With the wireless earbuds market becoming hyperactive, every major tech company seeks to capture consumer attention by offering products at different price points. The latest player in the crowded true wireless earbuds segment is Huawei, a company that recently had a tough time in the smartphone space due to sanctions by the US.
Huawei’s FreeBuds 4i takes the hit formula of bringing features like active noise cancellation (ANC) to the mass market. But do they look good? What about battery life? I used the FreeBuds 4i in a variety of situations, such as riding the subway, running in the morning, and making calls throughout the week. Here is my review.
Huawei Freebuds 4i price in India (as per review): Rs 8345
Huawei Freebuds 4i Review: Design and Fit
The new FreeBuds 4i looks a lot like the AirPods Pro, which is no surprise. I find that brands like Huawei often like to copy Apple’s design in order to follow a proven model. Anyway, now you know that Freebuds 4i is a replica of AirPods Pro.
This means that the stem is short here, and they are comfortable to wear. The fit is almost perfect and within the first 15 minutes of use I started forgetting that I was wearing a pair of earbuds.
The earbuds come with two sizes of silicone ear tips that help ensure a snug noise-isolating fit. These earbuds also come in a case that lets them charge. The oval shaped case is easy to fit in your palm or pocket. The case has a glossy finish which attracts fingerprints and blemishes. It has a pairing button on the right and a light indicator in the middle that changes from red to white while charging and pairing respectively. The charging case weighs 36.5 grams and doesn’t have support for wireless charging. However, it supports USB-C charging. One annoying thing I encountered repeatedly while using the FreeBuds 4i is that it is difficult to remove the earbuds from the case, especially when one has sweaty hands.
Huawei lent a black case and buds, but you can also buy them in white and red color options. Each bud has a microphone and a built-in capacitive touch sensor near the top of the stem. Tapping these sensors twice will play or pause the music. And by tapping and holding the touch sensor for about three seconds, you’ll be able to toggle between different modes, ‘ANC,’ ‘Awareness’ and ‘Off’.
Like the latest AirPods 3, the Freebuds 4i are IPX4 rated, which means they can hold up to splashes of water. But don’t drown them in the pool, though.
Huawei Freebuds 4i review: Setting it up
I paired the Freebuds 13 with my iPhone 4i and the setup process was easy. Simply enable Bluetooth on your smartphone, open the charging case, press the pairing button, and the Buds are connected to your phone or tablet. The Huawei AI Life app, available to download via the Apple App Store (there’s also Android support), is basic, to say the least. The app gives you precise information on how much battery is left in each bud and case, as well as the ability to tweak noise controls and gestures.
Huawei Freebuds 4i review: Sound quality and noise cancellation
When it comes to sound quality, the FreeBuds 4i performs better than I expected. They don’t offer thumping bass, but sound is clean, with well-balanced mids and highs. The vocals are clear and present, and it’s enjoyable to listen to songs like “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles. The FreeBuds 4i delivers a rich and satisfying listening experience but I find these buds shine when listening to pop music on bass-heavy tracks. Listening to podcasts and attending calls was fine.
The Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) feature of the FreeBuds 4i is reliable. The noise-canceling part isn’t as effective as what you find on the AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3, but it’s expected. The good thing is that the level of noise-canceling effect is good enough, and I’m saying this only after a thorough test. Huawei has also included an awareness mode that allows you to hear the world around you while listening to music or attending calls. It works fine, but I’m not a big fan of the so called “transparency” mode. What always works best is to remove your earbuds from your ears and answer people attentively.
The FreeBuds 4i offers 7.5 hours of music listening time on a single charge with ANC enabled or 10 hours when disabled. I get 6 to 7 hours of battery life when ANC is off and up to 5 hours of battery life with ANC enabled. The case offers up to 22 hours of music playback
Huawei Freebuds 4i review: Should you buy them?
Huawei’s FreeBuds 4i comes with premium features like ANC and water resistance, which are priced under Rs 10,000. The overall quality is impressive. They deliver a pleasant audio experience but you also have to realize that the FreeBuds 4is not targeted at audiophiles. These truly wireless earbuds are aimed at mainstream users and professional audio quality is not a priority here. I wish Huawei had spent a little more time designing buds that looked different from Apple. There’s a competition cut-off in the budget for truly wireless earbuds, so keep your options open. The FreeBuds 4i look likeable, but they aren’t necessarily good.