The smartwatch market has been growing steadily since 2016, and all indications are that it will continue to expand at a rapid pace every year. While Apple has created its own industry-standard watch, the Android side of things is less clear, and there are a number of third-party options available. Plus, Fitbit and other trackers have brought older users to the smartwatch market with an increased array of sensors, mobility, medical and health tracking options. Less well known are some of the other players in the smartwatch game, including Mobvoi, a China-based tech company with a large range of smartwatches. One of its newest is the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra.
Review: Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra
Launched in 2020, the Pro 3 Ultra is a Google WearOS device that works with both IOS and Android phones. It offers a wide range of features and integrates with your smartphone (some better than others) to give most of what you’re looking for in a smartwatch.
Setup: a few glitches
The setup procedure for the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra is pretty straightforward, though I did experience a few hiccups along the way. Once you’ve unboxed the watch (in the package by the way: the watch itself, a proprietary charging cable, and a small instruction foldout), your first step is to turn the watch on and wait for it to boot up.
The watch will instruct you to download WearOS on your phone, and begin the process of pairing the watch with your phone.
I ran into a bit of difficulty getting the watch to recognize my Wi-Fi and continue the process, though this could be a Wi-Fi-specific problem. WearOS also seems to work only with one smartwatch connected to your phone at a time, so if you have another WearOS smartwatch, you’ll need to disconnect it from your phone before you can pair the TicWatch.
WearOS will then link everything up with Google Fit for data and analytics, plus you’ll be using the Mobvoi app as well, in order to access all of the features and settings of the watch. Confusing? Maybe on the surface but you’ll quickly see what’s what.
Mobvoi asks you to create an account, and this step was really frustrating, as it requires you to complete a Captcha for security, and every time I tried to do this via the watch, it errored out. I finally resorted to creating an account via my PC and connecting to the app, then linking the watch.
App roulette: too many apps?
The Mobvoi app will give you graphs and summaries of the watch’s readings, things like activity, exercise, sleep, heart rate, blood oxygen or SpO2, and stress. The app itself is a bit bare-bones, and the fact that you can get many of the same readings and info via Google Fit makes things a bit confusing.
In a couple of instances, I had to reconnect the app not only to the WearOS app, but also re-link it to the Mobvoi app, and it wasn’t an easy or straightforward process. There’s some confusion with using the WearOS, Mobvoi, and Google Fit apps to pull different data and settings. I often found myself trying to figure out where to change things like unit settings, connectivity, etc.
Basic Features:TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra
You can change the face of the LED screen of your watch using the WearOS app, and more faces are also available for purchase through the Mobvoi app (navigating multiple apps again!). There’s also a low power screen that saves battery for the watch while displaying a simple grey face with the current time, step counter, and battery life.
Swiping down on the watch face will bring you to a small menu where you can set the watch to airplane mode, adjust sound, use Google Pay, set Do Not Disturb, and place the watch in Theatre Mode. And while you may be thinking you don’t need that setting, trust me, you’re about to…
Bright watch face at night
Normally the phone turns itself to the power-saving grey screen after a few seconds of inactivity, and turning or moving your wrist will bring the main screen back up. The first night I wore the watch, I noticed that in the darkness of my room, the grey screen was still incredibly bright, so much so that you wouldn’t want it turning on to full brightness. After some online research, I found that the answer was to turn the watch to Theatre Mode at night so that the screen doesn’t activate until you touch the upper button. It’s a small thing, but one that should have been thought through in testing.
Navigating TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra menus
Swiping right brings up a small menu with weather and reminders, and swiping left brings up a number of tiles that you can choose from the WearOD app, including TicHealth (an overall monitor of activity). Workout (you can start a tracked workout), a timer, weather, agenda, TicPulse, heart rate, and calculator.
Clicking the upper button shows the apps the watch can use, as well as some settings (these are often nested and not always intuitive). The Mobvoi monitoring tools are all found here. The main monitoring tools are TicHealth, which breaks your activity for the day into workouts, activity, and steps. There’s a bar for each category that fills as you complete more of that activity.
Look, Feel, Durability
The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra has a rounded face and looks more like a normal watch than most smartwatches. The band that comes with the watch is rubber and feels durable when you wear it. Style-wise, it’s not fancy but doesn’t scream “fitness tracker” from a distance. The band can be swapped out for standard watchbands too.
The TicWatch touts itself as a Military-grade watch, and that seems to hold up. It’s waterproof to IP68, meaning you can wear it during a workout, in the shower, and can go underwater to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes. You can wear this watch swimming, and it’s also dust-proof, so it’s an all-weather watch. I noticed in the shower that the spray was sometimes direct enough to activate the watch face, so I did some reading and found some users have reported they’ve had trouble with their watches after swimming. I didn’t hit the pool so I can’t confirm or deny.
Health and Tracking
Health monitoring is a big reason a lot of people buy smartwatches, and the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra delivers the numbers.
TicWatch has a sleep monitoring scale, which (like other fitness trackers and watches) gives you an indication of light sleep, deep sleep, REM sleep, and awake time. It also assigns a score for your sleep and tracks the time you go to bed and how long you sleep for.
The TicPulse app monitors your pulse and provides baselines, high and low values for you, TicOxygen will check your SpO2 level. There’s also TicZen (sensing a theme here?) and TicBreathe, which aim to help you reach a calmer state through deep breathing and rest. Google Fit also has some of these same tools, you’ll need to decide which set you want to use, or scroll through a large number of apps on the screen.
GPS tracking is precise
The GPS tracking on the TicWatch is very accurate, I checked my route a few times through the week while walking my dog, and the map presented was precise with no dropouts or errors.
The workout tracking on the TicWatch is solid. There’s a tile that offers standard workout settings like walk, bike, and run, and when activated, it gives you a countdown to start. During your workout, the watch can show the distance, time splits, and step cadence. Afterward, you’ll have a record of the route you took, your average heart rate and pace, as well as step, time, and calorie counts.
Notifications, calls from phone
Swiping up will show you phone and watch notifications, and new notifications will show as they are received, for a few seconds. You can set a chime or vibration notification. Android users will be able to accept a call and use the watch’s microphone to speak to their caller (the quality is decent though not amazing) and IOS users will only be able to decline a call, but not use the watch to talk or listen. The watch is capable of handling phone calls but doesn’t excel at it, I doubt most users will make a habit of using the watch as their phone option.
Battery Life & Charging: not optimal
The battery life of the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra varies wildly depending on which settings you use. If you want to have the watch monitor your health actively and have the LED screen on all the time, the watch will go through its charge within a day or so, which is about the same as you can expect from the current drop of Apple Watches. If you have those features turned off, you’ll get an extra day or so out of the battery. I found I averaged about 2 to 2.5 days of charge.
Charging is a bit of an issue with the TicWatch. First off, there’s the proprietary charger, always a negative in my books. If you have issues with the charger, you’ll need to replace it, which will mean getting another from Mobvoi, rather than grabbing another cable from around the house.
The second problem with the charger is that it magnetically clips to the back of the watch, and I found laying it down sometimes disconnected the cable. It’s awkward, and I still haven’t found a great solution.
Watch enters zombie mode if fully drained
The biggest issue came when I let the watch drain completely. I connected the charger and was greeted with a battery symbol showing a green charge (I assume a low-power indicator that it’s charging). I left the watch to charge overnight, and the same screen showed when I moved the watch in the morning. There was no obvious indication of how to get the watch to respond. I took to Reddit to find the answer (as I had to do for a number of questions I had about the watch). I ended up having to connect the charger, then remove, then connect and remove a few more times to bring the watch back. It’s very frustrating.
I also ran into issues with the watch not reconnecting to WearOS and the Mobvoi app after charging, problems that a normal user likely won’t put up with for long.
Overall review: TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra
What the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra does well, it does really well. It’s really convenient to get notifications for texts and calls without having to pull out your phone. The watch faces are interesting and there’s a wide variety, so you can change up your look regularly. The activity and sleep trackers work well and provide great information (more so in the Google Fit app than the Mobvoi). Having Google Pay on your wrist makes transactions in stores easier. The calming apps are a really clever idea and give you an easy way to take a few minutes to center yourself in the middle of a busy day. The lower battery watch face is also a great idea that prolongs your battery.
On the other hand, what the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra does poorly, it does really poorly. The battery charger isn’t well thought out and is prone to disconnecting. When the watch drains fully, it’s sometimes a fight to get it responding again. The struggle between WearOS and the Mobvoi app is a headache, and there’s no great balance between the various apps to get things working. If you want to change a setting, you’ll likely end up looking in three places to find it. There’s no single place that handles all things TicWatch, which gives a sense of confusion and effort that you don’t really want in a watch.
The technical basics and features have been well made, but the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra seems like it’s lacking User Experience Testing, something that companies like Apple excel at.
Overall, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra does its job pretty well and is a solid smartwatch. The question you’ll need to ask yourself is “Is the high price point worth putting up with the issues, and am I invested enough to overlook them”. It’s cheaper than an Apple Watch, about the same as Samsung Watch. If you’re an outdoorsy type, the TicWatch might be for you, as it’s made with a rugged mindset.
You can get the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra from Mobvoi’s website or on Amazon.
-Reviewed by Dave Ware
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