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Mobvoi TicWatch E3 review: Competing on core competencies
Mobvoi TicWatch E3
Retail price: $199.99$199.99 at Amazon
What we like
What we don't like
Mobvoi is one of several smartwatch makers that has remained committed to Google’s Wear OS platform. Its TicWatch series of smartwatches are available at several price points, ensuring there’s a product for everyone in the mix. The Mobvoi TicWatch E3 is an update to the E2, and is Mobvoi’s lower-cost smartwatch that targets fitness-minded folks. The E3 is also the second watch from Mobvoi to adopt Qualcomm’s newer Snapdragon Wear 4100 platform at its core, which is meant to bring a number of important improvements to Google’s aging wearable OS.
The TicWatch E3 boasts a revised design, a generous spec list, and boosted performance compared to its predecessor. But change is in the air. Samsung and Google will debut a new version of Wear OS later this summer. Does that make the TicWatch E3 a worthwhile investment?
Find out in the Android Authority Mobvoi TicWatch E3 review.
What you need to know about the Mobvoi TicWatch E3
- Mobvoi TicWatch E3: $199.99/€199.99/£179.99
Mobvoi sees the TicWatch E3 as a catch-all smartwatch that can be all things to all people. The combination of its design and capabilities means the TicWatch E3 has the power to act as a strict smartwatch, a fitness wearable, and a fashion piece as well. Its affordable price point, which competes with some dedicated fitness trackers, doesn’t hurt.
This $200 smartwatch replaces the outgoing TicWatch E2 and slots under Mobvoi’s more expensive TicWatch Pro 3. Mobvoi changed up the design when compared to the E2 to give the wearable a more modern look. It comes in only one color, called Panther Black. The watch is available with either black, yellow, or blue swappable 20mm bands. It’s widely available online from retailers such as Amazon.
Design: Strictly utilitarian
The Mobvoi TicWatch E3 takes a basic approach to design. It’s round, has some buttons and a strap, and comes in a single dark gray color. Mobvoi calls the TicWatch E3’s looks “classic.” That’s perhaps being generous.
The face is a simple circle made of curved glass that blends into the polycarbonate frame. The frame and strap holders are made from a single piece of sturdy material, while the bottom section that rests on your skin has a softer touch to it. Mobvoi’s choice of polycarbonate helps keep the price down without sacrificing much in the way of toughness. The polycarbonate has a metallic paint job that almost makes it look like metal. Almost. An IP68 rating means the chassis is waterproof enough for swimming laps at your local pool.
It’s sizable at 44 x 47 x 12.6mm, though the E3 is slightly smaller than the TicWatch E2. The watch comes across as rather tall and chunky when it’s on your wrist, though surely there are taller, chunkier watches out there. That said, I still found the watch comfortable to wear for days at a time. I was worried that the profile would have bothered me when sleeping, but I had no trouble at night at all.
One of the biggest design changes compared to its predecessor is moving from a one-button arrangement to a two-button arrangement. The TicWatch E2 had just a single button centered on the right side to help with controlling the watch. The Ticwatch E3 jumps to a two-button arrangement that gives users more control over software and apps. It’s a welcome update. The buttons themselves are large, which makes them easy to find and use. Each button has crisp action with a clear click that lets you know when you’ve pressed it.
Puzzlingly, the display is smaller and has fewer pixels than the outgoing model. Where the E2’s screen measured 1.39 inches with 400 x 400 pixels, the E3’s screen measures 1.3 inches and has 360 x 360 pixels. A noticeable black bezel surrounds the circular display, creating a barrier between the screen and the outer bezel of the watch itself. I wish this bezel weren’t quite so thick. However, the display puts out plenty of light and is still easy to read and interact with. I had no trouble at all seeing the screen on a sunny day outside. The resolution is still plenty dense enough that everything on the screen appears smooth and clean.
If there’s one thing I dislike about the design, it’s the straps. Mobvoi went with 20mm straps rather than 22mm straps, and the silicone comes across as cheap. I imagine the same types of straps are attached to $10 department store watches. I would like to have seen beefier straps here, though that may be just me. The good news is that the silicone is soft and breathable and didn’t get stuck to my skin as silicone sometimes does. The included straps have a quick-release lever, too, so you can easily swap them out for alternate straps. If black isn’t for you, Mobvoi offers the straps separately in yellow and blue. Or you can head to another retailer to find a nice third-party option.
The 380mAh battery manages to deliver two full days of battery life.
The 380mAh battery is 10% smaller than the battery of the E2 but still manages to deliver two full days of battery life (~48 full hours) with casual use and sleep tracking. I kept the brightness set to near the maximum level during testing, and my smartphone was always nearby — meaning the Bluetooth radio was almost constantly connected. If there’s one thing that noticeably drains the battery, it’s using the GPS radio for tracking workouts. Recording a quick 30-minute walk sapped the battery just enough that the watch kicked off at the end of the second day, rather than lasting through the night to the following morning.
Mobvoi supplied a proprietary charger with the watch, which attaches magnetically to the underside. The cable is long, which I appreciate, but the actual charging puck is small. It’s a little fussy and has to be oriented in just the right way to adhere to the TicWatch E3. Thankfully the magnetic connection is strong, and the watch remains attached while charging even if you bump it or move it around. Charging the watch takes about an hour.
Some might call the design simple or classic; I call it utilitarian. It looks clean and works well.
Health and fitness tracking: Jack of all trades, master of …
Mobvoi sees the TicWatch E3 as a device to help people maintain a healthy lifestyle first and act as a smartwatch second. Health-minded features abound, and you’ll find a little bit of everything on the TicWatch E3.
Tapping the lower button opens the full list of activities the watch can track. There are 21 in total and include options such as run, walk, cycle, freestyle, swimming, elliptical, rowing, yoga, pilates, football, skating, and several modern twists on exercising such as body mechanics and mountaineering. The watch can automatically detect running, walking, and cycling exercises, but my experience with this was mixed. On the few walks I took, the watch sometimes missed the first 10 minutes or so of the workout. Instances in which I manually started a workout, everything turned out fine.
Also read: The best running watches you can buy
Much like the Apple Watch, the TicWatch E3 wants to help you manage daily movement goals. For example, if you haven’t moved for an hour, it will alert you that it’s time to stand and take 100 steps to achieve your daily activity goals. These are dictated in three metrics: active time, exercise time, and steps. The baseline is 10,000 steps per day, 30 minutes of exercise, and 10 hours of activity or basic movement. As for accuracy, the TicWatch E3 managed to get my gait correct and recorded approximately the same number of steps for a given activity as my Apple Watch. These metrics are then all wrapped up in the TicHealth app (which we’ll discuss below).
The TicWatch E3 tracks 21 different exercises, such as running, walking, cycling, and more.
Other “Tic” apps include TicPulse for measuring your heart rate, TicSleep for tracking your sleep, TicOxygen for monitoring your blood oxygen level, TicZen to manage your stress, TicBreathe to manage your breathing, TicHearing to monitor the ambient noise, and TicCare to share these results with others so they may keep tabs on your wellness.
Check out: The best heart rate monitors and watches
TicPulse can be set to record your heart rate continuously if you wish, and that’s how I set it up. You can also do spot checks, with all the results shared via graphs and charts. The TicWatch E3’s heart rate monitor trended slightly higher, say about 5%, than the numbers from my Apple Watch.
The E3 wouldn’t be much of a fitness tool if it couldn’t track your workouts on a map. I ran into some interesting inconsistencies. When I brought my phone with me on a walk, the overall route was less accurate than the distance covered and outline on the map. When I used the E3 as a standalone workout partner, meaning it had to rely on its own GPS, it was far more accurate in terms of distances and mapping. One route that I’ve mapped dozens of times at 1.85 miles on my Apple Watch turned up as 1.91 miles on the TicWatch E3, but the route was exactly right on the map.
The TicWatch E3 often recorded me as 'asleep' while I was actually watching TV late at night.
I would take the sleep tracking accuracy with a grain of salt. The TicWatch E3 was often likely to record me as “asleep” while I was actually watching TV late at night. Moreover, it showed that I was “awake” often during the night even though I remember sleeping soundly through the night. Worse, the times I did wake up in the middle of the night appeared as “deep sleep” in the sleep tracking app. On the other hand, I think the sleep efficiency number, graded on a scale of 1-100, was more generally accurate. Days that I scored lower in sleep accuracy were days I was more tired throughout the day.
Last, blood oxygen. This tool measures oxygen in the blood and provides you with a percentage. In addition to the raw number, the watch also gives you context such as “normal” along with the reading, so you don’t get too excited about the measurement.
There’s no electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor, which we wouldn’t necessarily expect at this price point.
Mobvoi app: Data handler
Mobvoi’s mobile app, which is available to Android and iOS, is mostly meant as a place to manage the reams of data generated by the watch as you wear it day in and day out.
The app is broken down into tabs accessible via four buttons along the bottom of the screen. The first collates all your health and fitness information. You’ll see a breakdown of your daily goal progress, as well as exercise, sleep, heart rate, blood oxygen, stress, and noise readings. You can drill down into any of these for more data, including graphs, charts, and other visual presentations to help you digest the information. I like that you can view data as a single day, week, or month. This really helps you see trends and anomalies.
You can view your data as a single day, week, or month to help you spot trends.
Of course, there’s a tab for controlling the watch itself. It lets you know that you’re connected, what the watch battery life is, and provides access to the watch face center. I like that this part of the app makes it easy to access audio recordings or take screenshots of the watch face. The device settings and help sections could use a little work.
An explore function taps into the greater Mobvoi community and is where you can track the activity of your friends and family members — if you want to. There are also, unfortunately, adverts for other Mobvoi products tucked into this section.
The last piece of the app helps you manage your Mobvoi account, see your fitness and health reports, and more. I dislike that I had to create a Mobvoi account to access any of the data.
The Mobvoi app covers the basics on the health and fitness front. I wish the data were more easily shareable. For example, it would be great if I could export my heart rate data for a month if I needed to give it to my doctor. As it stands, sharing with third parties is limited to Runkeeper, Strava, and Google Fit.
See also: The best Wear OS apps for your watch
Smartwatch features: Covering the Google basics
The TicWatch E3 runs Google’s Wear OS platform. This means the watch ships with a wide variety of built-in smartwatch apps and supports a multitude of third-party apps from the Play Store.
Wear OS has seen little love from Google in recent times. There is good news on the horizon. Google has partnered with Samsung, and together the two plan to introduce a new version of Wear OS at an Unpacked event later this summer. Right now, it’s unclear if existing Wear OS watches will be able to upgrade to the new platform once it arrives. The early 2020 build of Wear OS, based on Android 9 Pie, serves as the main user interface for the TicWatch E3.
Mobvoi didn’t tweak the home screen experience. You can set a watch face of your choosing, of which many are available from the app for download. You then swipe up and down, left and right to access settings, notifications, Google Assistant, and additional Tiles, such as the weather or your heart rate.
Pressing the top button opens the app drawer, which Mobvoi has changed a bit. It runs in two columns down the screen rather than the single line of apps. I like this arrangement as it makes it easier to find the app you want with less swiping. The lower of the two buttons can be set to launch a dedicated app, though, by default, it launches into Mobvoi’s suite of workout apps.
The Snapdragon Wear 4100 platform provided ample power for the watch, which ran smoothly 100% of the time.
Speaking of apps, there are plenty aboard. The list of preinstalled applications is dominated by Google- and Mobvoi-made fare, which is to be expected. Google apps include smartwatch basics such as agenda, alarm, calculator, contacts, Find My Phone, stopwatch, reminders, translate, the Google Play Store, and more. Smartwatch-y behaviors such as notifications worked perfectly. Both my email accounts synced to the watch, and I was able to keep track of other essentials such as Slack messages, incoming phone calls, and so on.
One of the most important upgrades over the E2? NFC support and the ability to make payments via Google Pay on the E3. I was able to test this at a local mini-mart, and it worked well.
Google Assistant is present and accounted for. Assistant’s utility on smartwatches is limited, but as long as your phone is nearby, you can access basic questions and answers, which can be spoken to you via the TicWatch E3’s speaker.
The Snapdragon Wear 4100 platform provided ample power for the watch, which ran smoothly 100% of the time. At no time did apps stutter or perform poorly. I didn’t experience any app crashes or other anomalies. That’s good news for the E3.
While I think the experience of finding Wear apps is better from a smartphone, having the Play Store on the watch itself allows you to download directly from your wrist. If you’re looking for more than the basics, you’ll find them there.
All this said, it is hard not to feel like the TicWatch E3’s Wear OS platform is about to be eclipsed by something better, something that might make it obsolete. For the time being, Wear OS chugs along on the TicWatch E3 as best as I’ve seen the platform run.
Mobvoi TicWatch E3 specs
|Mobvoi TicWatch E3|
360 x 360 resolution
44 x 47 x 12.6mm
Polycarbonate and glass fiber
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
GPS + GLONASS + Beidou
HD PPG heart rate sensor
Low-latency off-body sensor
Blood oxygen (SpO2)
Value and competition
This $200 smartwatch offers a lot of bang for the buck. Few decent Wear OS devices are priced below it unless you’re looking at older models. The TicWatch E3 is certainly an affordable entry point into the Wear OS ecosystem if you’re inclined to join it in the first place. There are lots of options to weigh, however, starting with what you want from your smartwatch.
Perhaps the first alternative to consider is the Mobvoi TicWatch 3 Pro ($299), which is pricier but offers better battery life. Those specifically seeking Wear OS devices might consider the Fossil Gen 5 ($295), which is older but still capable. The similar Skagen Falster 3 ($295) is also worth weighing, thanks to its overall performance. If you want the best combination of Wear OS and GPS capabilities, the Suunto 7 ($399) is a good bet, though it is twice as much.
Those seeking a more accurate fitness partner and who want to keep costs down might be best served by something like the Fitbit Versa 3 ($230). The Versa 3 doesn’t have access to as many apps but has superior battery life and tracking performance.
Owners of Apple iPhones should look no further than the Apple Watch SE ($349) or Apple Watch Series 3 ($229), both of which are affordable watchOS options that offer superior app compatibility and fitness accuracy.
Mobvoi TicWatch E3 review: The verdict
Mobvoi has delivered a modestly successful smartwatch in the TicWatch E3. It is an entry-level wearable that covers the basics and more. It may be a little short on looks, but the ample number of sensors means you can track essential health and fitness activities and rely on the numbers to be relatively in line with other wearables.
Mobvoi’s revised app makes it easier to consume your health data, though sharing options remain limited. Google’s Wear OS is perhaps the smartwatch’s Achilles heel. The platform may support plenty of third-party apps, but it’s an aging operating system ready to be replaced by Google and Samsung.
Google's Wear OS is perhaps the smartwatch's Achilles heel.
Still, for $200, Mobvoi has given the Google ecosystem a fair device that can easily handle smartwatch essentials. As long as you’re not the most serious fitness-minded person, it has something to offer for those seeking casual health features in a usable package.