If you're an Android user in search of a Wear OS equivalent to the excellent Apple Watch, let me save you time: There isn't one. Poor battery life, underwhelming apps and sluggish performance attributed to underpowered hardware have severely restricted Wear OS' growth. With the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE, Chinese company Mobvoi wants to change all that.
The $299 device has a layered display, which turns off a primary OLED panel when it's not in use, effectively conserving battery life. The performance has also been improved from the original device we reviewed last year, thanks to a bump in RAM. And Mobvoi added LTE connectivity (Verizon only) to this premium watch.
Unfortunately, the smartwatch's bulky design is a turnoff, and the battery life isn't as good this time around.
TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE price and availability
The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is currently Mobvoi's most expensive smartwatch, selling for $299 both on Amazon and Mobvoi's website.
Verizon customers will need to pay $20 per month extra to add the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE to their plan on top of standard data rates. Verizon's unlimited plans currently cost between $70 and $90 for a single line or between $35 and $55 per line for four lines.
If you don't own a smartphone, you can pay $10 per month for a single-device plan with 1GB of data and unlimited talk and text.
Display: clever, but needs work
The dual-layered display on the original watch returns to the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE. The watch's primary 1.39-inch AMOLED (400 x 400 pixels) display is vibrant and bright enough to use on a sunny summer day.
On top of that display is a secondary always-on FSTN, or Film-Compensated Super-Twisted Nematic, panel. One of my favorite features of this watch, this low-power display shows you essential information — like the time, the date and your daily step count — so you don't have to wake the battery-sapping OLED.
The FSTN display is a clever way to save power, but it looks no better than the readout on an old digital Casio watch. Worse yet, there is no backlighting. As a result, the complementary display can be difficult to see in both dark and light environments.
Fortunately, all you need to do to use smart features or open apps is tap the display or rotate your wrist toward you. This will wake the primary screen and treat your eyes to those gorgeous OLED pixels.
Design: great for some, too bulky for others
The TicWatch Pro looks and feels premium, but the watch is quite bulky. The casing, at 45 millimeters in diameter and 12.6 mm thick, is awkward against my medium-size wrist. Anyone with a petite frame will probably want to pass on this one and instead go with something smaller, like the Apple Watch 4 (39.8 mm wide, 10.7 mm thick). And while the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE has plenty of workout features, its size is a problem for fitness junkies.
Getting past its bulk, the TicWatch Pro has a classy appearance that leans masculine. The black bezels against a circular black casing give the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE a stealthy aesthetic that the noncellular version lacked. However, I miss the leather band from the previous version, which has been replaced with an all-silicon strap. The new band is more comfortable but doesn't match the elegance of the watch face; the housing looks like something you'd see in a designer store, but the band is the sort you'd find on a fitness tracker.
Annoyingly, the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE's bezel doesn't rotate, and I was bewildered and frustrated when I discovered that the rotating crowns (function buttons) don't actually do anything. What a wasted opportunity.
Don't worry about accidentally bumping the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE against a wall or wearing it out in the rain. The stainless-steel watch is both IP89 and MIL-STD810G certified, which means it's not only water- and dust-resistant but can also withstand some extreme conditions, like high temperatures or altitudes.
LTE: call, text and data
4G LTE connectivity through Verizon's network lets you use the TicWatch Pro as a stand-alone smartwatch — no smartphone required.
I had no problems sending a text message to my fiancée once I got used to typing with the tiny on-screen keyboard. (There is also a voice-to-text option.) You can also make and accept calls directly from the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE using the watch's built-in microphones and waterproof speaker. I wouldn't want to listen to music directly through the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE, but the watch's speakers get loud enough for voice calls or Google Assistant.
Of course, LTE connectivity is great for using data when you don't have Wi-Fi. I downloaded apps and streamed music through Google Play Music without being connected to a phone or tethered to my home Wi-Fi connection. Using LTE to stream and Bluetooth to connect to my Jabra Elite 65t truly wireless headphones, I listened to music at the gym while keeping my smartphone at home.
Cellular connectivity also enables some safety features, including SOS and 911 auto-dialing and location sharing.
However, there are a few downsides to using LTE. First, you'll need to pay Verizon a monthly fee for smartwatch data, which will cost at least $10 a month. Additionally, your smartwatch's battery will drain if it spends too long searching for a network or struggling to maintain a strong signal.
Fitness: all the features you need
The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE has all of the fitness features you'd expect from a $299 smartwatch, including a heart rate monitor and all the components needed to track steps and workouts. Sleep tracking will also arrive later in an upcoming software update.Preinstalled on the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE are Google Fit and Mobvoi's suite of fitness apps, which includes TicExercise, TicHealth and TicPulse. Unfortunately, most of these apps could use some work. Our gripes with Google Fit are well documented: The app is very basic compared with other third-party offerings, and yet it requires a lot of tapping and swiping to find the most important information, like step count and heart rate.
Mobvoi includes its own fitness apps. With TicExercise, you can track different workouts, including indoor/outdoor running, swimming and cycling. TicHealth is most like Google Fit in that it tracks basic metrics: steps, distance traveled, active hours and calories. The app's interface is clean, but it requires a lot of swiping for you to see relevant information. There's also an app called TicPulse, which enables 24-hour heart rate tracking.
If these apps aren't right for you, you can download better options in the Google Play store. The top Wear OS fitness apps include Runtastic, Nike Run Club and Strava.
Battery Life: a small step back
Like the previous version, the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE has an Essential mode that can be enabled in the settings or by pressing and holding the bottom function button. Doing so transforms the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE into a dumb watch and basic fitness tracker that tells you the date and time along with your step count and heart rate on the second screen. Essential mode turns on automatically when the battery runs low and gets you about three additional days on a charge.
The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE consistently lasted two full days on a charge. I unplugged the watch one morning at 6:55 a.m., and after two days of medium use with the display at a brightness level of 3 out of 5, the watch was at 44% at 8:15 p.m. If I had worn it overnight, there wouldn't have been enough charge to get me through a third day.
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That's a shame, because the previous version was down to only 50% after I wore it for two full days in both the Smart and Essential modes. And you can expect the battery on the latest model to drain even faster when using a 4G connection; I got around a day and a half of medium use using the watch on Verizon's LTE network.
Wear OS: stable but unrefined
The performance problems we encountered with the original TicWatch Pro have all but vanished with this new version. I ran into some lag on the initial setup, but day-to-day usage was surprisingly smooth. In fact, this is one of the few Wear OS watches that seem capable of handling Google's notoriously sluggish operating system.
That solid performance comes despite the watch's older Qualcomm Snapdragon 2100 processor, the same troublesome chip in the previous TicWatch. The difference with the 4G version is that it has 1GB of RAM, up from 512MB.
That small change had a big impact, but the Pro 4G/LTE's performance still isn't perfect. Certain apps take a few seconds to load, and a discerning eye will occasionally catch stuttering when swiping between menus.
The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE can be paired to an Android phone or an iPhone, but the process could use some streamlining. After answering all of the initial setup questions, you'll need to download the Mobvoi app on your smartphone, which will redirect you to the Android Wear OS app the first time you add the watch. The Mobvoi app has a modern UI but lacks interesting features.
I spent most of my time with the TicWatch Pro 4G using the same apps that I frequent on my Android phone, like Google Maps and Fit. I also took advantage of the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE's 4GB of internal storage to download songs from Play Music for offline playback. Spotify, iHeartRadio, Shazam and Pandora are also available in the Play Store, but Apple Music users are out of luck.
AccuWeather, Messenger and Messages (for incoming SMS) are a few other popular apps that work well on the Pro 4G/LTE. Just keep in mind that, while Wear OS' app selection isn't bad, some of the apps aren't well optimized for wearables.
Mobvoi's TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is a solid smartwatch with decent performance, 4G LTE connectivity (on Verizon) and a clever layered display that conserves battery life. Although it's an improvement over its predecessor, the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE adopts too many of the original's shortcomings, including its bulky watch housing and outdated processor.
At $300, the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE treads dangerously close to the $400 price tag of the Apple Watch 4, our favorite smartwatch for iOS users by a large margin. We also prefer the $199 Fitbit Versa for its smaller size, comprehensive workout features and longer battery life, and the new Versa 2 is shaping up to be even better. Still, if you're an Android user on Verizon who needs cellular connectivity, the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is a good choice.