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TicWatch Pro Review: A best-of-both-worlds hybrid

TicWatch Pro
(Image: © Android Central)

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.

The Good

  • 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

The Bad

  • 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

Not another OLED abyss

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.

TicWatch Pro is big, but not the biggest

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.

Essential Mode watch face

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.

See at Amazon (opens in new tab)

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.

  • I actually like big watches, but WearOS is garbage and Google doesn't even seem to care about it these days. I suspect most people will only get 1-2 days on a charge, just like every other Wear watch in history.
  • No, this watch is gonna get five days on a single charge with little effort. I bet I could get a week to two weeks just by turning on Essential Mode at night while I'm asleep.
  • But it's a manual process. You always have to worry about what is essentially "turning the watch off" for fear of the massive battery drain that results from forgetting. No thanks. I can get 7 days from my Garmin without manual intervention and it's a way better workout tracker. Wear is just a garbage platform. I have 4 Wear watches in a drawer I'll never use again because they just don't really do anything well.
  • You can set it to auto-switch to Essential Mode at a battery percentage of your choice from 20% down to 5%. I'm loving mine except for the band. Luckily it's 22mm so lots of choices.
  • I can take one off your hands if you want. I have a health app thatt requires wear is.
  • Two solid days is good for regular WearOS mode. I get that and sometimes 2.5 days on my HW2. This is tempting but I may wait to see if there will be a Pixel Watch with latest processors. By the way, WearOS is unfairly maligned. It is far, far from the turkey people make it out to be.
  • I'm well aware Wear OS is maligned, and I don't think it's all unfair, but the platform has felt stagnant recently, even with the name change and recent additions. I like Wear OS, I use it everyday, but the hardware most smartwatches are using today hold it back so much. And yeah, I wanna see a Pixel Watch to, but I also want to see unicorns and mermaids.
  • I greatly wish Wear OS was even more "stagnant"! Most of the changes that came with v2.0 suck. v1.5 was awesome! There was no need for such a big revamp and some of the changes were actually stupid. Should a simple wipe change the watch face? NO! How often do folks wish to do that? Complications are great, IF they work. I could go on, but you get the idea.
  • Why do you assume you won't see the Pixel Watch? My sources tell me it's a done deal.
  • Your sources? Care to elaborate?
  • This huge watch is just another excuse for people to get fatter.
  • Yeah, that's it...
  • When the famine comes, The skinny people croak first.
  • Would this make a good watch for runners? I'm concerned mainly if runtastic or other tracking app is running, would the app continue to run in the background or would it switch to essential mode after a bit?
  • There are three ways to turn on Essential Mode: select it from the menu that appears when you long-press the lower button on the right side of the watch, turn it on from the Essential Mode app, or allow it to kick on automatically when your battery gets down to a certain percentage. In short, the watch will usually not kick over to Essential Mode unless you specifically tell it to. Once you tell it to, though, the only features that work in Essential Mode are the step counter, time, and heart rate sensor, not any third-party fitness apps. The LCD watch face and Essential Mode aren't quite the same thing, and during most workouts, unless you have Essential Mode configured to kick on when your battery gets low, you'll keep Wear OS on and your third-party apps on and just take advantage of the LCD watch face to see how many steps you've done so far and heart rate. Does that make sense?
  • It does. Thank you very much. Exactly what I was wondering. So the LCD will kick on, but the apps still work. Perfect. This watch might be the one for me.
  • Its not huge. You have small wrists. lol
  • I had a tall, dark, and handsome friend over last night to talk fan culture, LGBTQIA representation in media, and how working in how working in our industries has ruined certain experiences for us. He thought the Pro was a bit big for his wrists, too, as did the IT manager at my TV station when I showed it to him.
  • What did LBGT have to do with that comment?
  • Shocker, someone who's mad at the NFL for peaceful, legal protests only takes notice of the LGBTQIA part of her comment. What did your comment have to do with her comment about the watch being too big, even for men?
  • Disregard Dildo6882's comment as you were totally justified in asking that question as it is was completely off topic. It almost seemed to be thrown in just to make a statement about gender identity....
  • And that bothers you, why? Insecurity? Big shocker on the name calling too. You guys are predictable.
  • You actually had me looking for a comment from Dildo6882 but then I woke up. That wasn't nice but it was funny.
  • I didn't get it either....lost the meaning somewhere.
  • I know a girl, about 24 years old. She has auburn hair, brown eyes, and a Barney Rubble tattoo on her left calf. She likes to wear overalls to almost every occasion and sometimes wears glasses.. She drives a beat up 1973 Jeep Wagon which is painted in a garish two-tone blue and yellow combination. She works at Wholefoods Market, in the produce section. The other day I was shopping and I ran into her and she said "don't forget, broccoli is half off today!" We laughed and laughed. Later that day, she called me and told me about the time that she saw a brown speckled house cat get it's head stuck in a jelly jar. I asked her, "did you manage to free it" and she said "no, it just ran away". Anyway, she has a Tic Watch and likes it a lot.
  • If you think that a 45mm watch casing is too big then you haven't been following watch trends. This would be one of my smallest watches in my collection (only about a dozen and a half watches). I'm currently wearing a watch with a 53mm casing (an analog automatic) that is almost 23mm thick. My largest watches have 63mm casings. I would love a smart watch with in a nice 54mm casing as that would give plenty of space for a nice large and useable screen and larger long life battery. edit: for comparison, this is the watch I am currently wearing (if the link is allowed):
  • I am a 5'2" girl that's 125 lbs soaking wet. 45mm is big to me (but I got fairly used to it with my original Moto 360), and it's big to everyone I've shown similar watches to in the past three years. I understand that among certain demographics, especially where luxury men's watches are concerned, it's not oversized, but to the regular public, 45mm is big.
  • Personally, I've wished to wear the wall clock in my living room on my wrist but can't find bands that go by inches... all mm. Damn metrics anyway. <sarcasm> Seriously though, I have anti-Trump hands so I always lean towards the bigger watches and/or the ones that get knocked for being too big like this one. It's just a feature regarding its size... the only people I've seen get so worked up over that are Trump and the commenters on this article. People can be dumb. Namely, POTUS and the others commenting here.
  • I'm still rocking the original Huawei Watch, so I'm interested in how it compares in size? Thanks, and good review. Looking forward to our update!
  • I miss that watch.... This one is bigger, but it does more, too.
  • Why would one "worry" about a smartwatch running out of battery? What's the worst that would happen?
    I have a Samsung Gear 2 Neo, running Asus ZenWatch 2 firmware and two Fossil smart watches. All them easily last a full day (0500 - 2200). I do not wish to sleep, while wearing any of them, so daily charging is not an issue.
  • I always wonder the same thing. I take my Ticwatch E off every night and charge it. Who sleeps with their smart watch on unless they're tracking their sleep patterns?
  • Agreed, I tried sleeping with my S3 Frontier along with my CPAP machine and it is always the same, 7 hours of sleep at 96% efficiency. Very boring, frankly. Might be useful for people who have untreated respiratory problems, but otherwise, not so much.
  • ... or if you have light one, not so big and heavy, like my Garmin Fr935, which last with all functionality in "smartwatch" mode for two weeks with always-on display, oHR, BT. You can sleep easily with that watch. Sometimes I just forget I have one on my wrist.
  • Do you use any specific app that can monitor CPAP?? I use CPAP as well so really interested. Currently on MyAIR app on the phone but watch app would be also interesting...
  • My Huawei 2 has been running of charge since 4:00 am and it's now 10:00 pm with 64 percent left.
  • Hi Ara, Great review, had a question for you about the essential mode. I've watched several reviews and I've learned that disabling ambient display causes the LCD low power display to kick in when idle. If you let the watch idle with the low power consumption display (ambient mode for oled disabled) is that the same as going directly into essential mode or will you still at least get vibrations for notifications?
  • It is NOT the same. Essential Mode refers to the power saving mode where Wear OS is shut down. When you have always on display turned off, the LCD watch face takes its place, allowing you to always know the time while still keeping Wear OS on so your wrist buzzes with notifications.
  • Looks like a Huawei 2 Classic clone
  • I am still using the huawei original watch and I still love it but it starting to show its age so I'm looking for a new one that does everything the huawei does and more. But here is where your review and every other review about every other watch really aggravates the piss our of me. 2 things that I absolutely have to know about any watch yet no one ever states, does it have a speaker(I must have a speaker!) and is the screen sapphire like huawei original. I have never used a screen protector on my huawei and the metal has all kinds of nicks but the screen is perfect., my moto 360 had a scratch after 3 days. So I might forgo the sapphire and use tempered glass protector but the speaker is absolutely a must for what I use my watch for.
  • Just check their website for full specs. I doubt that are are using sapphire glass. I have the Huawei 2 with a screen protector and you wouldn't know it's there unless no told you. Now I'm wondering if it has sapphire glass.
  • Essential mode renders it essentially unessential
  • Is it possible to use this as a straight up Wear OS watch? No LCD and no Essential?
  • I've been a happy owner of a Ticwatch Pro for several months. I'm able to get about 4 days of full functional use on each battery charge.
    I have mine set use the LCD during normal use, but switch to LED colorful display when I tap the face.
    I use it to track walking distance, for my schedule, GPS, Messages and Phone calls (Dick Tracy calling)
  • Hi ara, thanks for the great review.
    Do you have any other watches you can compare the size to for us? Or could you post your wrist diameter?
  • I am picky as hell, but I have loved my TW Pro so far. I do wish it had a rotating crown or bezel tho. Even performance is snappy on the old 2100 CPU. Well, Android Messages can be slow to open but quick voice replies to notifications are snappy as can be. We will see if Google announces something good enough to jump ship. But this watch works way better than my previous Apple Watch Series 2 and every other Wear OS watch I have used.