What’s the one thing the Apple AirPods don’t do well? It’s blocking out the noise around you. It’s not a deal-breaker, but Huawei decided it was a problem that needed fixing. The result is the Freebuds 3, open-air true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation, and a brand new custom chip inside. It also unabashedly looks like Apple’s AirPods.
The Freebuds 3 closely resemble the golf tee style made popular by the AirPods, and also have the same open-air design too, meaning it doesn’t seal inside your ear to keep out the noise from the street, aircraft, or loved ones. Despite this obvious handicap, Huawei has integrated active noise cancelation. Don’t expect complete isolation from the world — the Freebuds 3 will provide a 15-decibel reduction in ambient noise, which Huawei said is all that’s needed in most everyday environments.
The earbuds are designed to make great voice calls too. A bone sensor in the main cavity and a specially-adapted microphone in the stalk work together to reduce wind noise for clearer chats, to the point where Huawei said you can still hold a conversation with the Freebuds 3 while cycling at around 12 miles per hour.
For music, audio is generated by a 14mm high sensitivity dynamic driver in each earbud, which is paired to a bass tube for a stronger thump. A low latency time of 190ms makes it good for gaming, which to put into context, beats the AirPods 2’s latency time of 220ms, and the Samsung Galaxy Buds latency time of 564ms.
The battery inside will last for four hours before needing a recharge, and an additional 20 hours comes from the case itself. The Freebuds 3 supports wireless charging, and will take power from the P30 Pro’s reverse charging feature, too.
Making all this possible is a brand new wearable chip from Huawei, called the Kirin A1. It’s the first to use both Bluetooth 5.1 and Bluetooth Low Energy 5.1 protocols for solid connections and greater range. The small chip is designed not just for audio products, but also for smart speakers and wearables, which could include a future Huawei Watch GT smartwatch. Interestingly, the power consumption of the Kirin A1 is 50% lower than previous similar chips.
There are some features, such as support for certain high definition file formats, file decoding, and anti-interference systems that will only work with Huawei phones though, due to the Kirin A1 working better with other Huawei chips.
I tried the Freebuds 3 on but sadly couldn’t asses the noise reduction feature. I was also informed the sound profile was also only 75% complete, so listening to any music would not reflect what we’ll hear when the earbuds are finished.
If Huawei has added noise cancelation that takes away the worst of the background noise we put up with, it could have a winner here, because the Freebuds 3 is comfortable to wear. It’s really lightweight and stays secure in the ear.
The release date for the Freebuds 3 has not been announced at the time of writing and neither has the price. We will update this story when we know more.