Mobvoi has just released TicPods Free. The wireless headphones, with their inevitable resemblance to Apple's AirPods, are ready to fit into the ears of both iOS and Android users. Is it worth buying them?
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- ✓Comfortable to wear
- ✓Works with Assistant, Siri and Alexa
- ✓Practical to carry in the compact housing
- ✓Do not slip during physical activity
- ✓Battery life
- ✕MicroUSB connector
- ✕Gesture control needs to improve
Mobvoi TicPods Free release date and price
Mobvoi launched its wireless earphones through a crowdfunding campaign that raised over $2.8 million. TicPods Free are available for purchase from Mobvoi's online store and Amazon at a price of $129.99 / £119.99 / €135.79 $129.99 from October 24, 2018.
You can buy them in white, blue and red depending on how much you want to go unnoticed. For our review, we have chosen the red model that looks more to orange than fiery red.
Design takes after Apple
The TicPods Free remind us of the AirPods, that may be no bad thing, depending on your taste: if you don't mind the design adopted by Apple for its earphones, you will probably appreciate the one chosen by Mobvoi. Personally, it makes me smile to see these sticks half come out of my ears but it's a matter of taste. Made of plastic, they look solid in your hand.
What matters is: are they comfortable to wear? After two or three attempts I was able to adapt the earphones to my ears especially after replacing the rubbers with the smaller ones in the package. TicPods Free offer IPX5 certification that makes them usable during indoor and outdoor physical activity: rain and sweat are not a problem but you can not use them in the pool.
To carry with you or charge the TicPods Free you will need to use the small oval case that takes the color and style of the earphones. The upper part of the case is ribbed like the elongated part of the headphones. A rubber strap also allows you to hang it on a stand or put it on your wrist. The compact size of the case allows you to keep it in a jacket pocket or bag without any problems.
The magnets inside the case hold the headphones in place and allow you to charge them. Once the headphones are removed from the box, the LEDs light up blue and the headphones are automatically activated by connecting to the previously paired smartphone. In the individual earphones, and in the housing of the case, you will find indicated whether it is the right or the left one.
In the purchase package you will find the case, the two earphones inside, an instruction manual, a microUSB cable for charging, two replacement rubber covers and a rubber strap.
Gesture control needs some work
You can control your music and calls with simple gestures :
- By sliding your finger along the stick, left or right, you can adjust the volume.
- A double tap will take you to the next song or allow you to answer or end a call.
- Holding for two seconds on the right headset will activate the virtual assistant connected to your device, either Siri or Assistant the mechanism is the same or reject a call (with calls works on both headsets).
- To pause, press and hold the left earpiece for two seconds. With the same move, you can restart it.
- Removing one of the earphones will automatically stop the playback of the contents played.
- By inserting the headset back into the ear, the music/video track will restart from the point where you interrupted it, as on the AirPods.
You have to get used to gestures, as on smartphones, but I think that Mobvoi could improve the interaction with the TicPods Free.
It would be more natural to pause or restart the music with a tap than with a two-second-long press that I took some time to get used to. I couldn't always get this command to work right away; sometimes the song wouldn't pause, sometimes it wouldn't restart after inserting the headset. It could be a problem with the sensors or a problem that could be solved with a software update.
On the other hand, I found the volume management very convenient. I have not often used Google Assistant but when you need it is there and has always responded to my commands. There is no gesture to send back the song: but tell the truth, how often do you use it?
An app for updates
Pairing TicPods Free to your smartphone is quick and easy . It really took me a minute to connect them to my Huawei P20 Pro: just activate Bluetooth (the TicPods support 4.2) on my device and select them from the list. The headset LED lights up blue when in pairing mode.
To pair them with another device you will need to turn off Bluetooth from the first device and repeat the procedure with the new device. TicPods support Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa.
The Mobvoi app, available free of charge from the Play Store, allows you to check for any software updates. For the rest, it provides an overview of the operation of the headphones even if it is not really snappy when you open it.
Not easy to lose
Bass is not the strong point of these headphones but the overall audio experience is good . If you love the Drum and Bass genre you will lose something, but otherwise you will get what other in-ear headphones of this type offer. The maximum volume could be higher. Thanks to the noise cancellation, you'll be isolated from the surrounding sounds and enjoy your music. The design of the headset and the earpiece undoubtedly do a good job from that point of view.
During the calls the TicPods did not give me any problems, they remained connected and the communication was clear.
Thanks to the integrated technology, the headphones are able to understand when they are removed and automatically pause the playback of songs in progress even if, as mentioned above, during my test in some cases have not reacted immediately. Watching videos on YouTube I found a slight latency between playback and listening in headphones but it must be recognized that this is a common problem with this type of earphones.
I used the TicPods on my bike, in the gym on the treadmill and doing some yoga exercises and it was nice to see how they remained firm in my ears.
Good battery life
The headphones house an 85mAh battery while the case, which also serves as a charging base, integrates a 700mah battery. This means that you can charge your headphones four times using just one charge from the dock. There are 18 hours of total autonomy promised by placing the headphones in the case.
In use, the TicPods meet expectations ensuring a battery life of just under 4 hours . Recharging takes little time: I took about 45 minutes to complete the charging process but already after 15 minutes you can enjoy about 85 minutes of listening.
If the LED on the earphones lights up red, you have less than 10% of the charge available. The same goes for the case: when the external LEDs light up red for 3 seconds it means that the charge is 10%. Once the case is connected using the supplied cable, the LEDs will remain lit green once charging is complete.
Mobvoi's TicPods come on the market two years after the launch of Apple's AirPods and are an alternative that can be used not only on iOS but also on Android. TicPods are suitable for listening to music during physical activity or while moving around the city as well as for calls, they sound good but don't expect a high-quality audio experience.
They do the work they are meant to do, but I think Mobvoi should optimize the system with gestures. At this price, the TicPods will have to deal with the Huawei FreeBuds, available on the market at the same price range but boasting the name of a brand like Huawei.