They look like common or garden wireless earbuds but Huawei's FreeBuds 3 play a much more significant tune than that – they are the start of a whole new approach to wearable products.
These tiny, comfortable and sound-enhancing earbuds work on two levels. They are the next-generation of earbuds but are also one of the paint splashes making up a much bigger picture: the move towards a truly connected future.
There's been so much written and said about such a future that it's possible to think it's largely marketing hype. But Huawei have a distinct direction in mind when it comes to wearables – and that was made clear when they launched the Freebuds 3, the GT2 Watch and the Huawei Band 4 smart bands, health and activity trackers.
Up until now, earbuds have largely been regarded as accessories. Freebuds 3, equipped with Huawei's new Kirin A1 chip represent a big jump in technology. They have Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) and the buds uniquely use bone-conducting technology to boost the listening experience.
They have a port designed to reduce wind noise – so wind does not disrupt a phone call (or a musical experience) if the user is, say, riding a bike at 20km/hr.
And, believe it or not, this device borrows from the dolphin. What Huawei call "Dolphin Bionic Design" was inspired by the natural curvature of a dolphin's vocal cavity – and focuses and modulates the sound as well as sitting slightly deeper in the user's ear, designed to make a significant improvement in sound quality.
Huawei say Freebuds 3 are the world's first Bluetooth 5.1 and Bluetooth Low Energy 5.1 chip. Why is that important? Because the Kirin chip powers a dual-channel Bluetooth connection – meaning lower latency (delay) and lower power consumption. That's a big deal for tiny audio products.
While we are talking about latency, it is an important measure for anyone using their headphones for gaming or watching videos – and the Freebuds 3 are said to outperform other buds on the market in this aspect.
Huawei also say these are the world's first open-fit ANC headphones (they don't use a seal to block external noise but fit snugly in the ear). Ambient noise cancellation of up to 15dB ambient noise reduction for each ear canal is claimed – meaning users can adjust the ANC to target clutter like plane noise, car hum or background chatter in a bar or cafe.
Results may differ from user to user, depending on variables like the shape of individual ear canals.
They also have the built-in facility to pause whatever you are listening to when you pull them out of your ears – as long as you have a Huawei phone running the latest EMUI 10, its latest Android user interface.
So what is the bigger picture Huawei is painting wearables like Freebuds 3, the GT2 and the Band 4s into?
Huawei has a long-term goal of producing hardware and software that connects artificial intelligence, the Cloud, and the Internet of Things (IoT). In about five years, Huawei are predicting most of us will be in direct contact with dozens of different connected devices.
Voice will be the crucial communication technology that spans all those devices – so, using the Freebuds 3 as an example, the earbuds will help us interact with a voice assistant and connect to our phones as controlling hubs.
So connected true wireless headphones and smartwatches, powered by the versatile Kirin A1 chip, are what is possible now – and they signal a new future.