Do Apple AirPods work with Android phones? How about Google, Samsung and Huawei earbuds with an iPhone? We find out in the ultimate in-ear face off


The four earbud models not only differ when it comes to sound and fit, they also use different noise cancelling technology, so it can be worth mixing and matching to find the combination that works best for you.

Google’s Pixel Buds Pro. Photo: Shutterstock

Apple has finally added a USB-C charging port to its wireless earphones with the AirPods Pro 2, making them a feasible option for Android users.

AirPods have long been known for their excellent active noise cancellation (ANC), and the latest generation is no exception. Ambient noise is almost completely blocked out, without any in-ear pressure.

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With AirPods Pro 2, users can switch between Transparency mode (which lets all outside sound in), Adaptive (which adjusts ANC based on the user’s surroundings) and Noise Cancellation (which blocks external noise).

Switching between modes can be done by pressing and holding the sensor on the stem of the AirPods – whether they’re connected to an iPhone or an Android device. Apple has so far been reluctant to release an app to make other functions on the AirPods easier to control for Android users.

But it goes both ways, as Google and Samsung earbuds also don’t connect seamlessly to the Apple universe. There’s no iOS app for Google’s Pixel Buds Pro or Samsung’s Galaxy Buds to allow iPhone users to adjust sound and ANC. The fact that these earbud models are geared towards Android devices, however, means they run on a wider range of devices.

Control of Google and Samsung earbuds on Apple devices and vice versa can be tricky, as none of these companies have as yet released an app to accommodate the other side. Photo: Shutterstock

Chinese tech giant Huawei is the only one of the four companies we tested with iOS and Android apps – in addition its in-house HarmonyOS app – that allow users to control its FreeBuds Pro 3.

The app for iPhone is available in the App Store and the Huawei AppGallery. Android users have to download it from the Huawei website.

Installation is a bit fiddly but the app ultimately works well. A Find My Earphones feature helps users locate their misplaced FreeBuds by having the buds emit a ringtone. While the sound isn’t as loud as the one emitted by Apple’s AirPods, the feature works across all operating systems.

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Huawei’s FreeBuds Pro 3 are a true match for Apple’s flagship earbuds when it comes to sound. Wind noise cancellation capability in the latest generation is pretty close to what the AirPods Pro 2 are capable of, although hissing is a bit more noticeable in transparency mode.

The FreeBuds Pro 3 produced better sound during a phone call, however, than their Apple counterparts, and they fit just as snugly into the ear.

There’s still room for improvement on the battery life of Huawei’s FreeBuds Pro 3, however. When in ANC mode, they ran out of steam in just under five hours, while Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 kept going for over nine hours on similar settings.

Huawei Freebuds Pro. The latest generation of these earbuds are a true match for Apple’s AirPods Pro 2. Photo: Shutterstock

Google’s Pixel Buds came in a close second, with around eight hours on ANC, followed by the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE (fan edition) with around seven hours.

The sound quality of Samsung Galaxy Buds FE buds is a far cry from that of the AirPods Pro 2. They have a good low end, but treble lacks clarity and ANC is nowhere near as efficient as in Apple’s or Google’s earbuds.

Making a phone call with the Galaxy Buds FE is awkward at best because of choppy transmission.

Samsung Galaxy Buds. The Korean tech giant sets itself apart by offering its earbuds at a significantly lower price than other big companies. Photo: Shutterstock

What sets the Samsung earbuds apart is their significantly lower price. Tech on the FE model has been scaled back, enabling Samsung to offer them for an impressive US$79.

Google’s Pixel Buds Pro, at US$199, are in a similar league to Apple’s flagship AirPods Pro 2, which the iPhone manufacturer sells for US$249. Huawei’s Freebuds Pro are available for US$196.

Conclusion

Huawei’s FreeBuds Pro 3 are an attractive alternative to Apple’s AirPods Pro and many other earbuds from the Android world.

Among the wireless earbuds tested, Huawei’s were the only ones that worked well across all smartphones, without any major limitations. If only the Chinese manufacturer had invested a bit more in battery life …



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