When the AirPods made their debut, Apple users were annoyed to say the least given their high price tag but still purchased them en masse. While they were better than their wired predecessors which snagged and tangled, there were (and still are) many improvements needed to make them worth the lofty purchase. Apple had the market cornered on Bluetooth earbuds for iOS users, until Mobvoi put up the TicPods Free on Indiegogo, raising over $2.8 million.
The TicPod Frees are gesture-controlled Bluetooth earbuds that tout noise-isolation, ambient noise cancellation, in-ear detection, intuitive touch controls, voice assistant support, and fast charging coupled with a long battery life. After spending a few weeks with them, I can confidently say these €129.99 ear buds are worth the dough.
The Ticpods Free are available in Navy (deep blue), Lava (red), and Ice (white). They’re quite a bit larger than most wired in-ear buds, but it’s not enough to be a detriment. The ball of the bud is the “chunkiest” part, but seeing that this contains the tech which makes it so unique, we’re happy to let this slip.
Along the outer stem is a series of slightly raised lines, which is where the touch-sensitive controls lie. On the interior are two gold dots; magnets that help the buds sit into place in their charging case with a satisfying click. There are two sizes for the silicone tips to fit a variety of ear shapes. While the smaller size worked for me, I’ve seen comments in community forums calling for a third size.
The case that charges the buds mimic the overall design. Raised lines run along the top of the matte plastic case, and the only textural difference is the interior rubberized top that makes contact with the stems. The lid stays propped once opened, and despite the hinge feeling a little flimsy, it doesn’t seem like it will snap easily. During charging and when opening the case, two dots on either side of the front logo light up green. If low on battery, they go red. Unfortunately, the case is charged via Micro USB and not USB Type C so you may need to have the bundled Micro USB cable in their backpack or handbag for some quick charging when needed. The cable also has a short USB Type C cable attached to charge your USB Type C enabled phone whilst your charge your case too.
Do they live up to the hype? Mostly! The TicPods Free have made me like in-ear buds again. Their tap and swipe controls can be a bit finnicky at times, but still let me do what I need to without looking at my phone. The silicone tip fits flawlessly in my ears, and there was no point where it felt like they’d fall out. Even with vigorous exercise where I was putting that IPX5 water-resistance to work!
The audio quality was decent, but had a low maximum volume. The bass is surprisingly rich and deep while the mids and highs were clean and clear. Admittedly, songs like James Blakes ‘Limit to your Love’ showcased the bud inability to hit the incredibly deep bass line of the chorus. Regardless, calls were always clear and never dropped unless I was physically out of range of my phone. The battery life lasted longer than I needed it to for daily use, and it worked flawlessly with Google Assistant, (it also works with Siri and Alexa.)
Opening the case accidentally connected them to my phone a time or two without them being in my ears. This had me questioning why my phone’s audio wasn’t working, but you won’t often open the case without using them.
The earbuds can also be updated via the dedicated Mobvoi app which lets you check the battery level of the buds also.
The TicPod Free earbuds are well-made, charge quickly, and do everything they advertise. The volume could’ve gone higher, another size silicone tip would be nice, and the touch controls are finicky, but they’re a solid option that’s cheaper than the Airpods.
The Mobvoi TicPods Free can be bought on the official Modvoi website here and shipping is free.