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Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra review: A durable wearable waiting on promises

By
December 8, 2021
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra watch face
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra

The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra brings some welcome upgrades to its predecessor, including durability and advanced health tracking. But that might not be enough. At this point, users should be wary of any device still running Wear OS 2. Until this one receives Google's promised software update, it's a risk. It's also not even close to the best bang for your buck.

What we like

Multi-day battery life
Unique dual-screen display looks great and saves juice
Customizable backlight in 18 colors
Durable design meets military specs
Decent heart rate monitoring

What we don't like

Runs on old software
So-so sleep tracking
GPS can struggle at times
Only one bulky size option
Rudimentary smartphone app

The latest smartwatch from Mobvoi has arrived. The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra boasts the best of the TicWatch Pro 3, with a better durability rating and a few new health-tracking features. It’s an impressive device at a reasonable price, but one major hesitation remains; this is still a watch that will leave you waiting for Wear OS 3. However, if having the latest version of Wear OS isn’t a priority, the rugged TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra is worth a look. Read our full TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra review to learn more about Mobvoi’s hefty new flagship device.

Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra
$299.99 at Amazon

What you need to know about the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra

A TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra displays the native apps in the device app drawer.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority
  • Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS: $299.99 / €299.99 / £289.99
  • Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra 4G: £329.99 / €359.99

There are two new TicWatches in Mobvoi’s lineup: the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS and the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra 4G — say that 10x fast. These are direct upgrades to 2020’s TicWatch Pro 3 smartwatches, although they’re not full-fledged successors, hence Mobvoi holding onto the “3” moniker. The standard TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS (the model tested for this review) and Pro 3 Ultra 4G share the same specs and features, though the 4G model can connect to mobile networks for internet use without having a phone nearby. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll refer to the non-4G model without the GPS affix throughout this TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra review.

It would be easy to mistake the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra for the standard Pro 3. The new watch shares many design similarities with the old TicWatch Pro 3, although Mobvoi leans into the rugged angle with the Ultra models with improved protection ratings. In addition, a durable silicone strap ships with the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra, matching the new ruggedized chamfered edge surrounding the bezel.

See also: The best Wear OS watches

The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra also offers faster performance and its predecessor. Mobvoi also throws in a few advanced health-monitoring features like irregular heart rate and atrial fibrillation (AFib) detection, as well as mental fatigue and energy level assessments for good measure. Both watches are powered by Wear OS, although they won’t get the fancy new Wear OS 3 upgrade for some time— at the time of writing only Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 series has the latest version of Google’s software. Fortunately, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra is on the list of devices eligible to receive the Wear OS 3 in mid to late 2022, though that’s still quite the wait.

The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra went on sale Friday, October 15, for $299.99 on Amazon and Mobvoi.com. The 4G model was also intended for release in November, though we couldn’t find it available for purchase at the time of publication. Both are available in one colorway: Shadow Black.

What’s good?

A TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra rests in a wooden bowl.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Mobvoi touts two main upgrades over the original TicWatch Pro 3: performance and durability.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 powers the watch and is backed by 1GB of RAM. The performance of this device is noteworthy. I consistently ran multiple apps, transitioning between features without any lag, and didn’t hit any bugs or glitches. It’s smooth, responsive, and overall a very pleasant user experience.

This is Mobvoi's most durable smartwatch to date.

The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra is equipped with an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance, as well as a MIL-STD-810G rating for durability — the latter making its return to the TicWatch Pro line after its curious omission on the original TicWatch Pro 3. This means your watch can withstand extreme temperatures, low pressure, and other elements without dying. Just keep in mind this is still a small piece of technology that’s strapped to your wrist; it’s not indestructible. However, you should feel comfortable wearing the device doing everything from heavy yard work to light climbing. Mobvoi has also gone back to Gorilla Glass by Corning for the display, which should also give it a durability boost over the non-Ultra model.

A TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra rests on a wooden surface with the customizable backlight shining in purple.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

The device also offers the same old handy juice-saving features: A secondary transparent display of the Pro 3 offers a quick peek at basics like the time, date, and a step counter, all without draining battery life. But now, in the Ultra, the FSTN display can be customized with backlights in 18 different colors. This personalization is fun in theory as well as in practice.

If you’re careful about your usage, multi-day battery life is absolutely achievable. Mobvoi says the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra can last up to 72 hours with typical usage or up to 45 days in Essential Mode (only using the FSTN display). Once your device’s battery is good and drained, charging takes about an hour and a half to get the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra back up to full.

A TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra on a woman's wrist displays the Mental Fatigue and Energy Level tracking functions.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

We found that if you are particularly interested in stress-related data, near-daily charging is necessary to utilize the device’s 24-hour activity monitoring. This includes the device’s advanced heart rate monitoring and all-day mental fatigue and energy level monitoring. Mobvoi’s mental fatigue measurements are based on your heart rate variability (HRV), or the measurement and analysis of time between beats. This fatigue assessment and irregular heartbeat detection are both new on the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra.

Related: The best heart rate monitors and watches

According to the data, I didn’t have any abnormal heart rate events during the review period, but I did find the mental fatigue and energy level values to be accurate compared to my perceived energy levels. This feature is not intended for medical purposes and users can not use it to diagnose medical conditions. Neither the device’s AFib detection, nor its SpO2 sensor, are CE- or FDA-certified.

As far as performance during exercise, the device’s heart rate sensor is decent, especially for users just interested in casually tracking their workouts. It took a while for the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra to catch onto my heart rate at the start of my run. And, for about two minutes, it didn’t record any data at all. See below for one evening run comparing the to the Apple Watch Series 6.

Heart rate data from the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra review vs Apple Watch Series 6 heart rate data.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Facing off with the Apple Watch 6, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra couldn’t always keep up. Note the random drop-outs at 13 and 32 minutes when the TicWatch struggled but the Apple Watch stayed on track. The device also only records heart rate data every four seconds, which is a little less frequent than other competitors. The Apple Watch and Garmin watches record pretty much continuously. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this watch to someone who needs the most accurate, detailed heart rate data, but it was certainly capable of providing basic info to the average runner.

In addition to the advanced health upgrades mentioned, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra also brings 20 more activity profiles to the built-in TicExercise app. These include everything from high-intensity interval training to Taekwondo, as well as activities like hiking and swimming, which really lend to the “adventurer” personality of the device. Plus, if you have a love-hate (or just hate-hate) relationship with running, the versatility is nice to have on hand for mixing up workouts.

What’s not so good?

A users TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra displays just over five hours of tracked sleep.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

A few minor design specifics disappoint. For one, it’s still hard not to want the device’s bezel to be a rotating one. Is the new detailing an aesthetic upgrade, or does it just bring further attention to the ring’s lack of functionality? Likewise, neither of the device’s buttons provide a scrolling function, just like on last year’s TicWatch Pro 3. They do spin, but the spinning doesn’t amount to anything.

The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra strap has large spaces between buckle holes.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

The new fluro rubber strap also isn’t especially exciting, though the material is very comfortable and soft. While editing photography for this TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra review, I saw that the band attracts quite a bit of dust and debris. I also found the strap to be loose, even at its tightest setting. Compared to other devices’ bands, the clasp holes are spaced far apart, leaving less discrepancy for minor adjustments. That being said, it’s a standard 22mm band and can easily be swapped out. And by easily, I will note that this particular design is delightfully simple to take on and off.

On the subject of fit, this is not a device for anyone who prefers small accessories.

Like other devices in the TicWatch line, this is still a very bulky wearable and is only available in a single size. Even so, it is entirely comfortable, lightweight, and sleek, even if it’s standard in appearance. The overall impact and case size are pretty much exactly the same as the TicWatch Pro 3. Unfortunately, so is the proprietary magnetic charger that falls off somewhat easily.

One of the most irritating issues I found with this device through the testing period for this TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra review came during sleep tracking. For multiple nights in a row, my screen would turn on in the middle of the night regardless of tilt-to-wake and touch-to-wake settings. The only solution is to manually turn on Theater Mode every night before going to bed. A smartwatch in late 2021 should not have this type of software oversight. Other sleep tracking shortcomings you may find with this device include so-so accuracy and misidentifying downtime. On two different evenings, the device recorded me reading as me catching Zs (which in fairness, I should have been doing).

A screenshot of TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS data shows the devices performance on a straightaway.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra’s GPS is also worth bringing up. The biggest qualm I had was that it often took a few moments to lock on so I could start my workout. This isn’t always a big deal, but for tight schedules or dreading hearts, stalling the start of a run isn’t ideal. Once ready, the accuracy was decent overall, or at least not multiple streets off like the TicWatch Pro 3.

However, GPS is crucial for a watch built to withstand adventuring, and it’s still not as accurate as we’d hoped. Compared with the Apple Watch Series 7 above, it often had me running on the opposite side of the road or occasionally cutting through people’s lawns. The image below shows a specific hill where the two trackers part ways, and according to the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra, I ran straight through a forested hillside.

A screenshot of TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS data shows the device's accuracy struggling on a hillside.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

On the software side, not much has changed from the original TicWatch Pro 3, and that’s disappointing. You still won’t find the latest Wear OS, and honestly, it’s hard not to feel left short. Your TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra will ping you with your phone’s notifications, accurately track some health and stress data, and offer you all the basic functionality you could need from a smartwatch. It’s just not the current best of the best.

Furthermore, the Mobvoi app still leaves things to be desired, despite a cosmetic overhaul this past June. As was the case before, you’ll mostly find a repeat of the data you can already access on your wrist. It seems Mobvoi is attempting to upgrade the user experience, but it still falls flat considering the price of the device it’s meant to support. Luckily, the updated app still allows users to share data with Google Fit, Strava, and Runkeeper.

Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra specs

Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra
Display
1.4-inch AMOLED + FSTN
454 x 454 resolution
326ppi
Case
47 x 48 x 12.3mm
41g
Stainless steel and nylon with glass fiber
Band
22mm
Universal connector
Power
577mAh battery
Proprietary magnetic charger
No wireless charging
Processor
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100
RAM
1GB
Storage
8GB
Software
Wear OS 2
(Wear OS 3 update coming in 2022)
Connectivity
Bluetooth 5.0
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
NFC
GPS, Beidou, Glonass, Galileo, QZSS
Sensors
Speaker and mic
PPG heart rate sensor
SpO2 sensor
Accelerator
Gyroscope
Ambient light sensor
Barometer
Compass
Low-latency off-body sensor
Durability
IP68
MIL-STD-810G
Colors
Shadow Black

Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra review: Should I buy it?

A woman wears multiple competitors from the smartwatch market.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

There is a lot to like with this device, but the uncertainty of Wear OS 3 still makes it a hard sell. Assuming Google does come through with the upgrade next year, shoppers will then have a decision on their hands. If you already have a TicWatch Pro 3 ($299), there aren’t enough major changes for you to upgrade to the Ultra. The minor hardware and material improvements aren’t likely to sway a ton of users. That is, unless they’re hardcore outdoor extremists, and durability is of the utmost importance. The most unique feature of the device is its dual display, and that’s already on the Pro 3.

Check out: The best smartwatch deals

If you prefer a small device, the Galaxy Watch 4 ($249) offers a more approachable case size (and a better price point). To keep beating a dead horse, it’s also running Wear OS 3 right now, out of the box. As usual, if you’re an Apple phone user, there is no reason to switch teams. The Apple Watch Series 7 ($399) is an incredibly well-rounded smartwatch. However, if for some reason you don’t care for the Apple Watch, be it the square shape or questionable battery life, it’s worth noting that the TicWatch Pro 3 line does work with iOS phones. The Galaxy Watch 4 can’t say the same.

Overall, the TicWatch Pro 3 is one of the better Wear OS watches on the market, but we can’t in good faith suggest buying it just yet. Wear OS 3 aside, many of the other minor shortcomings are easily outweighed by the good. But it’s not the best, and it’s not even close to the best bang for your buck.

The Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra smartwatch in Phantom Black color.
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra
The TicWatch Pro 3, upgraded
Mobvoi's TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra is more durable and offers more health-tracking features than ever before. It also comes in a 4G model if you want to stay connected at all times.