Mobvoi is back with another smartwatch, the inelegantly titled TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE. If you’ve been keeping up with Mobvoi’s moves in the wearables space, this is almost exactly the watch you think it’s going to be.
If you haven’t – Mobvoi already has a smartwatch named the TicWatch Pro. This one simply gives it data connectivity; that's LTE in the US through Verizon, but Verizon only. Although there are a few other new fitness features thrown in for good measure.
We’ve been wearing the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE, however due to compliance problems between Mobvoi and Verizon, the network isn’t actually live yet. In fact, it won’t even be live when the watch goes on sale on 10 July. Mobvoi says Verizon should have it activated in August.
Still, we’ve tried out some of the features that were available. Here are our early impressions of the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro LTE – just without the LTE bit.
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro LTE: Design
On looks alone, this is still the same Mobvoi TicWatch Pro – 45mm wide, 12.6mm thick and with an 1.39in AMOLED display. However, this time it only comes in black, whereas the regular Pro is also offered up in a silver version. It's also 11g lighter.
The lack of a silver option makes the Pro 4G/LTE feel less concerned with the luxury watch market, which makes sense when the addition of a data connection rests on the assumption that many users will be sporty types who don't like working out with their phones.
But as those dimensions will tell you, this is also not a small smartwatch, and that it only comes in one size means it’s hard to recommend this one to women or anyone who prefers to keep their watches slim. The overall feel is probably best described as… rugged? It could look a lot nicer, is what I’m saying.
What you won’t notice on first glance is that there are two screens here; the AMOLED display you’ll be using when interacting with the watch, and the FSTN (Film Compensated Super Twisted Nematic, easy for you to say) screen, which kicks in when the watch is idle or when you manually activate it in Mobvoi's 'Essential Mode'. The purpose of this screen is, of course, to save battery. More on that in a moment.
The rest of Mobvoi's design does little to excite: two buttons on the side perform the usual functions but rotating them doesn't scroll the screen as some Wear OS smartwatches offer. The strap fitting is 22mm, and it has an IP68 rating that means it's suitable for swimming.
TicWatch Pro LTE: Features and fitness
The key thing we want to talk about is the headline 4G/LTE feature, but as mentioned it won't be activated for another few weeks. So there's not a lot we can say there. But it will in theory let you take VoLTE calls and send and receive messages straight from the watch. You'll get notifications from other apps too thanks to the watch's cloud syncing.
Taking advantage of the new cellular connection is Mobvoi's 'SOS' feature, which can dial 911 and broadcast your live location to the emergency services with the press of a button. How easy will it be to accidentally set this off? Again, we don't yet know.
Inside is a Snapdragon 2100 chip. We're getting onto a year since Qualcomm announced the slightly-superior 3100 chipset and still we're getting smartwatches on the old silicon. And yeah, it shows. I've found Wear OS to be incredibly sluggish on this thing, to the point of boiling frustration. Google Assistant sometimes takes a moment to load up when I summon it with the button, and menus occasionally just freeze. I've spent a lot of time defending the Wear OS platform, but watches like this aren't doing it any favours.
One good thing I can say about the Pro so far is that battery life is a bit better than many other Wear OS offerings, but there are compromises here. In normal use, the screen will switch between the AMOLED and the secondary LCD panel to conserve battery.
That LCD panel only displays the time, date, step count and battery life; minimal information that can be useful at a glance. A combination of the two stretches that battery to around three days, but you can stretch that to a whopping 30 days by kicking the watch into full-time LCD using Mobvoi's 'Essential Mode'. Useful? Maybe, if you're eking out the final drops of battery juice and still want to have a working watch.
As is usually the case with Mobvoi's Wear OS smartwatches, there's a smattering of the company's own apps mixed in among Google's: TicHealth, TicPulse, TicExercise, Mobvoi Privacy, Find My Phone. TicHealth is an overall view of your fitness, while TicExercise is where you'll start workouts.
That said, the Pro 4G/LTE comes with something called TicMotion 2.0, which detects when you're exercising and automatically starts tracking it. So far our experience with this has been inconsistent – better for walking, less so for running – but we'll reserve full judgement until we've had more time with it.
Without being able to test the cellular capabilities, it's difficult to say if Mobvoi's new smartwatch has reason to exist. The fact it's only being carried by Verizon will be a limiting factor, and even then the watch feels a little outdated. If you really want LTE and you're an Android user, it's probably the best of a very limited number of options, but I'm not yet convinced this was the right smartwatch for Mobvoi to make right now.