This long-delayed smartwatch is good, but it would’ve been great if it came out when it was supposed to.
Photography by Amelia Holowaty Krales
They say good things come to those who wait. So the $349.99 Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 5 should be one of the best dang things to happen to Wear OS 3. It’s sporting the shiny new Qualcomm Snapdragon W5 Plus chip, Mobvoi’s signature battery-saving dual display, and a new digital crown, and it’s the first Wear OS 3 TicWatch. And if this watch had arrived six or seven months ago, I’d be saying, “Winner winner chicken dinner.”
But that’s not what happened. The TicWatch Pro 5 was supposed to launch last fall, and then over Christmas. Instead, after months of silence, the TicWatch Pro 5 arrived two weeks after Wear OS 4 was announced. And in a few months, Samsung will likely start the onslaught of next-gen Android smartwatches. All of this leaves a big question mark over the TicWatch Pro 5’s place in the Wear OS ecosystem.
As a result, I’m neither over nor underwhelmed. I’m mostly just whelmed and a little sad at how an otherwise good Android smartwatch got shafted by bad timing.
Subtlety is the name of the game with Mobvoi TicWatches, and the Pro 5 is no exception. This is your typical sleek smartwatch that nobody’s going to look at twice, especially if you end up with the all-black model like I did. I love a good pop of color, so that was a bummer, but don’t despair. You can pick brighter default silicone straps or more elegant leather straps at checkout. That, plus the colorful watchface selection, helps mitigate the nondescript case design.
This time, Mobvoi has added a textured bezel and replaced the Pro 3’s pushers with one flat side button and a digital crown. Is it a unique digital crown? Not by a long shot, but it makes navigating menus with sweaty fingers a lot easier. Scrolling with the digital crown is also more enjoyable thanks to the haptic feedback, and boy howdy will you do a lot of scrolling. (More on that below.) The haptics aren’t the strongest, so you may be disappointed if you prefer a more distinctive buzz. As for the side button, I appreciate that it’s less prone to accidental presses than the pushers were.
The Pro 5’s greatest strength is its multiday battery life. You can get an estimated 80 hours, withquick charging when you do need to top up. In testing, I’ve gotten pretty close to that 80-hour mark — though how Mobvoi achieves this may or may not be to your liking.
Mobvoi’s secondary ultra-low-power (ULP) display does a lot of the heavy lifting here. Technically, it counts as an always-on display, but not in the same way as the always-on displays of other flagship smartwatches, which keep the OLED screen on but dim the watchface and (usually) drop the refresh rate way down. Instead, the TicWatch spends most of its time using the ultra-low-power display, a black on gray segmented LCD like a retro Casio digital watch. There’s no backlight until you raise your arm, and then you get a single-color backlight, which changes depending on your heart rate. You won’t see your shinier Wear OS watchface unless you fully wake up the watch. Basically, you’re only making full use of the OLED display a mere fraction of the time. It’s a fine tradeoff if battery life is your number one priority, but it’s meh if you want everything an always-on OLED has to offer. Think fun animated screens, vibrant colors and pretty blacks, better indoor visibility, or just a more modern overall experience.