Apple AirPods Pro are some of the best wireless earbuds on the market. Said to be "world-beating" quality in our official review, the in-ear headphones were the first AirPods to come with active noise cancellation. With a form-fitting, sound-muffling seal in your ears, outward-facing microphones pick up ambient sound and actively work to mute it.
Costing £249.00, the AirPods Pro's noise-cancelling technology was a big selling point for the premium wireless earbuds. However, in a shot fired across Apple's bow, challenger Huawei is offering active noise cancellation in a wireless earbud costing just £89.99 in the UK.
The Huawei Freebuds 3i are Huawei's budget range of true wireless, noise-cancelling earbuds. The Freebuds cancel ambient noise in a similar way to the AirPods Pro, using outward-facing mics to pick up and consequently muffle external sound by (allegedly) up to 32db.
The earbuds' intelligent mics are also said to ensure excellent call quality, with two outward-facing mics and a third, in-ear mic to regulate the voice in your ears. A single charge offers 3.5 hours of use extending to 14.5 hours with the case. This is obviously much weaker than the 4.5/24-hour charge time claimed by Apple's product,.
Huawei's offering also makes no mention of a "transparency mode" to filter ambient noise while out and about, although you are able to turn the active noise-cancelling feature on or off with a tap. Given the discrepancy in price, some differences were to be expected: to get a great pair of active noise-cancelling, true wireless earbuds for less than half the cost of the AirPods Pro is a move that should rattle the folks at Apple.
However, Huawei is overly keen to have you invest in the brand's ecosystem, which could be its downfall here. The buds offer smart features like wearing detection only with smartphones sporting Huawei's own EMUI OS, which will be a minority for most people.
In theory, it's not very different to Apple locking some of its more advanced AirPods Pro features behind iOS. In practice, Apple's products are a lot more ubiquitous than Huawei's, ever since Google chose to withhold access to Android and the Play Store over security concerns in some western countries.
This goes some way to limiting the appeal of Huawei Freebuds 3i. However, many users will either already be invested in Huawei's technology or just want a great pair of noise-cancelling earbuds for under £100. For these users, Huawei's new AirPods-challengers are set to be a bargain.
Huawei Freebuds 3i will release on May 20, priced at £89.99 in the UK.