Hardware is the biggest issue with Wear OS as a platform, and most of its hardware is battery life. Last year, with a dual display, the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro introduced a smart solution to this issue. Now, the TicWatch Pro 4 G is here, and while LTE may be the function that earns the new name, it is the enhanced performance that this watch should interest you.
You will either like this watch in the hardware department or you will hate it. Personally, I like the simple design of Mobvoi, and the screen bezel’s knurled edges and the power button are also a nice touch. On the other side, it’s not all that good to use plastic and such a dense general body. The generic structure may be even less attractive for others, and that’s understandable.
Still, the TicWatch Pro 4 G package from Mobvoi is practical. There’s nothing really flashy about this design, but there’s everything you need. That is, apart from the power button that rotates. I believe I said it in every review I’ve ever written about a TicWatch, but I’m going to stress it again here. With a rotating button, wear OS is just better. With Mobvoi offering some of the best platform values, it’s a shame they don’t give a rotating button, and it’s something they need to enforce for the next generation.
As usual, the display is nailed by Mobvoi. Wear OS has an OLED panel that is bright enough, sharp enough, and has nice colors. However, there is a unique panel on top of that screen that turns on when Wear OS goes to sleep. It shows the time, information about your health, and date. For Mobvoi, it’s a clever way to squeeze out more battery life and provide a better display for bright sunlight.
Finally, there’s also a speaker on the TicWatch Pro 4G. It doesn’t harm the water resistance of IP68 and makes it possible to make phone calls from your wrist. You can also play music with certain apps, but I found Google Assistant’s most useful speaker now able to read answers to your questions aloud.
The included group is also essential to note. Unlike the leather / silicone combination of the TicWatch Pro, the 4 G comes with a flimsy silicone band which is nothing unique at all. Having it is comfortable and beautiful, but I switched away from it quickly. I used an old leather band from a Samsung watch for a large portion of the review period, but any 22 mm band will work.
Software and Performance
As mentioned above, on the TicWatch Pro 4 G, Mobvoi uses Google’s Wear OS platform and is essentially unchanged from the competition. The Tiles update is accessible from the beautiful box, and Update H is also accessible here. While most people don’t like Wear OS, I still think it’s a decent platform for people who just want basic smartwatch features, even though Google is slowly trying to turn it into a watchOS clone.
What’s important about the TicWatch Pro 4 G, though, is that it actually has good performance on Wear OS for once. Google’s platform runs the way it’s supposed to do here between upgrading to 1 GB of RAM and typical optimizations from Mobvoi. Animations are fast, waking up from sleep is usually lagging, and Google Assistant is also working. I went into more detail about this in a previous piece, but after almost a month of use, I’m very pleased to report that things didn’t slow down a bit, even with the LTE connection turning on.
Of course, on the older Snapdragon Wear 2100, the TicWatch Pro 4 G is still running. There’s really no big difference in performance between the 2100 and 3100, but it’s a shame the 4 G won’t be able to take advantage of the 3100’s better standby battery. I don’t believe the absence of a 3100 should dissuade you from purchasing this watch unless you want to wait for that rumored Qualcomm chip. If not better than some watches with that newer chip, it still works just as well.
Mobvoi also has a handful of its own apps on the TicWatch Pro 4 G, mostly health users-oriented. Personally, for nothing more than step tracking, I don’t really use a smartwatch, but I want to call out one of the recent features of the company, TicMotion. This allows for automatic detection and tracking of workouts by the TicWatch Pro 4 G and ultimately other TicWatches. Wear OS / Google Fit should do this by default, but they don’t, so I’m happy to see that it’s been implemented by Mobvoi.
Is LTE making difference
The TicWatch Pro 4 G gets its name from within the LTE radios, so it’s important to look closely at this feature. Importantly, this is the first Wear OS cellular-enabled watch in the past few years, and it is also one of the first to work on Verizon Wireless (apart from the carrier’s own short-lived Wear24).
So, how is LTE helping? First of all, I’m going to say that the usefulness of these radios depends heavily on your use case.
LTE can essentially replace Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on the TicWatch Pro 4 G, expanding infinitely the variety of your wearable smartphone attachment. Notifications still arrive as when you are connected via Bluetooth, and you can use Wear OS apps and access the Play Store with the LTE connection.
However, the issue with that is that apart from your smartphone, many Wear OS applications are not constructed to be used. For example, Spotify can control only other devices and can not play music through the speaker or headphones on the watch itself. It’s another similar story. In another article, which you can read here, we have detailed more issues like this.
However, what Wear OS is good with LTE acts like a smartphone of its own. My TicWatch Pro 4 G, assigned to its own line on Verizon, could make and accept phone calls through its speaker and send and receive text messages completely independent of the number of my smartphone.
The use of LTE also affects the battery life. Often I find that turning off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi means that LTE has minimal impact on my battery life. However, having all three radios on at once transforms this into a smartwatch of 24 hours or less.
Long tale brief, in my view, LTE is not the point of sale for this watch. It’s a helpful function for some, but only Verizon’s restricted airline support brings out many clients, and the restricted standalone support of Wear OS hurts the capacity to use the watch only.
The clever display design of Mobvoi helps the TicWatch Pro 4 G win the name of the battery champ for Wear OS, just as its predecessor did. Without LTE enabled, the battery life on the TicWatch Pro 4 G remains around two days per charge, with the second day maybe seeing a slightly reduced bedtime total compared to the original. This is more than probable due to the spec bump.
Charging is done with a magnetic cradle that I believe works well. I wish Mobvoi’s technique had the flexibility of what Fossil used, but the cradle is durable, has a powerful magnetic link and loads fast enough.
Also on this watch, Essential Mode is back. Users can readily allow a mode with a few fast taps that disables Wear OS and utilizes with time only the lower-power screen. However, it keeps active step monitoring, which is good to have. While I wish notifications had been kept, it is useful to have this mode available for a long weekend trip if you forget a charger or even a quick flight.
Recommending any Wear OS watches has been really difficult for a while now, but I have a feeling that will change quickly. The TicWatch Pro 4 G is a good example of an OEM seeing and fixing what’s wrong with the platform, what people complain about. The fresh Gen 5 watches from Fossil create many of the same modifications, and it’s good to see.
However, the TicWatch Pro 4 G is still not a recommendation for an instant. It’s still on an older, less future-proof chipset, and not everyone’s going to get the price right. $299 isn’t a tiny price to pay for a smartwatch, although I believe it’s a good value for what it’s offering. The TicWatch Pro 4 G is just one of the first smartwatches of Wear OS with a sound pricing that is likely to take 1 GB of RAM and therefore better results.
Right now, one of the few Wear OS smartwatches that I can recommend without an asterisk attached is the TicWatch Pro 4G. I fully liked my time on it, and my perspective on Wear OS has more or less changed, and it could do the same for you as well. The TicWatch Pro 4 G is now available for $299 on the websites of Amazon and Mobvoi.