Honor 7

The latest from Huawei's Honor brand boasts phenomenal value — but with a few familiar caveats ...

The quick take

Through a mix of solid hardware — in terms of performance as well as build quality — the Honor 7 finds its way into the fast-growing category of really-good-and-extremely-affordable Android phones. At a functional level, it does just about everything really well, and it packages that functionality in the kind of impressive metal chassis we've come to expect from Huawei. But just as Huawei is a strength for Honor, it's also a weakness. For some buyers, particularly Android purists, the company's highly customized EMUI software will be the biggest reason not to buy.

The good

  • Solid build quality and easy one-handed use
  • Fingerprint scanner works well
  • Speedy, lag-free performance
  • Bright, punchy display and impressive speaker
  • Excellent value for money

The bad

  • Huawei's EMUI software is overbearing as ever
  • Many software issues from the P8 left unaddressed
  • Camera hit and miss in low light
Width Height Thickness
5.64 in
143.2mm
2.83 in
71.9mm
0.33 in
8.5mm
  • Display:
    • 5.2-inch Full HD
    • LCD Display
    • 1920x1080 resolution (435ppi)
  • Camera:
    • 20.7MP, ƒ/2.0 lens
    • 5MP front-facing camera
  • Battery:
    • 3100mAh capacity
    • Quick Charging
  • Chips:
    • Octa-core Huawei Kirin 935 processor
    • 4x2.2GHz A53e cores + 4x1.5GHz A53 cores
    • 3GB RAM
    • 16GB internal storage
    • microSD slot (also second SIM slot)

Honor 7

About this review

We're publishing this review after a week using a European-spec Honor 7 (PLK-L01) in the UK. Most of the time we used our review device on Vodafone UK, in areas with decent LTE and HSPA coverage and a 64GB Samsung microSD card fitted. To test the phone's dual-SIM capabilities, we used it with an EE SIM alongside the Vodafone SIM.

Honor 7 Video Walkthrough

Honor 7

Familiar, Sturdy, Dependable

Honor 7 Hardware

If you know your Huawei phones, the look and feel of the Honor 7 is pretty easy to sum up. It's basically a cross between the Mate 7 — last year's Huawei "phablet" device — and the company's current high-end offering, the P8. Although Honor is its own distinct brand in the UK, the Huawei design traits are clear to see. There's a largely untouched front face, save for the usual earpiece, camera and sensors, while the back panel serves as a reminder of Huawei's high-end phones, with a curved aluminum surface and eye-catching chamfers.

Veterans of the Honor series will find a device closer to the Honor 6 than the larger (and beefier) 6 Plus. The LCD gets a modest bump up to 5.2 inches with the same 1080p resolution, while modest hardware upgrades from the Honor 6 can be found in other areas.

This is basically the offspring of a Mate 7 and a P8.

The Honor 7 runs Huawei's homegrown 64-bit Kirin 935 CPU, an octa-core chip packing four higher-clocked "A53e" cores at up to 2.2GHz and four lower-power A53 cores at 1.5GHz. If you're keeping score here, that's basically the same as the Kirin 930 powering the Huawei P8, only at higher clock speeds. And it's paired with an ARM Mali-T624 GPU and a roomy 3GB of RAM. Elsewhere, the battery capacity stays at an ample 3,100mAh, while the front and rear cameras earn upgrades to 8 and 20 megapixels respectively. (The front camera's also grown an LED flash for low-light duckfacing.)

There's an even more significant addition around the back. The Honor 7 features a touch-activated fingerprint sensor with a few neat tricks to offer. As well as biometric security — no need to unlock first, by the way, as touching the sensor will activate it even when the phone is off — you can swipe down to open the notification shade, or up to view recent apps. The notification shortcut in particular is ridiculously useful — even on a relatively small phone like the Honor 7, reaching up to the notification shade can be troublesome, and the swipe shortcut replaces this awkward finger-gymnastics with one easy gesture. We really hope everyone working on a fingerprint-scanning phone steals this feature.

Honor 7 swipe

The new fingerprint sensor enables a couple of ridiculously useful software shortcuts.

And like just about everything else in Huawei's EMUI, these extra functions are configurable in the menus. There's also a "smart" button on the left edge, which can be programmed to load up different apps or perform various tasks on a single, double or long press. All genuinely useful stuff, though it's easy to accidentally press the "smart" button along with the power button when picking the phone up.

The Honor 7's display matches that of the P8 on paper, and we found it to be equally bright and vibrant as well. (And, anecdotally, perhaps a bit easier to see in direct sunlight.) There doesn't seem to be anything too crazy going on with contrast enhancement, though Huawei has implemented a brightness-limiting feature that adjusts the backlight brightness depending on the brightness of the image being shown.

Despite the presence of two grills, there's just a single loudspeaker to be found, located to the left of the microUSB port. Smartphone speakers are still really hit-and-miss, but the Honor 7's impressed us, and like the P8 it offers surprising volume, bass and clarity from a relatively small cutout.

In the hand, the Honor 7 feels sturdy yet classy. The top and bottom sections are plastic to allow those all-important radio waves in and out, but the main contact points are along the metal sides and back, so this isn't especially noticeable. The same goes for the slim plastic border between screen and body — which should protect the phone from knocks and scrapes as well.

Honor 7

Like most Huawei phones these days, the Honor 7 nails the fundamentals.

Conventional wisdom suggests that a 5.2-inch screen is about the limit for comfortable one-handed use, and this holds true for the Honor 7. There's no in-hand slippage due to the metal body, and the combination of this screen size and the angular metal design makes the Honor 7 easy to one-hand. While it's not spectacularly thin or light, it feels solid and dependable — arguably more so than a lot of more expensive phones.

Honor 7

Dual-SIM connectivity is the other big trick up the Honor 7's sleeve. The SIM tray has two slots — a primary nanoSIM slot, and a secondary slot that can hold either a second nanoSIM or a microSD card. In a country like the UK, where users aren't generally hopping between two coverage areas, dual-SIM support isn't especially useful. But it is an added bonus for frequent travelers, and doubling it up with the microSD slot means it's not wasted if you're just using one network.

As for internal storage, you're limited to 16 gigabytes, which is the bare minimum of what we'd consider acceptable from any smartphone in 2015. You'll have 10GB and change left over for your own stuff, though the SD slot may alleviate some of your storage woes.

Other hardware notables? There's a top-mounted IR blaster that works with the built-in "Smart Controller" app, allowing you to control just about anything with an IR receiver. And quick charging support is included, though we're told the bundled charger won't be quick-charge compatible. While we couldn't confirm that the phone was definitely charging at higher voltages on our Motorola Turbo Charger, it seemed to reach peak capacity pretty quickly.

Honor 7 apps

Familiar caveats

Honor 7 Software

The Honor 7 runs Huawei's EMUI 3.1 software atop Android 5.0. And if you've read our P8 review you'll know what to expect here — a heavily-skinned version of Android with a highly-customized look, a few pet hates, and system that feels at odds with Google's vision of the OS.

Though most of the things that were straight-up broken about the P8's initial firmware have been fixed, many visual and functional annoyances remain.

EMUI continues to be afflicted by visual and functional annoyances.

Aesthetically, there's a lot to like. The UI is built around circles, lines and rounded icons, with accent colors from your chosen wallpaper being included in Huawei's built-in apps. Everything, including app icons, is heavily themeable, and the library of themes has been expanded upon since the days of the P8, including some that now actually look pretty good.

The entire theming system still feels overbearing, though, and because not all the themes are up to date with the latest app icons, the experience is somewhat disjointed too. It's one of many areas of the software where we wish Huawei would have just left things alone.

Honor 7 apps

Others include the notification system, which duplicates notifications from some apps, including Gmail, and only shows notifications on the lock screen if you're using a certain lock screen style. If you're used to the relatively light touch of Samsung, HTC or LG, these changes may well be maddening. If not, then they are what they are: Different, and not necessarily for the better. In particular, Huawei's approach to "protected apps" — apps with permission to run when the screen is off — and constant notification area nags about apps using power in the background, add unnecessary mental overhead.

When it comes to overall performance and the visual cohesiveness of Huawei's own apps, there's not much to complain about. While it might not gel with Google's vision of the OS, it's clean, sharp and undeniably iOS-influenced.

You also can't fault EMUI's expansive feature set, which is surprisingly light on cruft and surprisingly heavy on genuinely useful stuff, like programmable shortcut buttons, voice-activated wake-up functionality and a wide array of camera features. But we'd still like to see a comprehensive overhaul of Huawei's software for EMUI 4.0, and hopefully see this highly customized layout replaced with something closer to vanilla Android.

We've got a more in-depth look at EMUI 3.1 in our P8 review, so check that out for more of the good, the bad and the confusing from Huawei's take on Android.

Honor 7 camera

Competent, if not spectacular

Honor 7 Camera

As smartphone hardware becomes more commoditized, imaging is one of the few areas left where traditional flagship phones have an edge. Even so, we're starting to see some impressive photographic capabilities from less expensive handsets, including Huawei's own Honor 6 Plus with its wacky dual-camera setup.

The Honor 7 opts for a traditional front and rear camera arrangement, however. There's a 20-megapixel shooter around the back, behind an f/2.0 lens with dual-tone LED flash, while the front-facer gets bumped up to 8 megapixels and is joined by a single LED of its own.

This is no Galaxy S6-beater, but it is capable across the board, and occasionally very impressive.

When you're selling a phone around the £250 price point, however, there are some trade-offs to be made. The biggest of these is the lack of optical image stabilization, which is the main reason the Honor 7 can't match the clarity of phones twice its price in low-light conditions. (And that's not unexpected, honestly.)

There is a "super night" shooting mode that combines a series of longer exposures, though this is largely useless without a tripod. We've also noticed an unfortunate tendency for the Honor 7 to miss focus in darker conditions, resulting in shots that are both blurry and grainy.

As for pics in good to moderately-lit conditions, the Honor 7 is a reliable performer across the board. Auto HDR mode dutifully kicks in to prevent washed-out skies and underexposed landscapes, keeping everything evenly lit. Overall, we have no real complaints when it comes to image quality — plenty of detail is captured thanks to the high-resolution sensor, and colors are generally accurate, if somewhat desaturated compared to the likes of the GS6 and G4.

Honor 7 camera options

Huawei's camera app also presents a bunch of useful features, including a dedicated light painting mode like the P8's, where longer exposures are used to create artistic light trail effects. You'll want to use a tripod with this feature though, as the lack of OIS makes it almost impossible to get steady, longer exposures with the phone in-hand.

As for the front camera, it's comparable with what you'd get from the current Android flagships, complete with beautification modes to either enhance your features, or make you look like a terrifying live waxwork version of yourself. There's also a front-facing LED for when the lights are low and fun things are happening, which, given the proximity to your face, takes a little getting used to.

So that's the Honor 7 camera experience — competent, capable, but not quite a match for the current flagships, or, we'd argue, the Honor 6 Plus's insane low-light capabilities. Everything about this phone needs to be considered in the context of its price, though, and with that in mind you're getting a pretty solid imaging setup for your money.

All that juice

Honor 7 Battery Life

By the numbers alone, a 3,100mAh battery should be able to provide more than enough juice for a phone like the Honor 7. The manufacturer claims heavy users will comfortable get more than a day (1.2 days, in fact) out of the phone's fixed battery, with lighter use getting you up to two days per charge.

One day with ease, or two at a squeeze.

And our experiences with the phone track pretty closely to that. Throughout more than a week of testing the Honor 7 never died on us before the day's end, even with extensive use on LTE, and with two SIMs inserted. On lighter days, which were mostly limited to Wifi usage indoors, we easily reached the evening with 50 percent or more remaining. In terms of screen-on time, we're looking at anywhere between 3.5 to 5 hours, depending on usage.

Honor 7

A word of warning on some of the battery charts displayed here: The firmware version we're using doesn't seem to display awake time and mobile network reception properly, so take both with a pinch of salt.

For all practical purposes, though, you'll simply won't need to worry about battery life if you're used to a regular nightly charging pattern. That's still not true of all high-end phones, so Huawei deserves credit where it's due.

As for charging, the Honor 7 supports quick charging — a welcome addition given the battery size — although Qualcomm's standard isn't specifically mentioned by the manufacturer. That said, Quick Charge 2.0 doesn't necessarily require a Qualcomm CPU, and as previously mentioned we've found the phone charges fast enough using a Motorola Turbo Charger.

Honor 7

A worthy contender?

Honor 7: The Bottom Line

The Honor 7's impressive array of hardware and highly competitive price point makes it worthy of your attention, and perhaps your money too. As usual, Huawei gets the hardware side of the equation right — the Honor 7 is a well-built, premium handset and a quick performer, camera capabilities that stand out in the mid-range space. EMUI, despite its flaws, adds genuinely useful capabilities, and has a coherent look throughout, even when themed.

The brand is different, but the hardware and software remains the same.

But we think it's time for an overhaul of Huawei's software experience. From the confusing notification and background app management system to the overbearing way in which EMUI takes over icons and status bar colors, there's plenty here to irritate Android purists. If that's you, that could be a reason not to buy.

Ultimately, as much as Honor is a distinct brand in its own right, its handsets' triumphs and foibles run in parallel with the parent company's. You're still getting a Huawei phone through-and-through, with all the benefits and annoyances that brings.

Should you buy the Honor 7? Maybe

We keep saying this over and over, and we'll have to do so again here: Huawei makes great hardware — really great hardware. But software continues to be a glaring weak point. For that reason we can't recommend the Honor 7 unreservedly, but it is worthy of your consideration if you're shopping around for a capable new mid-range handset. But the Honor 7 has tons of competition from countless rivals, and you'd be wise to take a look at the hardware-software balance from the likes of Alcatel, Motorola and ASUS before parting with your cash.

Headlines

4 years ago

Gingerbread easter egg discovered

22

YouTube link for mobile viewing

Back in December when the Gingerbread SDK was released, some folks found an interesting file hidden deep within.  While we still don't claim to understand this level of artistic genius, at least we know why it was there.  Now if we only knew why it was there.  Check out the video and play along if you have the hardware. [XDA-Developers] Thanks James!

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4 years ago

WiFi only Xoom coming in April?

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Ever since the rumor mill first began surrounding Motorola's much anticipated Honeycomb tablet, we've been patiently impatiently waiting for it's release. Alas, this will be making a lot of you Xoom fans who don't want to be tied to a Verizon data plan happy. Motorola's Latin America GM told Argentinian-based Infobae that a WiFi only version of Motorola's Xoom Honeycomb-based tablet exists, and that we should expect it sometime in April. Now, keep in mind that this was confirmed by the Latin American division of Motorola, so we're hoping that this doesn't mean it'll only be available in Argentina in April, but it's good to hear that a WiFi only version is out there and Motorola intends on releasing it. [Infobae via Engaget]

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4 years ago

Sony Ericsson LiveView Watch Wrist-on

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 Sony Ericsson LiveView Watch

Oh, the things you see on the show floor on your last day at CES. The Sony Ericsson LiveView watch isn't exactly new and breaking, but it's new to us and, well, it's frankly better than we expected. If you're not familiar, it's a Bluetooth watch that's meant to be a 'remote' to your Android smartphone (works best with Xperia, natch, but there is a compatibility list for other phones). If your phone in your pocket is just too far away, you can look at email, messages, calendar, caller ID, RSS, control your music, and more. It pairs up with an App on your 2.0-or-better Android phone where you can download additional plug-ins (there are 24 of them to date).

Navigation is a straightforward affair - tap the edges of the watch to scroll, hit the selector button on the edge to, erm, select. 

After the break, some more photos and a wrist-on video. (Yes, we bought one and are going to put it through its proper paces next week)

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4 years ago

Let's talk about all those device announcements - New device forums now open [from the forums]

8

Android Forums at Android Central

It's been a hectic week for us here at Android Central. But as we get prepared to wind down the full on CES 2011 coverage, we figured we'd take the time to round up a listing of all the new forums we've put in place as the devices were announced. If you're looking to learn more or just simply chat about any device in particular be sure to check em out.

Stay tuned, we'll be adding more to the mix and If you're not already a member of the Android Central forums, you can register your account today.

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4 years ago

Mobience Bluetooth qwerty keyboard -- and headset

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Mobience keyboard

Imagine a full physical QWERTY keyboard - slightly larger than a deck of cards - that wirelessly connects via Bluetooth to your Android smartphone or tablet. On the backside there’s a microphone and earpiece that extends voice conversations just like a Bluetooth headset. Introducing Mobience, a Korean manufacture, that sells an accessory that does exactly that. I had a few minutes of hands on time with this yet to be named accessory at CES 2011, matched up with a Galaxy Tab. The keys were well spaced, albeit a little stiff to press. As you can see in the picture, I didn’t try to correct my mistakes. That said, with a little practice, there’s a potential of pounding out emails and word documents in no time. When your phone receives an incoming call, the device will vibrate, and you can flip it over and converse the same way you would over any Bluetooth headset. This accessory is currently available in Korean markets, with plans to release in the US at a yet to be announced date.

So Mobience, I realize this is a lot to ask, but please let me know what you plan on naming this bad boy, when it will be available, where I can buy it, and how much it will cost. When you get those details figured out, I’ll seriously consider buying one, mkay?  There's a picture of the back, showing the microphone and speaker, after the break.

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4 years ago

HSTi's Wireless Media Stick makes your Android device a media server

9

HSTi Wireless Media Stick

It’s now 2011, and I’ve yet to have a high quality and reliable experience streaming media content between an Android device and a media player. I’ve tried docks, Bluetooth, DLNA, and cables with frustrating results. Today, I had an opportunity to see a demonstration of an awesome new accessory called the Wireless Media Stick, manufactured by HSTi. The Media Stick is essentially a network bridge between a PC, Mac, NAS, or Android device connected to a WiFi router; and any media player with a USB playback port (i.e.,TV, DVD/Blu-ray player, game console, stereo, or digital picture frame). On an Android device the Wireless Media Stick App streams videos, music, photos, or PowerPoint presentations - via the WiFi radio - to a Wireless Media Stick plugged into the USB playback port of a media player. The Android application provides full control over which folders and/or files are shareable. HSTi demoed the Media Stick, at CES 2011, by streaming an HD movie from a Galaxy S tablet to a TV with a built in USB port and media player. Both devices were connected to an 802.11g (b and n are also supported) wireless network. Picture quality was perfect with no hiccups nor glitches.   The Wireless Media stick is available now for $119 at www.hsti.com. The free Android app will be available on January 31. The company is also working with carriers on OEM opportunities.

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4 years ago

Xperia X10 Mini Pro Successor Pictured and Spec'd

5

 X10 Mini Pro Successor

Pictures of an apparent successor to Sony Ericsson's Xperia X10 Mini Pro have leaked out on Chinese forum IT168, along with some technical specs for the device.

Sony Ericsson has apparently packed a Qualcomm MSM7230 CPU and Adreno 205 GPU into the same small form factor as the original X10 Mini Pro. The new device is said to sport 384MB of RAM, a decent boost from the original's 128MB but still relatively anaemic compared to the 512MB+ found in most modern smartphones. No details of clock speeds were included, but the MSM7230 usually runs at 800MHz.

Check out another photo after the jump. [IT168 via SEMC Blog]

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4 years ago

Dolphin Browser Mini officially launches in Market

15

Just a few weeks separated from its beta launch in the Android Market, the new Dolphin Mini browser has grown out of beta status and officially entered the Android Market, V1.0. Along with the release comes several new features and bug fixes, including a new data backup and restore feature.

New Features

  • New backup and restore feature
  • Refined UI and toolbox design
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Dolphin Browser mini has quickly become one of our favorite browsers of choice, so be sure to check out this official release in the Market and let us know what you think in the comments section. [via Dolphin Browser Blog]

 

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4 years ago

Google's Matias Duarte interviewed, says Honeycomb the future of Android

33

 Google's Matias Duarte

Engadget scored a lengthy interview with Matias Duarte, Google's Director of User Experience and the man behind much of the UI direction of Android 2.3 Gingerbread and 3.0 Honeycomb.

In one his first interviews since joining Google, Duarte talks about his time at rival Palm, as well as key Gingerbread and Honeycomb design decisions made over the past seven months. Duarte also discusses the future of Android on phones and tablets. He stops short of confirming that Honeycomb itself will be heading to Android phones, but says that the design decisions seen in Honeycomb are "absolutely the future of Android." This in itself is great news, and something that should have everyone excited about Android in 2011.

If you're interested in the future direction of Android, and the thought that goes into designing the platform and its UI then this interview is definitely worth a look. Check it out for yourself after the jump. [Engadget]

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4 years ago

Nvidia announces 'TegraZone' game store for Tegra-powered Android phones

21

 Nvidia TegraZone

Nvidia is really proud of the Tegra 2, and for good reason. It is the first dual-core processor to be powering mobile devices and had a huge coming out party at CES this year. It looks poised to become the default processor for Gingerbread tablets as well. The biggest benefactor of much of that power will be games, and Nvidia isn't going to let Google handle things on their own. As such, the company will be launching "TegraZone", an app store for games that require the increased graphical performance of the Tegra 2.

There are also a couple key advantages for game developers to use TegraZone over the Android Market including doing away with the 50MB app size limit and offering a more curated and premium catalogue -- game devs won't have to worry about competing with lower-quality games. Nvidia claims 5-10 launch titles and is actively courting Gameloft, whose refusal to list their games on the Android Market has become somewhat famous. As for release date, we only get a cruel "coming soon". [Nvidia

 

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4 years ago

Verizon to cut return policy to 14 days effective Jan 16th

101

verizon

It appears as though Verizon has a lot more changes then we would have ever predicted coming down the pipeline to start out 2011. First the flood of new LTE devices at CES, then the unknown press conference scheduled for next week, then they changed the upgrade policy for two-year contracts, and now they plan to change their return policy to 14 days instead of 30 days. This change is slated to happen on the 16th of this month and no direct communication has been given as to why the change. Be sure to stay tuned for any further information we receive, and hopefully some official communication from Verizon to better understand the changes.

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4 years ago

Froyo update schedule for U.S. Cellular Android phones released

24

 U.S. Cellular Samsung Mesmerize

U.S. Cellular has provided a long-due update to their Android customers on the timeline they can expect for their phones to get updated to Froyo. The phones and dates listed are:

It is puzzling why the Mesmerize will take so long to get the update as Samsung has already pushed out the Galaxy S Froyo update code to carriers for testing. Still, at least Android users on U.S. Cellular have some official word now. [Facebook] Thanks to Greg for the tip!

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4 years ago

A sit-down with Toshiba and its 10.1-inch Android tablet prototype

12

Toshiba Protoype Android tablet

Toshiba is looking to get into the Android tablet space in a big way. And by big, we mean 10.1 inches, with Honeycomb (once it's actually available). We sat down with Toshiba at CES in Las Vegas for a walkthrough with the unnamed prototype.

The software was defintely not finished, running Froyo (and with hiccups). But it was the hardware we were really interested in. Join us after the break for a good look.

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4 years ago

Viewsonic Tablets Hands-on. Hands-ons. Just a bunch of tablets, really

9

 

Feeling burned by that Viewsonic gTablet you bought at Staples despite our review's best efforts to warn you? Perhaps if it was called the Viewpad 10s you'd feel better about the fact that the 10.1" inch screen is fronting a mere 1024x600 set of pixels. Or perhaps our look at the 7-inch version at IFA wasn't enough and you'd like another peek at that running Android 2.2. Or maybe you'd like to see how the dual-booting Windows 7 / Android 1.6 Viewpad 10 (nee Viewpad 100) has progressed in the past few months.

We can tell that you want all of these things. Heck, you probably want to know that there's also a 4" version floating around at CES that we may try to track down later. We're comfortable with Viewsonic pushing out lower-end tablets and we want you to be too, so go on and watch some videos and photos of Viewpads after the break

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4 years ago

Verizon to announce the iPhone on Jan 11th?

76

verizon-press

Can't say we didn't see this one coming, can we? Verizon has sent out communication in regards to another press conference, separate from the one we were at yesterday here at CES, which is for Jan 11th in NYC. We all know Apple, and we know they like to be the center of attention which makes sense as to why it will be done next week, and away from this main event, where everyone already is. So, with the Verizon iPhone coming down the pipeline, or maybe it is really just the HTC Merge, will you be leaving your current device behind for one, or staying strong with your Android device? Keep your eyes posted to our good friends at TiPB so we can keep up with any updates they may receive. [via TiPB]

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