Huawei may have lost its global footprint, but the brand still remains popular among customers, even in India. Although the Chinese tech giant has not launched a notable smartphone in the country for quite some time, it is still refreshing its smart-wearable portfolio with fitness trackers and TWS earbuds. Nearly two months ago, Huawei launched the Huawei FreeBuds 4i TWS earbuds for Rs 7,990, and customers can choose between Red Edition, Ceramic White, and Carbon Black colours. Currently, the earbuds are available on Amazon for Rs 6,990.
We are looking at the Carbon Black unit for this review that we’ve tested used for nearly two weeks. Initially, the company sent a Ceramic White colour option, but that had to be replaced due to a technical issue. Either way, both variants feature a glossy finish and the Huawei FreeBuds 4i support active noise cancellation (ANC). In case you’re wondering how the TWS earbuds work with a non-Huawei smartphone, which is mainly Android or iOS, here’s our breakdown.
Design: We’ll start with the charging case that adopts the same colour as the earbuds. As mentioned, users can choose between four colour options, namely Red Edition, Ceramic White, and Carbon Black colours. Since the pebble-shaped charging case also has a glossy finish, it leaves fingerprint marks. The case can be prone to scratch marks, so make sure you’re not carrying keys in the same trouser pocket.
The connectivity button sits on the right side, which is not the easiest to locate at first. But the most infuriating part of the case is the lid that is incredibly smaller than the base. It means when you are connecting the earbuds via the button on the right, even the slightest amount of touch shuts the lid – essentially affecting the connecting process. Also, the case weighs roughly 36 grams, which is nearly 15 grams lighter than the old-gen Huawei FreeBuds 3i.
The Huawei FreeBuds 4i, on the other hand, weigh exactly the same as their predecessor. Each bud weighs 5.5 grams and features a long stem that supports touch control. Despite a long-stem design that some may say is reminiscent of Apple AirPods first-gen, the Huawei Free Buds 4i are comfortable to wear for long hours. I’ve said this before in my past review that I am not blessed with big ears, and wearing in-canal-style earbuds aren’t always comfortable. However, these earbuds fit snugly in your ears without causing any discomfort.
Lastly, you also get three pairs of silicone tips in the box – small and large, and the medium-sized tips are on by default.
App compatibility and performance: In terms of app connectivity, users can connect the Huawei FreeBuds 4i to any smartphone or PC if there’s support for Bluetooth. But you can tweak touch controls only via the Huawei AI Life app. We tested the earbuds mostly with an iPhone 12 that managed to connect the buds with the app. However, we failed to establish a connection with Android smartphones (Samsung Galaxy M52 5G and OnePlus 9R 5G). The company claims that the earbuds work with Android phones as well, without clarifying the model. I did check out some other reviews, and even GSMArena faced a similar problem. The publication notes that the Android app was able to connect the earbuds after scanning the QR code on the box.
Coming to the sound quality, the audio on the Huawei FreeBuds 4i is crisp, with a decent amount of bass. Though, the bass is not exactly punchy in comparison to competitions such as Jabra Elite 3 and Nothing Ear 1. Sadly, you don’t get equaliser modes on the app, though the good part is the quality remains the same when connected to an iPhone or Windows PC via Bluetooth (v5.2). The mid-frequencies are mostly balanced out, but the highs and lows are just average. That means you won’t experience the best beat drops, and the earbuds don’t offer the loudest sound. However, if you’re wearing them for work or regular workouts (I use earphones for mainly these tasks), the Huawei earbuds offer decent performance for the price tag.
Fortunately, there wasn’t any connection drop, and we got a connectivity range of roughly 30 metres, which isn’t bad at all. The Huawei AI Life app will let you tweak gestures for both earbuds, and you can enable/disable wear detection that stops the music when you remove a single earbud. The app lets you select between ANC or awareness modes, though you cannot tweak their levels that one may expect, especially at the Rs 8,000-price point. The ANC and awareness modes are satisfactory and do not affect the balanced sound quality. There’s no ‘find my buds’ feature that you get on Nothing Ear 1 that cost Rs 6,999.
Lastly, the audio quality during calls is clear and performed even better than Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 that cost roughly Rs 12,000 in India. Each earbud comes with dual-mics, one at the bottom of the stem and the other at the top. You also get an IP54 rating for dust and water resistance, which is pretty good for the price tag.
Battery: If you’re looking for earbuds that offer decent sound quality, that is, mostly a balanced audio experience, with good battery life, the Huawei FreeBuds 4i offer very satisfactory performance. The Huawei Freebuds 4i have a 55mAh power cell in each bud, and the company claims 7.5 hours of continuous playback time at 50 percent volume with ANC turned off, and AAC mode enabled. Even with the volume level at roughly 80 percent, we managed to get roughly 6.5 hours of music playback time. This extends further when the ANC is off. Honestly, I didn’t even bother to check the battery levels and used the earbuds on the go for a week without charging them once.
The charging case comes with a USB Type-C port, so you can use a modern Android phone charger. There’s no wireless charging support, but that’s the bargain a company makes when keeping the price at Rs 8,000-mark.
Verdict: This finally brings us to a point of whether the Huawei Freebuds 4i are worth considering when you have earbuds at a similar price range, offering almost the same specifications. On paper, the Nothing Ear 1 earbuds promise more features and cost comparatively cheaper. However, during our test, we did notice those earbuds need some refinement, and the company may address these issues with the latest Nothing Ear 1 Black Edition that launched this week.
Huawei Freebuds 4i, in comparison, offer a satisfactory sound quality with great battery life and ANC – with an iPhone. But, we did face issues while connecting them to the Huawei app on two Android phones, so make sure you read the return policy thoroughly before making any purchase decisions.