Mobvoi is a brand you may not have heard before, but they're a company that is investing heavily in AI and has the backing of Google and Volkswagen. As Artificial Intelligence spreads throughout more aspects of our lives, its not surprising that has now reached our smartwatches. TicWatch Pro is a new watch that uses an innovative multi-layered display technology that enables it to last between 5-30 days on a single charge.
Battery life in our laptops and phones have improved in recent years and now its time for our wearables to get the same treatment. Interestingly this isn't coming from a breakthrough in battery chemistry, instead in the optimisation on the software layer and new display technology.
The TicWatch Pro’s Layered Display technology (patent pending) is a hugely innovative breakthrough, enabling the user to switch between an FSTN (film compensated Super Twisted Nematic) LCD Display, and an OLED display that sit on top of one another.
The FSTN display is the top layer and is a transparent LCD display chosen due to its low power consumption, high visibility in direct sunlight and transparent quality when not turned on. This is important in order to ensure the OLED (bottom layer) display’s brightness and colours aren’t compromised when in use.
CEO and Co-Founder of Mobvoi, Zhifei Li said,
"TicWatch Pro is the result of our relentless pursuit to make a premium smartwatch that greatly resolves the battery life issues which have been inherent in smartwatches. Our approach has been to innovate with the screen, radically reducing battery consumption. Ultimately, TicWatch Pro is our flagship smartwatch designed to further our mission of bringing anyone and everyone access to affordable, high quality smart devices."
Efficiently sized for smaller rooms
The TicWatch Pro is labelled a premium smartwatch and when you consider what's on offer, that's an accurate placement in the market. This smartwatch comes in two colours, a black (reviewed) and silver body that looks stylish and professional with the classic circular watch design, making it appear more like a watch and less like a tech gadget strapped to your wrist. The case is made of carbon fiber, reinforced with high strength nylon, which house the internal electronics to make it smart.
The genuine italian leather strap has a high-end feel about it and providing confidence it won't crack over time as you wear the watch in the real world, through different environments. There skin-side of the band is coated with a silicone layer to ensure it's comfortable and after wearing it for a couple of weeks, it definitely is. Most of the day you forget you're wearing a watch which is exactly what you want from a wearable, it shouldn't constantly remind or annoy you, if you're putting something on your body, you want it to be available, but not demanding.
In terms of the overall design the simplicity of just 2 buttons on the right-hand side is a great decision, far too often we see watches try to be swiss army knives and get this very wrong. The TicWatch Pro is designed look and feel like a regular watch, but contain all of the smart gadgetry you need during your high-tech work and home life. This simple, elegant design makes it appeal to a wider range of customers than other smartwatches on the market.
The other aspect to the design is the watch face, but that's something you're responsible for. You can make the right choice and have the watch look like an amazing work of art from Switzerland, or if you get it wrong, it can look like a cheap casio. Choose wisely.
FEATURES AND SPECS
The detail on what's on offer
The watch is powered by Android's Wear OS by Google, which takes many of the functions of your smartphone and extend them to your wrist for convenient access. As you go about your day, the watch will switch between displays modes to achieve the impressive battery life.
The standout feature of this display is the dual display, so lets dive a little deeper on how that's achieved. The watch features an extremely low-powered 'Essential Mode' which uses a transparent LCD to show the essentials like digital or analog time, date and how many steps you've taken today along with heart rate monitoring. Mobvoi have committed ot over-the-air updates in the future that will add more functions into Essential Mode (since the sensors can still be accessed in this mode) including distance traveled, calories burned, speed and cadence.
The second layer of display uses an OLED display and is known as "Smart Mode". You access this by either tapping the display, or flicking your wrist to activate the gesture to wake the display. This reveals the WearOS watch face of your choice. and in this mode, you can achieve up to 2 days of use before requiring a recharge. If you reach the end of your battery in smart mode, say in the event you forget to take your charger on a trip away, the watch still functions in Essential Mode for up to 3 more days.
If you decide to run the watch entirely in Essential Mode, then Mobvoi say you could get up to as much as 30 days on a full charge. Here's the problem, you don't buy a smart watch to not use all the smart features, so the reality is, you won't be getting 30 days battery life, you'll get a couple before charging. I expect most people who buy this watch will make a routine of putting it on the charging dock each night as they plug in their smartphone. The ultimate accessory would be that long awaited wireless charging bowl on the bedside table that you drop your device into and magically they're charged in the morning. We're still waiting on that one.
To wrap up battery life, you should know that some apps that rely on GPS, like running apps or navigation, could chew through your battery in just 5 hours if you're simultaneously playing music.
In terms of interfacing with the watch, you're either going to use the touchscreen directly, or one of the just 2 buttons on the side of the device. The top button enables you to switch between Android applications that are WearOS compatible. As you'd expect, almost everything from Google is, your Email, Calendar, Phone, Contacts, Weather, Google Fit, Google Pay, Alarms, Stopwatch, Timer, Translate and Reminders, but so are many 3rd party apps. Personally I had access to Pocketcasts, LIFX, OneNote and Outlook.
The bottom button allows the quick launch of an preselected application which I found to be a fantastic hardware shortcut that was quick and convenient. Personally I loved having Agenda set as the default to get a quick update on what's coming up for the rest of the day. This made it much faster than pulling out the phone, authenticating (fingerprint) then finding and launching the app. This is the entine point of a smartwatch, to offer quick, convenient access to bite sized information of functions that enhance our lives and in the case of the hardware favourite button, it's a massive success.
Google Play Store - Access to thousands of apps through the on-watch Play Store, and the ability to download them directly on the watch
Google Assistant - Access the Assistant directly on your wrist to check the weather, start your run, set a reminder and more just by asking
Premium build quality - Watch bezel and rear cover are stainless steel (SUS), while the rest of the case is a type of hard nylon (polyamide) reinforced with glass fiber (50GF); skin-friendly silicone strap covered with premium genuine Italian leather
NFC Payments - Use Google Pay to pay directly from your wrist
IP68 Water and dust resistant - Withstands submergence in water up to 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes (swimming not recommended)
Health and fitness sensors - Heart rate monitor, Accelerometer, Gyro, Magnetic Sensor, Ambient Light Sensor, Low Latency Off-Body Sensor
Health and fitness apps - Along with health and fitness apps from Google, Mobvoi’s own Health and Fit apps are pre-installed as well
Thousands of watch face options - Available to download through Google Play
Music Streaming - Listen to your playlists through your preferred music streaming app
- Operating System - WearOS by Google
- Processor - Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100
- RAM - 512MB
- Storage - 4GB
- Battery - 415mAH lithium-ion
- Display - 1.39” AMOLED 400 x 400 + FSTN display
- Connectivity - Bluetooth 4.2 + Wi-Fi: 802.11 b,g,n on 2.4GHz
- Weatherproof - Water and Dust resistance (IP68 compliant)
- Sensors - Accelerometer, Gyro, Magnetic Sensor, PPG Heart Rate sensor, Ambient Light, Sensor, Low Latency Off-Body Sensor, GPS (AGPS), NFC for Google Pay.
- Dimensions - D45mm x 14.6mm
Your watchface, your apps
To setup the phone, you'll start by grabbing the WearOS app on your phone from the Play Store. Once you've got that, you'll go through the standard Bluetooth pairing sequence to enable your phone to talk to your watch. This happens in a matter of minutes and is simple enough for most users to work through without issue.
The watch can then operate as an extension of your phone, but you have to ensure you give permission for notifications, calendar and google assistant to maximise what's on offer here. The WearOS app can also configure your watch settings. These include the Watch face, if the screen is always on, or tilt-to wake gestures are enabled. It also enables you to access battery and storage information on the watch, which is particularly helpful to track down apps that may be consuming more battery that you'd like.
In terms of configuring the watch face, you can press and hold the watch display to configure things there, but I found the WearOS app to be much easier to browse. There's seriously a ridiculous number of faces to choose from (more than 1,000) and there's usually options for each to customise, enabling the smartwatch to become truly personal and look exactly how you'd like.
One of the biggest configurations you can make is to notifications and the app allows you to control which notifications are sent to your watch and which aren't. If you can live with email notifications when you pull out your phone, then turn them off, but something more important like SMS, you would leave on.
Room for improvement
There's really not a lot wrong here, it's a really solid smartwatch and does what it's advertised to do. If I had to level one criticism, it's that the watch is a product that depends on another, your phone. Should you run out of battery life on it, then you're phone can still be used for fitness activity and basic tasks like timers, but the lack of an on-board sim makes it a device with a pretty strong opportunity for competitors, particularly with 5G on the way.
While the smartwatch does have a microphone and speaker, it lacks the ability to connect headphones for any discreet audio playback, like that of GPS directions or even music playback.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
How much and when can you get one ?
The TicWatch Pro by Mobvoi is available through their website Mobvoi.com/au for Australian customers with an RRP of A$369.99 and for readers in the US and UK, you can grab one from Amazon. For what's on offer here in terms of design and features, this price tag is appropriate.
If you decide you want another (or loose the first), then you can pickup another charging dock for A$29.99.
The biggest question you have to ask yourself when considering a smartwatch is not which one, but do you need one at all? Is pulling your phone out of your pocket to check the time, notifications or to answer a call, multiple times a day, something so annoying you need to buy and maintain (charge) another gadget in your life? Personally I'm still not convinced.
This could be the perfect gift for your dad who's fitness minded, grew up with a watch, but isn't prepared to upgrade to a smartwatch themselves. While we reviewed the understated shadow black version, I actually think the Liquid Metal Silver version is a little more striking and would invite more questions about it, from people who notice it on your wrist.
If you are someone who's already made the decision and want to upgrade or get your first smartwatch, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better option that the TicWatch Pro for Android. The thing I like most about WearOS is its ability to integrate with any recent Android smartphone regardless of the manufacturer, which means there's a massive potential market available to Mobvoi here, if they can convince people of the first test, that they need a watch at all.
I highly doubt many iOS customers would entertain the thought of buying a WearOS device, but in case I'm wrong, you should know that this watch will work with a recent iPhone. Perhaps the round watchface is enough to win you over in terms of design, if it is, then you should definitely add the TicWatch Pro to your short list.
- Battery life
- Proprietary charger