TicWatch E3 review: strong Wear OS contender but time will tell

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The TicWatch E3 is a powerful Wear OS smartwatch, that offers the latest technology in an affordable package.

And Google has since confirmed Mobvoi’s watch will work with Wear OS 3, which is set to be the biggest update to Google’s smartwatch operating since its launch. However, given that upgrade might not happen until mid-2022, so right now it can only be reviewed in its current form.

That said – if you’re looking for an affordable smartwatch that’s future-proofed for Wear 3, this might be the only option.

The key is the presence of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 4100 processor, which is also included in the pricier TicWatch Pro 3. It’s a powerful smartwatch processor – and the Ticwatch E3 is the most affordable device to use it.

Aside from that future software support, the TicWatch E3 sees Mobvoi bolster its own software efforts with features like TicCare included to remotely monitor wearable data from other TicWatch users in your family and it’s also introducing a new dedicated mode for tracking HIIT workouts.

While it might lack some of the more high grade design elements of the Pro 3, the future proofing could make it a Wear smartwatch worth investing in. So, does it deliver the goods right now? Here’s out full verdict on the TicWatch E3.

TicWatch E3 key stats

  • Runs on Snapdragon Wear 4100 processor
  • Will work with Wear OS 3
  • Google Pay and Google Assistant
  • 1GB RAM, 8GB of storage
  • Built-in GPS
  • Optical heart rate monitor
  • Blood oxygen monitoring

TicWatch E3: Design and screen

Design and screen

While the TicWatch E3 is clearly the natural successor to the TicWatch E2, its design feels more heavily influenced by Mobvoi’s classier-looking Pro watches. While you’re not getting a metal case or leather bands, you’re definitely getting a watch that feels a little less sporty than the E2.

There’s a nicely sized 44mm watch case that comes in what Mobvoi calls ‘Panther black’, and we’d call it grey with a matte-style finish. It’s a polycarbonate and carbon fiber case, so it’s not the stainless steel you get on the Pro, but it does look smart and is well built if a little unadventurous on the design front.

That’s partnered up with a 20mm silicone rubber watch band that is removable via a simple pin mechanism at the back. We had a black band and there’s also optional yellow and blue bands available here too for$19.99 if you want something more bold on your wrist. As a package, it carries an IP68 water resistant certification, which does make it suitable for pool swimming and showering. It weighs 32g, which doesn’t make this a heavy watch to wear and certainly doesn’t weigh heavy either.

Mobvoi includes two physical buttons on the right side of the case with the left side hiding away the onboard microphone and speaker, which can be used for speaking to Google Assistant and hearing heart rate zone alerts during exercise.

TicWatch E3 review

Up front is a 2.5D curved display, which essentially means the screen has a slight curvature that helps to elevate the overall look. That’s somewhat hurt by a sizeable black bezel that surrounds that touchscreen display though.

You’re getting a 1.3-inch, 360 x 360 resolution AMOLED display, that’s not the best screen resolution you’ll find on a smartwatch these days and is a drop from the 1.39-inch, 400 x 400 resolution screen featured on the E2. For the price, it’s good quality. It’s nice and bright, colors don’t look washed out and you do have the option to keep it in always-on mode.

Visibility-wise, you’ll have no problems seeing what’s on that screen indoors. It’s outdoors where AMOLED screens generally tend to suffer and it’s no different here on the E3. It’s not unusable, but you do have to knock the brightness up to improve visibility in brighter outdoor light and even then it does struggle.

Overall though, the TicWatch E3 is a departure from the E2 in a largely positive way. Yes, it’s still plastic, but it certainly doesn’t feel as budget. There’s a good quality screen, but there’s too much bezel around that screen for our liking. It’s a smart-looking smartwatch, but you could certainly pick up something a bit more stylish from Amazfit or get from a Fossil-branded Wear watch.

TicWatch E3: Wear OS and smartwatch features

Wear OS and smartwatch features

The E3 runs on Google’s Wear OS operating system and as mentioned, it’s going to be updatable to the latest version of Wear being built by Google with Samsung. Mobvoi’s own software presence has grown over the last few years and on the E3 it’s offering more of what we got on the latest TicWatch Pro watches, particularly for health and fitness fans.

On the performance front, the Wear 2.0 on board is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 4100 processor, which isn’t the latest 4100+, but does make it more up to date than most Wear watches and one of the few watches powered by Qualcomm’s newer processing tech. That’s coupled with 1GB of RAM and 8GB and on the whole things run nice and smoothly. Swiping through screens is lag free, apps don’t take a mini-age to launch and there’s been no stuttering moments or need to give it a reboot to get things running properly again.

TicWatch E3 review

On the Wear OS front, it’s all very familiar. It’s the same gesture-based user interface, there’s Tiles (or widgets) when you swipe left from the main watch face and you can add or remove Tiles. That also includes a mix of Google and Mobvoi’s own Tiles. Swipe up and you’ll get your stream of notifications and swipe right to get access to Google features like Assistant, which seems to have improved in terms of handling queries

Music controls also become available when you start playing music on your phone and there’s NFC on board here, so you do have Google Pay at your disposal too. Pay is relatively easy to set up and while doesn’t feel as slick as something like Apple Pay, it worked perfectly fine in our time with it.

Hit the top physical button and you’ll see Mobvoi’s app screen and not Google’s, which we think is a good thing. It feels much nicer to interact with, giving you bigger icons to swipe through. There’s watch faces aplenty here too, with a good selection already onboard and more available through the Wear OS phone app. As far as Mobvoi making its presence felt, it’s included apps focused on tracking health and fitness, which we’ll delve deeper into the section below.

How much of Mobvoi’s software will remain when Wear OS 3.0 lands will be interesting to see, because what it has offered here on the software front has been positive on the whole.

TicWatch E3: Sports and activity tracking features

TicWatch E3 review

Whether you want to simply track daily steps or track pool swims and runs, the E3 does have you covered. There’s an optical heart rate sensor, built-in GPS plus support for Glonass and Beidou satellite systems for tracking outdoor activities. There’s 20 sports tracking modes and you do have access to Google’s own Fit apps, third party ones from the Play Store or opt to use Mobvoi’s own.

If you do opt to use Mobvoi’s own tracking features, then you’ll need to also download the Mobvoi phone app to be able to view your stats. It’s certainly not the prettiest or the slickest, but this is where you’ll need to go to see things like activity tracking stats, sleep data and even your exposure to noise.

Running

TicWatch E3 review

Run tracking compared: TicWatch E3 (left and centre) and Garmin Enduro (right)

Heading outside to test the GPS, picking up signal generally took less than a minute at most and you have the option to set a running goal based on time, distance and calorie burn.

During the run, you can see real time pace, distance, speed and there’s additional pages of data including information like heart rate data. It would be nice if you could adjust how many data fields can be displayed to make it easier to absorb the data on the move, but there is at least a pleasing amount of running stats on offer here.

On the accuracy front, it generally came up a little short on distance tracking compared to the Garmin Enduro (screenshots above), though metrics like average pace and splits were not too far off the Garmin watch. For heart rate monitoring, it’s a similar story to what we’ve seen on TicWatches previously.

TicWatch E3 review

Heart rate tracking compared: TicWatch E3 (left) and Garmin HRM-Pro chest strap (right)

Even on steady runs with the strap securely tightened, it posted a maximum average heart rate 6-7bpm off a Garmin HRM-Pro chest strap. It fared better on average readings, but those random spikes you can sometimes experience will skew the reliability of the data. You also don’t have the option to pair up a chest strap monitor to remedy these inaccuracies either.

It’s a good enough run tracking experience overall, but it’s certainly not as accurate as what you’ll find from a a dedicated running watch.

Swimming

TicWatch E3 review

Swim tracking compared: TicWatch E3 (left) and Form Swim Goggles (right)

For swims, you’re just covered for pool swimming and once you’ve selected that mode you’ll be prompted to choose pool size. You can also choose a goal based on things like distance, lap and time.

Once you hit go, the screen gets locked so if you want to view data, you need to hold one of the physical buttons to quickly do that. You can then see real-time data like duration distance and laps. There’s also an additional screen to view pace, stroke count and calorie count, but you need to unlock the screen to view it. The data fields aren’t a great size and we struggled to quickly glance at the data underwater.

Once you’re done, there’s quite an audible alert that tells you it’s draining the water from the watch. Accuracy-wise, up against a Garmin and Form’s Swim Goggles, we found it came up a 3-4 lengths short, so it’s not super accurate, but definitely not the worst watch we’ve taken in the pool to track swims.

If you’re using Mobvoi’s sports tracking, then you’ll need to go that app where you can see a further breakdown of stroke type, though it detected butterfly stroke on a couple of swims, which is a stroke we never attempt in the water.

HIIT

TicWatch E3 review

Mobvoi has also introduced a new HIIT mode, which essentially lets you create your own HIIT workouts. There’s 10 moves in total including burpees (of course), mountain climbers and squat jumps. You also have the option add in ‘other’ moves that aren’t covered here, though ultimately, your movements are not being tracked in this mode. It’s simply way to categorise moves and build sets that you can follow again when you return to that high intensity mode.

The workout screens are nicely laid out and mark out the rest and countdown to the next set in the workout, though it could probably do with some form of audible alert a bit like you get on Polar’s FitSpark workouts to make sure you’re not constantly looking at your watch to see when a set is ending or starting.

Activity and sleep tracking

TicWatch E3 review

Sleep tracking compared: TicWatch E3 (left and centre) and Garmin (right)

When you turn your attention to activity tracking, you can you’ve got a dedicated widget on the watch to keep track of steps, distance, active hours and exercise minutes for the day. There’s also a dedicated app for sleep.

Daily step counts were nicely in line with a Garmin’s step tracking while with sleep monitoring you’ll generate data like sleep stages, sleep heart rate and a sleep efficiency percentage. Though as we’ve seen before in our recent testing of other TicWatches, the E3 has a particular quirk of recording sleep in two parts and it did this on a few nights for us as the screens above show.

That being said, the sleep duration and sleep stages were very similar to what was recorded by Garmin’s sleep tracking. Heart rate data seemed high based on what we’re used to seeing during sleep on other watches. That data also lacks any real actionable insights like you’ll find from the likes of Fitbit, Huawei, Xiaomi and on Amazfit watches, if you want a better idea of what that data is saying about that sleep time.

TicWatch E3: Health monitoring and heart rate accuracy

TicWatch E3 review

The E3 does offer a range of ways to keep tabs on your health, though none of these features are designed for serious health tracking and should be seen as simply offering guidance.

The TicPulse app is somewhere to see real-time resting heart rate readings, along with your maximum and minimum readings, heart rate zones and past week of resting heart rate. While real-time readings were largely accurate, the usual daily resting heart rate data, had us at 70bpm, when we know our resting heart rate actually sits around the 44-45bpm mark.

TicWatch E3 review

Resting heart rate data compared: TicWatch E3 (left) and Garmin heart rate monitoring (right)

TicOxygen is your way of measuring blood oxygen levels and you can take on the spot readings or continuously monitor levels during sleep for richer sleep data. The on the spot readings largely matched up with a clinical grade pulse oximeter, though there’s isn’t a huge effort that goes into explaining what the data could mean or indicate on the watch or the app. It will alert you if it believes those levels are abnormal though.

There’s TicZen and TicBreathe apps, which are all to do with mindfulness, letting you track your stress levels and use guided breathing exercises to help get you back to a calmer state. The stress tracking gives you your highest, lowest and average stress scores, distribution of stress and the week’s stress all from the watch, though based on the reliability of the heart rate monitor and the fact it’s using heart rate variability measurements to generate those scores, we wouldn’t put huge faith in the reliability of those scores.

TicWatch E3 review

TicHearing is a clear riff of Apple’s own Noise app and uses the onboard microphone to assess in real-time your exposure to noise in an environment in decibels. If it’s green, then you’re exposed to moderate noise levels. If it goes red, then it’s deemed dangerous levels of noise. Though it seems just talking slightly loudly can cause things to turn red.

A new feature is TicCare, which essentially lets you share exercise records and health records via the Mobvoi app to other people in your family to help keep tabs on you. You can choose whether to share both types of records and then you can follow a few steps to invite people to access your data. It’s a nice concept, particularly if there’s someone in your family young or old that you want to make sure they’re staying fit and healthy.

TicWatch E3: Battery life

The E3 hosts a 380mAh capacity battery, which is actually smaller than the 415mAh battery packed into the TicWatch E2 and the 577mAh battery used on the TicWatch Pro 3. Mobvoi doesn’t state the kind of battery to expect, but based on our experience, we’d say it’s good for a day.

Using it from 8am to 8pm, the battery dropped from 100% to 40%. That was with the screen not set to always-on, notifications enabled and tracking a single 30-40 minute workout. For an hour’s worth of GPS tracked running, battery drop-off was 9-10%.

When using it for sleep tracking, by the morning it had usually switched to the Essential mode, which kicks in when you have less than 5% battery life to play with. That gives you a single screen to display time, date, steps and heart rate data.

One of the benefits of relying on a Qualcomm’s Wear 4100 processor is to better conserve battery life, though when it comes to using this watch in full smartwatch mode, it clearly doesn’t make a world of difference on the E3.


TicWatch E3

By Mobvoi

The TicWatch E3 is a good smartwatch, but it’s really all about what the new version of Wear can do to transform the software experience. While Mobvoi’s extras are welcome on the whole, the idea of Fitbit’s fitness tracking features and the best of Samsung’s Tizen along with revamped Google features is what will make the E3 an attractive purchase. That’s because the E3 is not a groundbreaking smartwatch by any stretch of the imagination and it’s not the most original looking either. There are some hardware niggles like that battery life and heart rate sensor performance that Google isn’t going to be able to fix though. It’s a middle of the road smartwatch that could (could) get better, but you might have a wait on your hands for that to happen.


  • Solid looking watch design
  • Mobvoi’s apps and UI
  • Can support Wear OS 3.0 update
  • Single day battery life
  • Not the most exciting look
  • Familiar Wear OS quirks

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