Apple wasn’t the first to take away the headphone jack, wasn’t the first to put a notch on its phone displays and it certainly wasn’t the first to put out wireless earbuds. When Huawei launched its FreeBuds with a pop-out bud design as opposed to the AirPods’ recessed design, people still call it a copycat.
Well, it’s a bit safer to say that Mobvoi, makers of the inexpensive and lovely Ticwatch series of Wear OS watches, has taken some inspiration from the FreeBuds. But if it’s going to cost less, it might just be worth it.
The Chinese company has put TicPods Free on crowdfunding site Indiegogo. The project has been funded five times over with over $260,000 contributed by 2,770 backers. TicPods Free wireless earbuds have an MSRP of $129, but the good news for those interested is that consumers can still join onto two discounted tiers: as of press time, there are more than 650 slots for the $79 tier and 3,000 available for the $99 level. There was a $59 “super early-bird” tier that has been completely occupied.
TicPods are designed with touch-sensitive stems on each pod — calling back to the TicWatch 2 — to control playback, take calls and trigger Siri or Google Assistant. The pods can even start playing media when they sense that they’re being mounted. Calls can be heard on both buds, not just one. And with the pop-out bud design, they have more of a seal on the ear canal for passive noise isolation. IPX5 water resistance should get users through sweaty workouts and rain.
Battery life is pegged at four hours a charge while the complementary charging case should be add on 14 hours. A 15-minute charge should yield 85 minutes in listening. Master devices will connect via Bluetooth 4.2.
Mobvoi is warrantying the TicPods Free for one year with individual replacements provided for a deductible. They’re still in prototype stage, but the buds are expected to ship in July.