dominate the wireless earphones market thanks to their comfortable design and easy-to-use charging case is certainly no secret. But, while they do work with Android phones, Apple has primarily designed them with iPhone compatibility in mind.
Huawei’s third-generation wireless earphones build upon the design language that was first introduced on last year’s FreeBuds 2 Pro. The open-fit style has been maintained but the stem on both FreeBuds is now much slimmer.
Each earbud’s shape has also been modified slightly to improve comfort. Huawei has elongated them a little and implemented a subtle curve which makes for a tighter fit. Because of this, the FreeBuds 3 are generally more comfortable to use over long periods of time than the industry standard AirPods.
The reassurance that they won’t fall out of your ears is another benefit of these design changes. I’ve personally never had any issues with AirPods but the FreeBuds 3 just feel more secure, especially when working out. Speaking of, there’s no need to worry about sweat or a bit of rain because they’re IPX4 certified.
Perhaps the biggest differentiator for Huawei’s earphones is the accompanying charging case. It’s quite compact, easily slides into your pocket, and ultimately stands out from the competition because of its circular shape.
The audio experience of FreeBuds 3 is decent but certainly nothing to rave about. Huawei has designed them as all-rounders and that’s quite obvious when listening to music or any other media.
Another factor that makes Huawei’s earphones stand out (on paper) from similarly priced options is the presence of active noise cancellation. It apparently works up to volumes of 15dB and Huawei says it’s most noticeable when talking over the phone. Unfortunately, I could barely notice any difference in testing.
Active noise cancellation can be activated by double-tapping the left earbud although it can be switched to the right earbud inside the Huawei AI Life app on Android if you prefer. This can also be used to adjust the feature to your personal preference, although iPhone users can’t because there’s not an equivalent app.
Huawei has made good use of its chipmaker subsidiary, HiSilicon, by creating a proprietary wearables chip that’s featured inside FreeBuds 3. The Kirin A1, as it’s called, successfully ensures a quick and easy pairing process with whatever device you’re using, although the benefits are most noticeable when using a Huawei phone.
To get started, it’s as easy as placing the earphones next to your Huawei and opening the charging case. A pop up will appear on the screen shortly after and a quick tap will pair them, allowing you to start using the FreeBuds 3 immediately.
If you own a different Android smartphone or an iPhone, you’ll need to head to the Bluetooth menu in the Settings app and press down on the charging case’s pair button. Once the FreeBuds 3 show up, tap the name and start listening, making the overall process quite simple.
The only real downside to using the FreeBuds 3 on non-Huawei phones is the lack of automatic pause & play. This can be quite useful when taking them out of your ears for a brief moment because it stops music instantly. Your media restarts once you’re wearing them again.
As mentioned earlier, there’s no Huawei AI Life app for iOS which, unfortunately, means there’s an extra downside for iOS buyers. That’s because uses can’t check the battery level for the earbuds and case while using them. Nevertheless, the average charge level for the FreeBuds 3 does appear in the operating system’s widgets menu.
While on the topic of connectivity, the company’s efforts to reduce latency during gaming are certainly worth pointing out. Thanks to the Kirin A1 chip, your device communicates with each earbud individually rather than to one main earbud which then connects to the second one.
Battery life and charging
Expanding on the topic of battery, Huawei’s FreeBuds 3 are rated for 4 hours of use on a single charge. These claims proved true in our testing and in many instances the earphones even exceeded the official numbers, although results will ultimately vary depending on the use case and the connected device.
The included charging case carries enough juice for another four charges, meaning you can almost reach the 24-hour mark without needing a top up. But if you do find yourself searching for a power outlet, the wait will be noticeably shorter than the industry standard thanks to Huawei’s technology.
It only takes about one hour to recharge the included case completely via a USB-C cable. This might sound like quite a long time for such a small item but Apple’s AirPods charging case takes around twice as long to refill, making Huawei’s achievement quite impressive.
Huawei’s latest wireless earphones pair everything we loved about AirPods, such as their design and simplicity, with active noise cancellation, vastly better microphones, improved compatibility across Android, and a wireless charging case.
The best part of it all is perhaps the price – €179 in Europe – which matches that of Apple’s standard AirPods option and positions FreeBuds 3 a whopping €50 below the AirPods model that ships with a wireless charging case.
As for who should buy Huawei’s FreeBuds 3, we’d recommend these wireless earphones to every AirPods fan out there rocking an Android smartphone. If you own an iPhone, it’s probably best to stay away because not all features are available, although the earphones are undoubtedly still a good purchase if you can live with that.
To summarize things in a short sentence, Huawei FreeBuds 3 are the AirPods alternatives we’ve been waiting for.