Ticwatch Pro review: Dual-layer screen makes for one of the best Wear OS watches
The new Ticwatch Pro from Chinese firm Mobvoi wants to shake up the smartwatch scene with a special dual-layer display: it flips between a standard Wear OS panel and a power-saving screen to use when idle. New Atlas has spent a week with the watch, and here's what we think so far.
The star of the show really is that dual-layer screen – a standard, 1.39-inch, 400 x 400 OLED display, overlaid with what's called a FSTN (Film-compensated Super Twisted Nematic) screen. The second, monochrome LCD panel takes over when the watch isn't actively in use, displaying the time, date, and your current step count.
Why all this technological trickery? Battery life. Mobvoi says the Essential mode (the LCD display mode) can last 30 days between charges, and while we couldn't test it for that long, that seems a fair estimate – we certainly noticed it kicking in once or twice when the battery level could no longer support the Smart mode (OLED) display. It means you'll always be able to tell the time, even if you can't load up Google Maps.
Even with relatively heavy use, the Ticwatch Pro is a strong performer in terms of battery life. We found there was always plenty of juice left after one day of switching between Smart and Essential modes, and usually a little bit remaining at the end of the second day too. For a smartwatch running Google's Wear OS, that's very competitive indeed.
There's another benefit to this second screen, though: being able to always see the time at a glance, without some elaborate wrist movement to wake up the display. That's been one of our biggest disappointments with smartwatches so far, and the Ticwatch Pro fixes it. Other Wear OS devices have a dimmed "always on" mode, but they're not as easy to read as the Ticwatch Pro, and their hit on the battery life is greater.
As far as the looks go, there's no doubt the watch impresses in this department. The casing and buttons may be plastic (take your pick of black or silver), but they've got a solid, quality feel, and the strap is comfortable on the wrist and easy on the eye – the one we had is mostly silicone, with a leather finish on the outside, so it's suitable for both a morning run and an evening dinner party. Full leather and full silicone ones are also available.
Aside from that dual display, Mobvoi hasn't done anything too special with the design, but it works. The 45-mm size of the watch may be too big for some (the biggest Apple Watch tops out at 42 mm) but there aren't many other drawbacks to talk about.
Full credit to the Ticwatch Pro for stuffing a whole load of tech in here as well. There's a heart rate monitor, on-board NFC (for mobile payments), and even GPS included – not something you'll find on many smartwatches out there. It means you can track your location and get directions even without a phone connected, and in our testing the watch got a GPS lock and kept it very well (not always a given with devices this size).
On the software side, Wear OS is more or less the same as it has been for more than a year now, with plenty of apps to pick from, and Google Assistant should you need it – the Ticwatch Pro has a speaker, so the Assistant can speak back to you if you want it to. That speaker also helps with receiving calls on your wrist, of course.
Mobvoi has bundled a handful of exclusive watch faces in with the Pro, which we found well designed and useful, and a custom fitness app – we'd rather use Google Fit, and found the Mobvoi alternative a bit confusing, but it's there if you need it.
Overall, we've been finding the Ticwatch Pro a pleasure to use. Wear OS is more or less the same on every Wear OS watch, but aside from that dual-layer screen, this wearable is comfortable to wear, looks good on the wrist, and is responsive in use. A surprising number of smartwatch makers don't get those basics right.
We do have some drawbacks to talk about. The internal components here are the same as they've been in Google-powered watches for a couple of years now – that's not Mobvoi's fault, but don't expect lightning-fast responses in apps, or a significant speed upgrade over a Wear OS smartwatch you bought in 2016. New wearable chips are apparently on the way, but too late for the Ticwatch Pro.
Meanwhile, that second LCD layer on the display does give a very slight blur to the OLED panel underneath, and adds another half second or so on to the response times when you raise your wrist to get into Smart mode. It also looks a little basic and cheap, but that's a consequence of what it's trying to do. Is the battery-saving Essential mode worth the trade-off? We'd say yes, but your mileage may vary.
Even with internal components long overdue an upgrade, Mobvoi has produced a really impressive Wear OS smartwatch with the Ticwatch Pro – one that shoots straight into the top few that you should consider if you're buying today. At the end of our testing period, we were more than happy to carry on using it, which is a testament to its quality.
The Ticwatch Pro manages to hit a decent price point as well. You can pick it up now for US$249.99 from Amazon, though for now you have to be a Prime subscriber to buy it. That restriction lifts on August 15, and from September onwards the smartwatch will be available from other retailers too.
Product page: Ticwatch Pro (Amazon)