TicPods Free are $130 truly wireless earbuds from Mobvoi, and they’re really good. In fact, they’re pretty close to being perfect—they’re convenient and comfortable. Despite the poor gesture controls and weak bass, though, I still love them.
Design: Small and Convenient
Let’s talk about the design a little bit because that’s probably my favorite thing about the TicPods. They’re just so convenient. Like pretty much every set of truly wireless earbuds on the market, they come in a little charging case that’s a great, pocket-able size. That means you can carry them with you everywhere you go.
Aside from that, they connect incredibly easily. They go into pairing mode the second you remove them from the case for the first time— pair ’em up with your phone, and they’ll instantly connect every time after that. By the time they get to my ears, they’re already connected and ready to go. So fast.
That alone has made these my go-to earbuds the entire time I’ve been reviewing them. I have several sets—both wired and wireless—but I’ve been reaching for the TicPods about 90 percent of the time when I need some headspeakers. They don’t sound as good as any of my others, which we’ll talk about in detail down below, but the convenience negates all the tradeoffs. All of them.
Of course, they’re not perfect. The case charges the buds when they’re in it (so they always come out full, assuming the case isn’t dead), but there aren’t enough options to let you know the charge level of either the case or the earbuds. There are two settings:
- Stays Green: More than 10% charge
- Flashing Red: Less than 10% charge
Yeah, that’s it. It’s pretty horrible. Like, c’mon Mobvoi, let me get some middle option—blink green for 10-49% or something. This all or nothing crap doesn’t cut it. I don’t want to know my buds are almost dead before realizing I need to charge them.
Fit and Comfort: Like Gloves for My Earholes… or Something
A wise man once said that truly wireless earbuds are only as good as they are comfortable, which is something that Mobvoi must’ve taken to heart with the TicPods Free (henceforth just referred to as “TicPods”). Straight out of the box, these jokers popped right into my ears like they were designed to live there.
Since not everyone will have the same experience, the TicPods comes with a couple of sets of silicone tips. They ship with the larger of the two sets by default—which should work well for most people—but the smaller ones should be good if you’re one of those tiny-eared people. With your cute little earholes.
I’ve been wearing the TicPods pretty heavily since I got them. I’ve worn them while mowing the yard, out shopping, sitting at my desk, walking around the park, and during workouts. I’ve worn them for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, and I’ve worn them for two or three hours at a time. But no matter what I was doing, one thing was clear: man, these are so comfortable.
They stayed in my ears very well for the most part, and they sort of disappeared. They’re super light, so it’s almost like they’re not there. It’s nice. And again, they’re comfortable. Maybe the most comfortable earbuds I’ve ever worn. That is, of course, pretty subjective, but still worth mentioning.
While they stayed in my ears pretty well, they did occasionally slip a bit and required a quick readjustment—mostly during crazy sweaty, hard workouts. Makes sense.
Features and Use: Good Fit with Finicky Gestures
While wearing the TicPods has proven to be a great experience, using them was a little more finicky than most because of the gesture-based interactions.
By default, there are a few key gestures:
- Swipe up and down to control volume; this works on both sides.
- Double tap to skip tracks; this also works on both side.
- Long-press the left bud to pause.
- Long-press the right bud to bring up the Google Assistant.
- Automatic ear detection to pause/play music when you remove/insert the buds.
Those are pretty useful, but they’re far from perfect. For one, they’re not customizable. I would love a way to change the assigned command for a given gesture—for example, I want a double-tap on the left bud to go back one track and the right bud go forward. As it stands, double-tapping either bud skips the track. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
Secondly, on occasions when I did need to adjust the earbuds, it would often interpret the adjustment as a double-tap and skip the playing track. Let me tell you: that is far more frustrating than it should be, mainly because it happened to me about 70 percent of the time. Irritating.
Thirdly, the long-press feature on both buds is straight-up garbage. It takes about 1.5 seconds longer than it should—it just feels like you’re holding it forever. It feels so petty to point that out, but the tap-and-hold gesture shouldn’t take more than 1.5 seconds total, but at three seconds, it’s double that. And while I also realize that three seconds is not a long time, it feels like ages when you’re standing there holding your hand to your earbud to get the music to pause. It’s just a janky gesture, and I’d rather be able to turn it off.
That’s my biggest complaint with the TicPods. I wish there were a way to change, modify, or disable gestures—especially on an individual basis. But even within the Mobvoi app, it’s not possible. And it’s frustrating.
Sound Quality: I Mean, It’s Okay
If I had to pick the biggest downside of the TicPods, it’s the sound quality. Not because they sound bad, just because they suffer from the same issues that other truly wireless ‘buds have: they have very little bass response.
I get that bass isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s cool, but all music needs some bass. It doesn’t have to rattle your brain and all that, but bass is what gives music the oomph it needs most of the time—the low end that defines some genres, even. But with the TicPods, you’re not going to get that; some frequencies don’t even register on these little guys. It’s a bummer.
Honestly, it makes sense. There’s a lot of tech stuffed into a minimal space in any earbud of this type, which cuts out room for bigger drivers. The result is, you guessed it, less bass.
Now, all that aside, the TicPods do have excellent audio clarity. They may be lacking bass, but that doesn’t mean they’re shrill or even tinny—they have clear, defined sound quality that is excellent once you get past the “where’s the bass” issue. Because of that, I still highly recommend these if you’re looking for a set of truly wireless earbuds to stuff in your headholes.
As another upside, these are some of the only earbuds I’ve ever worn in my life where I can still carry on conversations with real-life humans in the same room as me. They don’t block my ear canals to the point that makes everything that isn’t coming from the buds sound muffled and terrible, so I can still hear people talking to me. In another fun twist, I can also speak to those people, leveraging something called “conversation.” All without taking my earbuds out!
They also work great for phone conversations. I’ve always hated wearing earbuds (or anything noise-canceling) when talking on the phone because I can’t hear myself well enough—I sound muffled in my head, and I can’t stand it. But since the TicPods don’t block my hearing that much, I can talk with them in. I like that because that makes them so useful for long conversations or video chats and whatnot.
Conclusion: Despite the Shortcomings, I Love Them
As much as I love headphones that have great low-end—of which I have several pairs, both wired and wireless—I still find myself reaching for the TicPods about 90 percent of the time when I need headphones. Why? Because they’re just so damn convenient.
And that’s what can’t be overstated here: the convenience of truly wireless earbuds are where the real value is. It’s not the sound quality. In the case of the TicPods, it’s not even the comfort (though that’s a big selling point for me)—they’re just so easy to use. The case is small, so I can easily toss it in my pocket and take them everywhere with me. They connect instantly. No turning on/off; no waiting for a connection. No cables to mess with. They work quickly and instantly. And they disconnect just as quickly and as easily. Not to mention at $130, they’re cheaper than even the most affordable level of AirPods, which start at $160.
But at the end of the day, comfort and convenience is the name of the game for truly wireless earbuds, which is where the TicPods excel.
Here’s What We Like
- Incredibly convenient
- They're super comfortable, even after hours of wearing them
- They stay in place even during vigorous workouts
And What We Don't
- Gestures can't be customized
- Not enough battery notification options