At CES, Mobvoi (formerly TicWatch) announced its newest set of TWS (True Wireless Stereo) earbuds. The TicPods 2 Pro (and TicPods 2) succeed the original TicPods with a slimmer bud design, a 42% smaller charging case, and USB-C charging port. The new TicPods also lose the sealed fit of silicone tips in favor of an open fit like the AirPods or Huawei FreeBuds 3.
There are two variants of the TicPods 2. The one we're taking a look at is the TicPods 2 Pro which offers dual-mic noise cancellation for phone calls, TicHear hands-free voice commands, and TicMotion nod-gestures. The TicPods 2 doesn't have any of these features, but they are identical in size and appearance.
The TicPods 2 start at $99 while the TicPods Pro are $139. You'll have to decide if the extra features are worth $40. We'll start by unboxing the TicPods 2 Pro and taking a look at their updated design.
The TicPods 2 Pro come in nice retail packaging. The sleeve of the packaging comes off and the box can be separated into an upper and lower half. We're greeted by a quick-start pamphlet printed on matte paper.
Under the guide are the TicPods themselves inside the charging case - our first impression is of how small the charging case is. Below the TicPods is a flap that reveals the owner's manual and a very short USB-A to USB-C charging cable.
The charging case itself has an aesthetic wavy texture on the flip-up cover. The whole case, and the earbuds themselves, are made of plastic. We received the Navy version, but the TicPods 2 also come in Ice (white) and Blossom (pink).
The design seems nice, but the first issue appears when you try to open the case. The lid on the charging case is not easy to flick open with a thumb like other TWS earbuds - it takes a little more precision to separate the lid from the magnets on the base. The lid is also spring-loaded so it kind of assists the lid opening, but once it is opened, the lid easily falls closed.
Okay, so the lid isn't ideal, but that's somewhat forgivable considering the size of the case. At the front of the case are two LEDs that fire up when the case is opened, showing you when the TicPods are in pairing mode or low on battery.
Also be wary of dropping the charging case on the floor. I dropped them once from about table height at the coffee shop and the buds flew out of the case - no damage was done but I wouldn't want a repeat accident.
The back of the case has a USB-C port, and the underside contains the FCC labels and information about charging currents. The inside of the case where the buds go is finished in glossy plastic, which offers a nice contrast to the matte finish on the outside of the case.
Let's face it, the TicPods 2 feel like another pair of TWS earbuds that take a lot of "inspiration" from the AirPods. The preceding TicPods model featured silicone tips for a closed fit, but the new TicPods 2 gets rid of that seal in favor of a more one-size-fits-all type of deal.
I have medium sized ear canals, so I usually go for the middle-of-the-road size eartips. When I first put the TicPods 2 Pro on, they felt a little too snug. After wearing them and playing music for a while, I didn't feel discomfort even during longer listening sessions. If you regularly need to use a smaller ear tip, you might want to make sure your retailer has a good return policy.
The snug fit was good enough so the TicPods wouldn't fall out. Even while out running or lifting weights, the TicPods 2 Pro stayed securely in place. As someone who sweats a lot, I'm thankful for the IPX4 sweat and splash resistance.
After putting the Huawei Freebuds 3 back in my ears, I realized why the TicPods didn't feel as comfortable. The sound ports at the tips of the earbuds on the Freebuds gradually slope into the ear canals while the TicPods 2 are more bulbous by comparison - they aren't shaped in the way that an ear canal is, so they feel a big snug.
The TicPods 2 Pro features configurable settings within the Mobvoi app. Here, you can access the hands-free voice command menu, in-ear detection, nod gestures, toggle aptX, equalizer, and access to OTA updates. I performed an OTA update on these buds which greatly improved their sound quality (less intense bass and more balanced sound) during the review period.
The app can also display the battery life of each individual earbud, as well as the power left in the charging case. There are a great deal of features on the TicPods 2 Pro, but the one thing missing is active noise-cancellation.
They do feature dual-microphone noise reduction during phone calls - which is great for the person you are calling, but nothing that will block or reduce external noise for you.
The only differences in features between the TicPods 2 and the TicPods 2 Pro are the latter offers TicMotion gestures - nod Twice to answer an incoming call or shake your head twice to reject a call. The TicPods 2 Pro offer dual-mic noise reduction while the non-Pro only uses a single-mic. TicHear is also exclusive to the Pro model and is always listening for a voice command.
One thing worth noting is that the TicPods 2 Pro don't work individually. The left bud is the dominant one, and relays audio to the right one. This means if you want to wear only the right side, you'll still need to turn on the left one as well.
Touch controls are available on both models, which Mobvoi calls "Tickle" (heehee). The app only allows customization of the double-tap gesture - you can configure it to go "Next", "Previous", or "Play/Pause". The new TicPods can track your touch so you can slide up or down on either one to adjust the volume. There's also a touch-hold gesture for rejecting calls or summoning a Voice assistant like Google, Alexa, or Siri.
The touch controls work quite consistently, and the slide up/down for adjusting the volume is really satisfying.
You'll notice there's no single-tap gesture - which I appreciate. This makes it harder to inadvertently trigger a gesture. I can't tell you how many times I've accidentally triggered a press on a touch-sensitive pair of headphones by just brushing my arm past my head.
The TicPods 2 Pro are rated for 4 hours of use on a single charge, and a total of 20 hours with the charging case. There are a couple of settings that affect the overall battery life. TicHear requires the earbuds to be always listening while TicMotion fires us accelerometers in the buds. Disabling both could yield slightly better battery life, but at that point you're better off buying the non-Pro TicPods 2.
With all the features enabled, the TicPods 2 Pro lasted exactly three hours at around 60% volume, depleting about halfway around the 1:30h mark. You can expect higher battery life at lower volumes and with certain features switched off.
The TicPods 2 sound quite good in my experience. They aren't too heavy with bass like the Huawei FreeBuds 3 and offer a well-rounded balance of bass, mids, and trebles. However, like many other small TWS earbuds, they lose balance above about 65% and bass is drowned out by tinny mids and trebles.
The loss in balance is a common trait among TWS earbuds crammed with tiny hardware. The earbuds are still plenty loud, so you won't need to ever use them above 60% volume.
The TicPods 2 Pro work great for phone calls. The dual-mic noise reduction made it much easier for my caller to hear me from a loud coffee shop. Nodding to answer the call worked well and I could hear my caller perfectly. Again, keep in mind that these earbuds don't feature active noise cancellation so louder environments might damage your sonic experience.
The TicPods 2 Pro offer a great deal of features, a bunch of customizable options in the app, and well-balanced sound, but they aren't perfect. I wish they were shaped a bit better for the ear canal, as they didn't seem as comfortable to me (but they may be comfortable for you), they seem a bit too snug.
They also don't offer active noise-cancellation like other competitors. Also, the Pro features may not be worth the extra $40, especially if you're just going to disable them for better battery life.
If you don't think you'll use the nod gestures or voice commands, I might recommend you go for the cheaper $99 TicPods 2. They are rated for slightly better battery life and they are identical to the TicPods 2 Pro in every other way.
The TicPods 2 Pro checks a lot of boxes, but it's lacking a couple of major ones like active-noise cancellation and a more comfortable fit. Their charging case, though small and compact, has questionable durability with its flimsy lid.
Still, the TicPods 2 Pro are a worthy competitor to the AirPods if you're looking for something to use on an Android smartphone. The Huawei FreeBuds 3, though slightly more expensive, feature a more comfortable fit, individual left or right audio, and active noise cancellation so they go more against the AirPods Pro.