Apple’s Airpods are a big deal and may be the go-to for iPhone users and fans of the tech giant, although there are plenty of great alternatives for music lovers and Android users looking to get in on the wireless earbuds action.
Enter FreeBuds 3. The latest generation wireless earbuds from Huawei are ultra-slim and borrow (or steal) design cues from AirPods. They appear so similar that untrained eyes will likely mistake the FreeBuds for AirPods, which is unnecessary, as Huawei already possesses a reputation for quality hardware. However you feel about the design similarities, there’s no denying that the FreeBuds are sleek as hell!
FreeBuds 3 recently became available in Australia, with Huawei describing them as the world’s first truly open-fit active noise cancellation Bluetooth earphones. This means there are no silicone tips to create that uncomfortable feeling in your ear canal. The bad news is the open-fit design restricts active noise cancellation from blocking out as much noise as you would like.
The sound quality is surprisingly good for such small speakers. Inside, 14.2mm dynamic drivers produce a pleasing mid-range with bass that delivers reasonable performance for the size. The sound quality does drop when the volume is pushed to the max, but there should be no reason to play in-ear media at such high volumes.
FreeBuds 3 offers up to 4 hours of continuous playback with noise cancelling switched off, and around 3 hours with noise-cancelling switched on. The wireless charging case takes around 1 hour to charge the buds, offering 3 additional charges, so about 20 hours of total playback. That’s not quite as long as AirPods Pro, which offers around 5 hours per charge, and is something to consider before making a purchase.
The FreeBuds themselves are slim and glossy with chrome tips. Each weighs just 4.5 grams. The charging case is round and smaller than a box of matches with a reflective Huawei logo on the front and USB Type C charging port at the base. The combined weight of the case and Buds comes in at 60 grams. There’s no reason why the Buds shouldn’t be slipped in a pocket or bag and carried daily. With an IPX4 splash-resistant rating, the Buds can also accompany you to the pool or beach.
Tapping the left Bud pauses and plays audio, while double-tapping activates and deactivates noise cancelling. Double tapping the right Bud skips tracks. Unfortunately, there are no controls for volume. You will need to revert to the connected phone.
One of the best features of the Buds is their ability to sense when they are being removed or inserted back into an ear and automatically play or pause the audio. It’s perfect for when listening to tunes at work or at any time when you’re likely to be interrupted.
FreeBuds 3 retail for AUD $299 and are available in two colours – Carbon Black and Ceramic White. The price point is slightly higher than the standard Apple AirPods, at around $250, yet $100 cheaper than the AirPods Pro at $399, which, feature-wise, are the main competition for Huawei’s latest Buds.
Even with underwhelming active noise cancelling, the third generation of Huawei’s FreeBuds make a highly portable and pleasing audio companion to slip in a pocket and whip out whenever in the mood for some tunes or a podcast. They sure do look like Apple’s AirPods but offer enough in the way of sound performance and sleek design to stand tall on their own.
You can pick up a pair of FreeBuds 3 from Vodafone and Optus stores, Amazon and Kogan online. For more on Huawei, see how the P30 Pro smartphone and its Leica camera can elevate the skills of any amateur photographer.
The writer received a set of FreeBuds 3 for review courtesy of Huawei