We tested Mobvoi’s TicWatch Pro 3 and Fossil Gen 5 LTE, two of the most powerful Wear OS watches available for purchase over the past month. They aren’t the same by spec, but they share a basic look: big, thick, round, and black. If you’re using Android and want a smartwatch, they’re constantly at the top of the list of small Top Flight smartwatches.
Despite the reputation of Wear OS, both watches are perfectly capable and many can perform the basic functions they want on their smartwatch. Both offer what I characterize with acceptable battery life. All day in most cases, twice at a time. The TicWatch actually lasts much longer thanks to the clever second screen superimposed on top of the first.
But Wear OS has that reputation. Watches that have been running over the years have been slow, drained battery life quickly, and struggled with a small ecosystem of apps. While some of these issues have been addressed, that doesn’t mean that this watch (or, honestly, any smartwatch available to Android owners) fits the gloss and features that iPhone users can get with an Apple Watch.
Apple Watch comparison isn’t really useful for Android users. It doesn’t and it probably will never be a choice. Instead, let’s look at these two watches in their own terms.
TicWatch Pro 3 Review
The $299.99 TicWatch Pro 3 is not an impulse buy. However, the price is suitable for products made by Mobvoi. It pushes the limits of what Wear OS can do in two ways.
First, we’ve put together the best techniques you can get for your Wear OS device here. One of the big differences with the TicWatch Pro 3 is that it is the only watch that uses Qualcomm’s latest smartwatch processor, the Snapdragon 4100.
This processor makes the watch faster than other Wear OS devices. It may still feel a step behind Samsung’s Tizen-based watches and even Fitbits. It also explains some of the TicWatch’s battery life, which can last 2-3 days with all the bells and whistles on.
The second thing Mobvoi has done to push Wear OS is adding a bunch of bells and whistles to make up for the platform’s missing features. The most important thing is to place the LCD panel on top of the regular OLED screen. This allows the TicWatch to go into a low power mode when it is on standby, and to an ultra low power mode when the charge needs to last more than a few days.
Wear OS has seen a few updates, but it powers its fitness products with Google Fit, which lags far behind Apple’s fitness products. Mobvoi can’t fix it, but it has tried to fill the gap with its own suite of fitness apps on the watch. It also includes a blood oxygen sensor. It’s less accurate than the smartwatch’s standard, but it’s not that great.
However, using this app requires a lot of trust in the company Mobvoi. There is no way to do that without sharing a lot of information with Mobvoi, as the watch shows perfectly clear when trying to run these apps. I applaud the transparency, but that alone wasn’t comfortable.
One thing to keep in mind with TicWatch Pro 3 is aesthetics. Obviously, it’s a big, thick watch. I don’t have a big wrist and I feel this is absolutely dominant. At least it’s “honesty” in design in that it doesn’t try to look like a cooler watch than that. It’s just underneath the matte plastic lugs that hold the interchangeable straps in place. Also, I would like to have a crown that rotates for scrolling.
Eventually, like a wetland standard Wear OS watch, I used the TicWatch Pro 3 to turn off the extra screen and stick with Google Fit for fitness data. It absolutely worked, but for $299 I think most people would be better off considering other options.
The spec that TicWatch doesn’t have is LTE. For this you need to buy Fossil.
Fossil Gen 5 LTE Review
In 2019, we reviewed the original Fossil Gen 5 smartwatch and called it “the best Wear OS situation.” I think the (suspicious) fame is now on the TicWatch Pro 3, but if you need LTE, the $349 Fossil Gen 5 is one of the two options available on Android (the other is Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 3 LTE).
Luckily, Fossil Gen 5 hasn’t changed essentially due to the addition of LTE. If you want to pay a monthly surcharge to your carrier and want to turn it on, using Gen 5 with LTE is pretty much the same as using it with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
Battery life didn’t seem to be an issue either. I’ve noticed that with LTE turned off, the watch is likely to come out more in two days, but even if I’m primarily using LTE, I usually didn’t run out of my watch in a day. Sadly, I think Fossil should make up for the shortcomings of Wear OS by keeping the battery saver feature completely too complex. The clock shouldn’t require the user to dig into granular radio toggles.
As a result, it wasn’t particularly slow, but it still uses the older Snapdragon 3100 processor. Aesthetically, it’s a bit different from the regular Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle I own, but it’s not. That It’s much smaller than the TicWatch, but looks a bit more luxurious due to the subtleties.
All in all, if you need to have an LTE smartwatch and you’re using Android, this is your best bet if you really prefer Wear OS over Tizen. If you’re an agnostic, I think the LTE-powered Galaxy Watch 3 is a better choice.
Since we’ve been repeating it for 3 years so far, all smartwatches for Android contain some sort of compromise.
The Samsung watch needs a lot more apps and you need to install a lot of extras on your phone to work.
Fitbits is great for fitness, but not very good for integration with Android. The problem with the company currently owned by Google’s hardware division is also of little importance. The future of the entire Fitbit ecosystem is now floating in the air.
And honestly, the future of Wear OS is also in the air. There’s little movement in app support lately, and Google has done enough to keep the OS from crashing entirely, but nothing more. The deadline for overhaul has passed.
While there are likely to be more Wear OS watches worth the wait, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is still the best option for existing smartwatch products. At the end of the day, it’s hard to recommend anyone to spend $300-400 to board a tall Wear OS boat.
Both the TicWatch Pro 3 and Fossil Gen 5 LTE are enough smart watches. It is said that the future is the best of the old platforms with doubts.
Photo from Dieter Bohn / The Verge