I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. Google and watchmakers have been equally guilty of letting Android Wear and subsequently Wear OS drift around for years. Neglect, lack of innovation, no attempts to compete with the Apple Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Watch line-up and a general sense of an incomplete experience if you still went ahead and bought a Wear OS smartwatch anyway. Mind you, Google still continues to ignore the Wear OS platform if you compare this with how Apple focuses on watchOS and Samsung develops their Galaxy Watch lines. The responsibility has therefore fallen squarely on the shoulders of Mobvoi and Qualcomm to make the Wear OS smartwatches a genuine option for Android phone users in particular.
Close on the heels of the minor upgrade that was the TicWatch Pro 2020, we have the very serious upgrade that is the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 GPS. It has some pretty interesting upgrades, on the hardware and the software side. The GPS moniker in the name is to differentiate the watch from TicWatch Pro 3 that has Cellular capabilities as well and is sold in certain countries. Not in India though. What we get here is the TicWatch Pro 3 GPS which is priced at Rs 29,999 and competes with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (around Rs 32,990) and for some users, even with the variants of the Apple Watch SE (prices starting Rs 29,900).
The highlight surely has to be the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 chip. This is the latest and the greatest piece of silicon to ever grace a Wear OS watch. We had seen the improvements that the Snapdragon Wear 3100 had introduced, when we had reviewed the Oppo Watch and come away impressed. Here and now, the Snapdragon Wear 4100 further improves the overall system performance, everything is just snappier and consumes lesser battery while at it. Incidentally, the TicWatch Pro 3 GPS is the first watch to run the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100, with a lot of the recent launches arriving on the scene with the Snapdragon Wear 3100 still—these include the Tag Heuer Connected, Fossil Sport and the latest generation Moto 360.
The stats do tell the improvements, to a certain extent. The Snapdragon Wear 4100 is up to 85% faster than the Snapdragon Wear 3100, more than 25% more frugal with battery consumption and the graphics are 150% faster than before. All that translates into, and it shows, a significantly smoother smartwatch usage experience than any Google Wear OS based smartwatch till now. Animations are smoother, the responsiveness is better, and you can open menus and apps quicker than before. In the general sense, the TicWatch Pro 3 GPS doesn’t feel bogged down and tired the way Wear OS watches used to. Not that you would probably use a lot of apps on the wrist anyway, but simple things like weather, fitness tracking and checking the heart rate from time to time, it’s all just quicker and much less laggy.
Battery life has to be the other big improvement. As a general rule, Wear OS watches never lasted more than a day on a single charge. And most certainly had to be plugged in at night in case you needed to wear one the next day. With the TicWatch Pro 3 GPS, things are better. In fact, much better. While Mobvoi claims this can go up to 5 days on a single charge in what is called the Smart Mode with the AMOLED display in use, I got close with 4 days before the TicWatch Pro 3 GPS needed to be plugged in again. While not as much as the claimed figures, 4 days on a single charge for a smartwatch is fantastic. The Low Power Consuming Screen, available in the Essential mode will last you up to 45 days. I have no reason to disbelieve that figure, since the predecessor lasted almost 30 days on a single charge in this mode.
Speaking of the display, the TicWatch Pro 3 GPS has what is called the Dual Display 2.0 technology. There is a 1.4-inch AMOLED display complemented by a much lower power consuming FSTN LCD display. What that basically means is that by default, the AMOLED display is powered on. You get the full range colour display, which is quite vivid and can get very bright too and enjoy the watch faces and apps—this is the default mode. These displays basically sit as a layer—the FSTN display at the top and the AMOLED below it. Looking at the TicWatch Pro 3 GPS, as you would normally, you’d not realize there are two display layers here. Switch to the Essential Mode and you’ll enable this lower power screen. This sticks to the basics—tells you the time, the date, your heart rate and your activity status such as the number of steps walked. The idea behind this is to extend the battery life significantly by powering down the display that comparatively drains more battery to ensure you don’t need to reach for the charger as often.
While Mobvoi has left most of the TicWatch Pro 3 GPS interface as is with the Wear OS, there are still some improvements that have been done. There is now an app drawer with nice and large app icons which help with easier identification. There are also some Mobvoi preloaded apps, such as TicHealth which in a way overlaps with Google Fit. And then there are some cool watch face additions, which really give you an even wider options set for what should adorn your watch screen.
There are a bunch of sensors in place for health and fitness tracking, something that is now expected from pretty much every smartwatch. There is the heart rate sensor, the blood oxygen sensor, environmental noise tracking and stress tracking that tells you when it might be a good time to do some breathing exercises. SpO2, or blood oxygen tracking, is new to the TicWatch Pro 3 GPS. And a welcome addition too.
Last but not least, is the small matter of TicWatch Pro 3 GPS’s design. It looks very good or it looks very bulky, totally depends on which side of the fence you are on. Its looks very similar to its predecessor, but there are fine changes along the way, and you’d notice those. It is made of stainless steel and nylon with glass fiber and is about 30% lighter than before. The silicon strap has a padded leather look, but we would have actually preferred the leather option too. This tips the scales at 41.9 grams, which is also lighter than before. On the matter of the size, it is subjective and depends on what sort of watches you like around your wrist—larger dials or not.
The Last Word: the TicWatch Pro 3 GPS Is A Mix Of Many Good Things
The TicWatch Pro 3 GPS comes together as the best Mobvoi TicWatch wearable till now, Qualcomm’s best Snapdragon Wear processor so far and is the best performance watch in the Wear OS smartwatch space at this time. It may not look exactly very different from its predecessors, but that’s just consistent design language. The dual display tech is great and so are the displays, in both modes. I’ve never seen Wear OS work as smoothly as it does on the TicWatch Pro 3 GPS, and not have me cursing. Robust battery life is just the proverbial cherry on the cake.