TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE review: Stuck in time

How do you follow up one of the best Wear OS watches ever made? If you’re Mobvoi, by not doing much at all, it turns out.

The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is the successor to Mobvoi’s first flagship TicWatch and they look so similar that it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between the two at a glance.

As the moniker suggests, the new model comes with cellular support in partnership with Verizon, but has the Chinese company hidden away any other goodies in this familiar-looking package?

Find out in Android Authority’s TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE review!

About this review: I’ve been using the TicWatch Pro 4G (model WF11026V) as my main smartwatch for just over a week, running Wear OS 2.7 based on Android 9.0 Pie. The watch was connected to a Google Pixel 3 XL. Mobvoi provided the review unit to Android Authority.

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Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE review: The big picture

 

Mobvoi has spent the past 12 months refreshing its existing line of smartwatches. This started with the TicWatch C2, then the TicWatch S2 and E2, and now it’s the TicWatch Pro’s turn. The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE retains all of the key selling points of its direct predecessor, including its signature dual layered-display.

The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is the latest Mobvoi smartwatch refresh.

Pitched as an elite all-rounder for smartwatch lovers, the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE enters the U.S. wearables market with the product category trending upwards. In addition, Wear OS enjoyed a significant overhaul since the Pro line’s last outing, there’s new and improved core hardware available to OEMs, and competition is stronger than ever from the likes of Samsung, Fitbit, Garmin, and, of course, Apple.

Can the new TicWatch Pro reclaim its place at the top of the Wear OS ladder?

Design

  • 45.15 x 52.8 x 12.6mm
  • MIL-STD-810G
  • 22mm silicone strap
  • IP68

The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE uses the same blend of a plastic (polyamide and glass fiber) body, stainless steel bezel with minute markers, and an aluminium rear cover found on the first TicWatch Pro, but is 11g lighter. It only comes in Black, with Mobvoi (disappointingly) deciding to ditch the Silver variant for the latest model.

TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE design

The watch is fairly chunky, but not excessively so and it feels satisfyingly weighty on your wrist. The tri-material build looks a little cheap up close, particularly the dominant plastic body, which clashes with the premium metal bezel and buttons. What you lose in aesthetics you gain in durability. The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is MIL-STD-810G certified.

The two metal buttons on the right side of the watch are sturdy and tactile. Unfortunately, while the textured edges of the top button make it look like it should act as a crown for cycling through menus, it isn’t. This is a real shame when physical navigation is such a boon for other top-tier wearables like the Samsung Galaxy Watch.

TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE rear
TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE buttons

The strap is now all silicone instead of a leather-silicone hybrid. A metal or leather strap would have been preferable, but the silicone is better for those using the watch as a fitness tracker. You can also switch out the bands for other 22mm straps via the handy clips.

It feels like Mobvoi was trapped in two minds when designing the TicWatch Pro. On the one hand it has the numbered bezel, metal buttons, and general profile of a luxury watch. On the other, the plastic body, rubber strap, and lack of a crown put it more in line with the cheaper TicWatch family.

Display

  • 1.39-inch OLED
  • 1.39-inch FSTN LCD (overlaid)
  • 400 x 400 resolution
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3

The TicWatch Pro has the same display as the original TicWatch, which is a good thing. The OLED panel is crisp, gets plenty bright, and has great viewing angles even in full sunlight. The Gorilla Glass 3 helps round out the watch’s overall durability.

TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE watch face

The dual layered-display is an innovative solution for Wear OS’ battery woes.

This OLED panel features an always-on display option, but unlike other TicWatch wearables, the TicWatch Pro series has a smarter solution — the dual-layered display.

Sat on top of the OLED panel is a secondary low power Film Compensated Super Twisted Nematic (FSTN) LCD display. This transparent display appears permanently when the watch is set to Essential Mode or when the battery reaches critically low levels. Its best use though, is in Smart Mode (active by default), which causes the LCD display to kick in whenever the watch is idle.

The LCD display is far less useful when you want to use smartwatch features, as it only shows the time, date, step counter, and a heart rate indicator, but it helps extend battery life. It also has a retro digital watch-vibe to it, which I quite like.

Smartwatch features

  • 4G/LTE (Verizon only)
  • Wear OS
  • NFC
  • Built-in GPS

You can’t talk about the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE without addressing the biggest addition — cellular support.

The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE utilizes number sharing to enable VoLTE calls directly from the watch, as well as sending and receiving SMS or instant messages. It also supports cloud sync, so your notifications come through without a Bluetooth connection. This works even if you don’t have a corresponding app on your watch for Android apps like WhatsApp and Gmail. Additionally, there’s an SOS feature that lets wearers dial emergency services with a single tap.

TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE Google Assistant

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what any of these features are like, as the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE’s cellular functions aren’t supported at launch. Mobvoi says these will be switched on in about a month. It’s worth noting that the wearable will only be compatible with Verizon, so if you’re with another carrier you should look elsewhere.

On the software front, the TicWatch Pro runs Google’s oft-maligned Wear OS platform. It’s hard to argue that much of the criticism hasn’t been warranted.

There’s still plenty of work to be done, but Wear OS is in the best state it’s ever been. Google recently added Tiles. These are a blatant lift from watchOS, but feel like a long overdue and useful addition. Sadly many apps don’t yet support Tiles, but this should improve over time.

TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE app drawer
TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE Wear OS weather tile

Wear OS also brings with it Google’s wider ecosystem. As well as the Play Store with its myriad watch apps and watch faces, the TicWatch Pro puts direct access to Google Assistant, Discover, Google Fit, and more on your wrist. That’s in addition to Google Pay via NFC payments.

Related: 10 best Wear OS watch faces

As with previous TicWatch models, Mobvoi has largely left the software completely untouched. The only major additions are all linked to the TicWatch Pro’s health and fitness suite.

Fitness and health tracking

  • Heart rate monitor
  • TicMotion AI activity tracking
  • Google Fit and TicHealth

Unlike some Wear OS watches the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE doesn’t just stick you with Google Fit, which is far less comprehensive than the apps found on Garmin and Fitbit smartwatches. Instead, Mobvoi has its own TicHealth suite for tracking workouts and heart rate monitoring, as well as some social features.

TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE TicHealth app

TicExercise is mapped to the watch’s bottom physical button by default (but can be remapped) and supports six workout presets: Outdoor run, outdoor walk, indoor run, cycling, free style, and pool swimming. The latter is a strange inclusion considering the lack of an ATM rating for water pressure at any depth. The TicWatch Pro manual says the IP68 rating means it’s “not advisable to submerge” the watch underwater though the official press materials say it is “pool swimming suitable,” so there’s some seriously mixed messaging.

Dive deeper: Everything you need to know about IP and ATM ratings

Mobvoi has updated its AI-powered TicMotion technology to automatically track selected workouts, specifically outdoor runs and walks. In theory, this feature means you can just set off without fiddling with your watch before you leave the house. The reality isn’t quite as rosy. It takes a good few minutes before the watch realizes you’ve started an activity (more so for walking, which takes around 5-10 minutes to activate). That’s a lot of fitness data to lose if you’re trying to accurately track your workouts.

Editor’s Pick

The upgraded TicPulse fares better. The heart rate monitor can now passively measure your heartbeat and generate heart data for up to seven days. This even works in Essential mode. As for the heart rate monitor’s accuracy, aside from a few erroneous dips and spikes the results are generally accurate.

Mobvoi TicWatch app devices screenshot
Mobvoi TicWatch app health center screenshot
Mobvoi TicWatch app heart rate screenshot

The downside is that to see all of this data on a larger screen you’ll need to use the woeful Mobvoi phone app.

The Health Center within the app is rudimentary to the extreme and mostly just replicates what you can already see on the watch. The app also has sections for Mobvoi’s online store and smart home controls and is generally plagued with ads. It’s obvious the app hasn’t been designed as a dedicated companion.

Related: Best GPS running watches

Overall, TicHealth isn’t the most exhaustive fitness platform and Mobvoi clearly has some work ahead of it to iron out its idiosyncrasies. It’s a mostly competent suite for casual users that would be happy with basic workout tracking.

Performance

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 2100
  • 1GB RAM
  • 4GB storage

Up until now, every TicWatch has been powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 SoC. This now three-year-old chip was superseded by the Snapdragon 3100 last year and, despite a painfully slow adoption rate, several Wear OS watches with the processor have boasted improvements to performance and, crucially, battery efficiency.

The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE still uses the Snapdragon Wear 2100.

As ridiculous as it is that a device with “Pro” in the name runs on ancient hardware, the TicWatch Pro’s general performance is surprisingly good. Whereas Wear OS products often suffer from egregious amounts of lag and stutter, flicking around the new TicWatch Pro’s UI is silky smooth. Things get a little more choppy using third party apps, but this is undoubtedly the smoothest Wear OS experience Mobvoi has crafted to date.

How can a so-called Pro smartwatch run on a three-year-old SoC?

While it’s admirable Mobvoi has eked so much out of a last-gen chipset, what you’re getting is still a knee-capped version of what Wear OS potentially could and should be. Future updates to the platform could demand far more processing power, potentially leaving the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE in the dust.

Battery

  • 415mAh
  • Smart and Essential modes
  • Proprietary charger

The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE leverages its dual layered-display to offer two modes — Smart Mode and Essential Mode. The former uses a combination of the two displays to save battery life, while the latter solely relies on the LCD to maximize the watch’s endurance.

Editor’s Pick

Mobvoi claims you’ll get up to 30 days using just Essential Mode. I couldn’t verify this due to time restrictions, but after a day of using Essential Mode exclusively I’d barely drained five percent of the battery.

Most of the time you’ll want to stick with Smart Mode with the LCD display in effect while the watch is idle. In this mode, I managed just over two days before the watch automatically switched back to Essential Mode when the battery reached critically low levels. This was with constant heart rate monitoring and GPS active. By comparison, the watch only managed 1.5 days with always-on display turned on.

Of course, we haven’t been able to test the impact 4G/LTE connectivity has on the new TicWatch Pro’s battery life, so keep that in mind before getting too excited.

TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE battery

Recharging the watch is a breeze. The magnetic charger fits any regular USB plug and the lips on either side hold the watch in place. It took around 30 minutes to recharge the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE to 30 percent from flat.

The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE offers great battery life for a Wear OS wearable. Unfortunately, that’s a pretty huge caveat when you remember that smartwatches like the Fitbit Versa and Samsung Galaxy Watch can go for over four days on a single charge.

TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE specs

 Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE
Display1.39-inch OLED
400 x 400 resolution
FSTN LCD
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Watch casePolyamide and glass fiber
Stainless steel bezel
Aluminum back cover
Watch strapSilicon (interchangeable)
22mm
SoCQualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100
Memory1GB RAM
4GB ROM
ConnectivityBluetooth v4.2 + BLE
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
GPSGPS
GLONASS
Beidou
SensorsPPG heart rate sensor Accelerometer
Gyroscope
e-compass
Ambient light sensor
Low latency off-body sensor
NFCYes
Battery415mAh
IP ratingIP68
DurabilityUS Military Standard-810G
Operating systemWear OS
CompatibilityAndroid, iOS
ColorsBlack
Dimensions45.15 x 52.8 x 12.6mm

Value for the money

  • Mobvoi TicWatch 4G/LTE — $299

The Mobvoi TicWatch 4G/LTE is priced at $299 in the U.S., which is $50 more than the first generation TicWatch Pro. As cellular connectivity isn’t available for a month (August 10, 2019), “early adopters” can pick up the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE for $279. A launch is planned in the U.K. for later in 2019, but carriers have yet to be confirmed.

TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE watch face

The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE’s closest Wear OS rivals in both aesthetics and features are the Fossil Q Explorist HR, and Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30.

The Fossil Q Explorist is arguably the pick of the bunch, however, you lose out on battery life and cellular support. Meanwhile, the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 has no cellular support and carries an exorbitant price tag.

If you’re fully willing to sacrifice 4G/LTE the TicWatch S2 offers a similar look and a 5ATM water pressure rating for just $179, or there’s the original TicWatch Pro for $249. As for slimline alternatives, Mobvoi’s own TicWatch C2 ($199) and the Fossil Sport — still the best Wear OS smartwatch you can buy right now — are your best options.

Editor’s Pick

Mobvoi will likely cling on to the title of the best Wear OS smartwatch with LTE support for a little while, but that’s really only due to the lack of competition. Look outside the Wear OS bubble and the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE becomes a little harder to recommend.

The TicWatch Pro is compatible with both Android and iOS devices, but if you have an iPhone then the Apple Watch is an absolute no brainer. 

For Android users, the Samsung Galaxy Watch with LTE comes in at $350 and has compatibility with all U.S. carriers. It’s also a fantastic Tizen-powered smartwatch with an elegant design, a rotating bezel, 5ATM certification, and far superior battery life.

Buy TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE

Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE review: The verdict

The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is one of the best Wear OS smartwatches out there, but it’s only marginally better than its predecessor. Rather than being an all-out upgrade over the original TicWatch Pro, the new model is an iterative update with more RAM and (imminent) cellular support, but nothing much else.

The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE has serious competition outside of the Wear OS bubble.

If you’re desperate to make calls from your wrist and are fully committed to the Wear OS platform, there’s no better option out there yet — if the pending cellular features work as advertised, that is. However, persistent software issues and aging core hardware put the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE at a severe disadvantage against its non-Wear OS rivals.

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