Review: Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 4G, a great Wear OS watch now with LTE

Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE

7.4

Design

7.5/10

Ease of use

7.5/10

Use of information

7.0/10

Motivation

7.5/10

Pros

  • Second screen provides always-on functionality
  • Smooth performance of the operating system
  • Cellular connectivity
  • GPS, NFC, music storage
  • Decent battery life

Cons

  • Masculine design
  • LTE is limited to Verizon

 

Watches with cellular functionality are few and far between. Particularly if you’re looking for something that runs on the Google Wear OS platform. Mobvoi has now joined this select club with its latest timepiece.

TicWatch Pro 4G was launched about a month ago. It allows users to share their existing phone number on Verizon and conduct phone calls without a smartphone. This also extends to SMS and use of messaging apps.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

Other than that, the device is pretty much along the lines of the TicWatch Pro which was released just over a year ago. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing as the timepiece is a solid entry into the Wear OS space. Plus its duel-screen is a unique solution to the problem that plagues most such watches, battery life.

But has Mobvoi packed away some other upgrades in this beefed up version? Read on to find out what I made of the new TicWatch Pro 4G.

Design
Hardware
Fitness tracking
LTE and other smart functions
Overview

View technical specs


Design

Put TicWatch Pro 4G next to its non-cellular predecessor and you’ll struggle to see the difference. They look practically identical.

But in addition to LTE radios, the new timepiece comes with some other updates over its predecessor. This includes double the RAM (now 1GB) and some extra bells and whistles.

Not much has changed, though, in terms of the design which is a good thing. The current version’s main party trick is that it has a layered top which provides unique power-saving functionality. This was retained for the 4G edition.

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A transparent FSTN (Film Compensated Super Twisted Nematic ) LCD screen sits above the TicWatch Pro’s main 1.39″ OLED (400 x 400 resolution) display and switches on when you’re not interacting with the device. The primary purpose of this type of setup is to extend battery life. All of this is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, a step up on the High Strength Cover Glass of its predecessor.

The LCD seamlessly switches on when your not interacting with the watch which means you have an always-on screen. The information it shows is a bit less detailed and consists of the time, your basic health information, and the date. Mind you, the full colour screen is quick to react at a flick of the wrist, and this provides you with a much more detailed view of things.

Interestingly, the transparent screen is the more readable of the two in outside, sunny conditions. Indoors, it’s the other way around, the full colour OLED is bright, sharp and the colours are vivid. The addition of the LCD display is a huge improvement over watches that have screens that are off by default. Mobvoi should be applauded for coming up with such a clever solution. Apple might want to take note…

You navigate the interface via the touchscreen and two metal buttons on the right. The screen is large so is pretty easy to read.

Swipe left for Google Assistant and relevant information such as calendar events, reminders, tracking data for packages and more. Swipe down for notifications, up for settings Airplane Mode, Google Pay, Theater Mode, Do Not Disturb, and a shortcut to ring your misplaced smartphone. A flick to the right will take you through Tiles, which come pre-installed. You can have a total of four and they are easily customisable from the device itself or the smartphone app. Swiping down takes you to the shortcut screen, which by default shows exercises.

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The IP68, pool swimming suitable device measures 45.15 x 52.8 x 12.6mm and comes with a plastic and glass fiber case, a stainless steel bezel and an aluminium back cover. Despite the added functionality, the watch weights only 47.4 grams, 11 grams less than its predecessor.

Its 22mm strap is made of silicone, but this can be swapped around for other options. This is actually a slight downgrade from the previous edition which has a leather-silicone hybrid band. Currently the watch only comes in a Black variant, so Mobvoi has decided to ditch the Liquid Metal Silver option.

The stainless steel  bezel around the screen is textured and the numbers on the bezel don’t stand out as much as they do on its predecessor. The metal buttons are also textured and turn, but turning them does not actually do anything useful apart from giving your fingers a bit of a workout.

All things considered TicWatch Pro 4G is a good looking, well built device. In fact, it’s build is so durable, it is compliant with the MIL-STD-810G standard. So it’s no surprise the watch has a masculine feel.

If you disregard the knurled edges of the bezel and slightly bulkier body, it’s actually not all too different from the Garmin Forerunner range. The gizmo is not super-flashy but it does has a functional appeal and is comfortable to wear. The bulkiness is probably necessary to accommodate the dual-display technology.

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Hardware

Under the hood, the sensors are pretty much unchanged. The full list includes a PPG heart rate sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, e-compass, ambient light sensor and low latency off-body sensor. There’s also GPS + GLONASS + Beidou which works as it should and is fairly quick to connect, as well as NFC for contactless payments.

To round things off, TicWatch Pro 4G comes with a built-in speaker. This, in combination with the LTE radios, makes phone calls from the wrist possible and it also has the ability to play music and read answers to your Google Assistant questions aloud. Its been a while since a new LTE-enabled Wear OS watch landed. You have to go back to 2017.

Unfortunately, the watch still runs on the older Snapdragon Wear 2100 and not the new 3100 chip. But don’t let this deter you from considering a purchase as it still performs well, partly a result of the boost in RAM.

The thing is very responsive, scrolling is smooth and there’s no lag which you sometimes see with Wear OS devices and its predecessor, particularly the case when switching apps on the watch. The increase in RAM makes all the difference. The TicWatch Pro 4G variant is worth it just for that.

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Battery life is still decent thanks to the unique design, particularly when compared to other Wear OS devices. In normal mode the watch will keep going for up to 2 days. Of course, the combination of LTE connectivity and GPS will shrink this right down to only a few hours.

However, when running low users can switch to a power saving mode (Essential Mode). This will kick in automatically when the watch battery drops below 5%. In this mode, everything will keep running for up to a month with limited functionality and only the transparent LCD display. Not bad! We expect more and more smartwatches to go down the multiple power options route.

To refuel the 415 mAh battery, simply slot the watch into the charging cradle. You’ll hear a snap when it aligns with the four-pin connector. A couple of hours is all it takes to go from zero to full.


Fitness tracking

The TicWatch Pro 4G offers much of the same as its predecessor in terms of health and fitness. Which means you get the usual steps, distance, calories, active time, heart rate monitoring and more.

The device still does not provide sleep tracking, but Mobvoi says this will come in a future firmware update. Look in the Mobvoi app and you’ll see a section for sleep there, it’s just that it doesn’t do anything at the moment.

The sensors, however, are better utilised now as Mobvoi has bumped TicMotion up to version 2. This automatically recognises and logs outdoor runs and walks. Most fitness and sports watches now have this type of functionality but not all Wear OS watches. So it’s good Mobvoi has implemented it. Nevertheless, I prefer to start exercises manually as the auto-recognition typically misses out the first few minutes of your workout. But it’s good to know that it’s there as a backup.

Mobvoi has also introduced something it calls TicPulse. This allows for more detailed tracking of your heart rate, even in Essential Mode. It also slaps on extreme heart rate alerts. If you’re wondering about accuracy, you might get the occasional erroneous spike or dip but the heart rate sensor is fairly good.

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As far as software, the watch comes installed with the latest version of Wear OS. The platform still has a way to go but it has been improving over the years. The most recent addition are quick-glance Tiles. This feature provides easy, swappable access to important information on your watch.

Mobvoi goes a step further than some other Wear OS device manufacturers in that it provides the addition its own proprietary software. Users are given the option of using the Mobvoi app. I actually preferred it to Google’s software, as it’s visually more pleasing and you have access to a wealth of detailed stats.

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Wear OS app

This, however, requires you to have two apps installed on your smartphone in order to get the watch to sync – Wear OS and Mobvoi. A bit annoying – but it is what it is. When setting up, everything is done through the Wear OS app. This will let you create an account, pair the watch to your phone, edit settings, choose a clock face and more.

Most of these settings can be accessed via the watch later on, too. For example, you can change the watch-face simply by tapping and holding anywhere on the current watch-face.

You also need to go through another short setup process in order to use Mobvoi proprietary software. This is if you plan on utilising TicExercise for tracking workouts, TicHealth, for looking at daily activity data, TicPulse, for heart rate and the company’s smartphone app.

The benefits of using Mobvoi software is that the data is richer, it works faster than using Google Fit and with TicPulse the watch continuously monitors your heart rate. As mentioned, this works even during Essential Mode, where the device will capture your heart history for up to 30 days. Google Fit, on the other hand, has a larger selection of workouts.

Most of your activity can be viewed on the watch itself, but for a more detailed overview head over to Wear OS/Google Fit on your smartphone or the Mobvoi app. For the purposes of this review I will describe the Mobvoi app on an iPhone as this is what I preferred to use for testing.

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Mobvoi app

The Mobvoi app’s main dashboard shows an overview of your daily activity. The ring takes centre stage and its three circles fills up gradually during the day as you accumulate active hours, steps and exercise minutes. Yes, it is rather reminiscent of the Apple Watch’s activity rings.

Tap on any of these metrics to be taken through to the Health Centre for a detailed overview of your activity. There you have the option of checking weekly and monthly activity data.

Users are also presented with options to sync to third party platforms. This includes Google Fit, RunKeeper and Strava.

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TicExercise lets you choose between six different exercises. Swipe down on the watch and you can quickly scroll through them. Supported workouts include outdoor run, outdoor walk, indoor run, cycling, free style, and pool swimming.

As mentioned, you actually get a larger selection of workouts if you opt for Google Fit but the data is less detailed. Plus, with TicExercise, the secondary LCD display is used to show information – you don’t get this with Google Fit. For example when running you can view current time, heart rate, elapsed time, distance, lap time and battery life.

Of the six workout options, I was particularly keen to try out running and swimming. I also tracked a gym session with the free style option. This provides little detail, however, and just spits out heart rate and session duration.

Running has much more data to sink your teeth into. The GPS is fairly quick to connect. I used it alongside my Garmin Forerunner 935 and would estimate that 1 out of three times the Mobvoi device was quicker to connect, at other times it was the Garmin.

The data is fairly easy to see on the LCD display. You can cycle through the information with an upward or downward swipe. There’s also an Autopause function which works rather well and is helpful for those annoying traffic stops. Swipe left to pause or end the workout after which you are presented with options to save or disregard it.

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For a more detailed view of your run head over to the Mobvoi smartphone app. As shown above, you are able to see the distance, duration, calories, average heart rate and average speed. Users also get a detailed chart on how their heart rate changed during the run, along with a chart on pace, step frequency, step length and a map of their route.

As far as data is concerned, the calculated distance between the Mobvoi and Garmin was pretty much in sync during the 3 runs I tracked. TicWatch Pro typically showed a slightly higher average heart rate than the Forerunner but the maximum value was similar. Cadence was slightly lower on the Mobvoi while average stride length was the same.

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Even though the device is only IP68 rated, Mobvoi says it is ok to swim with. So I took the plunge!

The data tracked is less detailed than for running, but that’s to be expected considering optical heart rate monitors don’t work well under water. When starting a swim you are presented with an option to set the length of the pool – the default is 25m.

The watch monitors distance, duration, calories, average pace and number of laps. All this worked flawlessly. It will also try and figure out the type of stroke. In my case it did occasionally confuse breaststroke with backstroke. In fairness, my swimming technique leaves much to be desired… The Mobvoi app also presents you with detailed segment data which includes distance, duration, stroke and SWOLF.

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LTE and other smart functions

Mobvoi’s cellular connectivity currently works only through Verizon. This may be expanded at some future date but for the moment you do need to be a Verizon subscriber to make use of LTE. Unfortunately I live in London so was unable to test this. I will expand this review once new carriers are added.

LTE functionality allows you to make phone calls from your wrist, check and respond to notifications (either through voice typing or swiping on a keyboard), stream from Google Play music and download apps. This is particularly useful for those who like to leave their smartphone behind whilst exercising outdoors.

This also allows for some more fancy features. For example, there are SOS alerts. Similar to the Apple Watch, when there’s an emergency, the device dials 911 and sends your location to pre-selected contacts.

There are three ways to activate LTE. Existing Verizon users can register on https://www.verizonwireless.com/my-verizon/. Others can call the Verizon official customer service hotline or visit a Verizon official off-line shop. When first activating the SIM function you may need to wait for 30 minutes for changes to take effect.

In order to save battery, when your watch is connected to your smartphone, LTE functionality will automatically be switched off. When there is no Bluetooth connection between the two, it will switch cellular connectivity back on. This can be tweaked in the watch settings where an always on LTE function can be found.

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The Wear OS software also brings with it Google’s ecosystem of products. It provides access to Google Assistant, Google Play, Google Fit, Google Maps, Google Pay (thanks to built-in NFC) and more.

The Google Assistant, for example, works very well. It can be summoned in a number of ways. The easiest is just to press and hold the top physical button. You can also swipe to the left from the main screen or enable the “Hey Google” wake word. Because there are built in speakers you get both an audible and a visual response.

There’s also a host of third party apps such as Uber, Four Square, Telegram and more. Wear OS lovers will feel right at home. The ecosystem of apps is available by going to the Play Store on the watch.

Other useful features include NFC for on-the-go payments through Google Pay. There’s also 4GB of internal storage in case you want to save a few songs for offline playback.


Overview

The verdict

As far as Wear OS smartwatches go, the TicWatch Pro is one of the best options out there. Now with cellular connectivity and some other bells and whistles, it’s even better.

As before, the highlight of the device is its innovative duel-layer screen. It provides an always-on experience and excellent readability in the bright summer sun. The combination also extends battery life from 2 days to up to a month in Essential Mode.

In addition to LTE connectivity on Verizon, Mobvoi has doubled the RAM to 1GB. Who knew this small change would make such a significant difference in response time of the operating system. The watch provides fast, smooth and totally lag free performance when compared to other Wear OS devices.

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Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE
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There is no sleep tracking at the moment, but an update should soon take care of this omission. So the watch will not challenge the Garmin and Fitbit sports focused devices, but it is a great choice if you’re after an all purpose smartwatch.

Most of my interactions with the device went without a hitch. Everything just works well out of the box. This new 4G variant will particularly serve well those who like to leave their phone behind for those outdoor runs or cycle rides.

This is definitely a Wear OS smartwatch I can recommend. It’s a well built (albeit slightly bulky) device, that comes with a plethora of features, decent battery life, plenty of apps and a well performing operating system.

The TicWatch Pro 4G LTE is available now from Mobvoi’s website and Amazon.

UPDATE (22/10/2019): Sleep tracking has now been added to TicWatch Pro (read more).


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