These Look Like Noise-Canceling AirPods. What’s the Catch?

The Sony WF-1000XM3 are really the only great noise-canceling true wireless earbuds.


No, they aren’t AirPods. But at IFA, Europe’s biggest tech trade show, Huawei announced some truly wireless earbuds that certainly look like something that could come out of Cupertino. The company’s new FreeBuds 3 share the same open fit and “stemmed” design as AirPods, and they also have something that Apple’s truly wireless earbuds lack: active noise-cancellation.

AirPod enthusiasts have been asking for noise-canceling AirPods for some time, but it doesn’t seem likely that Apple will make them in the near future; it still hasn’t made sweatproof AirPods (although you can argue that the Powerbeats Pro earbuds fit that bill) and Apple has no history with noise-cancellation (although, there’s no doubt they could eventually make it happen). There are also doubts about the form factor of AirPods, and thus Huawei’s new FreeBuds 3, and how they lend themselves to active noise-cancellation; the open-shape design naturally let more ambient noise in. That said, Huawei’s FreeBuds 3 are here and we’re definitely excited to see how their noise-cancellation stacks up to, say, other noise-canceling earbuds on the market, like the Sony WF-1000XM3.

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It’s fair to say the FreeBuds 3s are designed for Android users who like the form factor of AirPods. Or iPhone users who want noise-canceling AirPods (although, it’s still not known if the companion app is available on iOS). That said, the new earbuds are also innately different than AirPods. They don’t have Apple’s H1 chip, so they won’t quickly pair to your iPhone in the same way AirPods do; you’ll have to go the old route through Bluetooth settings to pair them.

Rounding out the differences, the FreeBuds 3 charge via USB-C, which is nice, and each earbud promises to have a four-hour battery life, with the charging case providing a total of 15 hours of battery. Also, they are the first earbuds with Huawei’s A1 chip, which is the world’s first chipset to support Bluetooth 5.1, so they theoretically shouldn’t have any connectivity issues. Another thing that’s different than AirPods, the FreeBuds 3 can be purchased in either white or black models.

The Huawei FreeBuds 3 are expected to be available in the next month or so, although buying them in the United States could be complicated; tensions are still high between Huawei and the US and it’s uncertain what the resolution may be. No pricing details have been released.

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