Reviewed: Why I switched from Apple AirPods to Huawei FreeBuds 4i

Top wireless earphones you can get today

13 April 2021 - 10:00 By Tiana Cline
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Why you should get the Huawei FreeBuds 4i.
Why you should get the Huawei FreeBuds 4i.
Image: Supplied/Huawei

I always preferred over-the-ear wireless headphones, but lately I’ve taken a liking to earbuds. As someone deep within the Apple ecosystem, I loved the idea of AirPods when they first launched a few years ago ... in concept. In reality, they really hurt my ear cartilage and I ended up switching back to my regular, chunky, reliable headphones.

But not all earbuds are made the same (or for the same ears) and Huawei’s new FreeBuds 4i True Wireless Stereo earphones are, first and foremost, really comfortable. If anything, I’ve come to realise that while I do still use an iPhone, there are many, better brands for me when it comes to earbud fit (and function).

At about R5,000, the latest Apple AirPods Pro are pricey yet the Huawei FreeBuds 4i are only R1,499 and have active noise cancellation (ANC). Huawei is known for making great wearables — the GT 2 Pro smartwatch is brilliant — and after using the FreeBuds 4i for a while, this is what I’ve discovered.

One of the biggest differentiators of Huawei’s FreeBuds 4i is the touch controls. While most earbuds such as AirPods opt for single taps, the double-tap on the FreeBuds 4i is surprisingly intuitive and leaves little space for error. If you’re watching a series in bed lying down, it’s easy to accidentally touch an earbud as you move your head. This slight touch results in what you’re watching pausing, which can be frustrating.

The double-touch (to play and pause) means that when you do want to take a break, it’s entirely up to you. Huawei has put the touch controls at the top of the earbud stem and with them, you can also cycle between the two key modes — ANC and awareness, or turn either mode off. When you’re in your ear, a voice notification will tell you what mode is on so there’s no doubt.

While many other brands of earbuds offer ANC, none of them do it at the price point of the FreeBuds 4i. With other ANC earbuds, I’ve occasionally experienced a weird, low-frequency sound that makes me feel like a theremin, but with the FreeBuds 4i, there’s none of that. What’s more is that these earbuds have a 55mAh battery and another 215mAh battery in the charging case.

Watch the video below:

Without ANC off, you can get 10 hours of battery life, and with ANC on, 7.5. It’s impressive. (You’re getting a better battery life than Apple’s AirPod Pros, which only offer 4.5 hours of listening time.) In addition to this, popping the FreeBuds 4i back into their case for just 10 minutes can give you four hours of power.

What I’ve come to learn with earbuds is not to underestimate the convenience of the charging case. With the FreeBuds 4i, they slip in easily and close with a comforting snap. I’ve struggled with other earbuds, especially late into the night when you’ve promised yourself “just one more episode” and then discover it’s 2am. The case also makes pairing the earbuds with your phone incredibly simple.

Huawei FreeBuds 4i.
Huawei FreeBuds 4i.
Image: Supplied/Huawei

You open up the case and the earbuds are paired. There’s no endless Bluetooth searches for the device or discovering only one earbud is connected (yes, this has happened to me) — it just works.

The only thing that I’ve found with the FreeBuds 4i is that usually with earbuds, when you take one out your ear — or if one happens to fall out your ear — whatever you’re listening to pauses. This is not the case with the FreeBuds 4i, but it’s something so small that you’ll eventually get used to.

The market is flooded with cheap, copycat, no-name brand wireless earbuds and expensive, unimpressive options. Huawei FreeBuds 4i come with pretty much everything you would want out of a pair of earbuds. They’re affordable, but feature-rich, and I won’t be going back to over-ear headphones any time soon.

Huawei FreeBuds 4i at R1,499, get a bundle offer worth R978, which includes Huawei Mini Speaker valued at R599, protective case cover valued at R199 and Huawei Music three-month subscription valued at 180. Get this at the Huawei Online Store.

This article was paid for by Huawei.