Battery life is currently the biggest bottleneck holding our technology back. It doesn't matter how powerful we can make our devices if they can't stay alive, and nightly charging has become a norm for smart devices.
So if you tell me there's a new smartwatch that can last 5-30 days, you absolutely have my attention.
The Mobvoi TicWatch Pro (RRP $369.99) is a new smartwatch that uses a dual layer display to prolong battery life - a low energy FSTN screen and a bright and colourful AMOLED. Running on Google Wear OS, it can be used across both iOS and Android with a download of the Wear OS app.
Under the hood is all the usual things we've come to expect from premium smartwatches. A heart rate monitor, GPS, NFC payment via Google Pay, and a variety of sensors so it can do things like wake when you lift your wrist.
It also has a water and dust resistance rating of IP68, though as much as I abuse my tech I still can't stomach taking it for a swim.
It runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset, which is a little disappointing for a premium product as it's old tech (released in 2016), and it's a chip we see very commonly in Wear OS devices. However, there's also not many chipset options available, unless Mobvoi were to start producing their own.
The TicWatch Pro doesn't feel particularly slow, but it's not snappy either. I'd put it somewhat on par with or just below my series one Apple Watch - which is still a great device I'm happy to use today, but for a new product it's usable but doesn't wow me.
There's a fair bit of input lag, sometimes leading to furious tapping "just in case" your finger didn't make proper contact with the screen. Apps can also take quite some time to load, and I have resorted to restarting the watch a few times.
It's not enough to make the device feel useless, but it can be frustrating.
At first glance the dual display is really cool. The FSTN screen is persistently on, and gives you the time, date, and your steps taken. It looks like an old school digital watch, with it's monochrome display and high visibility in sunlight.
It's a nice way to turn a smartwatch into a regular watch that can still be smart sometimes. It's not sexy, but it's definitely functional.
This low-power FSTN display is also used in Essential Mode, which limits the available features in exchange for a much longer battery life - the elusive 30 days.
I reviewed this over a period shorter than that, so I can't attest to that claim, but most people will be able to charge up well before then. If you can't, or choose not to, you're a freak and I don't want to hear about it.
Essential Mode also doesn't connect to your phone, meaning you won't get notifications or have data uploaded to your phone. This kind of turns your smartwatch into a regular digital watch plus pedometer and heart rate monitor.
However, your phone can also count your steps, and many your heart rate, and has the added benefit of being a device you already own.
It's still nice to have it keeping tabs on some fitness information, but it's hardly worth using. The claim of 5-30 days battery life is highly dependent on the use of Essentials Mode, and in my real world testing it lasted about 3 days with mixed use.
That's still a lot better than a nightly charge, but still not quite as good as I was hoping.
The AMOLED display is vibrant and crisp, though you do still see a faint outline of the FSTN display if you're looking for it. It looks like a mild burn in, or like a water stain.
I don't find it detracts from the look of the AMOLED too much, but it is a bit of a trade off to have the power saving FSTN display included.
With the AMOLED you have your usual smartwatch capabilities - weather, maps, music controls. The most useful feature about smartwatches to me is notifications, so I can discreetly see check my messages.
The TicWatch Pro pulls any notification from your phone and brings it to your wrist, which is exactly the kind of support I'm here for.
Unfortunately, all notifications elicit the same haptic feedback meaning you have no way of telling whether you got a text message or a fitness reminder without looking at the screen. You can change the pattern, but not the intensity.
This means you don't know what to ignore and what to respond to without having a peak.
One of my favourite things about my Apple Watch is being able to read message notifications and send quick, short responses. However, there's no native app for reading past messages or sending new ones.
If you want to do that you'll need a third party platform, like Telegram. But then your friends also need to be using Telegram.
Mine are not, so I couldn't test this out. At the time of review Facebook Messenger was also not available for download through the Play Store.
This isn't a huge loss because writing on the watch is a whole tricky thing, anyway. Your options for inputting text are "tiny swype enabled QWERTY keyboard that's crammed onto a circular screen" or "talking into your watch like a spy". Neither feels particularly precise or user friendly, but they'll do in a pinch.
Most people use smartwatches for fitness tracking, which the TicWatch does well. It comes preloaded with apps that track your workouts, steps, and calories burned, and you can download more directly from the watch.
With an inbuilt GPS tracker it's also useful for tracking outdoor runs. However, this isn't a specialist running watch, and is more useful for enthusiasts or people looking to up their fitness, rather than someone on a dedicated training plan.
Like many smartwatches, the TicWatch Pro is on the chunkier side. It's definitely not as sleek as the Apple Watch, but it was comfortable.
Although I found my long sleeve shirts and jumpers did get stuck on it, and it looks slightly comical on my small wrists, but it's still in the sweet spot where size is fashionable. The lug to lug width isn't so great that it spills over the edge much.
TicWatch Pro is a fairly nice bit of kit, but I still like my Apple Watch better - I like the design better and the haptic notifications are more useful. However, the TicWatch's dual screen is super clever, and the device is overall functional.
My biggest gripe is that there doesn't seem to be much customisation available. A few times I felt like the watch wasn't quite doing what I wanted it to, and there was no setting to fix it.
Arguably this is more of a Wear OS issue than a issue with the TicWatch specifically, but it still made the user experience more frustrating than it needed to be.
For example, there doesn't seem to be a way for it to take periodic heart rate readings - it always needs to be triggered manually. (Update on this below) And the FSTN screen displays the date as MM-DD, rather than the Australian (and correct) way of DD-MM.
The Mobovi app offers virtually no settings, simply giving you health information (which is accessible elsewhere) and ads for other Mobovi products. On Android you can also see a chart showing battery drain.
Overall, the TicWatch Pro a fairly well priced and functional smartwatch. If you have an iOS phone, it's still worth looking at an Apple Watch - even a series 1.
But if you're running Android and you want to live that smartwatch life without the battery hassles, then this is certainly worth a look.
- Wear OS smartwatch, compatible with iOS or Android.
- Dual screen gives high sunlight visibility and impressive battery saving abilities, alongside fully featured AMOLED smartwatch functionality.
- Customisation settings feel limited.
- No automatic periodic heart rate monitoring.
Update: Mobovi says an upcoming software update will address the lack of periodic heart rate readings.