Review

TicWatch E3: Is the $200 Wear OS Watch worth it?

Mobvoi’s TicWatch E series has been the cheaper alternative to the more expensive Pro series since 2018. After a good 2.5 years, the TicWatch E3 is the latest addition to this “budget” series and aims to convince with many features for “only” $200. After the TicWatch Pro 3, the E3 is only the second Wear OS watch that uses the current Snapdragon 4100 chip and is thereby also one of the few smartwatches that can get the upcoming Wear OS 3 update.

ModelTicWatch E3TicWatch Pro 3
Display1,3 inch TFT display with 360 x 360 pixels1,39 inch AMOLED with 454 x 454 pixels + FSTN LCD
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 Quad Core @ 1.7 GHzSnapdragon Wear 4100 Quad Core @ 1,7 GHz
Memory1 GB1 GB
Internal Memory8 GB8 GB
Battery380 mAh595 mAh
ProtectionIP 68 (bath, shower, swim)IP 68 (bath, shower, swim)
ConnectivityBluetooth 5, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, GPS/GLONASS/BDS, NFCBluetooth, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, GPS, A-GPS, NFC
Operating SystemWear OS 2.29, compatible with Android & iOSWear OS, compatible with Android & iOS
FeaturesHeart rate monitor, step counter, notifications, phone, messages, Google Play Store, Google Maps, music remote, Google Pay, blood oxygenHeart rate monitor, step counter, notifications, phone, messages, Google Play Store, Google Maps, music remote, Google Pay, blood oxygen
Dimensions/Weight44 x 47 x 12.6 mm | 20 mm| 48 g with band, 32 g without band47 x 48 x 12.2 mm | 22 mm | 61.1 g with band, 41.9 g without band | LTE version 42.3 g without band

TicWatch E3 & the future with Wear OS 3

As mentioned at the beginning, the TW E3 is only the second watch in the world to use the latest Snapdragon Wear 4100 after the TW Pro 3 GPS or 4G. Since the performance of the older Wear 2100 and 3100 chips is apparently not sufficient for the announced major Wear OS 3 update, the TicWatch E3 belongs to the elite circle of currently released watches that can get this update at all. According to Google, it will probably take until at least mid-2022 for Wear OS 3 to arrive on the TicWatches. Nevertheless, the E3 can be considered one of the few “future-proof” Wear OS watches.

Simple & Unexciting Design

Like its two predecessors (E and E2), the TicWatch E3 has a very unexciting design. The frame as well as buttons are kept in a metallic gray-silver without accents or ornaments/details, while the back is matte black. To put it more negatively, the design could also be called boring. Mobvoi also shows that they can create more individual designs with the Pro 3 or C2+. However, the E3 is also cheaper than the two aforementioned watches and you have to cut costs somewhere.

This is also noticeable in the materials used. While the Pro 3 is partly made of stainless steel, the case of the E3 is composed of a mix of polycarbonate (plastic) and fiberglass. The manufacturing quality leaves nothing to be desired, but the watch still feels a bit cheaper than its big brother or other watches in this price segment due to the materials.

Accordingly, the watch is also very light and weighs only 48 grams with the strap. This “light” design is unfortunately not continued in the dimensions. With a height and width of 47x 44 mm and a thickness of 12.6 mm, the E3 is definitely not a small watch and is even thicker than the TicWatch Pro 3, which is already on the bigger side. So that the thickness isn’t quite as striking, the back is black and the edge is angled slightly inwards. Of course, the various sensors and the charging contacts appear on the back.

At the front, the display measures 1.3-inches and is protected by minimally rounded 2.5D glass. Unfortunately, you can also see a large black display bezel here, which is more reminiscent of older smartwatches than a $200 watch with the latest Snapdragon chip.

The 20 mm wide silicone strap in the box is always black; the yellow and blue variants have to be purchased separately from Mobvoi. Alternatively, you can use pretty much any other 20 mm wristband from Amazon and others. You should also do that not too long after the purchase, because the included strap is not one of the very best quality. It already shows more signs of wear after just over a month of regular use than the straps of the Huawei or Honor watches after the same period.

The official IP68 rating is of course also available on Mobvoi’s cheaper watch, ensuring that the E3 is protected against dust and continuous submersion at depths of up to one meter. Thus, showering, bathing and even swimming were no problems for the smartwatch.

Operating the TicWatch E3

There is also an extra “drain speaker” function, which can be found by holding down the bottom button for a long time. In the menu accessed with it, you can also turn off the watch, restart it, set it to essential mode, and specify what happens when you press the bottom button just briefly.

The upper button also has several functions. If you are on the home screen (watchfaces), you can open the app list by briefly pressing it. In all other situations, it acts as a home button when pressed briefly, so you can return to the Watchface. A longer press activates Google Assistant, with which you can then interact. A very long press takes you to a menu to turn off or restart, and a double press causes the display to work at full brightness for a short time.

The rest of the navigation is done via the touchscreen. You virtually always start with the main dial and can swipe left, right, up and down from there. On the left of this home screen is the Google Assistant with weather and appointment reminders. Above the home screen are the quick settings as well as the connection status (Bluetooth & Wi-Fi) and the battery level.

Below that, you will find all activated app notifications, but more on that in a moment. On the right, you can find up to ten “views” (widgets) of individual apps, whereas you were previously limited to five. I have, for example, the steps, the weather, my appointments, timer, start workout and the timer for washing my hands.

The vibration, or rather the built-in vibration motor, feels quite cheap and is far from the precise vibration of a Galaxy or Apple Watch. At least it is powerful enough to wake me up, alert about notifications that have arrived or step targets that have been reached. Alternatively, you can use the speaker and be informed via sound.

Display: Bright but only LCD

Whereas the predecessor still relied on an AMOLED display with 400 x 400 pixels, we now have a 1.3-inch TFT LCD with a resolution of 360 x 360 pixels. The low resolution does not bother us because the pixel density is still very high and the screen remains easy to read. For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 45 mm has a larger 1.4″ display with the same resolution.

However, what is noticeable here is that you are “only” looking at an LC display. LCD’s are not worse than AMOLED displays by any means, but the black is simply not really black for the panel installed here and AMOLED displays in some lower-priced watches also perform better in terms of contrast. In addition, the OLED technology would also save quite a bit of battery with the many black backgrounds because the pixels are then turned off, which every Wear OS watch would benefit from.

Another shortcoming compared to other watches is the lack of a brightness sensor. While the second of five adjustable brightness levels is sufficient indoors, you have to go up at least one level as soon as you leave the house. This can be done quite quickly via the quick settings, but the Pro 3’s automatic control is much more convenient and energy-saving since it immediately reduces the brightness, which you might forget and thus “wastes” the battery.

As always, Wear OS also offers an always-on display that adapts to the selected watch face. However, the entire display is permanently on, which drains the battery and more than halves the runtime of the E3.

I therefore deactivated it for the majority of the time and used the “lift to activate” gesture. This gives you the choice of what to display when you use the gesture. Either you simply activate the watch and find yourself on the watchface or you see the notification that has just been received. Alternatively, you can only see the battery-saving screen, which displays the time, date, number of steps, heart rate and battery level. If you have just received a notification on the watch and then raise your arm, the notification is immediately displayed even with the battery-saving screen enabled.

There are 26 watchfaces to choose from in the Mobvoi and Wear OS app. There are many more free watchfaces in the Mobvoi app, but you have to pay between $0.99 and $1.99 for certain ones. If that is not enough, you can access over 15,000 watchfaces with apps like Facer – there should be something for everyone. The individual shortcuts (complications) can also be customized for some preloaded watchfaces and it is also possible to use your own picture as the background.

Fortunately also with Snapdragon Wear 4100

As already mentioned, the TicWatch E3 fortunately relies on the latest Snapdragon Wear 4100 too and no longer on the slow and outdated 2100 or 3100. The Wear 4100 processor is manufactured in the much more efficient 12 nm process and offers up to 85% more performance than its predecessor. It is based on the Snapdragon 429, which was after all ” just” released in 2018, and together with the 1 GB of working memory, it makes the E3 one of the now two fast WearOS smartwatches.

Animations and transitions are smooth and pretty much everything is implemented quickly. Whether typing, swiping, launching apps or using Google Assistant, everything works without lags and long waiting times. This should actually be the case for every smartwatch, but since the majority of currently available ones still rely on the SD Wear 3100, this performance is a unique selling point for Mobvoi.

As with the Pro 3, the internal storage is 8 GB, of which approximately 4.5 GB then really offer space for own apps, music and data.

Rich in features due to Wear OS

Thanks to Google’s Wear OS (version 2.29), you can download apps on the E3 via the integrated Play Store. Beyond that, however, there are already many preloaded apps, both from Google and TicWatch itself. Standard functions like timer, alarm clock, stopwatch, flashlight, appointments and reminders, phone search, a timer for hand washing and also an arbitrary calculator are available.

Furthermore, it is possible to access Google Maps and Google Assistant thanks to the Google operating system. You can select a destination on the map directly on the watch via the Maps app and start navigation. However, it is more convenient to search for the destination on the smartphone and then start the desired navigation mode. In both cases, the navigation is also displayed on the watch and the instructions are given via the speaker or headphones connected to the watch.

As previously mentioned, Google Assistant can be activated by pressing and holding the upper button, but the watch also supports the familiar “Okay Google” recognition. It is nice that the Assistant finally responds quickly due to the power of the new chip and answers just as fast.For quick questions, smart home control or even simply to set a timer, such an ever-present Google Assistant is definitely useful.

The integrated NFC module also enables Google Pay for contactless payments in stores. With 4.5 GB, there is enough internal storage for offline music, but you need third-party apps like WearMedia or NavMusic for that. For podcasts, there is the app NavCasts or Wear Casts. Multitasking, i.e. listening to music while doing sports tracking, for example, is no problem because of the 1 GB working memory. The Spotify app is still only used as a control for playback on other devices, so you cannot officially stream Spotify via the watch or save it offline on the watch. Bluetooth phone calls are possible with a connected Android smartphone.

There is an unofficial way to enable Spotify offline storage on the watch. This involves sideloading a modded version of the Spotify smartphone app onto the watch, logging in with your Spotify Premium account, and then storing songs and playlists offline on the watch. Since it is the smartphone app, the operation on the small screen of the watch is not exactly good and the battery consumption is also higher than with the original Spotify WearOS app. If you want to give it a try, you can find the instructions here, but you should know what you’re doing – use at your own risk.

Notifications can be (de)activated via the WearOS app on the smartphone for each individual app. For example, I only receive notifications on the watch from WhatsApp, my bank, my calendar and of course the fitness apps on the watch. Notifications from WhatsApp show both emojis and photos, but the latter only if you have enabled automatic download in WhatsApp. You can then also reply directly from the watch, either with ready-made quick replies, emojis, via dictated text or via the recently significantly improved Gboard keyboard.

Health Tracking: Pulse, Steps, Sleep, Blood Oxygen

In terms of health apps, the E3, like the Pro 3, is fully and unfortunately even double equipped, as there is one app from Mobvoi and one from Google for many functions. The hourly blood oxygen saturation measurement (SpO2) is possible via the TicBlood Oxygen app. The permanent heart rate measurement including configurable warnings, when the pulse is too high or too low, is available via TicPulse. In addition, there is TicNoise, which can be used to measure ambient noise, although not permanently in the background, rather only manually. To reduce stress, the apps TicZen (half-hourly stress tracking) and TicBreathing are integrated, which can be used to perform breathing exercises between 1-5 minutes.

Daily steps, exercise time, active hours, burned calories and mileage are then monitored by the app TicHealth, which also provides an overview of the other data and acts as a control center. The whole thing is partly available again from Google in the form of Fit breathing exercises, heart rate in Fit and goals in Fit. Since I personally still can not stand Google Fit, I have only used Mobvois apps. If you don’t like them, you still have the Play Store with some alternatives. All collected data can then be viewed in more detail on the phone in the Mobvoi app.

Sleep Tracker

Sleep tracking can be controlled via the TicSleep app, where you can also configure an exclusion time to save the battery a bit. Shift workers can of course also have their sleep tracked throughout the day. You can also set your own “perfect” bedtime (e.g. 0 o’clock to 8 o’clock) and will then be reminded when you should go to sleep to achieve your goal. There’s also a smart alarm clock that can wake you up to 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes before your actual wake-up time if you’re in a light sleep phase.

Unfortunately, TicSleep does not offer any settings for the specific wake-up time or the days of the week when the alarm should be active. Thus, you might be rudely awakened on the weekend if you forgot to manually deactivate the alarm the day before. The alarm time is also always based on the set perfect sleep time, which is hidden in the TicSleep app in the settings. So you always have to tap around on the clock for a long time until you have adjusted your alarm for the next day. At some point, this became too annoying for me, so I simply use the preinstalled Google app Alarm Clock. It is not “smart” but easy to use – even shortly before falling asleep. Another good alternative would be Sleep as Android.

During sleep, the pulse and blood oxygen saturation are still measured. If you do not need the nightly blood oxygen tracking, you can also switch to the “essential mode” at night to save the battery. To do this, go to the “Essential Mode” app and set when the essential mode should be started in the evening and ended in the morning. Ideally, this is done before going to sleep and after waking up, since the watch restarts with each change and thus splits your sleep into two parts, should you already or still be asleep.

Fitness Tracking with GPS

Besides the fitness tracking apps already mentioned, there is of course also a special app for sports. It is called TicExercise and offers the following sports modes: running (outdoor/indoor), walking, cycling (outdoor/indoor), free training, swimming in the pool, high-intensity interval training, rowing machine, cross trainer, aerobics, trail running, hiking, yoga, soccer, basketball, Pilates, taekwondo, badminton, table tennis and skating. The modes that are used outdoors then naturally use GPS, GLONASS and Beidou positioning. Alternatively, you can use the preloaded Google Fit workout with over 100 sports modes, but as I said, I keep my hands off Google Fit.

Compared to the TicWatch Pro 3, there are actually eight new sports modes, but I would like to highlight the high-intensity interval training, also known as HIIT. Here you can compose individual sets from eleven exercises so far. First you select the exercises and their sequence. Then you determine for each exercise how long or how often you should do it and how long the break between the exercises should be. Finally, you specify how often you want to repeat the set of exercises and what the break between the sets should be. The preset can then also be saved. The partially still poorly translated exercises are: Burpee, mountain climber, high knees, squat jump, plank, jumping jack, rotary climber, reverse crunch, squat punch, glute bridge and others.

I compared the running tracking to a Garmin Venu 2S. Although the TicWatch E3 supports the GPS, Beidou and GLONASS satellite systems according to Mobvoi, the watch always needs a good 30 seconds for the GPS fix. The Garmin already manages this after 10 seconds and the Huawei watches also manage the positioning in this time. If the positioning was then successful, the connection was stable and the tracking accurate. I had an average deviation of 3-5% to the Garmin, which is absolutely fine for a watch that is rather a smartwatch than a fitness watch.

While running, you can have the current data announced every 100 meters to up to 10 kilometers. You can also activate an automatic pause if necessary, which always works, but still needs its 10 seconds until the pause is recognized. Unfortunately, the E3 lacks a barometer for height measurement and a compass is also not installed.

Automatic workout recognition is also available with the Tic Exercise app. Walking, running and cycling outdoors can be detected automatically and after 5 minutes you get a notification whether you want to continue actively tracking the workout or not. Workout data can be automatically synced with Strava, Runkeeper and Google Fit via the Mobvoi app on your smartphone. Alternatively, there are native WearOS apps for Strava, Adidas Running (Runtastic), Nike Run, RunKeeper, and a few more.

1.5 to 2 days battery life

“That’s not much,” some may think to themselves at this headline. However, it is still more than the majority of Wear OS watches, which often survive a maximum of one day. Of course, it would have been nice to get the good 2-3-day runtime of the Pro 3 with the E3 as well, but the battery of 380mAh is simply too small for that and the display is not efficient enough without AMOLED technology.

TicWatch E3 LCD Loading Display

Mobvoi gets quite a bit out of the small battery with the nightly activated essential mode and the battery-saving screen. With these two helpers activated, I managed about 1.75 days despite my intensive use. In practice, that often meant I had to recharge the watch before sleeping on the second day or right after waking up at the very latest. If I was running one day and used the GPS tracking, it was more like 1.5 days.

So my usage consisted of permanent pulse, blood oxygen, step, sleep, stress and movement tracking, brightness on 2 or 3 depending on the environment, vibration for notifications and the alarm clock every morning, notifications from WhatsApp, my bank and Google Pay.

Charging with the included magnetic charging cable takes about an hour and 40 minutes. Unfortunately, you will not be able to find Quick Charge like on the OnePlus Watch. Overall, the charging time of well under two hours is, however, still quite fast for a smartwatch.

But for whom is the TicWatch E3 recommendable?

With a price of currently $200, the TicWatch E3 does not have an easy stand. The bigger and better brother is only slightly more expensive, but offers a less boring design, a bit of metal in the casing, the much better AMOLED display plus a second LCD, better battery life and more sensors. The beautiful Galaxy Watch 3 is also available for $210 in some places, and the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is even cheaper. Both also offer some third-party apps thanks to the Galaxy Store, Samsung Pay for payment and can officially store Spotify songs offline. If you want to focus more on fitness tracking, the Huawei GT 2 Pro with sapphire glass and titanium casing is also cheaper than the E3.

TicWatch E3

So who should still choose the TicWatch E3 among the competition. Actually, only someone who absolutely wants to use Wear OS and/or Google Pay on his smartwatch and who does not like the TicWatch Pro 3 or cannot or does not want to pay the surcharge. Complicating the issue is that Samsung will unveil its new lineup of Galaxy Watch 4 watches on August 11, which will most likely ship directly with the new Wear OS 3 and a new processor. Even though Samsung is likely to start around $300 again in pricing, I would still wait for the unveiling.

This all sounds quite negative, but the TicWatch E3 is not a bad smartwatch in itself. You can also put it positively like this: If you are currently looking for a Wear OS smartwatch for up to $200, the TicWatch E3 is the best choice. All other Wear OS watches disqualify themselves in my opinion due to the much slower chip and the fact that they apparently have no chance of the Wear OS 3 update. Nevertheless, the E3 should rather go for $180 over the counter – $200 is just a bit too much, or what do you think?

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Alex

Part of the China-Gadgets Team since 2016. I love China-Smartphones and all accessories that surround them.

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