[Update 18th November 2019] The Huawei Freebuds 3 are now on Amazon to buy.
This week we have seen the launch of the Apple AirPods Pro priced at £249.00 and the first reviews of the Huawei Freebuds 3 priced at £169.99 came out. So, which is best and are the AirPods Pro worth £50 more than the existing AirPods?
Both the Apple AirPods Pro and Huawei Freebuds 3 are active noise-cancelling earphones, and the Freebuds looks strikingly similar to the older AirPods 2 so inevitably a lot of comparisons have been made.
- Active Noise cancellation for immersive sound
- Transparency mode for hearing and connecting with the world around you
- Three sizes of soft, tapered silicone tips for a customisable fit
- Sweat and water resistant
- Adaptive EQ automatically tunes music to the shape of your ear
- Automatically on, automatically connected
- Easy setup for all your Apple devices
- Quick access to Siri by saying “Hey Siri”
- Double-tap to play or skip forward
- New Apple H1 headphone chip delivers faster wireless connection to your devices
Apple Vs Android
With Apple, you have the choice of all three earphones, the AirPods are obviously designed to work natively with iOS so you get all the useful features like pop up and pair, and last location. The AI Life app will be available for iOS so you will be able to access the noise-cancelling functionality these earphones feature. At the moment I can't find the app on the App Store, so please check first before buying.
For Android, while the AirPods will work fine, you won't get the convenient pairing options, location history or any other functionality that is built into iOS.
Design & Fit
The most obvious change with the AirPods Pro compared with AirPods 2 is the new in-ear design, after years bucking the trend of rubber ear tips, Apple has finally adopted them to help improve the passive noise cancellation this design offers.
The AirPods use that familiar “universal-fit” open design. It is not my favourite at all, I have large ears, and they fit quite loosely in them. Some people prefer this design choice though so neither is right or wrong, I suspect a more significant percentage of users will have fit issues with an open fit compared to the customisable closed fit.
Ironically, Huawei has adopted Apple’s open-fit design policy for its noise-cancelling design, it is a bit of a strange choice as this design does not lend itself well to active noise cancelling. However, they are comfortable to wear, and you don’t get the fatigue associated with the closed-ear design or the sense of head pressure when you enable ANC.
I have not used the AirPods Pro so I can’t honestly comment, but the design is superior for improving the quality of audio, creating a seal around your ear canal has a significant effect on bass. It is probably a safe assumption that the AirPods Pro was going to sound better than the AirPods regardless of design, or what would be the point of them?
The Airpods Pro also introduces Adaptive EQ which claims to tun the audio depending on the shape of the wearer’s ear.
In comparison to the Freebuds 3, I think they sound better than the Airpods 2, however, due to the design differences I suspect the Airpods Pro will be better than the Freebuds 3.
Again, as I have not used the AirPods Pro, I can’t personally comment on the quality, but it is almost a certainty that Apple Apirpods Pro has the best noise-cancelling out of the three earphones due to the design and the inclusion of active noise cancelling.
The Huawei Freebuds 3 was a lot better than expected, the AI Life app has a unique feature allowing you to tune the ANC, this is not a case of turning it up or down, but tweaking its settings to help it filter out the specific external noise you are currently experiencing. So with a flight noise, I was able to turn the dial to filter out the very low-end hum of the engine noise.
The Airpods 2 has an open fit design and lack ANC, so the noise cancelling is going to be one of the worst on the market. It is worth pointing out that some people prefer this as it gives you more situational awareness of what is going on around you.
Because people like to hear what is going on around them, the AirPods Pro has a transparency mode which does the opposite of ANC. Outward- and inward-facing microphones enable AirPods Pro to undo the sound-isolating effect of the silicone tips, so things sound and feel natural, like when you’re talking to people around you.
Huawei claims to have the best latency compared to the AirPods 2 thanks to their new Kirin A1 chipset. This allows the phone to send the data to each earphone separately at the same time rather than one earphone having to relay the data. This, however, is dependant on the phone and current OS you are using, you will need one of Huawei's latest phones such as the P30 Pro and EMUI 10 to get the most out of these.
The AirPods Pro use them same H1 chip as the AirPods 2 which claims to offer incredibly low audio latency, but it should be about the same as AirPods 2. In reality, I am not sure you will nice the difference between the 190ms latency of the Freebuds 3 or the 220ms of the AirPods 2/Pro
Battery Life & Charging
The Airpods Pro has up to 4.5 hours of listening time with a single charge (up to 5 hours with Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency off) and 24 hours in total with the case.
The AirPods deliver 5 hours of listening time and 24 hours, including the charging case.
Huawei lags a little behind with 4 hours and 20 hours. From my usage, if you are not using noise-cancelling these will easily go beyond 4 hours.
Overall, it looks like the Apple AirPods Pro are going to be the best overall pair of earphones, but there is a big catch here, they cost £250! That is an awful lot of money to spend on earphones, and it is not what I would be comfortable spending on something that has a good chance of me losing.
On the other hand, if I was willing to spend £200 on the AirPods 2, I would be inclined just to fork out the extra £50 for what should be a vastly superior product. However, it looks like you can get the AirPods 2 for less than RRP if you buy from sites like Amazon.
The Huawei Freebuds 3 look like an absolute bargain in comparison at just £169.99.
If all three earphones worked on Android/iOS the same, I would regard the Apple AirPods Pro as the superior overall product, but at £90 more than the Freebuds 3, I am not sure if that price difference would be worth it.
If you are on Android, this comparison is just academic, while you can buy Airpods for your phone you would be mad to do so.
On the flip side, the AI Life app will be available on iOS, it probably won't offer all the features these are capable of as some of the functionality is limited to Huawei, but you will have all the noise-cancelling features. This, therefore, makes them a worthy consideration against the Airpods.
[Posted on 01 November 2019][Updated on 5th of November 2019] The AI Life app will be available for iOS so you will be able to access the noise-cancelling functionality these earphones feature.
Last update on 2020-07-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API