Chinese startup Mobvoi has unveiled a new pair of wireless earbuds that look just like Apple’s AirPods, but cost $US100 less, and work with both iOS and Android.
Called TicPods Free, the fully wireless buds launched Tuesday on Indiegogo for $US60 to start. Apple AirPods cost $US160.
TicPods Free work with iOS and Android devices, are compatible with smart assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant, and have touch controls on the outsides to skip a song or answer a call.
TicPods Free are the first set of wireless earbuds from Mobvoi, the six-year-old Beijing-based startup that’s backed by Sequoia and Volkswagen. Mobvoi also makes other gadgets, including a smart speaker called TicHome Mini and Ticwatch, a line of minimalist smartwatches.
But TicPods Free could quite possibly be a worthy alternative to AirPods. Here’s how they work:
At first glance, TicPods Free look exactly like Apple’s AirPods. The design — an in-ear bud connected to a long stalk — looks nearly identical to what Apple makes.
Like AirPods, TicPods Free come in their own small carrying case, which tops up the buds’ charge between uses.
Mobvoi says a single charge will give you four hours of play time. The buds will charge up completely in 40 minutes, and Mobvoi says you can 18 hours of total battery life.
That battery life is shorter than AirPods, although not by much – Apple says you’ll get five hours of listening time on a single charge and 24 hours of total battery life.
TicPods Free can sense when the buds are in your ears, so music will automatically start when you put them in. AirPods can do that, too.
Mobvoi says TicPods Free are both noise-cancelling and noise-isolating, so you should be able to easily make clear phone calls and hear your music in loud places.
While TicPods Free are similar to AirPods in a lot of ways, there are a few major differences. For starters, TicPods Free come in three colours: white, navy blue, and red.
TicPods Free also come with two sets of tips, so you can adjust them to fit your ears.
Unlike AirPods, TicPods Free are compatible with both iOS and Android devices, and they work with smart assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.
TicPods Free are also water- and sweat-resistant, so you can wear them to workout.
One feature that makes TicPods Free easier to use than AirPods is touch controls on the outside of the buds. Swiping up and down on the stalk will change the volume, double tapping answers a call or skips a song, and long pressing activates your voice assistant.
AirPods currently don’t have full touch controls. To do things like skip a song or change the volume, users can double tap the side to activate Siri.
To start, TicPods Free will cost $US60 — $US100 less than AirPods. Eventually, the buds will cost $US130.
TicPods Free are available for preorder on Indiegogo and will begin shipping in July.
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