While some audio brands gave up on copying the Apple AirPods design, others are still spinning their wheels. Mobvoi forges on, continuing to mimic the AirPods’ stemmed shape with the Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture. Unvaried looks aside, these earphones come at a bargain price, making it hard to deny their raw value.
Is a good deal enough to separate the Earbuds Gesture from the rush of cheap true wireless earphones, or should you consider something else?
Who should get the Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture?
- Budget shoppers who want affordable, durable earbuds with touch controls and smart assistant access will enjoy the Earbuds Gesture.
- Anyone who likes the AirPods design should eye Mobvoi’s buds. These seal to the ear, are more durable than the AirPods, and subsequently block out ambient noise more effectively.
What is it like to use the Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture?
From the case to the earbuds, Mobvoi’s Earbuds Gesture doesn’t break the true wireless mold. As with the company’s previous headsets, these earphones retain a stemmed design and include the same striated charging case. This isn’t a bad thing: most listeners will quite enjoy the pocketable size of the Earbuds Gesture, it just isn’t exciting.
Two LEDs flank the Mobvoi logo on the case, and indicate its remaining battery capacity with a series of colorful flashes. It has two cutouts for the earbuds, and a rubberized protective layer on the inside of the lid to prevent scratches. The metal-reinforced hinge feels tenuous, but won’t snap unless you apply excessive force.
Mobvoi marked the earbuds with ridges to match the case, which makes it easy to grip them, even with sweaty hands. This is particularly useful for athletes who want to put the IPX5 earbuds through their paces. The touch-capacitive stems register a series of taps to control your media, and answer or reject calls. There were only a few times when the Earbuds Gesture failed to recognize the proper tap pattern.
How does TicMotion work?
TicMotion lets you answer or reject phone calls with a nod of your head, and the Earbuds Gesture house a six-axis motion sensor to accurately register your nods and shakes. This is useful when your hands are full as you receive an incoming call. While I’m personally not a huge fan of this feature, many consumers are, and it’s one Mobvoi continues to push on its audio products.
Should you download the Mobvoi Earbuds app?
The Mobvoi app isn’t a great headphone application, but it’s necessary if you want to connect the Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture to your Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 2020. In the Headset portion of the app, you have the option to enable or disable TicMotion, and that’s it really. An animated visual guide depicts the earbuds’ touch controls, but you can’t reconfigure them. The app lacks an EQ module, and the ability to view or update the current firmware (as of Mobvoi mobile app version 3.20.0-1301.561).
Related: Apple AirPods (2019) review
The Mobvoi app is centered around Mobvoi’s TicWatch offerings, and it feels like the audio section of the app was tacked on last minute. You can, however, link your Earbuds Gesture and TicWatch together, so when you receive a call, the watch will display relevant information. From there, you can choose to answer or decline said call from the headset, and it will stop the notification on your watch.
What Bluetooth codecs do the Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture support?
The Earbuds Gesture use Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and support SBC and AAC streaming, the latter of which is a high-quality codec that plays best with iOS. Unfortunately, Android does not efficiently encode the AAC Bluetooth codec, which results in consistency issues depending on your handset. This is also apparent when streaming videos: despite Mobvoi’s low-latency technology, there’s a minor audio-visual lag on Android. There’s no perceptible lag when I use the Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture with my iPhone 12 Mini, however.
The earbuds have a standard 10-meter wireless range, and performance is consistent whether you listen in stereo or mono mode. The headset has one connection quirk: the buds don’t reliably disconnect from the source device when you place them into the case. Bluetooth multipoint is also absent from the earbuds, so you must manually disconnect them from one device before connecting to another.
How do you pair the Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture to your phone?
Regardless of whether you own an Android smartphone or an iPhone, the initial pairing process is identical:
- Enable Bluetooth from your smartphone’s settings menu.
- Open the Earbuds Gesture charging case.
- Remove both earbuds from the case.
- Select the Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture from the list of discoverable devices.
- Allow the earphones to pair to your smartphone.
How long does the battery last?
Battery life is quite good: the Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture last 8 hours, 30 minutes on a single charge—well above average. Every audio product that comes our way is subjected to a constant 75dB(SPL) output until battery depletion. If you listen at quieter volumes, you’re bound to get closer to the claimed 10-hour battery life. The USB-C case provides an additional four charge cycles, which is quite good. The case doesn’t support fast charging or wireless charging, so you can stow away those Qi mats.
How do the Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture sound?
The Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture follow the standard consumer-friendly frequency response, with amplified low and treble reproduction. This response has won over swaths of consumers, and for good reason: most of us prefer some kind of bass emphasis in our music. When audio engineers consequently make treble response louder than the midrange, it makes it easier for our brains to register detail, like resonances from a cymbal hit.
Isolation is pretty good for a pair of standard earphones, but it’s wholly dependent on how well the earbuds fit. You have your pick of small, medium, and large ear tips, so take a moment to find the best ones for you. Our isolation chart illustrates the best case scenario, and I was unable to achieve this in real life. The earbuds loosened out of position anytime I wiggled my ears, which this job has informed me that I do often. Even though it was easy for me to break the cogent seal with some minor jostling, the Earbuds Gesture never fell out.
Related: How to read charts
Lows, mids, and highs
In Kendrick Lamar’s song LOVE. FEAT. ZACARI., Zacari’s vocals come through clearly in the intro. It isn’t until 0:23, when the bass drops, that auditory masking becomes noticeable. This is most apparent when Zacari follows Lamar’s vocals with the phrase, “Love me,” amid simultaneous percussive elements. However, the slow, syncopated bass hits sound great through the Earbuds Gesture, and present just enough oomph without causing a headache.
The Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture sound rather good for the price.
In the song Roller Rink by dempsey hope, the resonant sounds from the shakers are hard to hear in the first verse—a consequence of the de-emphasized upper-midrange response. In both songs, lead vocals come through clearly but clarity falls away during instrumentally busy segments.
Can I use the Earbuds Gesture for phone calls?
Mobvoi packed a dual-microphone system with noise cancelling into its Earbuds Gesture, and the technology is effective enough. Each earbud houses a mic, so you can still answer calls in mono mode. To get an idea of how the microphone sounds, take a listen to our demo below. We encourage you to rate the sample, as it helps other readers contextualize the call quality performance.
Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture microphone demo:
Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture vs. Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro
The Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture teases Mobvoi’s smart technology, while the TicPods 2 Pro fully embraces AI tech. The TicPods 2 Pro supports TicMotion and expands upon the Earbuds Gesture capabilities with TicHear and “Tickle” functionality. TicHear lets you program the phrase “Hey, Tico,” to wake your desired smart assistant. Tickle gestures include sliding up or down on the TicPods 2 Pro earbud stems to adjust the volume. The Mobvoi app allows you to create a custom EQ for the TicPods 2 Pro, something that we could see added to the Earbuds Gesture.
Read on: Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro review
The Pro model supports aptX streaming, which can’t be said of the Earbuds Gesture. This support is mainly specs for specs sake, as the open-fit design of the TicPods 2 Pro makes the high-quality streaming codec nearly useless. The TicPods 2 Pro also have much shorter battery life (4 hours), but support fast charging.
If you love all things AI and smart technology, the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro is the better choice for you. However, if you want a comfortable, secure fit and great battery life, the more affordable Earbuds Gesture is great too.
Should you buy the Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture?
The Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture is worth the price for listeners who don’t care to fiddle with software features, and don’t want to worry about constantly charging the case.
Mobvoi’s earphones are at the top of the pack when it comes to standalone playtime, and even the compact charging case provides plenty of supplemental juice. Sound quality is quite good, albeit bass-heavy, and should suffice for most listeners. If you fancy yourself an audiophile, the Earbuds Gesture aren’t for you, but then again, true wireless earbuds as a whole probably aren’t your cup of tea. The IPX5 water-resistant construction proves durable enough for intense cardio workouts, making the Mobvio Earbuds Gesture a well-rounded pair of daily earphones.
What should you get instead?
If you’re committed to the stemmed design, the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 is a great option. These earphones support both AAC and aptX, and come with Bluetooth 5.0 firmware to boot. The case can fast charge the earbuds, and it supports USB-C and wireless charging. Anker SoundCore provides a more comprehensive app experience, and one that includes the ability to customize the EQ profile and touch controls.
Then, there are a few great true wireless earbuds under $50 that we recommend, namely the Edifier TWS1 and Mobvoi TicPods Free, both of which cost just $39 USD. Mobvoi’s TicPods Free are a few years older and only support mono playback through the right bud, but they have an IPX5 rating, support AAC streaming, and sound good. The Edifier TWS1 also feature an IPX5 rating and touch controls. Edifier’s earbuds use Qualcomm True Wireless Stereo Plus for reliable connection strength, but the case doesn’t support quick charging.