There are very few smartwatch makers out there that have shown more dedication to keeping Wear OS from falling into oblivion than Mobvoi, an AI company and creator of the TicWatch series of smartwatches.
It’s fitting then that Mobvoi should be the first to debut a smartwatch powered by new Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear silicon that is being touted as the possible savior of Google’s woefully underserved wearables platform.
That watch is the TicWatch Pro 3 GPS. The third iteration of the Chinese firm’s flagship wearable packs a raft of new features, top specs, and subtle design tweaks in a familiar package.
Ahead of a full review, these are my initial impressions of the TicWatch Pro 3 after using it for a day.
The Snapdragon Wear 4100 is here
Let’s start with the star attraction. The TicWatch Pro 3 is the first watch to come to market that utilizes the much-hyped Snapdragon Wear 4100 series.
Mobvoi skipped the Snapdragon Wear 3100 for its second-generation TicWatch Pro 2020 and TicWatch Pro LTE variants, but the latest model is taking a giant leap from the Wear 2100 — a processor first unveiled some four years ago.
The Wear 4100’s quad-core CPU boasts a 1.7GHz clock speed which is claimed to boost performance by 85% compared to the Wear 3100. What’s really exciting is the mooted improvements to the GPU — reportedly 2.5x faster — and the increased power efficiency resulting from the shift to a 12nm process as well as additional optimizations.
The TicWatch Pro 3’s Snapdragon Wear 4100 SoC promises improved performance and greater battery life.
While memories of the painfully laggy Wear OS smartwatches of old have been mostly exorcized through Google’s own tweaks to the platform, there is still huge room for improvement. In my short time with the TicWatch Pro 3, I’ve already been impressed with the smoothness of the UI animations and rapid transitions between different pre-loaded apps. The signs are looking good, but I’m keen to test third-party apps to see if it holds up under pressure.
Yet, the bigger draw is the potential impact the new chipset could have on battery life. The general rule for a Wear OS smartwatch is you’ll need to charge it every day to avoid battery anxiety. Compare that to the leading smartwatches that can go for 2-3 days or more on a single charge and it’s obvious why many are put off by watches running Google’s OS.
Read more: The best smartwatches you can buy
I first put the TicWatch Pro 3 on at ~11AM on the day it arrived showing 85% charge out of the box. After setting it up, switching to always-on mode, and playing around with it throughout the day I was down to 62% at 10PM. That’s already a significant improvement over my personal experience with the TicWatch Pro LTE. It’ll take some in-depth testing to know how much the TicWatch Pro 3 can eke out of the new SoC and its 577mAh cell, but the early signs are promising.
One thing that should be noted is that we’re talking about the Snapdragon Wear 4100, not the 4100 Plus. The Plus version of Qualcomm’s chip has a co-processor designed for low-power functions in ambient mode. This is designed to take the strain off of the main processor for even greater power efficiency. Sadly the TicWatch Pro 3 misses out on this.
A familiar face
TicWatch Pro LTE (Left) and TicWatch Pro 3 GPS (Right)
The TicWatch Pro 3 follows the same general design blueprint as previous TicWatch Pro models, though Mobvoi has made some welcome tweaks.
While still a large watch, the TicWatch Pro 3 is 0.4mm thinner than its predecessor and 28% lighter. You can certainly feel the latter, which is extra impressive when you consider that the TicWatch Pro 3 has a significantly larger battery than the TicWatch Pro 2020 or its LTE counterpart.
Other changes are more subtle. You’re still getting a stainless steel and polyamide and glass fiber sandwich, but the bezel is thinner and doesn’t stretch out at the top and bottom. The two buttons on the right side are also spaced further apart.
TicWatch Pro 3 GPS (Top) and TicWatch Pro LTE (Bottom)
All of these changes lead to a watch that feels far less bulky and looks more subtle and premium than previous generations. At launch, you can only get the watch in Shadow Black and it comes with a 22mm silicone strap with orange stitching, though this is interchangeable due to the universal design.
The TicWatch Pro 3 GPS is thinner, lighter, and more stylish than its predecessors.
It’s a shame there’s still no physical input besides the push buttons, but the TicWatch Pro 3 leaves a good first impression, especially if you didn’t love the rugged, chunky look of previous TicWatch Pro models.
Packed with features
The TicWatch Pro’s defining feature is its dual-display which pairs the expected 1.4-inch AMOLED panel with a transparent Film Compensated Super Twisted Nematic (FSTN) LCD display. Solely using the latter can provide up to 45 days of battery life according to Mobvoi — up from the 30 days in previous generations. Smart mode will still switch between the two and Mobvoi says you’ll get 72 hours this way. Again, we’ll need to test this in a full TicWatch Pro 3 review.
The biggest upgrade on the feature front comes via the watch’s PPG which can now monitor your blood oxygen saturation (SpO2). Also new is stress tracking, which is combined with a variety of breathing exercises to help lower your stress levels. The watch can also measure environmental sound and warn you if noise levels become dangerous.
These join the existing suite of TicHealth features that include sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring, and support for 10 workout modes.
Related: 10 best Wear OS apps for Android
TicWatch Pro 3 GPS: Price and availability
The TicWatch Pro 3 GPS goes on sale from today at Mobvoi and Amazon priced at $299 in the US, £289 in the UK, and €299 in Europe. That’s a price hike of $40 in the US which puts in the same bracket as the best Wear OS watch to date, the Fossil Gen 5.
This could be a fair price considering the upgrades under the hood, but competition in the ~$300 smartwatch market is hotter than it’s ever been thanks to the likes of Samsung, Apple, Fitbit, and others.
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 GPS
The TicWatch Pro 3 GPS is the first Wear OS smartwatch powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 chipset. It features enhanced battery life compared to previous models and includes blood oxygen tracking. The smartwatch has also been redesigned to be thinner and lighter than previous models.
We’ll bring you our more detailed thoughts on the TicWatch Pro 3 after we’ve put it through its paces. For now, let us know what you think of the first Wear 4100 smartwatch in the comments.