Huawei’s turbulent smartphone business aside, the company has been quietly dishing up some fantastic hardware in the wearables segment. The company has launched products like the Huawei Watch GT 2 (Review) and Watch GT 2e (Review), which are among the best smartwatches in the sub-Rs 15,000 segment in India. Huawei also launched the FreeBuds 3 and FreeBuds 3i truly wireless earbuds in the country to grab a piece of the bustling TWS market. Today, I’m checking out the FreeBuds 3i, which are available at Rs 9,990.
The Huawei FreeBuds 3i come with Active Noise Cancellation, touch controls, and a battery life of up to 18 hours, among other things. I tried the truly wireless earbuds for a week and here’s what I found.
The Huawei FreeBuds 3i offer some really good features at an attractive price point. Active Noise Cancellation is a big sell here and the earbuds do a pretty good job at delivering on that. For Android users, the FreeBuds 3i are an easy recommendation.
Design and comfort
The Huawei FreeBuds 3i look very different from the FreeBuds 3i, from the case to the buds themselves. Instead of a puck-shaped charging case, you get an oblong-shaped case with the FreeBuds 3i. The case has a glossy finish that comes in Carbon Black or Ceramic White colours with matching colours for the earbuds. I received the black colour option, which is bound to show more smudges and fingerprints.
The lid of the case is definitely not easy to flick open with one hand as the slit is not well defined. The earbuds are flatly placed inside with strong magnets keeping them fixed in position. There is an LED indicator outside and inside the case to tell you how much battery life is left.
The earbuds have a cone-shaped design with silicon ear tips and a stem. The silicon tips, of course, make the FreeBuds 3i far more capable of blocking out external noise compared to open-fit earphones (such as the FreeBuds 3). The downside to this design, however, is that not many people are comfortable with having them in their ears for hours at a stretch. I am one of them.
Each earbud weighs around 5.5 grams, which makes them very slightly heavier than the Apple AirPods at 4 grams. With the silicone tips, I could not keep the FreeBuds 3i in my ears for very long as the seal combined with ANC felt uncomfortable. That being said, the earbuds fit really well and are much more likely to stay in your ears while running compared to open-fit earbuds. You get four different sizes of silicone tips in the box so you can find the best fit for you.
Connectivity and controls
The FreeBuds 3i are equipped with Bluetooth 5.0 and work any Bluetooth-enabled device such as an iPhone, iPad, Android phone, or laptop. Pairing is simple enough with a button on the back of the case that enables pairing mode. The FreeBuds 3i can seamlessly pair with a Huawei phone running EMUI 10 by simply opening the case.
The earbuds come with touch controls. You can double tap to play/pause music or answer/end calls and long-tap to enable or disable ANC. These controls work well most of the time. The FreeBuds 3i come with an Awareness mode, which is kind of the opposite of ANC. It can amplify external sounds, so you can listen to someone talking without having to pause the music. However, this mode can only be enabled via the Huawei AI Life app, which is not available for iPhone users. This also means that you won’t be able to download and install software updates on the FreeBuds 3i unless you have an Android phone.
Apart from a couple of times when the connection dropped during my runs, the FreeBuds 3i offer a pretty solid connectivity with both iPhones and Android phones. As for call quality, my experience wasn’t the best. To be more precise, the experience of the caller wasn’t the best. While I was able to clearly hear the caller, the person on the other end of the line could hear environmental sounds booming through the mic whenever I was running outdoors. Things were much better indoors, of course.
The FreeBuds 3i are equipped with 10mm dynamic drivers and sound good for most genres of music. I checked out Blinding Lights by The Weeknd which is a synth-pop song. The bass and lower sound frequencies sounded good without overpowering the vocals and other instruments. But this was not a consistent experience. In a song like Everyday Life by Coldplay, I found the bass to drown out the lovely piano and violin sounds and Chris Martin’s vocals.
I really enjoyed slow and minimal songs that focused on simple guitar or piano melodies and vocals, such as Mariners Apartment Complex by Lana Del Rey and I Guess I Just Feel Like by John Mayer. With Active Noise Cancellation, I could really immerse myself in these tunes and enjoy each and every sound.
ANC on the FreeBuds 3i is also great if you’re into podcasts and audiobooks. I’ve been listening to the Sherlock Holmes audiobook narrated by Stephen Fry on my runs. With ANC enabled, I could really focus on the narrative and retain a lot of what I had heard later on.
ANC manages to block out a lot of noise in your environment, but it’s not perfect. While running, you’ll hear some rustling as the wind passes through the earbuds. You’ll also be able to faintly hear people talking near you. But at this price point, you can’t complain much and the FreeBuds 3i are satisfying.
The FreeBuds 3i promise to deliver up to 3.5 hours on a single charge, while the charging case can offer up to 14.5 hours of battery life. It’s hard to gauge the accuracy of this claim, but I did find the earbuds delivering about 3 hours of battery life on a single charge with ANC enabled. My AirPods last a bit longer, while the AirPods Pro and Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus claim to deliver much better battery life. The FreeBuds take roughly 90 minutes to charge from zero to 100 percent.
The FreeBuds 3i are among the best truly wireless earphones you can get in India without having to spend a lot of money. At Rs 9,999, the FreeBuds 3i are cheaper than the FreeBuds 3 and are more capable ANC-enabled TWS earbuds. In fact, these are some of the best noise-cancelling earphones you can find in this segment.
The poor battery life and missing features like wireless charging and aptX support are some downsides to the FreeBuds 3i. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus do offer better battery life and sound quality, but you won’t get ANC. The Huawei FreeBuds 3i offer a lot to like (especially for Android users) and very little to take issue with, making them easy to recommend under Rs 10,000.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Good active noise cancellation
- Decent sound quality for most genres
- Affordable price
- Battery life could have been better
- May not be comfortable for all
- Bass can sometimes be overpowering