TicPods Free review: The Pixel Buds you've been waiting for
- Great design
- Solid battery life
- Only passive noise-cancelling
- Occasional sound hiccup
The TicPods don’t sound exceptional, but they do sound more than good enough, pack in all the usual features and the battery life does make up the rest of the difference.
If you’ve not heard of or seen their products prior to now, Mobvoi are the kind of boutique tech brand that’s easy to fall for. The Chinese brand have a friendly and playful approach to consumer tech and a drive to fill the gaps that Google have left in their own Android ecosystem.
The company’s TicWatches in particular are regarded as some of the best Wear OS-powered smartwatches out there, and their fresh foray into the world of true wireless earbuds looks to build on that legacy.
At a glance, the TicPods are the kind of polished, affordable and appealing hardware that you’d wish Google would offer alongside their own Pixel smartphones.
What are the specs of the TicPods Free?
Earphone type: in-ear, true wireless
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2
Built-in Microphone: Yes
Noise cancelling: Passive
Pack Ins: Micro USB cable, 2x small ear-tips
Battery Life: 4 hours per charge, 18 hours playback total
Colors: White, Red, Black
How Do The TicPods Free Feel To Wear?
Despite their slightly blocky appearance, the TicPods are surprisingly easy to handle and comfortable to wear.
Like Apple’s AirPods or Huawei’s FreeBuds, they do opt for a slightly-elongated form-factor that sees the earbuds hang downwards from your ears. But, again like those pricier alternatives, they’re light enough that this lifestyle choice doesn’t yield any practical drawbacks. Personally, I think I still prefer the more compact design of Zolo’s Liberty+ but there’s little find fault with here.
Both the TicPod earbuds and their charger case are both made of a slightly-rubberized plastic but, impressively, each manages to sidestep the usual pitfalls here. They don’t feel cheap. They feel nice. Sculpted even, if a little bland and featureless.
Unfortunately, as usual, the touch control on the earbuds are a little finicky and inconsistent. They're unreliable enough that I found myself opting for my smartphone over it - which kinda says it all. The TicPads can be connected to the existing Mobvoi app but there's little functionality added here beyond the ability to roll out software updates.
How Do The TicPods Free Earbuds Sound?
Of course, looks are only half the battle when we’re talking about true wireless earbuds. Audio quality is obviously pretty important as well. And in this regard, the TicPods proved themselves adequate but rarely exceptional.
In some ways, they’re a little like the AirPods in this regard (minus any of Apple’s W1 Bluetooth magic sauce). When used to listen to podcasts or music like Hilltop Hoods’ The Great Expanse, I came away mostly happy with the results. The sound was balanced, though the bass wasn’t particularly deep. For the price you’re paying, the results leave little to be desired but they don’t exactly blow you away either.
That said, I did occasionally encounter this small issue where the audio playback coming through the TicPods would drop out. They’d reconnect and resume a moment or so later, but when they did the sound would be slightly reorientated - which was a little off-putting.
The TicPods do have passive noise-cancelling, which isn't nothing but does fall well short of the more-advanced noise-cancelling tech found in more expensive true wireless earbuds.
Are The TicPods Free Better Than Apple’s AirPods?
As always, the biggest variable here is whether you own an iPhone or not. If you do, the Apple AirPods offers up better connectivity and longer battery life - making them the smarter buy. They beat out the TicPods for battery life and the fast and reliable Bluetooth connectivity via Apple’s W1 chip adds an extra bit of convenience you can’t get elsewhere.
If you’re using an iPhone, the AirPods are more expensive but they’re got just enough advantages to be worth the premium.
How Do The TicPods Free Compare To The Rest Of The True Wireless Competition?
While you will have to import them from Mobvoi direct, the TicPods Free are cheaper than a lot of competing products from brands like Jaybird and Sony. The battery life is also better, and the TicPods do come with a lot of the same features like an IPX5 rating against splash and dust damage, passive noise cancellation and easy integration with voice assistants like the Google Assistant.
The case design of the TicPods also deserves some props. It’s magnetically sealed, which makes it less likely to open accidentally. It also comes with a unique, elastic loop-strap that can be used to tie the carry-case to your wrist or bag. There’s also some nice texturing running along the roof of the case - which adds a few style points and a bit of flair to the piece.
Unfortunately, the TicPods are a little let down by the decision to opt for MicroUSB rather than USB Type-C. Obviously, this isn’t going to be a massive dealbreaker for everyone. However, personally, if we’re talking about consumer tech, there aren’t many cases where I’d prefer the older connection standard over the more-modern USB Type-C.
It’s easy to make the case that a version of this product that runs off USB Type-C would be better than one without, since it’d allow for faster charging and easier compatibility.
The Bottom Line: Should You Buy The TicPods Free?
While they aren’t the value-driven slam dunk of the Zolo Liberty+ and lack the premium punch of Sennheiser’s Momentum TW, the TicPods are a still great option for Android users looking to pick up some true wireless earbuds on a budget. They don’t sound exceptional, but they do sound more than good enough, pack in all the usual features and the battery life does make up the rest of the difference.
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