Comfortable • solid sound quality • good battery life • Affordable
No customization • Bright red color
Mobvoi’s TicPods Free are a solid mid-range option for anyone looking for a decent pair of truly wireless earbuds.
In a sea of white earbuds dangling from people’s ears, I stood out like a sore thumb. It wasn’t because I was foregoing my own set of headphones due to some sort of oversight. But I was sporting brightly colored buds courtesy of Mobvoi.
The TicPods Free wireless earphones mimic the stem-shaped profile of Apple’s AirPods with a few improvements. The TicPods Free feature a silicone tip, which makes them very comfortable to wear for long periods of time. As Mobvoi notes, the goal of wireless buds is to be untethered. Taking that idea to heart, TicPods Free are completely touch controlled. Raising or lowering the volume takes a quick slide down the stem. You can tap or press to pause, skip, or accept a call.
With points for style, sound quality, and comfort, TicPods Free are a worthy entry to the increasingly crowded truly wireless earbud market. At $129.99, the TicPods Free can be a good value even if they could use a slightly better name.
What’s in a name
The Mobvoi TicPods Free have a slightly bigger case than Apple AirPods and have a much brighter design.
Image: mashable / Charles Poladian
Mobvoi is not the first name you think of when it comes to wireless earbuds. You have all the usual suspects along with the cult favorites. There’s Sennheiser and Bose at the high end, Jabra somewhere in the middle, and Anker if you’re looking for a cheaper pair. China’s Mobvoi, a privately owned startup valued at , has been steadily releasing solid smartwatches and earbuds since 2015.
Usually the knocks against Mobvoi products are due to the limitations of a particular operating system. While a Ticwatch or Ticpod may not be instantly recognizable to a broader audience, they’re a name you can rely on for a quality product at a mid-range price. Mobvoi also puts in time to think about design features that help its Tic products stand out from the crowd. The TicPods Free wireless earbuds are a no-brainer addition to the Tic lineup.
Wireless earbuds are all the rage and companies have lined up to meet that demand. Some mimic the iconic profile of the AirPods and that’s enough. Others opt for a coat of black paint. Some choose a circular earbud that fits snuggly into your ear. While Mobvoi went with the stem approach, they chose to add some color to the TicPods Free. A bright red/orange Lava or a more subdued Navy adds some flair to your commute. Don’t worry, there’s a white, or Ice, option if you don’t want to stray too far from the crowd.Of course, there’s more to a pair of earbuds than looks. Luckily, TicPods Free are more than flashy pretenders.
The TicPods Free are a great choice for anyone who wants wireless earpods, but doesn’t like the look of Apple AirPods.
Image: charles poladian / mashable
The TicPods Free earbuds have a small silicone tip, which is music to my ears. Whether it’s the commute or work itself, I can spend the bulk of my day with a pair of earbuds. Comfort is crucial and that silicone tip goes a long way.
TicPods Free fit securely in your ear. I never felt like there was a risk that they were going to slip out during a quick sprint or during a bike ride.
Not to continue on about a small piece of silicone, but that little bit also helps seal out ambient sound. It’s not quite noise cancelling, but it blocks just enough to enhance your aural experience.
Last thing, there’s an extra pair of different sized tips for a better fit.
TicPods Free earbuds are IPX5 water and dust resistant. Even if you happen to sweat a lot, or get caught in an unexpected storm, your TicPods Free should be fine.
Set up for the TicPods Free was a simple process. Take them out of their charging case, pair them with your device, and start listening to music or a podcast. TIcPods Free have in-ear detection and connect automatically to a previously paired device.
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The capsule-shaped charging case is slightly larger than you’d like. That’s a problem for most charging cases, but it’s something to consider if you’re trying to maintain a bulge-free profile.
Battery life falls squarely in the good to above-average range for wireless earbuds. You’ll get 18 hours of battery life — 4 hours for the earbuds and another 14 hours with the case. That combined battery life, for example, is three hours better than the similarly priced Jabra Elite 65t.
That’s all great if you had some battery life indicators. There’s a red light that appears when the battery is running low but there’s nothing before that lets you know that your TicPods Free need to be charged.
Mobvoi did away with a standalone app. While some may bemoan the lack of control, others will be happy about one less single-function app. There’s no way to adjust the bass, adjust your preferences, or name your TicPods Free.
All of the controls can be found on the TicPods Free itself. Mobvoi describes its approach as a “Tickle.” Essentially, you control the earbuds through a series of touch-based gestures. I probably won’t say I’m tickling my earbuds, but you might feel otherwise.
The slightly elongated stems can be used to adjust the volume or take a call with a slide, tap, or hold. You can slide your finger up or down to adjust the volume, double tap to take a call or skip a song, or a long press for two seconds to pause or replay a song.
TicPods Free also support voice assistants. Whether it’s Siri or Google Assistant, they’re just a long press away.
It’s mostly convenient once you figure out which stem controls what. The long press feature feels a little too long for me. I know it’s two seconds, but that’s compared to an instant for all the other features. A single tap would have worked better. Or, you could just pull the left earbud out to pause.
I definitely don’t want to be that person who always has their wireless earbuds in, so I’ll always choose to take an earbud out.
TicPods Free feature good battery life and relatively intuitive controls. I do wish Mobvoi included an additional pair of tips. Other true wireless earbuds have ways to customize your sound, so what you hear is what you get with the TicPods Free. That may be a dealbreaker for some, but TicPods Free offer quality sound that may make you forget about fine-tuning your listening experience.
The TicPods Free comes with a silicone tip that blocks out noise very well.
Image: Mashable / charles poladian
Who cares about controls if the sound quality is there? TicPods Free mostly hold their end of the bargain, but comes up just short on the lower end of things.
TicPods Free sound great. Tightly produced pop songs sound clean and sharp. Nothing gets lost in the shuffle and TicPods gives music a chance to breathe. Backing vocals that are deeper in the mix can be heard while the higher notes get their own chance to shine.
It’s a generally good everyday listening experience. Pop, rock, country, and rap are all handled well. Podcasts are what you’d expect. In general, I didn’t have too many complaints about the sound. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at times with the clarity.
There’s one drawback. Bas is generally good, but you might want a little more. As someone who doesn’t need to feel the bass in my chest, this didn’t affect my overall enjoyment.
TicPods Free sound fine, it’s a relatively flat experience. It’s never tinny, but there are times when it feels thin at a louder volume. If you’re looking to escape into the music, you may be disappointed to realize you haven’t been transported anywhere.
Overall, it’s a nice presentation that will likely please everyone most of the time. But there are going to be times that you wished it was a little more dynamic or there was some warmth or richness to a song. TicPods Free may not make you fall in love, but they also want cause you to fall out of love.
That may sound like harsh criticism, but it’s not. Everything is done well, but sometimes you just want more soul. If you want a fuss-free listening experience, you’ll find a lot to enjoy with the TicPods Free. It’s good enough on all fronts to be your go-to pair.
Beyond the music, calls sound great. Call audio is sent to both earbuds and there’s some noise cancelling to make sure you’re heard loud and clear. Just a quick double tap to take or end a call. You can also send a call to voicemail with a long press.
A worthy alternative
Image: charles poladian / mashable
Mobvoi’s TicPods Free are worth your consideration.They look and feel great, for starters. I never felt their weight over a long period of time. If you’re looking for a comfortable pair of truly wireless earbuds, you should think about the TicPods Free.
The sound quality is solid if not spectacular. Music is presented well and you’ll enjoy your listening experience. But the lack of control and bass might be a disappointment. TicPods Free are in no way bass deficient and all ears are different, so take that into consideration.