Mobile technology should not be about cramming the office into your pocket but a way to enjoy your everyday life.

TicWatch Pro 5 - the least bad Android watch?


The reason I bought this TicWatch Pro 5 - and the reason I bought the original a few years ago - is the dual-screen setup that allows for some sort of always-on display with good battery life. This is a feature that divides people and I get that, but I personally really like it.

But then there are plenty of reasons why I fear I'll regret this - just like I ended up regretting buying the original TicWatch Pro.

I have watched several reviews by people who got the watch early and free of charge by Mobvoi and they all seem to struggle a bit when they try to recommend it. 

Mobvoi, the Chinese company making the TicWatch has a bad reputation when it comes to software support for their existing hardware. And in my case, they also have a bad reputation when it comes to making hardware that doesn't give you skin problems. 

Then there is the timing. TicWatch Pro 5 may be the first watch available with Qualcomm's Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 processor - but this processor is already a year old. This tells us that the entire Android Wear OS ecosystem has a serious hardware problem. And this watch is one of the first with Wear OS 3 although it was released several weeks after Google announced Wear OS 4. The Android wearable landscape is simply not in good shape. 

Nor am I impressed with Mobvoi's choice to include bloatware. The watch comes with a dozen or so pre-installed, non-removable apps for things like Mobvoi’s own treadmill. Of course, Mobvoi knows that this will annoy their customers, but they still chose to do this because they might get a few users to buy a treadmill. This kind of behavior towards your customers is just bad. And the health tracking is spread over half a dozen or so different apps of which none is particularly well made.  

And what is with changing the strap width from 20 to 24 mm? There are plenty of third-part 20 and 22 mm straps out there - but not 24 mm. 

But at least they now have a plastic back on the watch instead of metal as with the first generation so hopefully this will not cause any skin problems. 

Others have also mentioned the lack of Google voice assistant as a problem and I see how that could be a deal breaker for some. Another concern has been the large size of the watch but personally I don't think it's noticeably larger than other similar watches right now - with the exception of the Pixel which is unusually small. Next to my old Huawei Watch GT they look similar in size. The Galaxy Watch 5 on the other hand is even a bit thicker than the TicWatch. The design of the watch is rather plain - I much prefer the Huawei Watch GT black on steel look.

But there is that one great thing about the watch - the dual display setup. It's actually a dual watch setup. There is a normal, full-featured smart watch running WearOS 3.5 on a capable Snapdragon CPU with a nice OLED display. And then there is a simple digital watch (probably) running FreeRTOS on a much simpler CPU core using an old-fashioned monochrome LCD that sits on top of the OLED. This screen looks like the watch faces of early digital watches from decades past. This simple watch with its simple screen uses very little battery, and if set to run only in this mode (called essential mode) the watch can run for 45 days on a single charge. Usually, however, the watch keeps switching between the two modes and screens so that when you don't actively use the watch so you can still glance down at it to see an always-on screen with the date, time, and basic info like steps and heart rate. If you start tapping away at the watch, the watch switches over to smart mode and lets you interact with the WearOS. This mixed mode allows the watch to get several days of battery time instead of bearly a single day as with the Pixel watch for example.

Unfortunately, this duality is also one of Mobvoi's weaknesses. The company recently made a public statement about the long delay in bringing WearOS 3 to their previous models and explained that integrating their dual-mode hardware with WearOS is complicated and slow. 

And if you are not a loyal Android user but someone who might switch to an iPhone in the future then TicWatch Pro 5 is not a good choice because unlike some other WearOS watches, this one is simply not compatible with iPhone at all. 

But if you are a loyal Android user looking for a WearOS watch with more than 24 hours of battery life then the Ticwatch Pro 5 might be the least bad alternative for now.