Mobvoi, one of the few remaining makers of Wear OS watches, first introduced the TicWatch E3 in June, only a couple of weeks after Google announced the new Wear OS 3.0 alongside Samsung. The timing made for an awkward situation for Mobvoi, where we could talk about what the watch had to offer today, but also that we had questions about its future with the platform.
The TicWatch E3 has now been available for a couple of months and we do know that it should receive the big update to Wear OS 3. That might not happen for up to a year, though, so when considering this watch as one you’ll want on the wrist, you will have to take that into account.
Now, the TicWatch E3, under normal circumstances, would be an easy watch to look at. It offers a top tier set of specs in a package right at the $200 mark that will likely see discounts. But as appealing as it should be, that Wear OS 3 situation is not something anyone should look past.
I’ve spent some time with the TicWatch E3 on several occasions since it was announced, so let’s talk about what’s good and bad about it and whether or not you should buy one.
What do I like about the TicWatch E3?
Specs. Before we get going, here’s a rundown of the TicWatch E3 specs, which are indeed quite good, especially for the money. For $199.99, you get a 44mm case with a 1.3″ LCD display (360×360), Snapdragon Wear 4100 chip, 1GB RAM and 8GB storage, 380mAh battery, IP68 water and dust resistance, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0, speaker, mic, heartrate sensor, SpO2 sensor, and GPS. This watch clearly isn’t missing anything a current smartwatch should have.
Performance. With a Snapdragon Wear 4100 and 1GB RAM on board, like the TicWatch Pro 3, the E3 is a smooth operating timepiece. Because it has that somewhat modern chip and plenty of RAM, you won’t find the stutters and hiccups and slow loading of just about everything that you saw on watches released with the Wear 3100 or 2100.
If you need to jump between apps, like an ongoing workout or timer, to check notifications and then get back, that can happen now. Loading Google Play and installing apps or watchfaces won’t bring spinning and hesitation – they’ll actually install in a timely manner. I know that seems to be setting the bar low, but multi-tasking on a Wear OS watch or adding new apps prior to the Wear 4100 was almost impossible.
So as far as daily use goes, the TicWatch E3 is a solid performer that won’t let you down.
Battery life. The 380mAh battery in the TicWatch E3 is good enough for about a day and a half of use, and that’s with always-on display and sleep tracking turned on. Even with a workout in there and heavy notification action, I never ran into battery worries.
On most days, I’d wake up, toss the watch on the charger for an hour to get it to 100%, wear it all day, night, and during activities, then wake up again with 30% battery. And again, I left everything turned on. You may recall in my Galaxy Watch 4 Classic review that I had to turn always-on display off to get it to last for 24 hours – that’s not at all an issue here.
As for charging, the TicWatch E3 might not be as fast as I remember Fossil watches, but it’s pretty fast. It’s certainly much faster to charge that Samsung’s new watches. Like I said, I could get from 20% to 100% in about an hour, maybe a little less.
Focus on fitness. To Mobvoi’s credit, they have really begun to take fitness and health seriously with their smartwatches. The Mobvoi companion app for TicWatch devices has gone through several big changes and has evolved into a pretty deep fitness platform.
While I haven’t used it much, since I’ve given my health and fitness life to other platforms, there’s no denying that if you plan to stick with a Mobvoi watch, like the TicWatch E3, for a long time, you could really track a lot of stuff about your health.
The Mobvoi app and all of the Tic apps on the E3 can keep track of everything from 24-7 heartrate and SpO2, to sleep tracking, your active hours, steps and activities, fitness goals and milestones, and weekly/monthly health reports. They even built in a social aspect to it should you have friends and family with other TicWatches.
Price. At $199.99, the TicWatch E3 provides pretty damn good value. It packs almost the same specs as the $300 TicWatch Pro 3 and matches up somewhat closely in specs to Samsung’s cheapest Galaxy Watch 4 that runs $250. You get a decent chipset in the 4100, big and bright screen, NFC, and solid battery life at a price that’s lower than the competition. The only thing is, which I’m about to get into, is this is not the nicest feeling watch around and you are mostly certainly getting what you paid for.
What don’t I like about it?
It’s quite cheap looking and feeling. Keeping it real here, the TicWatch E3 is miles behind the TicWatch Pro 3 and Galaxy Watch 4 series in terms of wearability. This thing feels and looks cheap as hell.
It is unapologetically plastic, with a 44mm case that sits a massive 12.6mm high. It’s a big, bulky and sharp-edged watch with an awful-feeling vibration motor, a band that probably would fetch $1 on Amazon (note: 22mm and you can change it), and a display that gets plenty bright, but looks like it’s deep under its cover display and is surrounded by wildly thick bezels.
Part of the reason this review has taken so long to put together is because the E3 is just not that fun to wear when watches like Mobvoi’s Pro 3 and Samsung’s Watch 4 exist. Those watches are all carefully put together, high-end watches that feel almost like a traditional watch or a finely crafted fitness wearable. This E3 feels like neither and mostly comes off as the cheap option to Mobvoi’s better watch. And maybe that’s exactly the point.
Software situation. As I mentioned in the opening, and I’m sure you are well aware, the TicWatch E3 still runs Wear OS 2 and will for about another year. Samsung’s new Galaxy Watch 4 devices are the only ones until mid-to-late 2022 that have Wear OS 3, for reasons no one wants to confirm.
Like I said above, this E3 runs Wear OS 2 just fine, but being a year out from having the latest version could lead to a frustrating experience for owners. For one, we’ve already seen apps launch only on the Galaxy Watch 4 and Wear OS 3 (like YouTube Music and Google Maps). Even apps like Strava have decided to no longer support Wear OS 2 watches.
We also don’t know what Google will do to keep Wear OS 2 fresh for the next year, but I’d bet we continue to see some stuff on Wear OS 3 that won’t be available on older versions. Google is clearly looking forward, even if it means pushing aside their partners and customers.
The other thing to consider is that Google has said it’ll be late 2022 before the TicWatch E3 can have Wear OS 3. But we don’t know if Mobvoi or Google will stick to that timeline or if there will be delays and reasons it doesn’t arrive as soon as possible. Mobvoi, while they do make lots of Wear OS watches and continue to update many, is not exactly the best or quickest at pushing those updates. Remember the H-MR2 update from mid-2020? Mobvoi promised that was arriving “soon” to their TicWatch Pro 3 customers in October 2020, only to take another 6 months (April 2021) to finally deliver it.
What I’m saying here is that if you buy the TicWatch E3 today, you could be left out of numerous new features for the platform that Google and app developers are directing at Wear OS 3, plus we don’t know if Mobvoi will even stick to any sort of speedy timeline to Wear OS 3 when they can.
Buy or pass on the TicWatch E3?
This is a tough one even at its reasonable $199 price. The TicWatch E3 provides great performance and battery life in a watch that won’t break the bank, yet I’m worried about future software support and can’t really stand the build quality and design of the watch itself. If you are on a budget and need a mostly powerful, full-blown smartwatch that should last you a while, this could be a good option, just understand that the next year will be telling for its long-term outlook. You should probably also wait for the many deals that are likely to come as we approach the holidays.