Huawei targets AirPods 3 with ridiculously cheap noise-cancelling earbuds

Huawei's new FreeBuds 4i offer AirPods Pro-like features, but for a ludicrously low price

Huawei FreeBuds 4i
(Image credit: Huawei)

Huawei is launching some new cheap true wireless headphones just in time to steal the AirPods 3's thunder. The specific thunder-theft here comes down to the price and features, because the Huawei FreeBuds 4i offers active noice cancellation for just £79.99. For Australian consumers, they're likely to cost around AU$150 - although global pricing and availability is yet to be confirmed. 

It wasn't that long ago we were raving about the Amazon Echo Buds bringing ANC to true wireless buds for just £119/AU$220, and now you can get the feature for another 33% lower price.

The Huawei FreeBuds 4i will offer an Awareness Mode for letting sounds through the ANC barrier as needed – the same as the transparency mode you get on most ANC headphones these days. Press and hold one earbud to allow sound in, and do the same to switch back to ANC.

Beam-forming mics are designed to help cut out ambient sound for speaking on calls as well, and a slit-duct dual-mic design is intended to tackle wind noise better (often the downfall of cheaper ANC products). Huawei also says there is "AI noise reduction technology" but at this point companies use AI to mean just about anything.

10mm drivers provide the sound, and Huawei says they've been tuned with pop music in mind. Huawei says to expect "crystal clear" sound – we'll have to see how they stand up against more of the best wireless earbuds, though.

Huawei Freebuds 4i

(Image credit: Huawei)

We've tested Huawei FreeBuds with noise cancellation before, and the offered solid music quality, but previous models didn't include an proper sealed in-ear fit – they just sat slightly in the ear, like Apple AirPods. This made the noise cancelling near-pointless, though, since sound just leaked in around the headphones.

The FreeBuds 4i have a eartips for proper noise isolation, though, making them more like AirPods Pro or Sony's WF-1000XM3. But for less than half the price. Whether they'll feel like they're half the price, we'll have to wait and see.

Huawei is promising 10 hours of battery life per charge with ANC turned off, or 7.5 hours with it on. The case offers more battery life, of course – Huawei promises 22 hours from a totally fully charged set (with ANC off, we believe). Huawei also says you should get four hours of use from a 10-minute charge, in a pinch.

The FreeBuds 4i come in black, white or red options, and the case looks pretty mid-size – possibly not as pocket-friendly as its competitors.

The black and white version will launch in the UK on March 26th 2021, with preorders opening March 12th. The red version will arrive in mid-April.

Matthew Bolton

Matt is T3's former AV and Smart Home Editor (UK), master of all things audiovisual, overseeing our TV, speakers and headphones coverage. He also covered smart home products and large appliances, as well as our toys and games articles. He's can explain both what Dolby Vision IQ is and why the Lego you're building doesn't fit together the way the instructions say, so is truly invaluable. Matt has worked for tech publications for over 10 years, in print and online, including running T3's print magazine and launching its most recent redesign. He's also contributed to a huge number of tech and gaming titles over the years. Say hello if you see him roaming the halls at CES, IFA or Toy Fair. Matt now works for our sister title TechRadar.