Sequoia-backed Mobvoi’s first audio product is a good alternative among budget truly wireless earphones
You’re forgiven if you haven’t heard of Mobvoi and their products until today.
The Chinese firm, funded by Google and Sequoia Capital among others, is best known for its Wear OS smartwatches. With the TicPods Free, the company is foraying into the audio industry for the first time.
At the just-concluded Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Mobvoi introduced the upgraded versions of the TicPods 2 and the TicPods 2 Pro. But those aren’t launching in the Indian market, the company clarified.
The TicPods Free, however, is here. Here are our impressions after using them for a fortnight.
Design and fit
The TicPods Free resemble the Apple AirPods, with the same stem design, but with one key differentiating factor.
Unlike the AirPods, the TicPods offer a silicone tip with only two sizes out-of-the-box. The silicone tip fits in the ear securely. But, they tend to feel a little loose while taking them out and putting them back in.
Also, the TicPods may not be as sleek as the AirPods, but they do fit more snugly in your ears. The fit is better than that of the Realme Buds Air, which too resemble the AirPods.
While both the earbuds and the accompanying charging case are made of rubberised plastic, they don’t feel cheap. They are well-designed and have a premium-looking finish. In fact, the bright red/orange Lava variant stands out. There are Navy and White/Ice options as well if you want the more common colours.
With the fit being superb, the earbuds never feel like they would fall off your ears during running or bobbing your head to music. The silicone tips help with shutting out the ambient sound. There is an active noise cancellation feature, which is good in this price range. They do a decent job of giving you a more natural listening experience.
Connectivity and compatibility
The TicPods Free is IPX5-rated, which means it is water and dust resistant. This is a relief in case you get stuck in the rain or accidentally drop them in water.
They connected seamlessly with our Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus. However, when we tried connecting them to the iPhone – it took longer.
The earbuds case doesn’t connect to the phone. So, to gauge the amount of charge remaining, you have to rely on the light indicators. Green implies more than 10 percent of battery life while red indicates it is under 10 percent. This is one area where the TicPods could do with some improvement, with a more precise battery-marker.
The earbuds are compatible with all major voice assistants – Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa. But the sound drops occasionally.
Gesture controls and wear detection
The TicPods Free comes with an in-ear detection feature. Once you insert the buds into your ears, the music starts playing automatically...and when you take it out, the music stops. This is a handy feature but sometimes can take longer than three seconds to start or stop. This happened on the Realme Buds Air device too.
Mobvoi is calling its gesture-based controls ‘Tickle’. It means that you needn’t take your phone out and can enjoy a truly hands-free audio experience.
The stems of the TicPods can be used to control the volume. You can double tap to make a call or skip a song. It is only when you want to repeat a song that you need to take out your smartphone.
Sound and call quality
The TicPods Free provides a good balance across mid, bass, and treble frequencies. Listening to podcasts is a pleasure but hearing bass-heavy songs could be a downer.
The thump of the bass doesn’t reverberate enough. Pop songs, however, sound clean and sharp. Mostly, the sound is flat. Some songs feel a little softer than they should even when you crank up the volume over 75 percent.
For a casual listener, this is fine. But audiophiles will be disappointed.
However, the call quality is good without any noticeable distortion. The sound output could have been a bit higher though.
On a single charge, the TicPods Free run for about three and a half hours. This is far behind most of their competitors, including the Realme Buds Air.
The charging case, however, provides an additional four hours of charge. It takes about 1.5 hours for the earbuds to juice up. The case, charged via a USB port, takes longer than three hours.
But the earbuds come with a quick-charging feature. In just 15 minutes of charging, you can enjoy about 1.5 hours of uninterrupted listening.
Are the TicPods Free worth buying?
At the price (Rs 8,499) they retail for, you may not be able to overlook some of the gaps in the TicPods Free. Especially, because there are options that are cheaper (and almost equivalent in performance) in the sub-Rs 10,000 segment of the TWS market.
What works for the TicPods Free are the design and fit. If you’re a casual user, the audio and connectivity would also be passable. And, considering the TicPods Pro isn’t coming to India anytime soon, you could settle for this.
But, wait for a price drop. If it retails under Rs 7,000, grab a pair as soon as you can!
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)