TicWatch Pro Shows Why Android Wear Is Still Amateur Hour

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I was pleasantly surprised by the TicWatch E and expected to be blown away by the TicWatch Pro. Sadly, I wasn’t, but that has less to do with TicWatch and more to do with something else entirely. Keep reading to find out.

Behold my glorious arm hair.

What makes the TicWatch Pro stand out from the oodles of nearly identical Wear watches is a transparent LCD screen over the AMOLED. Why? To save battery life. Now you can turn off “always on” mode on Wear. Let it rest and it will switch to the LCD (Hybrid Mode). You can even turn it to Essential Mode, which keeps it on LCD only. When in Essential Mode, you get date, time, and step counting (one review says heart rate, but I don’t see it). It basically turns your Pro into a big fitness tracker.

I largely used my TicWatch Pro in Hybrid Mode. I was excited to see that I was finishing the day with a much higher battery count than I did with the TicWatch E or my Huawei Watch. This is the first Android Wear watch that I’m confident wearing all day. I’ve been switching it to Essential Mode overnight instead of charging, and I’m left with enough juice for my commute to work. You don’t have to go that far though. Just leaving it in Hybrid mode overnight will do. In fact, I left it unplugged and on the side for 25 hours and it was still ok.

Simple, but long lasting.

Considering the amount of alerts I get, I was impressed with battery life. The only major downside of Essential Mode is that there’s no backlighting of any kind, so it’s useless in a dark room or outside at night. The upside is the aforementioned great battery life.

Physically, the TicWatch Pro is a bulky thing, available with a black or silver bezel. The quick-release straps are a blend of leather on top and silicone on the bottom. They’re far more comfortable than the E bands were, but I would still suggest looking for an aftermarket metal band. There are two crown buttons.A quick press on the top button  takes you to the app view or back home. A long press calls up the Google Assistant. A short press of the bottom button opens the fitness app, while holding it gives you a power menu (Essential Mode, Restart, Off). Pressing them together does nothing.

The watch charger is great and charges it up fast. Honestly, I could swear it’s the same charger that the Huawei Watch 2 comes with. Very similar.

With a heart monitor, GPS, and NFC all built-in, the only thing the Pro lacks is LTE, and that’s a niche requirement. GPS works great. The heart rate monitor is alright. It doesn’t seem to be as accurate as the ones in some other products (FitBit, Apple) but that could be me. I also don’t like that I had to kludge it to track constantly with HeartTrace. But this isn’t specific to the TicWatch Pro and has more to do with Wear not being the best at tracking heart rates. I also found the microphone for Google Assistant to be… not the best. The IP68 water resistance is great in case of a sudden shower, but don’t wear it into the actual shower.

Which brings us to the big flaw with the TicWatch Pro: Android Wear. I have been excited about Android Wear since day one. The second update saw a lot of positive refinements. But development feels stalled. Probably because every dang watch has used the same Qualcom chips for over two years now. This means that even when you do get something refreshing, like the TickWatch Pro, it’s held back by antiquated hardware. I had some lags switching between apps and views.

At some point, there will be Android Watches with more powerful chips. Possibly soon – there are rumors Google will launch a Pixel Watch. Normally I would say either hold off or buy an older watch with the same hardware (the aforementioned Huawei Watch 2, for example, down to $225). However, the feature set of the TicWatch Pro make it unique. As does the price.

The Pro is an Amazon Exclusive through August 15, 2018  and only costs $250. By “only” I mean compared to most watches with NFC and GPS, which tend to be closer to $299. That’s a fairly good value for the quality of the device. The Essential/Hybrid mode options mean it’s got the best battery life of any of the watches.

If you have a pressing need for a smartwatch and are done playing wait-and-see with Qualcom and Google, then I strongly advise going Pro with the TicWatch.

Note: TicWatch send me the silver bezeled Pro for keepsies. I think this means we’re engaged now.

 

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