GeekDad Review: TicWatch Pro 3 GPS Ultra WearOS Smartwatch

Gadgets Products Reviews

Smartwatches are an interesting market. Dominated by Apple & Samsung it feels like everyone else is just hanging in there. Which is a shame because it means people have been largely ignoring what Mobvoi is doing with their TicWatch Pro. 

When I reviewed the first TicWatch Pro back in 2018 I was intrigued by the hardware, but it felt like WearOS was just “there”. I did not finish my TicWatch Pro LTE review, but I do need to add an addendum – it saved my life. The heart rate tracking on it got me to a hospital in time in 2019 for treatment and official diagnosis of a major heart condition (the admitting nurse, seeing  me struggling to talk, looked at the watch and immediately called for an EKG and wheelchair). I spent 2020-2021 using an Apple Watch but I found myself missing my TicWatch. I reached out to Mobvoi and they kindly sent the Pro 3 Ultra GPS. 

Let’s get one thing out of the way: despite running a Snapdragon 4100, the Pro 3 Ultra GPS does not have WearOS 3 (yet? – allegedly it is coming by end of 2022). Having tried WearOS 3 on the Galaxy Watch 4, I hope it comes to the Pro 3 Ultra  but I don’t think that’s a dealbreaker for many. WearOS 2 is still a solid OS. Yes it may feel a little dated, but it is what it is.

Physically, the Pro 3 Ultra is thick watch. I like thick watches. Apple and Samsung watches feel too thin for me. If you wear tightly tailored sleeved shirts you may find it “big.” I don’t, so I am fine. There is no rotating “crown,” one feature I do think Samsung does nicely, but there are two buttons – one to open the app launcher, one to launch the exercise app.

I like thick watches and I cannot lie

While using an Apple Watch with Android is impossible, using WearOS with an iPhone is very much possible. I found the pairing process simple and elegant. There’s a Mobvoi app, but just the WearOS app for iPhone was fine. Interacting with notifications is a bit different than if I had Android – I can just clear them, basically – although I can still answer calls directly own the watch. One note? I did find my battery life a bit lower on my phone but not by much. 

Speaking of battery life, that’s the TicWatch’s main claim to fame – long battery life. Part of how Mobvoi accomplishes this is by having two screen layers. There’s the great 1.4″ round AMOLED screen for your WearOS yes, but there is also a FSTN watch that acts as an always on ‘just a watch” interface. By not always waking up the AMOLED, one saves significantly on battery life. I personally go an average of 2.5 days before needing to recharge (annoyingly the TicWatch does not use a QI compatible charger so I had to order additional ones). Compare that to my Apple Watch, which needed a daily charge (sometimes twice a day).

Two Faced, But in a Good Way. Source: Mobvoi

Physically, the TicWatch feels more rugged than the Apple or Samsung watches. I don’t feel like I need to baby it. I even swam with it in the ocean, something I know I *can* do with my Apple watch but was not comfortable doing.

Speaking of swimming and other fitness type things, the TicWatch comes loaded with a bunch of apps mean to help you take advantage of the build in oxygen and heart sensors: Tichealth, TicExercise, TicPulse, TicSleep, TicOxygen, TicZen, TicHearing, and TicCare. As I am something of a lump, I did not test most of these other than sleep, oxygen, and pulse. (I did test TicHear while typing this article and apparently my typing volume is high enough to hit 79 dB – officially “intense”). The heart rate sensor on the Pro 3 Ultra GPS gets the exact same readings as my Apple Watch 6, and the blood oxygen scanner works a bit better, in my opinion. There’s no EKG but is that needed? One plus I will give TicWatch over Samsung is that unlike with the Wear 4 I did not need to make a special account with them to get the most out of these features.

One thing I did NOT really test much is right in the name – the GPS. Since I wasn’t doing any running I didn’t really see a way to. But having the GPS built into the watch instead of relying entirely on the phone is a big plus for any watch at all.

At this point I have been using the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS for 3 months and I basically don’t put my Apple Watch on at all. I know everyone is excited about the Pixel Watch but that looks like something I would easily break. I think I’ll keep using this until I see what Mobvoi makes next – there are already rumors about Mobvoi testing a Wear3 phone. Still, at just $299, the Pro 3 Ultra GPS is worth buying now. Why wait?

Note: A free review unit was provided by Mobvoi. Thank you for that, and for the whole “saving my life” thing.

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