Finally, after months of waiting, another smartwatch with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 4100 chip inside is here — the Mobvoi TicWatch E3. Mobvoi has cornered the market in Snapdragon Wear 4100 watches, as it makes the only other one available to buy too, the TicWatch Pro 3, except this time the watch is a whole lot cheaper.
Just $200 buys you the TicWatch E3, and that’s less than many smartwatches with the older Snapdragon Wear 3100 inside. Is the TicWatch E3 the newest, and greatest smartwatch bargain we’ve seen yet?
Why should you care about the Snapdragon Wear 4100? It’s simple, it eliminates two of those annoying Wear OS problems, namely slow speeds and short battery life. It’s drastically more responsive than any Snapdragon Wear 3100-powered smartwatch. It flows and glides through Tiles, quickly and without hesitation shows notifications as you scroll through the list, and even the previously lengthy setup process is considerably faster than before.
The TicWatch E3 runs Wear OS — version 2.26, H MR2 is installed on my review model — so it operates in an otherwise familiar way, with swipes and taps to navigate the menus. There’s no rotating crown or bezel here, it’s all controlled by your finger on the screen. By default Mobvoi’s menu system is a 4 x 4 visible grid of scrollable icons, rather than the standard scrollable list, but it can be changed if you prefer. I found it Mobvoi’s view made it slightly easier to find what I wanted, but missed the most recently used apps being placed at the top of the list.
Mobvoi installs a host of its own health and fitness apps, all of which require you to sign up and log in to use. Most of the fitness-related apps replicate the functionality provided by Google Fit, and it’s annoying the SPo2 and heart rate sensor apps also both require you to log in first. You can skip the process, but the watch warns you may lose data by not signing up for Mobvoi’s services.
What about the battery life? Some Snapdragon Wear 3100 smartwatches struggle to make it a day before needing a recharge, and only a few last deep into a second day. The TicWatch E3, if you turn it off overnight, will just about make it two working days, with a single 40-minute workout tracked with GPS, before needing a recharge. That’s with all-day heart rate monitoring active, and the always-on screen showing the time constantly. Not bad at all, and if you don’t track a workout it will last a little while longer too. A handy Essential Mode kicks in when the battery is almost fully depleted, ensuring you can still see the time.
The Snapdragon Wear 4100, along with 1GB of RAM, makes the TicWatch E3 quick, responsive, more reliable, and more pleasant to use. It sounds like all that should be a given on any piece of $200 tech, but for many Wear OS smartwatches, it was a rarity until the Snapdragon Wear 4100 came along.
The Snapdragon Wear 4100 makes the TicWatch E3 feel like a truly up-to-date smartwatch, eclipsing all but its more expensive sibling in the Wear OS war for supremacy. How can Mobvoi charge $200 for such a watch? The answer comes with the design and the materials used, because while the innards are cutting edge, the exterior is definitely not.
This isn’t an ugly smartwatch, or an uncomfortable one. It’s just bland and plasticky. Unforgivable if it cost $400 or more, but more understandable at $200, and whether you can live with it will depend on how much you value style. The TicWatch E3 looks different from the TicWatch E2, with stubby, squared-off lugs attaching a quick release 22mm strap to the simple round case, which is made of plastic.
There are two buttons on the side, set at the 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock positions, which have a nicely dampened action. The top opens the app menu, and the lower button defaults to Mobvoi’s TicExercise app, but it can be altered in the settings. The E3 is just under 13mm thick, while the screen measures 1.3-inches but has a substantial bezel running around the edge.
The screen is bright and colorful, but the massive bezel is a distraction, although the 2.5D glass does make swiping comfortable. It all feels durable, and with an IP68 rating, it can be worn when swimming. The strap is easily replaced with another if you’d like to try and jazz up the look, and Mobvoi will sell you some more colorful versions, but any strap the right size will fit.
Here’s the problem. I don’t feel anything towards the TicWatch E3. It’s neither desirable nor hateful, it’s just there on my wrist. It hasn’t been a pain with cuffs, and the strap hasn’t become too sweaty. However when paired with the great performance, this could be all you need to know in order to buy one, but it won’t be for everyone. It’s where Snapdragon Wear 3100-powered smartwatches get the upper hand, with models like the Diesel On Fadelite and the Skagen Falster 3 being far more attractive, and made from superior materials, than the E3.
I’ve worn the TicWatch E3 for four days now, which isn’t enough for a full review, but enough time to establish this is a very good smartwatch. I’ve been impressed with the reliability of notifications, which has been greater than some other Wear OS smartwatches, the smoothness of the software, and the general comfort of the watch on my wrist.
It has all the tech I want too, including NFC for Google Pay, an SPo2 blood oxygen sensor, a heart rate sensor, a speaker/microphone, GPS, and decent battery life. Charging is slow though, with the watch taking almost two hours to fully charge the one time I’ve had to charge it so far. The software has frozen once on me, but a forced restart cured the issue and it hasn’t returned yet.
I haven’t compared accuracy against any other wearables yet, but during the couple of workouts and general day-to-day movements it has tracked already, it appears to be in line with what I’d expect to see. While the design isn’t breaking any new ground, the TicWatch E3 does everything else very well, at a reasonable price, and the inclusion of the Snapdragon Wear 4100 chip makes it very desirable.
We’ve asked Mobvoi about its plans for any future update to the new Google/Samsung Wear software platform, but have not had a reply at the time of writing. Despite the E3’s value, this may affect whether it’s a must-buy, as without an update the user interface may feel quite old, quite quickly. We’ll update when Mobvoi responds.
The Mobvoi Ticwatch E3 is available to buy from June 16 for $200, or 200 British pounds, through Mobvoi’s own online store or from Amazon.