Many have questioned the future — and the present — of smartwatches in the Android ecosystem. Wear OS as a category has felt dead for months now, and if there's any watch I'd trust to help give it a shot in the arm while we wait for the long-rumored/dreamed-of Pixel Watch, it's going to be the newest smartwatch in the TicWatch line.
The TicWatch Pro sports a dual-layer screen that goes old-school in just the right way while allowing the watch to sip its battery for days and weeks rather than the maybe-if-you-pray two days most current watches struggle to survive.
- Good response time and handoff between the LCD and OLED display modes
- Large display makes navigation a breeze, even without a rotating bezel
- User-programmable button gives easy access to a favorite app
- It's huge, especially on slimmer wrists
- No SIM option, so it can do everything except make calls on its own
- Going from Essential Mode back to Wear OS takes a long time
Double the display, double the functionality
TicWatch Pro What I like
The TicWatch Pro sets itself apart from other smartwatches the second you see its face. Because of its dual-layer screen, the watch isn't an abyss of black when the screen is off. Instead, it's the familiar graphite of the see-through LCD display. These two displays allow users to overcome two of the greater pitfalls of Wear OS's screen and battery woes: the LCD display is far easier to read in harsh summer sunlight or at awkward angles, and the LCD watch face sips battery compared to even the most minimal of always-on watch faces.
You can glance down at your watch as you type, cook, drive, or go about your day and instantly, easily read the LCD display, and with tilt-to-wake, you can still see your flashy, fabulous custom watch face and notifications when you pull your wrist up to engage it. The handoff between the two modes is just as quick as the normal tilt-to-wake on any other watch, but it saves so much more battery. In short, I freaking love it.
The TicWatch has all the goodies for us to play with inside its sizable smartwatch frame: NFC is here for Google Pay on your wrist, we have GPS, activity monitors, and a heart rate sensor for long workouts or short sprints from the studio to the newsroom, and we have Bluetooth 4.2 and Wi-Fi if you need to connect the watch to headphones or your gym's Wi-Fi while your phone sits safely in your locker.
After over a month of using the TicWatch Pro, I've been consistently getting 2-3 days on a charge in Wear OS mode if I put the watch into Theater mode before I take it off at night with tilt-to-wake on. I'm also getting 3-5 days with tilt-to-wake turned off and Theater mode on at night. It recharges ridiculously quickly, going from near dead to completely full in the time it takes me to run through the shower before work. Essential Mode can indeed make the watch last for weeks, but since Essential Mode turns off most apps and the Bluetooth, I haven't really used it. Instead, I've been using the LCD display for the most battery-efficient "always on" watch face ever.
A tic too big
TicWatch Pro What I'm not sold on
There's no escaping just how big the TicWatch Pro is, but it's hardly the first bulky smartwatch to grace the market; the ZTE Quartz in my closet is still thicker and fatter than the 45mm TicWatch Pro, but not by much. Even most of the men in my life think the Pro is a bit big for their wrists, and it feels more manacle than modern timepiece on my limp, lanky wrist. I'm small, and I knew this was going to be a big watch for me well before it arrived, but it's still a bit of a turn-off.
The only other issue relates to the battery-saving Essential Mode. Essential Mode is a great feature, and allowing me to keep track of my steps, heart rate and time without burning through my battery is a godsend. However, since Essential Mode shuts off the Wear OS side of the watch completely, if you turn it on, be prepared to wait a full minute when you long-press the power button to re-engage it. The watch also shuts off Bluetooth while in Essential Mode, meaning that even though your TicWatch Pro is technically on, it's not going to buzz with notifications or keep your phone unlocked via Smart Lock.
TicWatch Pro Should you buy it?
This is one of the first Wear OS watches to come so close to 'tic'ing all the boxes in a long time. It's the first Wear OS watch I've had since the original Huawei Watch that I can walk out of the house and have absolutely zero worries about the battery dying on me, and using Google Pay on your wrist is worlds easier than digging it out on your phone.
The TicWatch Pro is a big watch at a relatively small price, especially for how adaptable it is. The dual-layer display sips battery and remains far more readable at a wider range of angles and lighting situations than Wear OS's usual always on watch faces, and even if I'm not going to use Essential Mode regularly, it's nice to know that if I got stuck in the wood for a week or two, I could switch over to Essential Mode and my watch wouldn't die on me while I'm counting on its step-tracker to navigate.
4.5 out of 5
This is the most complete Wear OS experience I've seen yet, and if there was a more size-appropriate version for us slim-wristed ladies, I'd be rocking a TicWatch Pro for the foreseeable future. As is it, I'm willing to put up with the bulk for a smartwatch that I know will last a full weekend and then some and gives me the best of Wear OS that I've been missing on my LG Watch Style.
Updated August 2018: Now that we've been able to put the TicWatch Pro through its paces over the last month and a half, we've had a chance to put the Pro's battery claims to the test and report back its findings.
Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.