Nokia does have some nice audio accessories in the market, and RichGo made also interesting products which unfortunately aren’t available globally. Generally, the main problem of the current portfolio of Nokia branded audio accessories is the poor availability and awareness of those products, which are quite good. But, to appreciate one product, you need to test many others and compare the products of the competition. Since Nokia Mobile and Nokia announced some nicely looking earbuds, we asked Huawei to send us their latest true wireless earbuds with Active Noise cancellation technology, and they gladly have sent us the Huawei FreeBuds 4i.
The FreeBuds have been released not long ago, on March 31st, and the buds belong to the affordable class of true wireless earbuds with ANC technology. Each bud has a 55 mAh battery that powers a 10 mm driver for 7 hours with ANC turned on, and 10 hours without it. The charging case is small, made of glossy polycarbonate that doesn’t feel expensive, and it brings a 215 mAh battery that can be charged over USB-C.
The box is quite small, the same size as the case of the Nokia Power Earbuds Lite, with the photo of the buds in the color of the product (well done Huawei) and the essential info on its back. The box carries the charging case with buds inside, three sizes of silicone ear tips, USB-C charging cable and at the bottom a smaller box with a simple Quick start guide, Safety information, and Warranty card.
The case is shaped like a pebble you would pick on the beach and take it home with you. The backside of the case is flat, but there is no wireless charging, not at least in this price range. There is a physical button on the right for starting the BT discovery mode of the buds (2-second press) and a hard reset (press 10 seconds) and a multicolor LED notification light. At the bottom, there is a USB-C charging port.
The case is rather small and quite comfortable to wear. It is just slightly smaller than the case of the Nokia Power Earbuds Lite, but that case has a larger 600 mAh battery. The battery inside the FreeBuds 4i case has just 215 mAh, and it takes up to 30 minutes to charge it fully.
The case doors can’t be opened the whole time like the doors of the Nokia Power Earbuds, but with a reason, since when you open them, the buds quickly connect to Huawei device with EMUI 10 or above, or with any other device (my Nokia 8.3 5G for example) if it was previously paired with.
Even though the design of the case is great, I don’t like the glossy finish of the plastic since it leaves the feeling you are handling cheap buds, and it attracts dust like crazy. The case door is not the tightest one but is not wobbly as seen in the Nokia Power earbuds case, and does have a magnetic lock.
The buds do have that Airpod like design, with a mic part sticking out of your ear. But, they are pretty light and comfortable to wear even after hours. I tried running around with them, and if the tips are right, they won’t be falling from your ears. There aren’t any physical buttons, just a few perforations for the microphones that have a huge importance in the noise-canceling business, a magnet at the bottom, and the mark for the left or right earbud.
The controls of the buds are simple and done over a capacitive sensor in the upper outer part of the bud. You need to press twice to start or stop the music and also to take or end a call. Longer press activates Noise Cancellation, Awareness mode and turns those modes off. Huawei Community did a nice graphic explaining how noise cancellation works on FreeBuds 4i.
Unfortunately, there are no volume or music controls and I wonder why Huawei didn’t implement those controls. It shouldn’t be a problem, but maybe the firmware update will include those.
Pairing & sound quality
The pairing with Nokia 8.3 5G and Huawei P30 Pro is quick. You just need to open the case, press the physical button on for two seconds (white notification light turns on) and the buds will pop up in the BT settings. On Huawei devices, an icon pops up right after you open the case, and from there you can see the battery percentage or do the basic settings of the buds.
The sound is of the FreeBuds 4i is of great quality. You can enjoy listening to music with deep bases or enjoy every little detail of the classical composition. When watching the movies or MrNokia’s videos, I didn’t notice a latency problem, and the sound transfer is instant.
The ANC option takes most of the deeper sounded noise out, and a bit of mid-toned noise, which means you won’t be hearing that computer ventilator hum, or air-condition blowing air. Some louder sounds will be lowered also, but don’t expect the full quietness. You can still hear yourself breathing, the sound of your voice, or others. In case you need to be aware of the environmental sounds, there is a nicely working awareness more, but you won’t be using that much because it amplifies all the deeper sounds.
Both awareness and ANC are draining the battery a bit more, so if you keep them turned off, you should enjoy the good quality sound for up to 10 hours. I wish that the switching time between the modes could be shorter, but it is nice to have those for the price.
The FreeBuds should enable you some 6 hours of talk time on a single charge. The other party told me that my voice wasn’t distorted and that the sound quality is great. A slight distortion appeared when I switched ANC on, but the sound improved with Awareness mode turned on.
The only thing I’m missing so far is the volume and music controls. I can control that over Huawei Watch GT2 paired to Nokia, or by taking the phone out, but it would be nice if those would be implemented on the buds. Just because of that, I do like Nokia Earbuds Lite more.
The buds have come a long way now, and I like to wear them more than my Sony ones. There are some advantages of the classic headphones, but earbuds do save up space and are always charged and ready to be used. FreeBuds 4i is coming in the shape of very popular Apple Airpods but is bringing great quality sound, ANC technology, and long-lasting battery for an attractive price.
Since FreeBuds are the part of Huawei ecosystem, they work the best with Huawei devices, but there isn’t any problem when used with current Nokia devices. To get more settings you should install the Huawei AI Life app, which currently doesn’t support the FreeBuds 4i.
In case you are interested in the FreeBuds 4i since the only ANC Nokia Earbuds are still not globally available, you should be able to pick them up for some €80 in white, black, or red.
Big shutout to Huawei who have sent us FreeBuds 4i for a review!