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TicWatch Pro 4G review: The cheapest cellular smartwatch

Michael Sawh
3 Apr 2020
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
250
inc VAT

The TicWatch Pro 4G adds cellular capabilities to Mobvoi's flagship smartwatch

Pros 
Good price for an LTE smartwatch
Improved performance
LTE/4G features work well
Cons 
Iffy sports tracking accuracy
Mediocre battery life
Dual display not great in all conditions
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The TicWatch Pro 4G is Chinese brand Mobvoi’s first smartwatch to offer cellular 4G connectivity and that's a big deal. This is a feature that allows users to carry out all sorts of tasks, from taking and making calls, to reading messages and streaming music, without the need to be connected to a phone.

It’s the update to the standard TicWatch Pro, which has since been replaced by a tougher TicWatch Pro 2020 edition. You’re getting the same core features as its predecessor including built-in GPS, a heart rate monitor, Google Pay for payments and a layered display to help give battery life a boost.

Priced at £250, this is Mobvoi’s most expensive smartwatch and costs £27 more than the Bluetooth-only TicWatch Pro 2020. It also costs £50 less than the cheapest available Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE/4G connectivity.

If you like the TicWatch but yearn for something that isn’t so reliant on your phone, the Pro is one you’ll want to be looking at.

TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE review: What you need to know

The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE, like other TicWatches, runs on Google’s Wear OS operating system. That means it will work with both Android and iOS devices.

Pairing with your phone via Bluetooth, you can expect all the usual features available with Wear OS, including the ability to view phone notifications and messages, download apps directly from the watch and track your health and fitness with Google Fit or Mobvoi’s own TicHealth software.

The 4G/LTE connectivity means you can access many of those features without needing to be paired with your phone at all. This works with both Android and iOS, so it’s a viable alternative to those who don’t want to pay Apple Watch prices.

READ NEXT: The best smartwatches to buy this year

TicWatch Pro 4G review: Price and competition

The watch itself costs £250, which makes it cheaper than an Apple Watch Series 5 and an Apple Watch Series 3 with the same connectivity. The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 with LTE/4G is around £100 more expensive, too.

The only other Wear OS watch with cellular connectivity currently available is the Montblanc Summit 2+, a luxury smartwatch that costs significantly more than the TicWatch Pro. This makes it one of the cheapest options to get that extra connectivity.

On top of paying out for the watch, you’ll need to get it set up with a supported mobile network too. In the UK, only Vodafone offers that support right now. It will let you share your number and allowance across your phone and watch using its OneNumber service. O2 is also mentioned on Mobvoi’s website as a supported network, although we’ve been unable to find any further information to suggest that support is live yet.

Here’s a list of those alternatives and where to buy them:

TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE review: Design 

The Pro is considered the most premium of Mobvoi’s TicWatches. Essentially, that means you can expect less of the plastic you get on other models and more of the materials that make it feel like something better suited for when you’re not hitting the gym. 

It has a 45mm fully circular watch case only available in black. It measures 12.6mm thick and, surprisingly, weighs less than than the Bluetooth-only TicWatch Pro despite using more metal, with an aluminium rear and a stainless steel bezel.

That bezel is a far more muted affair compared to the one included on the first Pro, though, giving it a streamlined look that’s not far off the sporty TicWatch E2 and S2 watches.

The minimalist design gives it a subtler and less eye-catching look, which some might prefer from the more showy first Pro. Overall, though, it just feels a bit safe.

Keeping that watch case on your wrist is a pretty standard looking 22mm silicone strap that is, thankfully, interchangeable if you want to upgrade to something smarter. On the robustness front, Mobvoi meets the same US military standard 810G durability you’ll get on the new Pro 2020 model and it has an IP68 waterproof rating that means it’s suitable for pool swimming. 

Mobvoi sticks to the same two physical buttons, which are situated on the right edge of the casing. The top one wakes the screen up and opens up the app drawer. The bottom one is set to quickly launching sports tracking features. Bizarrely, these two buttons can be rotated but serve no purpose. It’s a shame at least one of those buttons hasn’t been used to offer an alternative way to scroll through messages and notifications.

Front and centre is the very same 1.39in dual-layer display as the original TicWatch Pro, and this comprises a 400 x 400 resolution AMOLED display and a segmented FSTN LCD screen on top. 

The AMOLED screen might not be best in class, but it’s certainly more than suitable for checking your messages or glancing down when you’re out for a run.

The monochrome FSTN screen looks like an old-school digital watch and is there to give you something you can view the time on and some additional data like date or daily step count or tracking data when the screen is asleep. This is perfectly viewable in good light but the lack of backlight means it’s a nightmare to view otherwise.

Elsewhere, Mobvoi has also decided to toughen up things on the screen front using Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 to help prevent that display scuffing up and cracking too easily.

READ NEXT: The best smartwatches to buy this year

TicWatch Pro 4G review: Features

Before getting into all things Wear OS, we need to talk about the headline feature: LTE/4G connectivity. In theory, this is a great idea. When you’re all set up, it allows you to make calls, stream music, download apps and check your fitness data without being near your smartphone. It also enables an SOS feature with location-sharing in case you ever fancy going exploring without your phone or it runs out of battery.

Mobvoi makes this happen by using an eSIM, which shares the number used on your phone. As far as getting everything set up, it’s a relatively straightforward process. After inserting the Vodafone SIM into my phone, I then used the Mobvoi companion app to set it all up. It took around 15 minutes to get up and running and I had zero issues with it.

It works pretty well, too. Making and answering calls was no problem and there’s decent clarity in those calls too. It wasn’t a feature I found I needed very often day-to-day, though, and you have to be comfortable talking into your wrist.

Where it was more useful was receiving notifications, downloading new watch faces from the Google Play Store and streaming music from Google Play Music.

Apps and watch faces downloaded nice and snappily and, generally, it was an issue-free experience making use of the Pro’s cellular features. Putting those features to use though does impact on battery life, which I’ll get onto later.

TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE review: Wear OS and performance

Just like all of Mobvoi’s watches, the TicWatch Pro leans on the latest version of Google’s Wear OS and, as such, it has all of the familiar features and latest UI changes including the new “Tiles” that give you more glanceable information and data. There’s also Google Pay, which is one of Wear OS’ highlights and you get a decent collection of watch faces to choose from, too. 

Naturally, you also get voice features via Google Assistant and this is where the built-in speaker begins to come into its own, enabling the assistant to speak back responses as well as display them on screen. 

Lurking in the app drawer is Google’s suite of Fit apps, although Mobvoi also supplies its health and fitness-focused software. That’s lead by TicHealth, which is clearly inspired at least visually by Apple’s activity rings. There’s also TicExercise to put the onboard GPS and swim-tracking to use and TicPulse to take on the spot heart rate readings.

In most ways, these TicWatch apps are much nicer to use than Google’s clunky alternatives. And, don’t forget, this being Android Wear, you can also download third-party apps to bypass Google’s and Mobvoi’s software altogether.

As far as fitness tracking reliability and accuracy goes, it’s a very similar story to what you get on Mobvoi’s other smartwatches. There’s GPS, GLONASS and Beidou satellite support and it didn’t keep us hanging around for a signal pick-up, either, with accuracy comparable to that of a Garmin running watch.

Swim tracking is good but, as with the Ticwatch S2 and E2, I found it did seem to lose accuracy on longer swims. Indoor running tracking wasn’t as impressive with a much bigger disparity in the distance tracking, and it often came up well short in a 5km run compared to the treadmill data and a Garmin running watch.

The heart rate monitor is similarly patchy. It seems well-equipped for some workouts like evenly paced runs and gym workouts, however, as with many optical heart rate sensors, it struggles to keep up with high-intensity training. It isn’t the worst offender I’ve seen but on some workouts such as interval indoor rowing, it tended to post high max heart rate readings and was slow to detect heart-rate changes compared with a Polar H9 heart rate monitor chest strap.

The performance of Wear OS was a big gripe with the first Pro, which felt sluggish to use at times. Mobvoi has stuck with the same Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor, which is surprising given the Wear 3100 is now available to manufacturers. However, it has bumped up the RAM, moving from 512MB to 1GB RAM and the difference this has had on performance is evident.

There’s a lot less of that sluggishness, for sure, and although there’s still the odd moment of lag the new TicWatch Pro is definitely a big improvement.

As for battery life, you’re getting a 415mAh capacity battery once again with the promise of two to five days of battery life in Smart Mode and up to 30 days if you are using Essential Mode only.

The first Pro promised around the same battery life but if you’re using power-intensive features like GPS or all-day heart rate monitoring, you’ll be very lucky to get those two days. In our testing, it tended to be around a day and a half. A half an hour run saps the battery in a really undesirable way, too. That pushes you into having to use Essential mode putting that second display into action. That tended to give us another three days of use.

TicWatch Pro 4G review: Verdict

As far as promising an improved smartwatch experience over the Bluetooth-only Pro, this is a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, you’re getting reliable LTE connectivity, a performance boost, and some design/durability improvements but you’re arguably getting something that looks a lot more ordinary this time around, too. You’re also going to have to be on Vodafone if you want to use those additional features.

Then there’s Wear OS, which has its flaws as a smartwatch operating system. Mobvoi’s own Tic software makes it a nicer place to spend time but it doesn’t correct the issues – mainly poor battery life and clunky fitness tracking software – that will remain in place until Google sees fit them.

If you own an Android phone and want a smartwatch that has that LTE/4G connectivity, it’s the most affordable option to consider right now. If you’re an iPhone owner though, you may want to consider paying a little more for the Apple Watch Series 3 LTE and, in exchange, get a watch that’s more pleasing on the eye and offers more reliable smartwatch and sports tracking features.

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