TWS or True Wireless Sound has been one of the most talked about categories in the tech industry. We have reviewed quite a lot of TWS earphones in the past, but we would like to focus on 2 products from 2 brands that Filipinos are quite accustomed to – Huawei Freebuds 3 and Apple Airpods 2.
When shopping for TWS, there’s a lot of aspects to consider apart from sound performance. We’ll get on the latter in a bit, but we also thought of talking about design and fit, functionalities, battery performance and price.
A word of note though: while these products were designed by totally different companies, you can use both in either iOS or Android operating systems. Most of their functions, moreover, are not restricted to mobile devices as both may be used also in other systems with Bluetooth connectivity.
Build and Fit
The devices look strikingly similar at first glance. They both have open-fit design, which proves to be the new trend in TWS these days. Huawei calls it in fancier way though – Dolphin Bionic Design. The companies designed it in such a way that it would fit to anyone who would use it, and may easily be stowed in its wireless charging case without a fuzz.
It’s a tie when it comes to fit. When randomly put on each ear, it would be fairly challenging to identify which earphone is on the left or right until you play a sound. I will talk about the sound quality later. Both are comfortable to wear even for long term use and each gives a sense and feeling that it wouldn’t fall off easily.
Both devices have wireless charging cases. Plus points if you’ve got a Qi charging case at home or office. Props to Huawei for offering 2 colors in the marketing: Ceramic White and Carbon Black. You’re left off with white color if you get the Apple Airpods 2.
Some of the functions of the devices vary depending on which smartphone software you will use it to. Naturally, if you’re going to use Huawei FreeBuds 3 on a Huawei device, the latter will automatically pick it up when open the charging case and help users to easily connect it to the device. The same goes for the Apple AirPods 2 when I connected it to my iPhone XS Max. This, however, does not mean that the devices are limited to connect to specific devices and platform. I can pair up my FreeBuds 3 on my iPhone XS Max, and I can connect my AirPods 2 to my Huawei Mate30 Pro without any issues.
However, on the case of added functionalities specifically Noise Cancellation, FreeBuds 3 trumps over AirPods 2 definitely. FreeBuds 3 was launched alongside the Huawei Mate30 series in Munich a few months ago. It got me excited because it isn’t just Huawei’s first wireless charging earbuds, but it also features active noise cancellation. At that time, neither the 2nd Gen AirPods nor Samsung Galaxy Buds has active noise cancellation, which gave FreeBuds 3 a competitive edge in the market. This is a major compelling case to choose FreeBuds 3 over AirPods 2.
Another competitive feature of the FreeBuds 3 over AirPods 2 is latency. Based on data, FreeBuds 3 has 190ms latency vs AirPods 2’s 220ms. If you’re into competitive mobile gaming, latency is a major consideration; and while the difference of 30ms seems inutile, it makes a lot of difference when playing FPS mobile games like Call of Duty Mobile or PUBG Mobile.
Apple AirPods 2 wins in this category. A single charge allows you to use it for a maximum of 5 hours, while a single charge on FreeBuds 3 only makes it useful for a total of 4 hours.
To put into proper perspective, if you’re into binge-watching episodes on Netflix while on your flight to Tokyo from Manila, you can use both devices non-stop from a single charge. Good, right? It’s a different case though if you’re going to fly from Manila to Beijing.
I would like to point out though that Huawei tried to compensate this department by offering more ways to charge it: wired, wireless and reverser wireless charging if you’re using a supported device.
Sound Quality and Performance
Huawei FreeBuds 3 sounds better, especially when you turn on active noise cancellation. For a true wireless earphone, FreeBuds 3 has a balanced sound signature at boot. Most earphones are designed and tuned to have this signature, and Huawei wanted to make sure that it resonates with most users.
Using my Huawei Mate30 Pro, you can easily tweak it using Android settings. However, since Huawei Histen is not compatible with any Bluetooth headsets, you cannot use its 3D audio settings on the FreeBuds 3. 3D audio settings simulate the depth of 3D sound field: Near, Front, Wide or Grand. Neither Huawei Histen and AI Life (the app that you may also use to control FreeBuds 3’s other features) has a built-in equalizer that lets you modulate some frequencies. However, you can easily use other apps downloadable via PlayStore or AppStore.
Physical sound isolation is one of my qualms with the FreeBuds 3, and this has something to do with how it’s designed. This, however, is easily compensated with its active noise cancellation feature. Let me explain further.
AirPods 2, on the other hand, lacks on lows and more emphasis on highs. It can get a little intense when listening to higher frequency music, and quite underwhelming when listening to Dubstep, for instance. Don’t get me wrong – it’s okay, but it just performs inferior to FreeBuds 3.
Well, this one’s obvious – FreeBuds is much cheaper alternative AirPods 2. It presented more compelling premium features than AirPods 2, and therefore making it a better option whether you’re using a iPhone or an Android device.
AirPods 2 with wireless charging case currently sells for PhP11,790, while FreeBuds 3 is just PhP8,990. If you opt for AirPods 2 without the wireless charging case, it still comes off more expensive than FreeBuds 3 at PhP9,490.