The wireless earbuds market is getting hyperactive, with every major tech company wanting to grab consumer attention by offering products at various price points. The latest player in the crowded truly wireless earbuds segment is Huawei, a company that has had a rough time in the smartphone space lately thanks 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 sound good? What about battery life? I used the Freebuds 4i in many situations like riding the metro, running in the morning with the buds on, and attending zillions of calls the entire week. Here is my review.
Huawei Freebuds 4i price in India (as reviewed): Rs 8345
Huawei Freebuds 4i review: Design and fit
The new Freebuds 4i look a lot like the AirPods Pro, which is not a surprise. I get that brands like Huawei often like to imitate Apple’s design just to follow a proven model. Anyway, now you know the Freedbuds 4i are a replica of the AirPods Pro.
This means the stem is shorter here, and they are comfortable to wear. The fit is almost perfect and in the first 15 minutes of use I started to forget that I am wearing a pair of earbuds.
The earbuds come with two sizes of silicone ear tips to help ensure a snug noise-isolating fit. These earbuds also come in a case that charges them. The oval-shaped case is easy to fit in your palm or pocket. The case has a glossy finish that attracts fingerprints and smudges. It features a pairing button on the right and a light indicator in the middle that changes colour from red to white when charging and pairing, respectively. The charging case weighs 36.5 grams and lacks support for wireless charging. It supports USB-C charging, however. One annoying thing I repeatedly faced while using the Freebuds 4i is that the earbuds are hard to remove from the case, especially when one’s hands are sweaty.
Huawei loaned a black case and buds, but you can also buy them in white and red colour options. Each bud feature a microphone and a built-in capacitive touch sensor near the top of the stem. Double-tapping these sensors will play or pause music. And tapping and holding the touch sensor for about three seconds will let you toggle between different modes, ‘ANC,’ ‘Awareness’ and ‘Off.’
Just like the newest AirPods 3, the Freebuds 4i are IPX4 rated, meaning they can hold splashing water. But don’t submerge them in the pool, though.
Huawei Freebuds 4i review: Setting it up
I paired the Freebuds 4i with my iPhone 13 mini and the setup process was easy. Just enable the 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 (Android support is also there) is basic, to say the least. The app gives you the exact info about how much battery is left on each bud and the case, along with the ability to tweak the noise control and gestures.
Huawei Freebuds 4i review: Sound quality and noise cancellation
When it comes to sound quality, the Freebuds 4i perform better than I was expecting. They don’t offer thumping bass, but the sound is clean with well-balanced mids and highs. Vocals are clear and present, and listening to songs like “Here comes the Sun” by The Beatles is delightful. The Freebuds 4i provide a rich and fulfilling listening experience but I do feel these buds shine when listening to pop music over bass-heavy tracks. Listening to podcasts and attending calls were fine.
The active noise cancellation (ANC) feature of the Freebuds 4i is reliable. The noise cancelling part is not as effective as you get on the AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3 but that’s expected. The good thing is the level of noise cancelling effect is good enough, and I am saying this only after thorough testing. Huawei has also included an awareness mode that allows you to hear the world around you when listening to music or attending calls. It works fine, but I am not a big fan of the so-called “transparency” mode. What always works best is to take your earbuds out of your ears and respond to people with full attention.
The Freebuds 4i provides 7.5 hours of music listening time on a single charge with ANC enabled or 10 hours when it’s disabled. I get between 6 and 7 hours of battery life when ANC is turned off and up to 5 hours when ANC is enabled. The case offers up to 22 hours of music playback
Huawei Freebuds 4i review: Should you buy them?
Huawei’s Freebuds 4i feature premium features like ANC and water resistance, all for under Rs 10,000. The overall quality is impressive. They provide a pleasant audio experience but you also need to realise that the Freebuds 4is are not targeted at audiophiles. These truly wireless earbuds are aimed at mainstream users and professional audio quality isn’t a priority here. I wish Huawei had spent a bit more time designing the buds that look different from Apple’s. Competition is cut-throat in the budget for truly wireless earbuds, so keep your options open. The Freebuds 4i do seem likable, but they aren’t necessarily must-haves.