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Apple AirPods Pro vs Huawei FreeBuds 3 - Active Noise Cancellation battle!

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Truly wireless earphones with Active Noise cancellation is quickly becoming a highly competitive segment for wearables. Unsurprisingly, Apple and Huawei, two HUGE smartphone brands, have recently released their own.
Apple AirPods Pro vs Huawei FreeBuds 3 - Active Noise Cancellation battle!
Apple AirPods Pro vs Huawei FreeBuds 3

Those two are Apple Airpods Pro and Huawei FreeBuds 3. So, we decided to pit them against each other to see which one is the better one for you.

Let's dive into the comparison now!

Build Quality/Design

The earphones and charging cases
The earphones and charging cases

The Huawei FreeBuds 3, the Apple AirPods Pro and the two charging cases are built with high-quality polycarbonate with some metal details and furnishing.

Both feel solid but lightweight which assures you that they can endure a beating. My only concern is that the FreeBuds 3 is noticeably more glossy than the AirPods Pro and this results in a slightly more slippery finish than the AirPods Pro's finish.

Premium and trendy designs!

Both surfaces are prone to hairline scratches so we encourage getting a protective case for the charging cases.

The head of FreeBuds 3's tip is a solid one-piece that is designed to be one-size-fits-all while the AirPods Pro comes with three different sized silicone tips that can fit a wide variety of ear sizes.

These different sized silicone cups/tips also improve the seal that results in better isolation and sound quality.

Both earphones also have a protective mesh where the sound comes out that protects it from dirt. The silicone tips from the AirPods Pro have a second mesh to further prevent dirt from getting into the earphones.

Both earphones also have stems that have metal trim where it connects to CPU contacts inside the charging cases that charge the earphones.

The FreeBuds 3 and the AirPods Pro are both IPX4 rated meaning they are both water and sweat resistant which makes them ideal for activities such as exercising.

Both the Huawei and the Apple earphones come with a pocketable charging case. The Huawei comes in a round shape while Apple comes in an oblong shape. The Huawei and Apple both have a pairing button.

The Freebuds 3's pairing button is found on the right side while the AirPods Pro is at the back. 
USB-C vs Apple Lightning port
USB-C vs Apple Lightning port

The Freebuds 3's case has a single USB Type-C port at the bottom while the AirPods Pro has a single Lightning port.

Both offer premium design and build quality but because Huawei FreeBuds 3 is able to offer a product with nearly the same build quality at nearly half the price, we have to give the win in this category to the FreeBuds 3.

Comfort/Isolation

Both offer good comfort
Both offer good comfort

As mentioned above, Huawei implemented the new Dolphin Bionic Design not just to improve audio, but for comfort as well while Apple made the AirPods Pro curvier compared to the original AirPods which Apple says improves fit, isolation and comfort.

The new Dolphin Bionic Design of the Freebuds 3 worked and fit my ears comfortably while the medium-sized silicone tips of the AirPods Pro fit me perfectly. (There are small and large-sized cups in the box.

Surprisingly, both the Freebuds 3 and the AirPods Pro (when using the correct sized ear cups) don't fall off easily even when we vigorously shake our heads back and forth. We also tried jogging with both earphones and they never fell off. 

We have to applaud both companies because both earphones are two of the most comfortable set of earphones we've ever tried. This is true even if the FreeBuds 3 is one-size-fits-all. Great Job, Huawei.

Both are very comfortable to wear!

One other feature that the AirPods Pro is unique is that it has a feature that automatically relieves air pressure build-up in the ear canal even when the silicone cups form a great seal which just adds to the overall experience.

Both earphones have active noise cancellation but with different implementations. In fact, Huawei has one of the more unique implementations with an open-ear design that offers 15dB of active-noise-cancellation while the Apple AirPods Pro uses the traditional gap sealing silicone tips that form a perfect seal that results in more than 20dB of active-noise-cancellation. 

The FreeBuds 3's noise cancellation is able to actively lower the volume and impact of environmental noise to a great extent but the AirPods Pro's noise cancellation is noticeably better as it can nearly cancel out environmental noise. The 5dB difference in active noise cancellation is most noticeable when switching between the two simultaneously.

Don't get us wrong, neither the AirPods Pro or the FreeBuds 3 can completely block all environmental noise but it does cancel most of it out so you can focus on the music or on your current activity. The feature effectively lessens the number of distractions to the user.

Because of the inherent benefits of the open back design, it also naturally delivers a noticeable disadvantage compared to the completely sealed in-ear design of the AirPods Pro which offers better isolation. So we have to give the isolation category to the AirPods Pro.

But, the let us all remember that too much isolation could be dangerous for outdoor use. It is still important to be a be aware of your surrounding especially on commutes or like when crossing the streets.

Battery

Charging cases extends the battery life of each earphone
Charging cases extends the battery life of each earphone

Apple does not mention the exact battery capacity of the AirPods Pro and the charging case while the FreeBuds 3 have 30mAh per earpiece and an additional 410mAh in the charging case. 

FreeBuds 3's 30mAh battery offers 3 hours of playtime with active noise cancellation and 4 hours of playtime without it. On the other hand, the AirPods Pro is able to offer 4.5 hours of continuous playback without noise cancellation and is able to offer 5 hours of continuous playback with active noise cancellation.

FreeBuds 3's charging case extends the battery life overall to 20 hours while the AirPods Pro extends it to a full 24 hours. 

AirPods Pro's charging case uses lightning port while the FreeBuds 3 uses USB Type-C with fast wired charging.

This means you can charge the FreeBuds 3 charging case from 0 to 45 percent in 15 mins or charge from 0 to 100 in 45 minutes.

On the other hand, when you charge the AirPods Pro for 5 minutes, Apple says you will get an hour of playback which is equivalent to 25 percent. This results in the charging time of the AirPods Pro earpiece of 20 minutes while the charging case will take around two hours to fully charge. 

Both cases support wireless charging which makes fewer wires convenient but at the cost of significantly longer charge time. Both are compatible with Huawei's and Samsung's reverse wireless charging.

Both earphones are able to last a whole working day but because the AirPods Pro's earphone can last up to 5 hours compared to the FreeBuds 3's 4 hours, we have to give the battery category to Apple. But, let's not discount the fast charging capability of the FreeBuds 3 which is super convenient.

Features

Features in the app
Features in the app

To fully utilize the features of the FreeBuds 3, you will need to install Huawei's "AI Life" app that you can download from the Google Play Store. This is where you can control and customize all the features of the FreeBuds 3. You can even customize gestures and the amount of noise-cancellation. If you do not use an Android phone, you can not use these features that are in the App.

If you are using a Huawei phone, a pop-up comes up as soon as you flip the top hatch of the FreeBuds 3's charging case. An LED indicator inside the charging case will blink to indicate when it is in pairing mode, in charge, and if it is connected. 
AirPods Pro iOS UI
AirPods Pro iOS UI

When you open the top of the AirPods Pro's charging case, a pop-up comes out on your iOS device to connect to it. It displays the current charge of the earphones and the charging case. iOS also allows you to control and switch between the different features of the AirPods Pro through your connected iOS device. 

If you are connected to an Android device, you have two options. The first is to install third-party apps to control the features of the AirPods Pro from your Android Phone or use the hardware gestures through the capacitive touch areas on the stem. Gestures include Press once to Play, Pause or answer a call; Press twice to skip forward, Press thrice to skip back and hold to switch between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency Mode.

Both the FreeBuds 3 and AirPods Pro work independently. You can use one of the two earpieces while removing the other and the media you were consuming will automatically pause and playback if you want to use only one earphone.

Note: Previously, this feature only works with Huawei devices for the FreeBuds 3. Now, it also works on other Android devices.

Both lack of hardware volume controls. You will have to control volume through your Android phone.

Apple AirPods Pro connects via Bluetooth 5.0 while the Huawei FreeBuds 3 connects via Bluetooth 5.1. There are two noticeable differences. the first is that the FreeBuds 3 connects to your smart device in 3 seconds while the AirPods Pro connects in 5 seconds.

The second difference between the two is most apparent when watching videos on your smartphone/tablet and listening through wireless earphones.

The Bluetooth 5.1 from the Freebuds 3 has a small noticeable 190-microsecond delay as opposed to the AirPods Pro's Bluetooth 5.0's 297-microsecond delay.

We noticed this when comparing both earphones side by side but in most cases, the audio is synced with the objects in the video.

For microphone or audio recording, both record decently clean audio. If we had to nitpick, the Huawei's audio recording is the cleaner one. But, people we called using both earphones alternately commented that the Huawei's call quality has noticeable echoes.

Both feature robust features when connected to Android Phones but because of the dedicated App, and the use of the improved Bluetooth 5.1, we will have to give the performance category to the Huawei FreeBuds 3.

Audio

AirPods Pro in-ear
AirPods Pro in-ear

The FreeBuds 3 has a large 14.2mm dynamic drivers that come together with the Bionic Dolphin Design offers focused and modulated sound. It is easy to drive at 60 percent.

The FreeBuds 3 has an open sound with a wide soundstage!

The FreeBuds 3 also offers a huge sound stage even when the noise cancellation is activated because of its open design.

Sound Quality is good with good separation and neutral sound signature. The Bass is noticeably fast and tight but not bloated. Vocals and instruments are well separated. Overall, the mids, highs, and lows are balanced with the highs being clear and well-extended.

The AirPods Pro, on the other hand, has an 11mm driver that is not as easy to drive at 70 percent. It has a fairly decent sized sound stage even when the noise cancellation is on. Sound signature is on the neutral side with slightly less bass (though stronger bass compared to the AirPods 2).

The separation of vocals and instruments is decent. Overall, the AirPods Pro produces a sound that is nearly balanced but with weaker bass.

Overall, both performed exceptionally but because the FreeBuds 3 is more balanced with a better sound stage, we think the FreeBuds 3 wins in this category.

Huawei FreeBuds 3 Specs

CPU: 356MHz Kirin A1 audio processor
Driver: 14.2mm dynamic driver
Microphone: Bone voice sensor
Battery: 30mAh per earpiece, 410mAh case w/ 6W charging and 2W Qi wireless charging
Sensors: IR sensor
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1
Others: IPX4 water splash resistance, ANC, double-tap control, pop-up and pair, USB-C, Colors: carbon black, ceramic white
Dimensions: 41.5 x 20.4 x 17.8 mm (per earbud), 60.9 x 21.8 mm (case)
Weight: 4.5 g (per earbud), 48 g (case)
Price: PHP 8,990

Apple AirPods Pro Specs

CPU: H1-based System in Package
Driver: Custom high-excursion Apple driver w/ custom high dynamic range amplifier
Microphone: Dual beamforming microphones, inward-facing microphone
Battery: Rated for 5 hours with Noise cancellation (earphones) + 24 hours (case) of use
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Sensors: Dual optical sensors, motion-detecting accelerometer, speech-detecting accelerometer, force sensor
Others: Lighting port, Siri digital assistant, double-tap control, Qi-certified wireless charging capable, IPX4 rated
Measurements: 30.9 x 21.8 x 24 mm (per earbuds), 45.2 x 60.6 x 21.7 mm (charging case)
Weight: 5.4 g (per earbud), 45.6 g (case)
Price: PHP 14,990


Verdict

At PHP 8,990, the Huawei FreeBuds 3 is able to deliver comparable build, performance, and more to the PHP 14,990 AirPods Pro at nearly half the price.

Both earphones offer outstanding build quality and class-leading sound quality with convenient features such as wireless charging, fast charging, and low-latency Bluetooth connection. 

But what makes the Huawei FreeBuds 3 the better pick for truly wireless earphones with Active Noise Cancellation for Android Phone is the unique features you can customize and control through the AI Life App that you can download at the Google Play Store unlike the Apple AirPods needing to download unreliable third-party apps.

What do you guys think?
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