2016 is the year that in-ear headphones go truly wireless.
Motorola’s Verve Ones+ are the first to properly hit the mainstream, although this isn’t the same phone-making Motorola being run by Lenovo. It’s actually Binatone, a company that licensed the name and poached most of Motorola’s audio department before Lenovo took over.
It doesn't really matter who's in charge behind the scenes, though; they've clearly learned a thing or two from those early pioneers, which might make these the best wireless in-ears around right now.
That's a wrap
Unless you’re some kind of cable-corralling magician, you’ve almost definitely had to deal with a tangle or two. There’s no danger of that here; the Verve Ones+ are completely wireless, connecting to your phone (and to each other) over Bluetooth.
Just pop each bud out of their carry case and stick them in your ears. Sensors on each one recognise when they’re sat snugly and automatically pair with each other, then to your phone. Then you’re free to throw your phone in a bag or pocket and listen without worrying about snagging a cable.
Each bud is only slightly larger than the average in-ear monitor, but they’re quite a big bigger than Earin’s tiny buds, sticking out of your ears in a way that’s guaranteed to draw some interesting looks in your direction when you’re out in public.
The bright orange accents on the Ones+ edition aren’t exactly subtle, either. The regular Ones have a less attention-grabbing black colour scheme, but miss out on a few extra features.
The perfect fit
It’s worth sticking with the lurid colours if you plan on working out in a pair of these; the Ones+ are IP57 sweat resistant, so you can hit the gym with them. Whether you’d be confident enough to wear these while road running is another matter, though.
I had a pair in my ears for pretty much an entire week before writing this review, and only managed to knock one out accidentally once, but drop one in the floor in the wrong place and it could be a nightmare to find again.
Motorola has thought about this, though. The companion app has a map that shows where the buds were last connected to your phone, which should help finding them that little bit easier.
In spite of the size, I could happily wear the Ones+ all day comfortably. They hardly weigh anything, and don’t stretch out your ears.
The six sets of rubber ear tips help get that perfect fit, too. Three pairs have two sets of flanges, which do a better job at blocking outside noise, although you can’t quite silence the world completely - you’ll still need active noise cancelling headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 35 to do that.
Cutting the cable is great, but any earphones worth their salt need to sound great too. The Ones+ mostly deliver here, with full bass and a respectably clear mid-range out of the box, but high-notes just didn’t have the crispness we were hoping for.
If you’re after in-ear headphones with precise detail, subtle bass and a well-balanced overall tone, these aren’t going to fit the bill.
The good news is that, for most people, Motorola’s app-based EQ settings give the treble a much-needed boost that make them much more suited to rock, hip-hop and EDM. I ended up settling on Brilliant, which sharpens things up at the high-end without becoming overbearing - or muting that surprisingly powerful bass.
It’s a pain to switch between the different EQ settings, because both buds have to be in the case to connect to the app. When they’re in your ears, the settings are greyed out - meaning you have to listen to a track, put them in the case and change EQ, then stick them in your ears and listen again to see if you prefer the new EQ setting.
Motorola told me it’s still tweaking the app, so this might change in the future, but right now it’s a bit of a faff.
Drop the beat
This would all be fine if the connection stayed consistent all the time, but the left and right ears would regularly lose each other for a second or two. They automatically pair again very quickly, and the left ear continued playing while the right went silent, but it’s still annoying.
It’s also a problem that other wireless in-ears suffer from, mainly because it’s really difficult to send wireless signals through your skull. We don’t know if this is something Motorola can fix with a firmware update, or if it’s something you’ll just have to get used to if you buy a pair of these.
Battery life is always going to be a worry with any wireless in-ears, and the Verve Ones+ are no different. They last for about three hours of listening between top-ups, which isn't great.
The microUSB port means you’ve almost definitely got a cable lying around when you do eventually run out of juice. And the buds themselves tell you how many hours of play time you’ve got left when you first pop them in your ears, so you shouldn’t ever be caught out.
It’s made from plastic, sure, but it doesn’t feel cheap. The rotating cover mechanism helps keep the buds safe while they’re in your bag, too - no scrabbling through all the fluff and sparer change that inevitably finds its way to the bottom of your backpack.
Motorola Verve Ones+ Verdict
How badly do you want to feel like someone out of Minority Report on your morning commute? If you can put up with a few dropouts every now and then, the Verve Ones+ will let you live out that Tom Cruise world of tomorrow fantasy today.
They landed months before Samsung's Icon X wireless in-ears, so seeing how they're the first pair to properly hit the mainstream, it's easy to forgive sound quality that audiophiles will turn their noses up at.
Quite honestly, I'm prepared to forgive all that for true cable-free convenience. Welcome to the future, music fans. It's a lot more free from tangles here.