TicWatch Pro 2020 review: Google Wear OS smartwatch with layered display, ample RAM, and low $260 price

While Google seems to have let Wear OS hang on the vine, companies like Mobvoi continue to offer options for those who don't want an Apple Watch. The latest model improves in some areas and is still quite affordable.

While the Apple Watch is clearly the best for iPhone users, there are options for Android smartphone users with Samsung Tizen and Google's Wear OS platforms. Samsung has compelling smartwatches with a Samsung focus while Mobvoi has the best affordable Wear OS options available.

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The new Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 2020 improves upon the 2018 model with twice the RAM and MIL-STD 810G drop/shock resistance. The improvements are subtle, but at just $260 the TicWatch Pro 2020 is definitely worth considering.

Also: Mobvoi TicWatch Pro review: Two screens really are better than one

Last year I tried the TicWatch S2 and had a pretty terrible experience, primarily due to the smartphone app. Things have improved this year with the app and I find Wear OS more useful now as well.

There hasn't been a smartwatch that has satisfied my desire to work with an iPhone or Android smartphone, but for the past couple of weeks I have been quite happy with the TicWatch Pro 2020 as it offers a great mix of smartwatch functionality and fitness capability. I also often just want to wear a watch for the time and flipping over to Essential Mode where the watch can last for about a month is a great option.

Hardware

The TicWatch Pro 2020 is composed of metal, glass, and high quality matte fiber materials. It has numbers around the non-spinning bezel with a hefty look to it. I think it's likely one of those love/hate looks and I personally like the look of the watch. The silver model looks good in pictures, but I tested out the all black model.

The layered display is a cool innovation from Mobvoi with a LCD screen on top of an AMOLED screen and it's something I would like to see GPS sports watch makers adopt. It's the perfect solution to give users the choice of bright brilliance or long battery life, or both if you manage things properly.

High quality matte fiber material is used below the metal and around the sides, as well as the lug area for the band connection. Silver metal material covers the back with the flush heart rate monitor that has very few openings for measuring heart rate.

There are two physical buttons on the right side with the upper button serving to toggle between the app launcher and the watch face. Pressing and holding it launches Google Assistant. The lower right button launches the TicExercise app so you can start working out quickly from the watch face. You can also customize the lower button to launch an app of your choosing.

There is a mic opening on the right side between the buttons. The speaker is found on the bottom of the bezel and phone calls actually sound pretty good from the wrist. Callers also said I sounded good when calling from the watch..

Standard 22mm quick release bands can be used with the TicWatch Pro 2020. However, a very nice hybrid leather/silicone band is included in the retail package. The top is black leather with the underside being black silicone. This is the first time I've seen such a band that gives you a professional look while also being built for fitness. We'll see how well it holds up over time, but I like the design for sure.

TicWatch Pro 2020 specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100
  • Display: 1.39 inches AMOLED with 400x400 pixels resolution Gorilla Glass 3
  • Operating system: Google Wear OS
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Storage: 4GB internal storage
  • Bands: 22mm leather/silicone hybrid
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2 LE, 801.11 b/g/n WiFi, GPS/Galileo/GLONASS/Beidou, NFC
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Heart Rate Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Ambient Light Sensor
  • Rugged ratings: IP68 dust/water resistant rating and MIL-STD 810G shock resistance
  • Battery: 415 mAh non-removable
  • Dimensions: 45 x 45 x 12.6mm and 222 grams
  • Colors: Shadow Black and Liquid Metal Silver

Mobvoi states the typical battery life is two days of regular smartwatch use followed by three days of Essential Mode use (LCD watch face). You can also manually flip to Essential mode and see battery life of up to about a month. Essential Mode with the FSTN LCD shows the date, time, steps, and heart rate. When running you can expect to see about five hours of use with GPS or 3.5 hours with music and GPS.

Watch software

Google's Wear OS powers the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 2020 and I'm finally coming around to accepting it after a couple of years of disdain. I think having nice hardware and a good wearable experience helps in this regard.

The first display that turns on is the watch face and, unlike the Apple Watch, there are thousands of available watch faces for Wear OS devices and it's fun to explore the watch face store and try different complications on the TicWatch Pro 2020.

Swiping down from the watch face reveals six quick controls for airplane mode, sound toggle, find your phone, Google Pay, screen off toggle, and do not disturb toggle. Below these quick controls is the connection status icon and battery status. Above these quick controls is the gear icon to access a plethora of settings. You should actually spend some time going through these settings as there are a ton of preferences in there to make the wearable experience the best it can be for your needs.

Press the top button to open the app launcher where you can swipe up and down to open apps. They are listed first with recent apps and then in alphabetical order. You can tap and hold on an app icon to put it near the top of the list as a favorite too. The Play Store is in there so you can install many more apps. There are some Google apps and Mobvoi apps installed by default, including Fit Breathe, Fit Workout, Phone, Google Pay, TicExercise, TicHealth, and TicPulse. Some of these duplicate efforts so pick your preference. Unfortunately, most cannot be uninstalled either.

Smartphone software

You should install the Wear OS and Mobvoi apps on your smartphone. You may also want to install Google Fit and possibly something like Strava, if you use this for fitness tracking. The Wear OS app lets you customize the watch face, five allowed Tiles, and specify a few settings on the watch.

The Mobvoi app is built for much more than just the wearable, but it is important if you want to track your health stats and view/manage this data. There is a Health Center with three bars around a circle for active minutes, steps, and exercise. Tapping on these bars reveals data that can be viewed by day, week, or month.

You can also view your 24 hour heart rate, sleep tracking results (after you install and use the TicSleep app), and your exercise results. My running results show distance, duration, calories burned, heart rate, pace, cadence, step length, and a map of my route. Thankfully, you can now also setup syncing to third party services such as RunKeeper, Strava, and Google Fit. This was missing in the past and is key to making a watch like this more useful.

Daily usage experiences and conclusions

The TicWatch Pro 2020 is a big watch, but I like big watches and have been perfectly happy with the large Polar Vantage V, Coros Vertix, and other large watches as they fit my wrist just fine and give me a display my aging eyes can read. The TicWatch Pro 2020 is a handsome watch with nice styling and high quality materials. It is also surprisingly comfortable and can be worn for days without any concerns.

Over the past few years I have discovered I actually like to wear watches primarily to glance down and see the time. Thus, the always-on Essential Mode of the LCD on the dual-layered TicWatch Pro 2020 display is perfect for me. If I'm traveling then I'll actually flip it to Essential Mode and leave the charger behind.

The display is inset a bit from the bezel and at first this bothered me. However, it does tend to protect the display from getting hit against walls and things and I do not have any problems swiping and tapping on the display. The AMOLED display looks great too.

While the upgrades here on the TicWatch Pro 2020 may seem subtle, doubling the RAM to 1GB is actually significant. I ran many different apps and never noticed any slowdown or lag in using the watch.

The TicWatch Pro 2020 is not my favorite running watch, but it gets the job done and now syncs perfectly to Strava. I have seen inconsistent heart rate data on the watch that may be due to the limited number of lights and capture points on the back of the watch. I even have the Strava app installed and continue to discover the power of Wear OS with all of the supported apps not found on Tizen OS. It's also great to have Google Assistant on a watch.

Phone calls, text messages, Telegram messages, and emails are all now available to me on my wrist with the only real compromise being the smaller display. As I use more Android phones, I'm actually coming to thoroughly enjoy the TicWatch Pro 2020. Also, the $260 price for a smartwatch with GPS is almost a no-brainer purchase for wearable fans like me.