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.
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
Huawei's EMUI software is overbearing as ever
Many software issues from the P8 left unaddressed
Camera hit and miss in low light
5.64 in 143.2mm
2.83 in 71.9mm
0.33 in 8.5mm
5.2-inch Full HD
1920x1080 resolution (435ppi)
20.7MP, ƒ/2.0 lens
5MP front-facing camera
Octa-core Huawei Kirin 935 processor
4x2.2GHz A53e cores + 4x1.5GHz A53 cores
16GB internal storage
microSD slot (also second SIM slot)
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Shack, or just Radio Shack if you've been out of the loop, will offer the Motorola CLIQ for $79 with new 2-year contract on Black Friday (November 26th). We kind of lambasted/ridiculed/tar and feathered T-Mobile for launching the Motorola CLIQ at $199, so $79 is a pretty amazing deal that'll hopefully stick longer than one day.
If you can gather your bearings after your Thanksgiving feast and compete with the loonies on Black Friday, we suggest you stop by The Shack to pick up the CLIQ. We absolutely love this new trend of Android devices being offered for sub-$100 prices--DROID Eris for $99, Sprint HTC Hero and Samsung Moment for $99 and now the CLIQ for $79.
We've seen a Creative Zii Android Device before in the Zii Egg but we haven't heard from them since. It looks like that's about to change because the first Zii Summit 2009 will be held in December and there'll be an announcement of the Zii Optimized Android Phone platform which will presumably be available in an official Zii Android phone. The details of the Zii Android Phone look pretty impressive:
Phone with Fully featured Android Platform
OpenGL ES 3D graphics
1080p HD video output
Accelerated video, graphic and imaging
Full integration with SurfaceFlinger
High Quality Audio
Enhanced User Interfaces
Accelerated Web Browsing
It looks like ZiiLabs has been focusing their efforts on a new chip called the ZMS-08 which is an ARM Cortex A8 processor clocked at 1GHz which is capable of all that good stuff. More details will surely come about before the Zii Summit so we'll definitely keep our eyes peeled for more ZiiLabs Android news in the future!
We had already reported on the potential price drop of the Sprint HTC Hero to $99.99 but now it's officially official. Best Buy has just announced that the Sprint HTC Hero and Samsung Moment will both now be priced at $99.99 with new 2-year contract. We think that having those phones at $99 is a wonderful deal that should hopefully spur other carriers to drop prices on their phones as well (ahem, T-Mobile).
If you had paid $179 for the Sprint HTC Hero or Samsung Moment at Best Buy, hopefully you can still return in and receive the difference? Let us know what happens!
We've already seen the Samsung Galaxy Spica I5700 before but now it's finally official. Samsung has just unveiled their latest Android powered smartphone and it's looking exactly like we imagined. The Galaxy Spica packs a 800 MHz processor which we're going to assume is like the Moment's, a 3.2 inch 320x480 capacitive touchscreen, and a 3 megapixel camera. One fun feature, the Galaxy Spica will be the first Android smartphone to support DivX videos.
The Samsung Galaxy Spica is already available in Europe and the CIS and will be released in the Middle East and Asia at a later date. Looks like it'll follow in the Galaxy's footsteps and not be available in the US. Oh well, guess the Samsung Behold II will have to do!
Though we're sure all you Sprint HTC Hero users would really appreciate an Android 2.0 software update right about now, it looks like HTC isn't ready to deliver Eclair to you just yet. Instead, Sprint is ramping up a 'maintenance release' that'll presumably fix well-known bugs and software issues with the HTC Hero. You should receive the update in the next few weeks. [sprint]
BGR is whispering that the Sprint HTC Hero is now available for $99 with new 2-year contract at Best Buy. We'll be looking to see if this report is true but it makes sense considering the DROID Eris, Verizon's version of the HTC Hero, is offered at that price point. $99 is a fantastic deal for such a great Android device--HTC Sense is lovely to use, Sprint rate plans are affordable, and Android 2.0 should come eventually.
We've seen the Android Dev Phone 1 for quite some time now and it was essentially a T-Mobile G1/HTC Dream with some snazzy graphics on the battery cover. Now, the Android Dev Phone 2 is essentially the myTouch 3G/HTC Magic/Google Ion with the cute Android Robot peering out on the battery cover.
The Android Dev Phone 2 is available for $399 and comes unlocked for use with any GSM carrier. Developers should note that the ADP2 comes with Android 1.6 and not Android 2.0 which can be qualified as a strange move since Android 2.0 is already live and running. We're not sure if developers will find a reason to switch over to the ADP2 but the ADP2 does offer 512MB ROM vs the 256MB ROM of the ADP1.
In any case, since there's not much difference in the dev phones (and it's a device that's entirely familiar), it's definitely more fun to wonder what the Android Dev Phone 3 will be. Perhaps the Motorola Milestone?
We're not going to lie, the Vega Android Tablet by ICD actually looks like something we'd want to use. The Vega Android Tablet comes in 7-inch, 11-inch, and 15-inch versions that could find a use in any home since ICD (Innovative Converged Devices) promises to make it a low-cost device that may even find carrier subsidies. The specs for the Vega Android Tablet are:
Resistive touch-screen display
1366x768 screen (for the 15.6-inch model)
512 DDR RAM / 512 NAND Flash storage
MicroSD, USB 2.0
Wi-Fi, 3G, Bluetooth
Battery Life ~4 hours
The Vega Android Tablet is supposed to make its way to users in the first half of 2010. More details are expected at CES so we'll definitely keep an eye on this. Hit the jump to see more product shots of the Vega Android Tablet!
Check that out. A Palm Treo 650 running our favorite OS, Android. Yes, that's a 5-year old device with just a 312 MHz Processor and 32MB of RAM running a desktop-class OS. Yes, it takes a while to boot up and looks a little weird. But isn't that just awesome? Obviously, we don't recommend using a Palm Treo 650 running Android as your daily driver but hey, if you got one, why not try it, right?
We'll always have a soft spot for Palm Treos, if only for their trail blazing ways. Though we obviously focus on Android first at Android Central, we're happy to see Palm succeed with the Pre and now the Pixi. But there was once a time when we wondered if Palm should scrap their OS and just use Android instead. Looks like we weren't the only ones wondering!
Sony Ericsson UK has a pre-registration site for the XPERIA X10 that states the expected launch date for the device as February 10th. Obviously that's in no way, shape, or form the exact date but it does give us a barometer to control our expectations. The XPERIA X10 is the device we are looking most forward to in the new year and we're hopeful that it can challenge the Motorola DROID as the best Android handset available.
Remember: 1GHz Snapdragon Processor, 4-inch touchscreen, 8.1 megapixel camera and that beautiful 'Rachael' UI. Just lovely stuff.
The much anticipated Dell Android Smartphone is officially official and it's headed to China & Brazil. The Dell Mini 3i, as it's known, looks like a cross between an iPhone and a Palm Pre with touches of the myTouch 3G. The Dell Mini 3i will launch on China Mobile in China without 3G and Claro in Brazil with 3G. Obviously, the biggest head scratcher is why is a big time US company not releasing their first big time phone in the US and we honestly have no idea. Maybe Dell figures the competition is too stiff in the States and would rather try and sell a gazillion units in foreign countries for the time being?
And though the Dell Mini 3i was announced, the official specs and pricing are still under wraps. The China version will run China Mobile's Ophone OS on top of Android and arrive in November. The Brazil version will reach customers by the end of the year but it's unclear if it will have any custom UI on it. In any case, even with so many unknowns we're still confident a reputable company like Dell will deliver a quality handset, even if it is their first foray into the smartphone market. Dell keenly reminds us that we should definitely expect more Dell smartphones in the future.
The Dell Mini 3i has already been unboxed in China and you can take a closer look at the phone after the jump!
Though the Android 2.0 'Eclair' SDK has been available for quite some time and the Motorola DROID runs Android 2.0 perfectly, the Android 2.0 source code has been kept under wraps for some particular reason (underhand deal with Motorola & Verizon?). This meant that all phone manufacturers outside of Motorola could only tinker with Android 1.6. Luckily, that has all changed.
Meanwhile: Got Droid? Make something Awesome with it (note the Capital A). Take a picture in the dark and make it all arty with Photoshop mobile. Shoot a video and put it on YouTube. Type out a short story on the physical keyboard. Whatever, as long as it's capital A Awesome and you make it with Android (yeah, non-Droid owners can play too).
Send it in to email@example.com before Nov 25th. We'll pick out favorite and send the winner:
Engadget just unboxed the Behold II and came away noting that the device is heavy, thin enough, and the buttons are enjoyable to click. The screen is gorgeous (of course) but not any more gorgeous than the DROID's screen. Overall the hardware is great and packs some good build quality but the software might need some work. They note that Touchwiz seems to slow down Android a bit but will need further testing to see it in action. Remember, the Behold II will launch with Android 1.5.
Hit the jump to see some photos and video of the Behold II in action!
We definitely need to brush up our Spanish but we're pretty sure the video is saying that the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 is an amazingly wonderful device that is going to compete head on with the Motorola DROID as the best Android device available in the very near future. Okay, maybe not. Though we don't understand what's being said in the hands-on video above, we get a good feel of the 'Rachael' UI in the XPERIA X10. You'll get to see the much ballyhooed Timescape and Mediascape features in action.
The video is definitely worth a look, even if you don't understand Spanish, if only to see where the future of Android is headed. Remember, the XPERIA X10 packs a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, 4 inch touchscreen, and 8.1 megapixel camera.
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