When Huawei released the Freebuds 3 back in 2019, it was competing in a very new market which Apple’s Airpods had opened up. Since then, the world of wireless earbuds has expanded massively, and the company has released several alternative wireless earbuds selections, such as the ‘i’ series of budget-friendly ANC earbuds and the more premium Freebuds Pro line. Two years have passed, and Huawei is going right back to the original that started it all with a new release, the unsurprisingly named Huawei Freebuds 4.
The Freebuds 3 wasn’t something that we were impressed with at the time. Its successor doesn’t offer too much in the way of new features, but after using the earbuds, it is very much a noticeable improvement over the previous generation.
In terms of how the Huawei Freebuds 4 looks, there hasn’t been any changes to the overall design. It still comes in with the same circular compact case-like charging case and the earbuds also still use the open-fit design as seen on Apple’s audio products. The only difference between the two is that the charging case for the Freebuds 4 is smaller than the 3’s, but it is only by a small amount that isn’t too discernable.
What is more noticeable is the new colour that it comes with. It borrows the same Silver Frost finish from the Huawei Freebuds Pro in addition to the returning Ceramic White. Unfortunately, those two are the only options available currently, which is a decrease from the previous selection of three colours.
While I do like the aesthetics of the silver look of the entire package, I do have problems with it functionally — at least in terms of the earbuds. Despite looking rather sleek, the chrome finish is rather slippery on the surface, which makes trying to take out the earbuds a tricky affair. Expect to have multiple tries as you have a go at it.
But overall, the Huawei Freebuds 4 presented an enjoyable experience to use. The case that it comes with is small and doesn’t take up much space in the pockets. It’s also very lightweight and easy to carry, making it comfortable to bring around when out and about.
The earbuds themselves have undergone some changes. They feel much lighter than before (weighing just 4.1 grams), and the result is that you barely feel them in your ears when wearing them. It’s great to wear for long periods of time. The open-fit design helps in that regard, mitigating the uncomfortableness of sweat build up as experienced with in-ear wireless earbuds.
However, open-fit wireless earbuds are something of a coin toss in terms of fitting into a person’s ear. If these types of earbuds aren’t something that your ears are comfortable with, it’s doubtful that the Huawei Freebuds 4 would change that, even if they are a little bit smaller than before. If it’s possible, you should try them on first before purchasing.
As with the Freebuds 3, the Huawei Freebuds 4 produces a very solid audio performance.
Sound clarity is a big part of a good wireless earbud, and luckily, the Freebuds 4 does it well. Whether it be the instruments or the vocals, you’ll be able to enjoy them both without the other muffling each other out.
Bass gets a boost, with the earbuds providing more of a kick than its predecessor. Due to the open-fit nature of the design, the punch from it isn’t as powerful as in-ear earbuds, and you’ll probably still need to raise the volume a little more than usual to feel the full effect. Still, it nonetheless provides a full-sounding audio performance overall.
Similarly, rock tunes are great to listen to as well. There’s an addictive quality to the listening experience as you listen to a guitar solo or a drummer going off on their instrument during a song, with the earbuds giving off the ‘oomph’ during those sequences.
In general, the music listening experience is a positive one on the Huawei Freebuds 4. Other than pop and rock music, the earbuds also sound great with jazz beats and instrumentals. This isn’t going to sway audiophiles away from their specialised audio devices, but I was pleased with the overall performance, and so should the general crowd.
I’m still a little underwhelmed about using it for podcasts though, at least when using it outdoors. Music has many things going for it, with the instruments and vocals usually happening all at once, so I never had a problem listening to it when out and about. Podcasts are only about the voice, so it sounds soft when I’m listening outdoors due to the outside noise filtering in; I always have to put my volume near the max to hear anything comfortably.
So why not use the active noise cancellation then? After all, it is a feature of the earbuds.
Yes it is, and they aren’t bad at all to be honest — the ANC blocks out a decent amount of outside noise when in use. It admittedly isn’t quite up to the isolation provided by in-ear ANC earbuds, and you still might hear voices from chatter or environmental noise sneak in. Still, the noise-cancellation capabilities make enough of a difference to be utilised in noisy scenarios.
Rather, the problem I have with it is the implementation. I’ve raised concerns before about the mic — which takes in the outside noise and neutralises it to isolate the sound — picking up the wind and producing a static-y noise, akin to someone blowing into the microphone. It’s the same again for the Huawei Freebuds 4. The mic is still sensitive to wind, and if you’re in an environment that is remotely breezy or even just walking fast, you’ll hear the annoying sound.
Instead, ANC use should really only be limited at home or if you’re stationary. Only then does its benefits come to the fore as the issue of static noise gets negated.
Control features for the Huawei Freebuds 4 are relatively standard. Out of the box, wearers use double-taps, swiping up and down, and long presses to play/pause music, change volume, and toggle ANC, respectively. You can change what the double-tap gesture does via the accompanying A.I. Life app, but that is another whole can of worms in itself.
The app is still not available on the Apple App Store, so iPhone users will miss out on switching around the control functions. It is available on the Google Play Store for Android. However, as mentioned in my experience with the Huawei Freebuds Pro, the app is still yet to be updated to the latest version — meaning that you can’t add the Freebuds 4 onto the app because it doesn’t recognise it. Consequently, you can’t access the app’s features.
Huawei’s own app store, AppGallery, is the only place containing the most up-to-date A.I. Life version. So to get that version to detect the earbuds, you either need to have a Huawei phone or download the app through the web portal site for AppGallery on Android.
Not that you need to go through the extra hoops anyway; the app’s features are pretty basic. It tells you the battery percentage for the individual earbuds and charging case. It lets you change gesture controls, tweak ANC levels, switch equaliser settings, play a tune to find your earbuds, and enable a hearing enhancement.
The ANC level and equaliser settings are disappointingly rudimentary. There are only two options available for both — ANC has a comfort setting for indoor use and a general default option, while the equaliser shows only choices between boosting treble or bass.
The hearing enhancement feature helps to boost voices for clearer listening and applies to both calls and media. I wouldn’t recommend using it for music though, as it muffles the background for instruments and makes the listening experience much less enjoyable.
What both Apple and Android users can enjoy is the new dual connection feature. You can now connect to two devices simultaneously on the Huawei Freebuds 4, making using the wireless earbuds on multiple devices much more straightforward. It’s not perfect for sure; you have to stop whatever it is you’re playing before switching over. If you don’t, the device you wanted to switch over to won’t play what you want, and it might even disconnect. But overall, it is a great feature to finally get.
Huawei Freebuds 4 sees a great deal of improvement for the battery. It still touts the same 4-hour battery life without ANC and 2 and half hours with it, and upon using the earbuds, those stats seem to be generally accurate for the most part.
The improvement lies more in the charging case. It now gives 22 hours of full use without ANC (two hours more than before), and it also fast charges the earbuds for 2 and half hours worth of music playback in just 15 minutes. A full charge for the case takes a mere 30 minutes as well.
But the best thing about the charging case yet, is that it doesn’t sap the battery too much when I’ve not been using it. It has been a major problem for me regarding the other Huawei audio devices (excluding Freebuds Pro). It usually means that I’ll find the earbuds nearly drained dry after not using them for three to four days. The Huawei Freebuds 4 has so far not displayed this problem thankfully.
The new Huawei Freebuds 4 is a significant update over the previous generation, while still keeping the superb audio performance. Improvements have been made to the ANC and battery life, and it now is lighter than ever, which makes wearing the earbuds a delightful and comfortable experience.
Problems still linger in terms of the frustrating static noise produced by the ANC and the overall hoo-ha with the A.I. Life app version. Having experienced them in multiple Huawei audio devices, it makes you wonder whether Huawei has any intention of fixing them.
These earbuds however, do come with a new lowered price, which now makes them cheaper than Apple’s regular AirPods. So if you’re looking for open-fit wireless earbuds, the Huawei Freebuds 4 is an easy recommendation.
Photos by Darren Chiong of the DANAMIC Team.