TicWatch offer a range of smart watches using Google’s Wear OS – basically Android for smart watches. But they all work with both Android and Apple smartphones.
The TicWatch Pro 4G is the priciest model in the range with a seemingly modest update on last year’s Ticwatch Pro. It’s a feature rich smartwatch, still based on the older Snapdragon 2100 but now with 1GB of RAM, double that of the previous model which should make it snappier. And it now supports cellular connectivity but only if you’re on Vodafone in the UK or Verizon in the US, for the time being at least.
It has an IP68 waterproof rating, built in GPS and continuous heart rate tracking with support for 6 activity types built in, including a swim mode. It has the same dual screen display of the previous model which supports up to 30 days of battery life in its Essential mode or up to 2 days of battery life in its standard mode.
In the box you get the watch itself, a proprietary magnetic charging cradle and a very brief instruction manual.
This is a fairly chunky watch at 12.6mm thick, 52.8mm tall and 45.2mm wide. It weighs 47.4g, over 10g lighter than the previous model. It has a premium build with a blackened stainless steel bezel which unfortunately doesn’t rotate, plastic sides and an aluminium back cover housing the heart rate monitor. It comes supplied with a silicone strap but you could swap it for any 22mm strap of your choice. I like the design, which is reminiscent of the Garmin Fenix range of watches.
It feels tough and meets US 810g military standards for ruggedness which the previous model didn’t have. And although it shares the previous model’s IP68 waterproof rating, this model is now suitable for pool swimming, but still not sea swimming.
It has the same quite unique 35.3mm dual layered screen display of the previous model: a power efficient LCD screen on top of a 400 by 400 pixel AMO-LED display. This is now covered by Gorilla Glass 3 – which wasn’t specified on the previous TicW atch Pro.
There are two side buttons – the top button is knurled which gives the impression that it might work like a digital crown, and rotate to navigate menus, but it doesn’t.
You’ll need to download two apps to get started: Google’s Wear OS app, and the Mobvoi app.
Setup is pretty straightforward. When you power on the watch with the top right button, the watch will boot up and prompt you to open the Wear OS app which pairs the watch to the phone and downloads any updates. You’ll need to login with your Google account if you have one, or create one if you don’t. The Wear OS app will guide you through the remainder of the setup.
Open the Mobvoi app to finish off the initial setup. You’ll need to login, but you can use the same Google account you used for the Wear OS setup. You can use this app to set up your eSIM cellular connection if you’re on a supported network. Unfortunately my network provider doesn’t currently support this watch. I’ll report back in the comments or in a future video if this situation changes and I’m able to test using the watch untethered to my phone, for phone calls and messaging.
Go into Health Centre, tap on the profile icon in the top right and configure your personal stats and step goal, which defaults to 10000 steps.
This is also where you can connect to Strava, Google Fit, Runkeeper and Apple health if you’re on iOS. If you login with your Strava account here, any workouts you do with the TicExercise app that I’ll cover shortly, will automatically upload to Strava. I’d recommend logging into Strava with your username and password, not our Google account – this caused issues for me.
In the Mobvoi app, apart from the settings just discussed, you can view your daily, weekly and monthly health stats, including steps, continuous heart rate monitoring, if you have that enabled; sleep tracking and activities.
In the Wear OS app you can configure watch faces, review your Google Fit health stats, configure tiles and customise notification settings on an app by app basis. You can also choose your synced calendar and configure the Google Assistant. In Advanced Settings you can configure Tilt to wake and the Always-on screen, that I’ll come back to.
Unfortunately, unlike with the Amazfit GTS, there’s not an awful lot of watch configuration you can do via either the Wear OS or Mobvoi app – this is all done on the watch itself.
Charging the watch’s 415mAh battery takes just under 2 hours from flat. You can get to 50% charge in around 40 minutes.
The watch snaps positively into place on its charging cradle, but you need to line up the charging pins. You can’t use a TicWatch S2 charger, even though they look similar. The watch even snaps into place on an S2 charger – but the wrong way around.
The default display mode uses the power efficient LCD screen to always display the time, date, step count and battery life. Unfortunately this screen is not backlit so it’s more useful in bright conditions. You can’t customise this display.
As soon as you tilt your wrist towards you, the screen changes to the AMO-LED display which displays your chosen watch face. Press and hold the screen to change watch face. You can swipe left and right and tap to select the watch face you like. Some faces have a setting icon which lets you customise the display to some degree. If you swipe all the way across you can add further watch faces, mostly from TicWatch but there’s also the the Google Fit watch face which can be customised with two complications. You can download many more watch faces from the Google Play store on the watch.
By default, the screen uses it ambient sensor to adjust brightness. This is good for battery life, but I did find it a little dim and it doesn’t particularly show off the AMO-LED screen. Swipe down from the top of the screen and tap the settings cog and then tap Display. Choose a brightness level from 1 to 5 to see what the display is capable of. You can always change back to Automatic.
The AMO-LED screen looks very good but the dual layer technology does very slightly take the edge off the sharpness, compared to the cheaper Ticwatch S2 which doesn’t have this LCD layered screen. And it’s not quite as crisp as the Amazfit GTS or an Apple Watch.
I won’t be covering every feature of Wear OS, but whilst in the display settings you can also turn on the Always-on display. This will reduce battery life, as you’ll be alerted, but instead of switching to the always on LCD screen, you’ll get a cut down version of your current watch face always displayed, until you tilt your wrist to see the face in all its glory.
In settings you can also turn on Wrist gestures which allow you to scroll through pages and get back to the home screen just by sharply turning your wrist away or back to you, or shaking it.
There’s also Connectivity where you can configure your WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC and cellular settings. Swiping right from the edge of the screen goes back a page.
Pulling down from the top of the screen again, you have quick access to Airplane mode, Speaker volume, Do not disturb, Google Pay, and if you tap the watch icon you’ll enter a battery saving mode which just displays the LCD screen until you press the top right button.
The top right button takes you back to the home watch face screen, and if you’re already there, it’ll take you to your list of apps.
By default the bottom right button starts a workout, opening the native TicExercise app. But if you press and hold this button you can choose another app under the Customize function button. This is also a quick way to enable Essential mode.
The Essential mode is unique to this watch and its predecessor. It disables the power hungry Wear OS and switches the watch to only use the LCD screen, for up to 30 days of battery life. In Essential mode, you’ll just see the time, date, step count and battery life. If you press the bottom right button, the built in optical heart rate sensor will take a measurement of your pulse.
This is a very handy feature and means even if you’re low on battery you can still use your watch as a watch and continue to measure your step count. I only wish they’d enabled some manual backlight, since it’s very hard to see without decent lighting.
Press and hold the top right button to exit this mode. It takes over a minute to boot back into Wear OS.
By default the watch will automatically enter Essential mode when the battery gets to 5%, but you can change this setting. Press the top right button from the watch face screen to see your list of apps. Scroll to Essential mode and swipe left to configure the Auto Switch setting. Tapping on the switch lets you choose from 5% to 20% or turn it off, but I’d recommend leaving it on. I’ll come back to Essential mode when I discuss battery life.
Double pressing the lower right button lets you set up Google Pay using the watch’s built in NFC. Once setup, a double press will let you you pay using your selected card, just by holding your watch close to any contactless payment terminal. You don’t need your phone with you, whether you have cellular setup or not. I tried setting up a few cards and they were all supported. You’ll get a text message a few moments later telling you how much you just spent.
Swiping right from the home screen takes you to the Google Assistant. You can tap on the microphone to ask a question and the watch will use its built in loudspeaker to reply. You can quickly access the Google voice assistant, by pressing and holding the top right button from any screen, wait for the watch to vibrate and then ask your question. You can even enable “Ok Google” detection for hands free voice assistant activation. Go to Settings | Personalisation | and turn “Ok Google detection” on. You’ll need to tilt your wrist to wake your watch for this to work.
To have arguably the best voice assistant so easily accessible, wherever you are is probably one of the best features of the watch.
If you swipe left from the watch face screen, you can access so-called tiles, which like the watch faces you can press and hold to change. You can get quick access to the weather, calendar events and health stats to name a few. I like to add a Timer tile to quickly set a predetermined or custom countdown timer.
If you swipe up from the home screen, you’ll see your notifications. You can swipe left on a notification to dismiss it. Paired with an Apple phone you can’t respond to notifications like you can with Android. But I can’t say this is a feature I use very much with my Apple Watch which allows good interaction with notifications.
On that note, you also can’t answer phone calls from the watch when paired with an Apple phone. You can reject a call or if you tap the answer call icon, it’ll just prompt you to take the call on your phone. Paired with an Android phone, you can take calls using the watch’s built in speaker.
If you have enabled an eSIM on your watch, then you can make and receive calls from the watch directly, independent of your paired phone. And you’ll get messages even if you don’t have your phone with you.
Another big advantage of a Wear OS watch is the number of available apps. Pressing the top right button lists the fairly comprehensive list of already installed apps. There are a number of native TicWatch apps, some of which I’ll cover shortly, and there are a few Google Fit apps also installed. But most notably there’s the Google Play Store where there’s a huge choice of apps, from big names too, including Spotify, Strava, Uber, Google Maps, Google Keep and many more. This feature alone is one of the main reasons you might choose a Wear OS watch like this. Tap and hold on any app to pin it the top of the list as a favourite.
Although there’s 4GB of built in storage, there’s no included app to play music offline and the Spotify app doesn’t let you download music. There are third party apps like the Wear Media Player that let you play music off the watch’s local storage. Using something like NavExplorer is the easiest way to copy files across. And you can easily pair some Bluetooth earbuds in Bluetooth settings, so you can play music when you’re out for a run for example. A slightly convoluted process but it works pretty well.
A useful feature of any smartwatch is controlling media playing off your phone. If you’re watching a YouTube video, or playing music the watch will display music controls. If they don’t show up or you’ve dismissed them by swiping right, pull down from the top of the screen. You can tap on the mini-control for a full screen display.
Performance and battery life
The Ticwatch Pro 4G still uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 2100 that was launched in 2016, not the newer 3100 released last year. But this new Ticwatch Pro now has 1GB of memory, twice that of the previous version and feels snappy in most situations.
Swiping between screens and scrolling through the app list is generally smooth. Smoother than on the older model and the cheaper S2, which do sometimes stutter. And opening apps that haven’t been recently launched is quicker.
It’s still not as quick as an Apple Watch and certain actions like unlocking the screen with a pattern swipe or activating the Google Assistant could be quicker. There is a slight delay with the watch waking as you tilt your wrist towards you, whether you’re using the Wear OS always on display, or the smart display. But you get used to it, and at least you can glance at your watch in both modes to check the time, without having to wake the screen.
Battery life is dependant on so many factors with this watch, but in the default smart mode utilizing the layered LCD screen, wearing it for sleep tracking and with continuous heart rate monitoring on, I can get almost 2 days of usage. But adding in an hour’s workout with GPS tracking I found I needed to charge it before I went to bed to be safe. Using Wear OS’s Always-on mode, with the brightness at level 4 which I prefer, I could still get around 24 hours usage, but I would definitely need to charge it every day before I went to bed.
So overall I’d say it’s comparable to my Apple Watch which I also need to charge every night before I go to bed. But one feature the Apple Watch doesn’t have is the Ticwatch Pro’s Essential mode. I couldn’t confirm its 30 days of battery life in this mode, but even after it switched to Essential Mode automatically when the battery got down to 5%, I got another 24 hours out of it, still giving me the time and tracking my steps. You can’t use it for workouts or track your sleep in this mode, but it’s definitely better than nothing!
It’s also worth mentioning that battery life starts off far worse for the first day or so with the constant system and app updates but soon settles down. There is a note when you unbox the watch to this effect.
The watch uses Bluetooth 4.2, not the latest 5.0. For the first week or so the watch lost connection to my phone fairly often but this has improved with the latest updates.
The watch supports sleep tracking, although you’ll need to download the TicSleep app from the Play store on the watch itself. And make sure you open the app after you’ve downloaded it. You’ll also need to turn on continuous heart rate monitoring in the TicPulse app. Finally adjust the Sleep Cycle settings in the TicSleep app so the watch doesn’t waste battery checking if you’re asleep when it’s unlikely you would be. Here you can also set a smart alarm that will attempt to wake you when you’re not in deep sleep.
The watch is probably a little on the large size to wear to bed, but I’ve mostly got used to. Apart from adjusting the Sleep Cycle, you don’t need to do anything when you go to bed. The watch will detect when you’re asleep and provide various metrics when you wake up, including your heart rate throughout the night.
This data should sync across to the Mobvoi app which would be easier to view and you could look at daily or weekly trends. But this doesn’t work – with a paired Apple phone at least. Your time in bed is pulled across but nothing else.
There’s a little share icon in the watch app, that should push the sleep data across, but I either get an error message in Chinese on my phone, or if I have the Mobvoi app already open, a never ending “Loading” screen. I have let Mobvoi know, so I imagine this will be fixed soon.
Still you can still review your last night’s sleep in the watch app. I tested the sleep function against the Sleep Cycle app running on an iPhone charging on my bedside table, and an Apple Watch with the Autosleep app.
TicSleep compared favourably with the two other apps, and did a good job of detecting when I went to sleep, when I woke up and when I was awake in the night – which a lot of apps struggle with.
All the apps measure your various levels of sleep, but I never really pay much attention to that.
Overall, if the bug can be fixed and you don’t mind sleeping with a sizeable watch on your wrist, sleep tracking is a nice feature to have.
Activity tracking, heart rate and GPS accuracy
The built in TicExercise app supports 6 activity types: Outdoor Run, Outdoor Walk, Indoor Run, Cycling, Freestyle and Pool Swimming. That’s a fairly limited list compared to the Google Fit Workout app that also comes with the watch. And with the Play Store you can download pretty much any app you want. I’ll come back to this shortly.
As I mentioned earlier, by default the lower right button takes you straight to the TicExercise app. Scroll vertically and tap on your desired workout and then tap on Go. It’s recommended to wait a second for a heart rate measurement before you start working out.
You can tap on the screen to choose what metrics are shown in the lower two data fields. You can swipe left to see your GPS track, and right to pause or end a workout with a long press of the stop icon. If you connected your Strava account as I described earlier, your workout will be automatically synced across when you tap save.
If you have the smart display mode enabled, this is the only workout app that uses the LCD screen for the always on workout display which saves battery life, but it also continuously updates the screen. If you turn on Wear OS’s Always-on display the screen updates every 5 seconds or so, when you’ve not titled your wrist to wake it up.
If you swipe left from the workout selection screen you view previous activities, which can also be viewed via the Mobvoi app. And if you swipe left again you can turn on TicMotion which will attempt to automatically recognise when you’ve started a workout. You can choose what workout types are recognised. This worked better than I was expecting.
Here you can also turn off auto-pause. If you want to change units, you do this in the Mobvoi app under Health Centre | Profile | Units.
I’ve used this watch for a few weeks now recording runs, mountain bike rides, and indoor cycling sessions. I wanted to check the accuracy of the optical heart rate sensor and the GPS receiver.
For each workout I’ve also recorded the activity with either an Apple Watch Series 4 for runs, or a Garmin Edge 1000 for bike rides, both attached to a Wahoo TickrX external heart rate strap. I always made sure the strap was done up tightly for the most accurate heart rate readings, and I mainly used the TicExercise app but I also tried various other apps including Strava and Sporty Go that’ll I discuss shortly.
I’m using the DC Rainmaker Analyzer tool for comparisons. If we first look at an outdoor run with 4, 1km intervals after a warm up, we can see that the optical heart rate readings from the Ticwatch Pro 4G were way off until the last interval where they started to loosely track the external heart rate strap, but then significantly overshot the heart rate strap. It’s only when my heart rate started to come back down for the cool down, that the watch started to more closely track the chest strap.
It was a few degrees above zero for that run which I thought might be affecting the measurements. So I tried an indoor bike ride. Here I compared the TicWatch again to a heart rate strap but also to the Apple Watch’s wrist based optical heart rate sensor. It did a better job here overall, starting to track the chest strap and Apple Watch after 8 minutes or so, but then struggled to keep up in the middle of the workout, before somehow managing to do a decent job for the last interval.
I compared several other workouts and the results were similar, although you might have better luck.
Fortunately the recorded GPS tracks were accurate, closely tracking both the Garmin and Apple Watch.
Although I wasn’t able to rely on the integrated heart rate sensor, you can at least pair an external Bluetooth heart rate strap to the watch with third party apps like Sporty Go. And this worked great. Sporty Go even allows you to pair a footpod, like the running power Stryd Wind I reviewed recently. You’ll be able to see the power number from the pod, but this data won’t be saved in the workout file.
Continuous heart rate tracking worked ok, but did often measure my heart rate well above what it actually was. Step tracking appeared accurate and in line with an Apple Watch and step tracking on my phone.
The TicWatch Pro 4G looks like a relatively modest upgrade to the previous version, but even if you’re not interested in using it on a cellular plan, the extra RAM makes it one of quickest Wear OS watch I’ve tried to date. I like its understated but premium design and the build quality mostly justifies its price tag, although I would have liked the bezel to rotate to navigate the menus.
It’s good to see Google’s Wear OS is starting to challenge Apple’s mature Watch OS. It’s not quite as slick even on this watch, but the Wear OS Play store has a good selection of apps, and the ones I’ve tried work well.
Battery life with Wear OS is not great, but I like the decision to use a dual layered display. In general use I still preferred to use Wear OS’s always on display even though it used more battery. But for sleep tracking, it was useful to switch to the LCD screen, and the Essential Mode is a great feature when you can’t or just don’t want to charge the watch every night, but still want a watch with for the time and step tracking. A manual backlight would make it more usable though.
Using the watch for fitness tracking was mostly a good experience. The native TicExercise app does a good job and can utilise the LCD screen. And with the Play store you can use another app if you, like Strava to record your workouts.
GPS accuracy was good, but heart rate wasn’t particularly reliable, for me at least. But I was able to pair an external heart rate strap when I wanted the most accurate results. Something I do even when I use my Apple Watch which has one of the better optical heart rate sensors.
A cheaper option with similar features, but with less RAM and no LCD display would be the TicWatch S2. And if you don’t need the expandability of Wear OS you could also take a look at the Amazfit GTS I reviewed recently.
If fitness tracking is your main interest, there are endless options available, like the Garmin Forerunner 245 or 45, which have good battery life and still have many smartwatch features. And if you’re an Apple user there’s the Series 3 which is actually a bit cheaper than the TicWatch Pro 4G.
But overall if you want an attractive, very capable smartwatch with decent fitness tracking features, a unique dual layered display, based on a hopefully expanding Google ecosystem, I’d definitely take a look at the TicWatch Pro 4G.
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Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 4G: https://amzn.to/2RLSD1A
Mobvoi TicWatch S2: https://amzn.to/2LQTABU
Amazfit GTS: https://amzn.to/36wnwv9
Garmin Forerunner 45: https://amzn.to/2PFBGmZ
Apple Watch Series 3: https://amzn.to/2rH1y9W