CAN THE FANCY FOURTH DEVICE FROM THIS MOB-FUNDED, MASS MARKET SMARTWATCH COMPANY MAKE IT IN THE BIG LEAGUES?
THE TICWATCH SPORT (S) and Express (E) that we featured in the last issue of TechLife championed the powerful yet affordable balance that made Mobvoi the crowdfunding success story it is today — but the company’s latest smartwatch is changing up this success recipe by launching a new device in the premium smartwatch space. The fancy Ticwatch Pro flaunts its superiority with a thick metal bezel and a physical time dial helping to frame and enhance the hundreds of circular analogue and digital watch faces on offer. This diving-watch look adds a touch of class, but also quite a bit of weight — something that today’s smartwatches still have way too much of, if you ask us. This Ticwatch crown jewel weighs in at a hefty 77g (the Apple Watch Series 3 aluminium version weighs just 26.7g, in contrast) and it’s strapped in place by a hybrid silicone and leather strap that grips well during activities and also manages to look professional. All this comes with an improved IP68 waterand dust-proofing specification to ensure the watch can go wherever you do without fear of the elements.
The 1.39-inch AMOLED display is the Pro’s most promoted feature, since it adds an additional LCD screen for displaying essential information — like the time, date and steps you’ve taken — in order to dramatically save on power usage. The company likes to spruik a 5–30-day battery life, which is a bit of a stretch since we never actually got more than 2 days out of it; if you plan to actually use it for fitness tracking and the occasional voice command, don’t expect to see anything more than average smartwatch battery performance. The ‘power saving’ LCD screen is also really hard to read in any condition but full direct sunlight, and it makes the watch look like a thick and cheap ‘90s digital watch when in this ‘essential mode’. Moreover, the proper full-colour smartwatch faces are far more attractive and exceptionally well designed, offering a number of diverse and good-looking themes that don’t sacrifice on on-screen information.
INTERFACE THE MUSIC
There’s no doubting the introduction of Android Wear OS 2 back in March was a big step forward from earlier iterations of Google’s watch OS. The Ticwatch Pro runs that revamped OS on a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset, which was released way back in 2016 but is still a big step up from the last stock Android Wear smartwatch we tested (the gen 2 Motorola Moto 360). These two factors make the Pro feel exceptionally responsive, and Mobovi’s background in voice recognition means all the Ticwatches are particularly adept at utilising the Google Assistant.
The Ticwatch Pro has two physical side-mounted buttons that launch either the app drawer or a customisable app of you own choosing. The additional custom button is a key perk over the single-button S and E models, allowing you to put your most regularly-used app front and centre. Being able to quickly access functions is one of the most important features on smartwatches and this two-button system is definitely an improvement on other Mobvoi watches, but others still arguably do it more
THE FANCY TICWATCH PRO FLAUNTS ITS SUPERIORITY WITH A THICK METAL BEZEL AND A PHYSICAL TIME DIAL HELPING TO FRAME AND ENHANCE THE HUNDREDS OF DIGITAL WATCH FACES ON OFFER.
THE INBUILT GPS SEEMS TO BE ACCURATE ENOUGH FOR FITNESS TRACKING WITH FULL SPEED AND HEART RATE BREAKDOWNS OVER A MAPPED EXERCISE ROUTE.
efficiently, such as the rotating bezel on Samsung’s Gear smartwatches, or the three shortcut buttons on Fitbit’s Ionic.
WEARING US DOWN
Wear OS still isn’t perfect, either, and it can actually feel poorly designed in places. We don’t understand how two out of the four swipeable home screen actions (the most immediate and prioritised shortcuts) are dedicated to swapping watch faces, for example. That’s like replacing the back, home or volume buttons on your smartphone with two shortcuts to the app store. Unless you’re a shop assistant trying to sell the watch by being able to show the design versatility, there’s no need for these functions to take the same level of priority as, say, quickly being able to access your notifications or settings.
WATCHING YOUR HEALTH
While we were pleased to see the Ticwatch Pro upgraded to IP68 waterproofing, the software didn’t include any water-based exercise tracking at the time of writing. In fact, with only five exercise options, the overall fitness tracking offered by Mobvoi’s smartwatch and phone apps are a little more limited than we’d like. You can circumvent this somewhat by using Google’s Fit app, and the exercises that Mobvoi does include are tracked comprehensively, but it’s a shame there’s no support for any water activities. The inbuilt GPS, at least, seems to be accurate enough for fitness tracking with full speed and heart rate breakdowns over a mapped exercise route.
The Pro’s smartwatch/GPS combo gives it the grunt to run Google Maps right off your wrist, which means you can go almost anywhere without needing to keep an eye on your phone. Also having access to apps like Google Keep, Facebook Messenger and a calendar will allow you to use the Google Assistant to dictate notes and messages, or create events and reminders that you can get notifications for (or edit) on your phone or PC later. You can even Shazam something right from your wrist, another neat feature that helps balance out Wear OS’s limitations.
For us, the two big features that we use regularly enough to justify the effort of charging a smartwatch every other day are the fitness tracking and the wrist based payments. The NFC required by the latter is a feature exclusive to the Pro series of Mobvoi’s range, and relies on Google Pay to manage the financial side of things. Google Pay doesn’t have a built-in shortcut yet — which is annoying because, most of the time, the only reason you’d use your watch to pay for something would be if it was faster, and opening the app drawer and scrolling to Google Pay takes way longer than pulling out your credit card or phone. You can, of course, map Google Pay to the one free shortcut button, but it’ll mean sacrificing whatever app you had already conveniently placed there. Perhaps they should have considered setting this feature to a swipe gesture...
While Mobvoi sells the Ticwatch Pro directly to Australia from the company’s main website, they’re currently pegged at US$250, which equated to roughly $340 at the time of writing. For a full-featured smartwatch, that’s pretty competitive, although you can get the Fitbit Ionic for $20 more or a Samsung Gear S3 Classic for just $40 more, so it does have some competition. There’s a lot to like about the Pro, but it’s not quite the same value proposition as other Ticwatch iterations and there are a few features that just aren’t perfectly suited to a premium smartwatch.
While the Ticwatch Pro’s activity tracking options are limited, the depth of information makes it good for walkers, cyclists and runners.