For years Google’s Wear OS has been neglected and laughed off as a serious platform for smartwatches. Like Android tablets, Google still continues to mostly ignore Wear OS, but Qualcomm and Mobvoi took significant steps to launch a compelling smartwatch for Android smartphone users.
In June 2020 Qualcomm revealed the Snapdragon Wear 4100 platform and Mobvoi is first out of the gate with the TicWatch Pro 3 that includes this new processor. I ordered one the day it was announced and have used it for the past two weeks.
Also: TicWatch Pro 2020 review: Google Wear OS smartwatch with layered display, ample RAM, and low $260 price
There is a lot to like in this new Google Wear OS smartwatch and if you have a new phone like the Surface Duo or Galaxy Z Fold 2 it is a solid companion to quickly answer or make calls, respond to or create messages, and take care of quick tasks without having to pick up or open up your smartphone.
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 platformDisplay: 1.4 inch 454×454-pixel resolution AMOLED and FSTN secondary displayMaterials: Stainless steel, plastic, and glassMemory: 1GB of RAM and 8GB ROMWater and dust resistance: IP68Connectivity and sensors: WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, optical HR, barometer, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, pulse oximeter, NFCBand: 22mm silicone replaceable strapBattery: 595 mAh. 72 hours in smartwatch mode and up to 45 days in essential modeDimensions: 47 x 48 x 12.2mm and 41.9 grams
The TicWatch Pro 3 GPS also includes a speaker and a microphone so you can carry out phone calls and interact with Google Assistant right from your wrist.
At first glance, the TicWatch Pro 3 looks very similar to the TicWatch Pro 2020 released earlier this year. There isn’t anything unique or remarkable about this watch and it appears to be a safe upgrade for Mobvoi. However, it is a bit thinner, has a plastic back rather than a metal one, and offers a more refined look and feel. It is a traditional watch with a round face and minute designations around the bezel.
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It is not a massively sized watch, but it is larger than some other recent watches so check the dimensions before you make the purchase. For my wrist, it fits perfectly and doesn’t look too large while also being comfortable enough to sleep with.
The heart rate sensor on the back supports oxygen saturation measurements too so you can use the TicOxygen app to gather this data or have it recorded during your sleep at night. Apple is heavily promoting this capability, but others like Fitbit, Garmin, and Mobvoi also have it and provide better reporting than Apple.
The speaker is found on the left side of the watch while two large buttons are positioned on the right side. The microphone is positioned between the two physical buttons. Phone calls worked well with the watch and people I talked to said I sounded fine. The OLED screen is a touchscreen, but the two buttons make navigation quick and easy as well.
The top right button serves as the power button, along with the home button. A two-second press launches Google Assistant and this has been one of the main reasons I have been using it. The bottom button launches the TicExercise options while a long press opens up quick settings to drain the speaker of water, switch to essential mode, restart the watch, or power off the watch. You can also choose to customize the single press of this button if you want to launch something besides TicExercise.
The included silicone band has orange stitching, giving it a bit of a leather look. It’s very soft silicone and provides a comfortable fit. Standard 22mm quick release bands are used so you can easily replace it with an almost unlimited number of options found from various retailers.
Also: Best smartwatches in 2020: Apple and Samsung battle for a spot on your wrist
Google’s Wear OS software
The watch is powered by Google’s Wear OS and for the most part it’s a decent wearable operating system. There are still apps that fail (OneNote), are missing (Starbucks), or have since been removed (Nest) that still appear in the Play Store. I preferred the old way that Google’s wearable OS worked where you found and selected apps on your phone and synced them to your watch. With today’s Wear OS you need to visit the Play Store on the tiny watch display and manage all of your apps (including setting them up through various means, often requiring setup on the phone) right from the watch. This would make more sense if Wear OS watches ran independently via LTE, but it still makes no sense to me why Google moved to watch-only app management.
A benefit of the TicWatch Pro 3 over a Galaxy Watch is support for more standard Android apps available on the Play Store. With the Snapdragon 4100 things zip around well on the watch and I never felt like things were lagging behind. Another benefit is support for Google Assistant and Google Pay on the watch.
The watch face appears when you tilt up your wrist or press a button. A swipe from left to right shows Google data, a swipe down from the top shows your settings and quick controls, and a swipe up from below shows your notifications. A swipe from right to left moves you through the tiles that you select on the watch. There are not many tiles available and this is one area I would love to see more development from Google or third parties.
Tap and hold on the watch face to switch up or customize your watch face. Press the top right button to open the app launcher where all of your apps are shown in two long columns. This is Mobvoi’s launcher and if you don’t like it then you can switch back to the Google launcher that just begs for a spinning crown button. Swipe up and down to navigate your app list and tap on an icon to open the app.
In addition to Google’s Wear OS, Mobvoi has a lot built into the watch with several Tic-branded applications and settings. Apps installed on the TicWatch Pro 3 include TicHealth, TicExercise, TicPulse, TicSleep, TicBreathe, TicZen, TicOxygen, and TicHearing.
TicHealth shows you rings similar to an Apple Watch along with a consolidation of other data collected in various Tic-branded apps. There is a lot more in TicHealth on your smartphone too.
TicExercise includes workout modes for outdoor run, outdoor walk, indoor run, cycling, indoor cycling, free style, pool swimming, rowing machine, elliptical, body mechanics, trail running, mountaineering, and yoga. I have only explored outdoor running, walking, and cycling so have more to discover. You can set targets for your exercise, but there are no options to customize the displays you will see while you exercise. The monochrome display appears and shows some essential information when running and if Mobvoi could just provide a few more options for customization then I would be quite happy.
TicPulse shows you your heart rate history while TicOxygen does the same for oxygen saturation. TicZen measures your stress while TicBreathe helps you work through meditation and breathing activities. TicSleep measures your nightly sleep with a few settings available for periods of non-interruptions. The TicHearing app serves as a sound meter and shows you the decibels of your surroundings, which is an interesting option for measuring your environment.
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Wear OS and Mobvoi smartphone apps
The Wear OS smartphone app is pretty basic, but is needed to setup the connection between the watch and your phone. You can use the Wear OS app to install watch faces and control a few basics, but the Mobvoi app is the primary app for customizing and using the watch.
The Mobvoi app shows you the connection status of the TicWatch Pro 3 and remaining battery percentage. All of your sports and health data is shown with a third of a ring for steps, exercise, and active hours. Calories burned, distance covered, heart rate, oxygen saturation, stress, sleep tracking, exercise, high intensity exercise, and noise detection are all shown in the sports and health data page. Tap on any of these areas to view extensive details such as your sleep efficiency number, breakdown of your sleep, heart rate throughout the day, and much more. The amount of data collected and visible to you is impressive for those of us who love diving into the details, tracking trends, and working to improve our performance. You can view a calendar of your data and dive into the past in order to measure progress.
In the sports and health data section your personal dimensions are entered, along with your goals. You can also bind your data to Runkeeper, Strava, and Google Fit. At first, I was unable to set these up because of the specific security settings I had on my Gmail account (YubiKey) so I changed some of the settings and then was able to successfully setup syncing with these services. This binding is important to me since my exercise data now syncs to Strava, for example, where I can use it to plot trends, run reports, export it to compare to other devices, and more. If you have issues setting up this external service connection, check your security settings.
There are also areas to browse the watch face center, listen to your captured audio notes, and capture a watch screenshot. I regularly have ideas and thoughts while out exercising so I love the ability to quickly create and save voice notes.
Pricing and competition
The Apple Watch Series 6 is available starting at $399, but since Android smartphone users can’t use it then the Apple Watch isn’t even an option to consider.
Samsung offers the Galaxy Watch 3, starting at $400, and this is a solid option for Android phone owners. There are some limitations when compared to the TicWatch Pro 3, such as lack of Google Pay and Google Assistant.
Daily usage experiences and conclusion
Android smartphone owners are unable to use an Apple Watch, arguably the best smartwatch available today, so the default has been to go with a Samsung Tizen-based smartwatch. Samsung watches are indeed great smartwatches, but there is no support for Google Assistant or Google Pay, third party apps are limited to what developers have built for Tizen, and I have never been able to get one of those watches to last even a full two days. The majority of these ‘apps’ are watch faces so there is clearly a gap in apps for Android users on a Galaxy watch.
Mobvoi’s TicWatch Pro 3 is a great first smartwatch to launch with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 4100 platform. Performance is flawless, the design is compelling, you get multiple days out of a smartwatch (which no one else provides), and there is plenty of advanced health technology inside. If Google would spend a bit of time with Wear OS apps, then this watch could be a killer Android smartphone companion. Even in its current state, at $300 it is easy to recommend.
Google Assistant was very slow to respond and most of the time I couldn’t tell if the watch heard me or not as it just sat there processing my request. I read the review from Michael Fisher and a few others who said Google Assistant worked well so I reset the watch and set it up again. It now works flawlessly when I press and hold the upper right button. I still can’t get flawless OK Google detection to work, but having the button initiation work has been a wonderful experience.
The Tic-branded apps are great and offer tons of functionality and capability. The TicExercise run and walk tracking with GPS was very accurate when compared to GPS sports watches. There is some TicCoach advice present in the Mobvoi app and over time this may prove useful in guiding ways to improve your fitness and health.
The dual display design is an intelligent use of technology to maximize battery life on your wrist. The brilliant high resolution AMOLED looks great when interacting with apps while the low power display on top offers just the essentials when you want to glance and check the status.
It’s a bit confusing having duplicate health and fitness apps from Mobvoi and Google on the watch, but you can disable Mobvois apps and hide them from the launcher. However, these apps are better than what Google offers so I would prefer to hide Google’s Fit assortment of apps. I just put the Google Fit apps at the bottom of the launcher and moved along with Mobvoi’s offerings.
If you are looking for a Google Wear OS smartwatch that will last you for at least a couple of days, is powered by the newest Qualcomm wearable processor, supports Google Pay from your wrist, and is reasonably priced then you should definitely consider the TicWatch Pro 3.