Why you can trust ZDNet
Our recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We may earn a commission when you purchase a product through our links. This helps support our work but does not influence what we write about or the price you pay. Our editors thoroughly review and fact check every article. Our process

‘ZDNet Recommends’: What exactly does that mean?

ZDNet’s recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNet nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNet's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.

Close

Huawei FreeBuds Lipstick, hands on: Style over substance

Performance is acceptable, and the companion app provides a good range of granular control, but there are issues with the build of these buds and the usability of the case.

"Hey, here's an idea. Let's make a new set of true wireless earbuds and, you know, put them in a case that looks a bit like a lipstick". And so, perhaps, the Huawei FreeBuds Lipstick was born. This product is available in the UK at £199.99 and Europe at €199.99, as well as Africa and the Middle East, and Asia Pacific, but not in the US. The UK price converts to around $262 at the time of writing.

Like

  • Interesting design
  • Useful companion app
  • ANC

Don't Like

  • Awkward fit
  • No silicone tips
  • Angled corner on case

It's an interesting idea, and the container certainly meets its brief of looking like a lipstick rather than any other earbuds case I've seen: it's shiny, black and has a tall, rectangular form and a square footprint -- albeit with one of its corners angled rather than rounded. But look a little closer and the similarity wanes a little. There's a USB-C port in one end for charging, and a range of technology-related rather than lipstick-related marking both near the USB-C port and on a sticker fixed to one side of the case.   

huawei-freebuds-lipstick-in-case.jpg

Huawei offers an alternative take on earbuds case design.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The corner that's angled rather than rounded holds a gold strip adorned with the Huawei marque. I became frustrated with that angle. It means the lid will only go on in one orientation, and with a one in four chance of making the right choice, I invariably made the wrong one. Putting earbuds away shouldn't require any effort, and Huawei seems to have created an unnecessary problem here. 

In case anyone has a real lipstick to hand and wants to test the dimensions, the case measures 70mm tall by 27.4mm wide by 27.4mm deep. It weighs 84.5g without the buds, while the buds add 4.1g each to that for a total of 92.7g. 

Open up the case and a bronze/gold holder provides shelter for the deepest, darkest, reddest earbuds I think I've ever seen. If your favoured lip colouring is not this shade, then you won't be able to colour-coordinate.  

ZDNet Recommends

The best wireless earbuds The best wireless earbuds With good earbuds, you can do everything from making calls when you're on the move to listening to your favorite music to blocking out the world around you.

Huawei may be onto something by addressing a different market -- but only if the FreeBuds Lipstick are good enough quality. The buds have a long straight stem which will certainly turn heads as the majority of buds in this style are either white or black. The glossy plastic build isn't the most ear-friendly, and the absence of silicone tips to add a little purchase for the buds was the clincher for me: they just wouldn't stay in place even when I was sitting fairly motionless. When I tried to control functions with single or double taps, and sweeps, the buds frequently popped out of my ears. 

Single and double taps, as well as press-and-hold, give access to play, pause, skip, voice assist, calls (accept, end, reject), and Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), while sweeping the stem adjusts volume. All of these taps and swipes were responsive and effective, notwithstanding the issue of the buds falling from my ears.  

The Huawei AI Life app, which is downloadable to smartphones from Google Play, Apple's App Store or Huawei's AppGallery, allows you to configure the various tap functions for each bud individually. The app also has a Find My Earphones feature which will send a high-pitched tone to either bud. This was audible when a lost bud and I were in the room, and helped me retrieve the missing item from between the cushions of my chair. 

Huawei AI Life can also be used to set two noise-cancelling options, Cosy and General, the former minimising external sound. There are also a couple of equaliser settings -- Default, Bass Boost and Treble Boost -- and a setting that boosts voice quality. All in all, there's quite a lot going on in the app. 

Battery life is quoted as 4 hours for the buds with ANC off and 2.5 hours with it on; total life including power provided by the charger is 14 hours with ANC on and 22 hours with ANC off. This is not the best battery life, but the buds are easy enough to charge, and a full charge of the case takes an hour, while shorter bursts will keep it topped up. 

Audio quality was good, with the equaliser settings and ANC both having a discernible effect. I have no complaints there. Silicone tips would have helped me feel closer to the sound and improved the quality of ANC, but they would have upset the look of the buds, so style wins over substance here. 

Actually, in the end, a win for style over substance adequately describes the Huawei FreeBuds Lipstick. Performance is acceptable, and the companion app provides a good range of granular control, but the build of the buds and absence of silicone tips may challenge many ears, and the case has a built-in usability issue in the form of its single angled corner. If you must have these buds, make sure your ears can accommodate them.


Huawei FreeBuds Lipstick specifications

Dimensions

buds: 41.4mm x 16.8mm x 18.5mm • case: 70mm x 27.4mm x 27.4mm

Weight

buds: 4.1g each • case: 84.5g

Driver

14.3mm

Sensors

microphone, wear detection sensor

Connectivity

Bluetooth 5.2 (pop-up pairing, simultaneous connection with dual devices)

Battery capacity

buds: 30mAh • case: 410mAh

Battery life

buds: 4h (ANC off), 2.5h (ANC on) • case: 22h (ANC off), 14h (ANC on)

Charging time

buds: ~1h (in case) • case: ~1h (USB-C, without buds)

Audio technology

ANC, call noise cancellation

Controls

swipe, tap, press-and-hold

Processor

Kirin A1 (Bluetooth)

In the box

earbuds, charging case, quick-start guide, safety info, warranty card & certificate, USB-C cable

Price

£199.99 / €199.99


RECENT AND RELATED CONTENT

Xiaomi Buds 3T Pro, hands on: Capable wireless earbuds, especially if you use a recent Xiaomi phone

Spotlight on eppfun CuteMeet 300 earbuds: Dual microphone noise-cancelling for clearer calls

Jabra Elite 4 Active review: Hands on with a good-value set of true wireless ANC earbuds

Jabra Elite 3 review: Forget AirPods, these $80 earbuds offer more for less

The best wireless earbuds in 2022: Our top picks

Read more reviews

Show Comments