Huawei may have lost its global footprint, but the brand still remains popular with customers even in India. While the Chinese tech giant hasn’t released a noteworthy smartphone in the country for quite some time, it’s still sprucing up its smart-wearable portfolio with fitness trackers and TWS earbuds. Almost two months ago, Huawei launched the Huawei FreeBuds 4i TWS earbuds for Rs 7,990, and customers can choose between the Red Edition, Ceramic White and Carbon Black colors. Currently, the earbuds are available on Amazon for Rs 6,990.
We’re looking at the Carbon Black unit for this review that we’ve been testing for nearly two weeks. Initially, the company sent a Ceramic White color option, but it had to be replaced due to a technical problem. Anyway, both variants have a glossy finish and the Huawei FreeBuds 4i supports 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 overview.
Design: We’ll start with the charging case which is the same color as the earbuds. As mentioned, users can choose from four color options which are Red Edition, Ceramic White and Carbon Black colors. Since the pebble-shaped charging case also has a glossy finish, it leaves fingerprints behind. The case can be prone to scratches, so make sure you don’t carry keys in the same pocket.
The connect button is on the right side, which is not the easiest to find at first. But the most annoying part of the case is the lid which is incredibly smaller than the base. This means that when you plug in the earbuds via the button on the right, even the slightest amount of touch closes the lid, essentially affecting the connection process. The case also weighs about 36 grams, which is almost 15 grams lighter than the old-generation Huawei FreeBuds 3i.
The Huawei FreeBuds 4i, on the other hand, weigh exactly the same as their predecessor. Each button weighs 5.5 grams and has a long stem that supports touch control. Despite a long-stemmed design that some say is reminiscent of the first generation of Apple AirPods, the Huawei Free Buds 4i are comfortable to wear for hours on end. I mentioned this before in my previous review that I am not blessed with big ears, and wearing channel style earplugs is not always comfortable. However, these earplugs fit your ears well without causing any discomfort.
Finally, you also get three pairs of silicone tips in the box – small and large, and the medium tips are enabled 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 is support for Bluetooth. But you can only customize the touch controls through the Huawei AI Life app. We mainly tested the earbuds with an iPhone 12 that managed to connect the earbuds to the app. However, we were unable to connect to Android smartphones (Samsung Galaxy M52 5G and OnePlus 9R 5G). The company claims that the earbuds will also work with Android phones, without clarifying the model. I looked at some other reviews and even GSMArena faced a similar problem. The publication states that the Android app was able to connect the earbuds after scanning the QR code on the box.
In terms of sound quality, the audio on the Huawei FreeBuds 4i is clear, with a decent amount of bass. However, the bass isn’t exactly punchy compared to leagues like Jabra Elite 3 and Nothing Ear 1. Sadly you don’t get any equalizer modes in the app, although the good part is that the quality stays the same when plugged into an iPhone or Windows PC over Bluetooth (v5.2). The mid frequencies are usually balanced, but the highs and lows are just average. As a result, you do not experience the best beat drops and the earplugs do not offer the loudest sound. However, if you wear them for work or regular workouts (I mainly use earphones for these tasks), the Huawei earbuds offer decent performance for the price tag.
Fortunately there was no loss of connection and we got a range of about 30 meters, which is not bad at all. The Huawei AI Life app lets you customize gestures for both earbuds, and you can enable or disable wear detection that stops the music when you remove a single earbud. The app allows you to choose between ANC or Awareness modes, although you can’t customize their levels which you might expect, especially at the price of Rs 8,000. The ANC and Awareness modes are satisfactory and do not affect the balanced sound quality. There is no ‘find my buttons’ feature that you get on Nothing Ear 1 which costs Rs 6,999.
Finally, the sound quality during calls is clear and it even outperformed the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 which cost around Rs 12,000 in India. Each earbud comes with dual microphones, one on the bottom of the stem and the other on the top. You also get an IP54 rating for dust and water resistance, which is pretty good for the price tag.
Battery: If you are looking for earbuds with decent sound quality, i.e. mostly a balanced audio experience, with good battery life, the Huawei FreeBuds 4i offers a very satisfying performance. The Huawei Freebuds 4i have a 55 mAh power cell in each button, and the company claims 7.5 hours of continuous playback at 50 percent volume with ANC turned off and AAC mode turned on. Even with the volume level at about 80 percent, we managed to get about 6.5 hours of music playback time. This extends further when the ANC is turned off. Honestly, I didn’t even bother checking 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 is no support for wireless charging but that is the bargain a company is making if it keeps the price at Rs 8,000.
verdict: This finally brings us to the point of whether the Huawei Freebuds 4i are worth considering if you have earbuds in a similar price range, offering almost the same specs. On paper, the Nothing Ear 1 earbuds promise more features and are relatively cheaper. However, during our testing, we noticed that those earbuds need some refinement, and the company can address these issues with the latest Nothing Ear 1 Black Edition launched this week.
Huawei Freebuds 4i, on the other hand, offers satisfying sound quality with a long battery life and ANC – with an iPhone. But we’ve had issues connecting to the Huawei app on two Android phones, so please read the return policy thoroughly before making a purchase decision.