If you’ve never heard of Mobvoi, I don’t blame you. The Chinese AI company was relatively quiet on the consumer electronics front until 2016 when it launched a Kickstarter for its first smartwatch: the TicWatch.

After raising a mammoth US$2.1 million (A$2.9 million) through crowdfunding, Mobvoi successfully launched the Tichwatch S (Sport) and Ticwatch E (Express) last year, followed by the Active, the Classic and the TicHome Mini.

Now, the company has released its latest wearable in the Ticwatch Pro, and we’ve taken a close look at the device to see if it’s worth your hard-earned.

The TicWatch Pro, like many Android smartwatches, has a round face with a design not dissimilar to that of a traditional watch. I see this as a good thing, given many smartwatches that go for an ultramodern design tend to look a little awkward, like a prop from an 80s sci-fi film. Mobvoi’s latest gadget looks like it belongs on your wrist, and you can choose from many digital and analogue-inspired watch faces to suit your taste.

The hybrid strap boasts a combination of leather and silicone: leather on the visible side gives it a stylish edge, while silicone on the back makes it nice and comfortable on the skin. The watch itself is a little on the chunky side, but not so much that it bothered me – within an hour or two, I barely noticed it was there between using apps and reading notifications.

With a body made of carbon fibre, high-strength nylon and stainless steel, it’s a tough watch. It’s also bolstered by a IP86 water and dust-proof rating, although the company still doesn’t recommend swimming while wearing it.

The watch face has two buttons on the right side, which are well-sized: big enough to be pressed without looking at the watch, small enough to avoid being too cumbersome. I wouldn’t mind if they gave a little more feedback watchssed, but it’s a minor complaint.

A single, double or long press of each button provides access to numerous functions that aren’t associated with the touchscreen, including powering on and off, accessing a list of apps, bringing up Google Assistant, using Google Pay, changing modes and setting a shortcut to your favourite app.

The dual display of the TicWatch Pro is one of its most distinct features. The main 400 x 400 AMOLED touchscreen display is bright, vivid and impressive on the whole, even if it can suffer in direct sunlight. This runs when the watch is in Smart Mode, which lets you tap into the full potential of the device.

But the watch also has a low-energy FSTN LCD display, which runs when the watch is in Essentials Mode. As the name suggests, Essentials Mode turns the watch into a hyper-efficient, barebones wearable with a handful of fitness features and excellent battery life – more on that later.

The TicWatch Pro comes with all the bells and whistles you’d expect on a smartwatch in 2018: virtual assistant, notifications, pedometer, heart rate monitor and apps. Nothing groundbreaking, but enough to compete with its rivals.

The device runs Wear OS by Google, which connects to the associated iOS or Android app with relative ease. Mobvoi has its own app, but it doesn’t offer much and you probably won’t find yourself using it.

What’s most intriguing about this watch is the option to switch between Smart Mode and Essentials Mode. Smart Mode is for the power user, giving you access to every feature of the device with an always-on watch face of your choosing. If you’re using maps, checking the weather, asking Google a question or doing anything else ‘smart’, this is the mode you want.

Essentials Mode is better suited for fitness, or if you need to conserve battery for days at a time. Keep in mind that Essentials Mode strips back the TicWatch Pro to a pretty basic wearable that doesn’t connect to your smartphone, so it won’t help when you actually want to take full advantage of the smartwatch.

A bonus for me is that Mobvoi added an “auto-switch” feature to the device, which allows the watch to function in Smart Mode while you’re using it and automatically switch to Essentials Mode at all other times to conserve battery.

Given battery life has been a major issue that has plagued smartwatches for years, it deserves its own category. Mobvoi is evidently aware of this: the first line of text on the company’s website claims the TicWatch Pro boasts “5-30 days of battery life on a single charge.”

If you own or have owned a smartwatch, that statement will probably slap you in the face. Since when does a smartwatch not repeatedly run out of battery?

As mentioned above, the key to Mobvoi’s impressive claim is the dual-display of the TicWatch Pro. I haven’t spent long enough with mine to confirm it will last for 30 days on Essentials Mode, but unless you’re competing in a month-long ultramarathon across the Kalahari Desert with no access to power, I’m sure you’ll get a chance to charge it at least every couple of days.

Again, the addition of the “auto-switch” feature is crucial for me. It means you can take advantage of the TicWatch Pro’s biggest selling point – battery life – without fully committing to Essentials Mode when you don’t want to.

The TicWatch Pro – with its Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset – runs Wear OS by Google. Overall, the watch performs relatively smoothly and doesn’t encounter too many hiccups with day-to-day use.

But there are occasional hiccups, and they can cause frustration. I found myself repeating commands every now and then without knowing if they had registered, and the lower button on the watch – which is used as a shortcut to an app of your choosing – is prone to occasional sluggishness. It’s worth noting I resorted to restarting the watch a handful of times after impatiently waiting for a command to register.

Price: US$249.99 (A$346.41 at time of writing)In the box: TicWatch Pro smartwatch, charging dock, user manualOperating System: Wear OS by GoogleDimensions: 45mm x 14.6mmDisplay: 1.39” AMOLED 400 x 400 + FSTN displayChipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100Memory: RAM – 512MB / Storage – 4GBGPS: GPS / AGPSNFC payments: Google PaySensors: Accelerometer, Gyro, Magnetic Sensor, PPG Heart Rate sensor, Ambient Light Sensor, Low Latency Off-Body SensorConnectivity: Bluetooth – 4.2 / Wi-Fi – 802.11bgn 2.4GHzBattery and Charging: Capacity – 415mAHCharging method: Dock with USB cableBattery Life: Smart Mode – 2 days / Essential Mode – 30 days / Mixed usage – between 5-30 daysWater and Dust Resistance: IP68 (up to 1.5 meters for up to 30 mins; swimming not recommended)

In essence, the TicWatch Pro is a solid smartwatch. If you’re not particularly interested in using a smartwatch at all, it’s unlikely this device will convince you otherwise.

However, if you’re on the market, there’s no good reason to overlook it – especially for Android users, who won’t be swayed by an Apple Watch. There’s no doubt its main advantages are its dual-screen design, impressive battery life and the fact it doesn’t look like a smartwatch, which help make this a smartwatch worth its price tag.

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Andrew is Techly’s Editor. Loves: weird gadgets and the Collingwood Football Club. Hates: olives and cardboard boxes.

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