don’t fancy this one, you can change the with any 22 mm strap.

The charging contacts on the underside of the Ticwatch Pro are used with a magnetically attached USB charging dock. You can also see the heart rate sensor in the centre of the metal back.

The extra layer of FSTN LCD screen does mean that Ticwatch Pro is somewhat thick, and at 14.6 mm, it is quite noticeably more so than the Ticwatch S. The watch face has a 45 mm diameter, and the AMOLED screen within measures 1.39 inches with 400×400 resolution.

Under the hood, the Ticwatch Pro runs Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100, with 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of storage. It supports 2.4 Ghz 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, and GPS with AGPS. The smartwatch is IP68 rated, so no worries about taking it to the bath or on swims.

The Ticwatch Pro ships with Android 8.0, and runs Wear OS 1.5. Mobvoi includes a couple of their own health and fitness app, but otherwise the Ticwatch Pro has the same features and functionality as other Wear OS smartwatches.

In my testing, the built-in 415 mAh battery can get by with about 38 hours of casual use, going off charger at 6 am and flattening out about 8 pm the next day. This is with the Ticwatch Pro running in Smart Mode, i.e. Wear OS, with Bluetooth on but no Wi-Fi, about 30 to 50 notifications a day, and tilt-to-wake enabled. The Ticwatch Pro didn’t totally run flat after 38 hours, but got low enough that it switched over to Essential Mode.

The claimed 30-day battery life is based on running the Ticwatch Pro solely in Essential Mode, but presumably no one buys a smartwatch to use it solely as a watch plus step tracker.

Mobvoi thinks you can get 5 days or more of battery life by toggling the Ticwatch Pro between Smart Mode and Essential Mode. This is not simply about the 2nd FSTN LCD screen turning on when Wear OS’ AMOLED screen is off, but actually shutting down Wear OS totally. The idea is that you turn Wear OS on or off depending on whether you actually need it running.

Unfortunately going back to Smart Mode from Essential Mode means having to boot up Wear OS, which takes a bit of time, and it’s not anywhere like simply waking up from sleep on a Windows 10 notebook. I feel this is too inconvenient that I would rather stay in Smart Mode all the time, especially since I want to interact with Wear OS most of the time.

Incidentally, you can still measure your heart rate while in Essential Mode, without Wear OS running, by pressing the lower right button. Together with the step tracking mentioned earlier, the Essential Mode is still useful as a fitness and health tracker.

I’ve been a happy Ticwatch S user, and I think the Ticwatch Pro makes an excellent upgrade. The extra FSTN LCD screen is a clever trick to extend battery life, or at least still have a useful accessory for telling time when there’s not enough battery for the full Wear OS to run. The FSTN LCD screen works great in bright sunlight, but with no backlighting, it doesn’t work will in dim lighting conditions.

The biggest challenge for Mobvoi is the timing of the Ticwatch Pro’s arrival. Qualcomm is expected to be launching their updated wearable platform in the next few months, nicely coinciding with the possibility of Google announcing a Pixel watch in their upcoming hardware event. The Ticwatch Pro is an excellent Wear OS smartwatch, and it’s reasonably priced too. But if you’re not in a hurry, it may be worth waiting to see what comes out later this year.

The retail packaging for the Ticwatch Pro is quite simple. Apart from some documentation, the only thing included is the USB charging dock.

The Ticwatch Pro retails at US$249.99, and is available from Mobvoi’s online store.

Conclusion

The Ticwatch Pro is an excellent Wear OS smartwatch with a dual-screen technology that helps to extend battery life.

Pros:

  • Great build quality
  • AMOLED + FSTN LCD screens have good practical use
  • Essential Mode helps extend battery life
  • Has most features needed in a smartwatch (less LTE)

Cons:

  • Slightly thick and heavy
  • Battery life in Smart Mode is just average

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