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"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.
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.
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.
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
buds: 41.4mm x 16.8mm x 18.5mm • case: 70mm x 27.4mm x 27.4mm
buds: 4.1g each • case: 84.5g
microphone, wear detection sensor
Bluetooth 5.2 (pop-up pairing, simultaneous connection with dual devices)