Completely wireless earbuds have sporadically become the newest craze with many companies hopping on board and with Apple leading the charge with their AirPods.
Huawei has responded to the AirPods and AirPods Pro with the Freebuds 3 which look fairly similar to the AirPods, but have the option of a glossy black colour to stand out from the crowd.
They Freebuds 3 differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack, thanks to features like active noise cancelling. That’s a world first for open-fit earbuds, and something that Apple only added to the AirPods Pro which are still bud-like earbuds.
The Freebuds 3 are more comfortable than AirPods Pro as they don’t need to be stuck right into your ear to fit well and don’t require multiple size options according to your ear canal size.
The Freebuds 3 have a similar design to AirPods with the open-fit style, making them much easier to fit in the ear. They comfortably sit in any sized ear canal with no dramas.
The Freebuds 3 are super comfy to wear and we were able to wear them for hours on end with ease – you literally forget they are even there!
They did incredibly well to avoid falling out, even when running, which is a huge plus for earbuds as such. They are the perfect companion for your running/fitness needs.
The FreeBuds 3 are IPX4-certified. That means you shouldn’t be worried about small bits of water like sweat or rain, but don’t try to wash them or use them in the pool.
The case is a big part of the FreeBuds 3 experience – just like the earbuds, it feels lightweight, but well-made, even if it’s the fanciest. The spring-loaded lid closes with a satisfying snap – a really quite thorough snap which we loved.
Overall, the design is neat with a black and white option, differentiating you from the white-only AirPods crowd. It fits snug into your ear and has plenty of features to please all users (both iOS and Android).
I was quite impressed with the sound quality of the Huawei FreeBuds 3. The sound is rich and enlightening around the middle. You don’t get the deep rumbling bass you’d get from other types of headphones that have large drivers (more so over-ear headphones), but given its form factor, it’s more than adequate for my tastes and listening habits. The bass in this particular form factor is quite impressive nonetheless.
Active noise cancelling is there to fend off off outside noise. I was able to hear it in action, but the conditions had to be suitable for it to be optimal. The ANC did well to block out some noise, but not all. Obviously, over-ear headphones, or earbuds that are not open-fit, will have more luck blocking out noise.
Outside noise can drown out some frequencies, especially at the low end. That might be a dealbreaker for some, but its the case with all open-fit designs, and something you’ll have to deal with the FreeBuds 3 (and also the Apple AirPods 2).
If you use the FreeBuds 3 in quiet environments, you’ll probably want to keep ANC off (or tone it down using AI Life) to improve battery life as it may not be as necessary.
Regardless, ANC is still a great feature to have handy, and I would definitely activate it when travelling even for that extra bit of cancellation.
Ease of use
The FreeBuds 3 lack any physical controls, except for the pairing button on the case. Instead, you control them with double-tap gestures or through the AI Life app – same concept as the AirPods.
Without altering the app, a double tap on the left earbud toggles the active noise cancelling. A double tap on the right bud starts playback (if it’s stopped) or skips to the next track – this cannot be changed with an iPhone as there is no iOS app yet.
The taps need to be done with a fair bit of oomph. More options for single tap/double tap etc can be found in the app.
You can adjust what the gestures do from the AI Life app – on Android only. You can set them to play/pause media or to wake the voice assistant, or just disable them completely. You can also adjust the strength of the active noise cancellation as well which I would highly recommend!
See below the app in action:
Huawei’s “Isochronous Dual Channel connection” technology is also exclusive to EMUI 10 devices. It sends data to each earbud individually, which has a few benefits: improved battery life, lower latency, and higher transmission rates. Other manufacturers send data to one earbud, and then it’s bounced off to the other earbud, which is less efficient, uses more battery and sends the waves through your head.
Huawei EMUI 10 devices also have the added benefit of a pop-up display like the AirPods for Apple products.
Charging is done through a USB-C cable (included) or wirelessly. If you go the wireless route, you can use a Huawei’s own wireless SuperCharger, or a phone with reverse wireless charging.
With a full charge, the FreeBuds 3 should last you about 4 hours of continuous playback. Enabling the active noise cancelling will draw a bit more battery life. Best results come when using a Huawei device running EMUI 10. A fully charged case will add an extra 16 hours, bringing total battery life to 20 hours.
Overall, we were impressed with the Freebuds 3. They offer plenty of features at a reasonable price and work well with both iOS and Android devices. An iOS app would be useful, but the double tap still works as standard without utilising any app. The sound is great and the noise cancelling does well, especially with the open-fit design which is the most comfortable of all in-ear earbuds.
Huawei FreeBuds 3: Tech and specs
- Kirin A1 chip with Bluetooth 5.1 and BLE 5.1 (world first)
- Codecs: AAC, SBC
- Isochronous dual channel connection (smaller power consumption, higher transmission rate)
- Active noise cancellation (world first for open-fit earphones), adaptive, up to 15dB
- 190ms minimum latency (with compatible devices)
- 2.5 second connection time
- Bone sensor for clear voice pick-up
- Anti-wind-noise design
- 14mm driver with dedicated bass tube
- Wired charging: USB Type-C (5V 1.2A 6W)
- Wireless charging: Qi standard (2W)
- Battery: 30mAh per earbud, 410mAh per case.
- Battery life: 4h (earbuds only), 20h (with charging case)
- Weight: about 4.5g per earbud, 48g for the case
See our unboxing and hands on with the Freebuds 3: