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
2.83 in
0.33 in
  • 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.


5 years ago

Motorola Droid 2 spotted in Verizon's system



For all you Droid owners out there who passed up on the Droid Incredible in hopes that Verizon would be releasing the Droid 2 soon after, an inkling of hope has appeared. Above you see a pic of the Motorola A955, the Droid 2, in Verizon's inventory system. We saw a peek of what the keyboard may look like this afternoon, and maybe, just maybe, this thing's closer to release than anybody thinks. [via Droid Life]

Read more and comment

5 years ago

Is this the Droid 2 keyboard? (And is it any better?)


Motorola Droid keyboard

You guys know how much I hate headlines with question marks, but that's pretty much where we stand on the above photo. Above you see the Motorola Droid keyboard at top, and what purportedly is the Droid 2 keyboard beneath it. The perspective's a tad off, but the keys look to be noticeably bigger (and they damn well better be if the leftmost keys -- tab, ALT lock, shift/caps lock and ALT -- are going to be that huge). Also of  note is that the golden D-pad has given way to four arrow keys and an OK button.

This likely would be an improvement -- we won't really know until it's (a) real and (b) in our hands. But, really, just about anything would be an improvement over the current Droid keyboard. [Howard Fourms via Engadget]

Read more and comment

5 years ago

Boost Mobile Motorola i1 costs $349.99; coming to Sprint over next few weeks


The Boost Mobile Motorola i1 popped up on Best Buy recently and it looks like it'll be priced a bit higher than any of us wanted and/or expected: $349.99. On one hand, the Motorola i1 is a pre-paid device that comes with no commitments or contracts. Not to mention that you could use Boost Mobile's $50/month all inclusive plan to save even more money down the road. But for a device that is decidedly mid-level--3.1-inch screen, Android 1.5, etc--it's tough to pay that initial premium when better Android devices can be had for half the price.

Meanwhile, it the i1 now appears slated for Sprint release starting June 6 with direct shipping, and everywhere else on July 11. It still isn't likely to do much for most consumers. But for the iDEN crowd, well, chop the price down to $149 and things get interesting. Leave it at $349 and the i1 stays in a niche market. [bestbuy via engadget]

Read more and comment

5 years ago

Skype's Verizon exclusivity waning, app coming to Android Market



A Skype PR rep confirmed to SkatterTech today that an Android app is coming to the Android Market, never mind that it's currently exclusive to Verizon. In an e-mail, the rep wrote:

"We will be bringing a direct to consumer app to the Android marketplace later this year. This application will be available for all consumers globally to download regardless of carriers. (i.e. similar to how we offer the iPhone app today)."

None too soon, and it might get even better, as this Skype "consumer app" (as opposed to ...?) may feature video chat -- though the rep backed off that claim, apparently. Either way, it's another reason to avoid last-minute surprise fees from other video chat apps that you thought were going to be free. [SkatterTech] Thanks, Jeremy.

Read more and comment

5 years ago

Where Motorola stands on Android updates



Just to ease your fears or maybe tease you even more, Motorola has just updated their official Android update page and timeframes are thankfully getting a little more specific. Leading the way, of course, is the Droid which has completed its Android 2.1 update and the Milestone which is currently rolling out its own update in different parts of the world. Compared to the previous update, the Backflip now has Android 2.1 planned for Q3 and the Cliq and Cliq XT has 2.1 planned for Q2. Unfortunately the Devour's upgrade is still "under evaluation". It's very nice of Motorola to keep us updated on their Android 2.1 plans but we wonder if they've heard that Android 2.2 Froyo is out and about now.. [Motorola]

Read more and comment

5 years ago

How to get your paid apps back in Froyo


Android Market Paid apps in Froyo

Good news for you folks running Froyo who are sorely missing your favorite paid applications from the new and improved Android Market. A fix has actually been around at XDA Developers for a couple of days, and it's as simple as pushing over a new build.prop file that spoofs the Market into thinking you're running an older version of Android (Eclair really is ancient, ya know?) while keeping your Froyo goodness intact. There's really not too much hackery involved, though you'll likely want to run a nandroid backup first, just in case. And if you somehow have Froyo but still have no idea what we're talking about, better to just leave this one alone. [XDA Developers]

Note: Make sure the file you push back to your phone is, in fact, named build.prop and not something else.

Read more and comment

5 years ago

Android Central Podcast Episode 14


Audio-only stream below

Phil and Jerry spill everything they've learned about Android 2.2 Froyo, Phil's time with the Evo 4G and still find time for a bunch of your voicemails and e-mails. Listen in!

Read more and comment

5 years ago

Hands-on with the LG Optimus (GT540) [#io2010]


[YouTube link]

And here's a look at the LG Optimus -- aka the GT540 -- which we previously toyed with at CES in January. Nothing's really changed since then. Same 3-inch HVGA touchscreen (no keyboard on this one), same Android 1.6, same 3.1-megapixel camera. We know LG's capable of making some above-average devices -- we've just yet to see any here in the states.

Read more and comment

5 years ago

Android Quick App - Sirius XM satellite radio


Sirius XM Satellte Radio for Android

Finally, for those of us waiting patiently for Sirius XM to bring satellite radio to Android, our day has come. The same satellite radio you've come to know and love in your car (it's a life-saver) and on your desktop is now available on your Android phone.

For those of you new to satellite radio, it's a subscription server that has channel after channel of music as well as sports, entertainment, family and heath, comedy, news, pure talk radio, religion -- just about anything and everything you could think of.

The app itself is easy to use and hangs out in your notification tray, so you can access it easily while you're off doing other things. About our only complaint is that it doesn't work in landscape mode, and the app itself is named "Online," which makes it tricky to find in your app drawer at first.

The Sirius XM app itself is free (download the app directly from Sirius here), but the service itself has a monthly fee (there are a number of packages available), though you can try it for 30 days free. More at SiriusXM.com, and more screen shots after the break. Thanks, Jay!

Read more and comment

5 years ago

Froyo Feature: Screen brightness widget


Android 2.2. Froyo screen brightness widget

The power widget you see here isn't really new in Android 2.2, but it's been tweaked for Froyo. The screen brightness selector now includes an auto brightness setting (using the ambient light sensor) in addition to the three static settings (low, medium and high). It's a nice little addition for those of us who prefer to let the phone determine the screen brightness.

(Thanks, Philip! Find a cool new feature in Froyo and want to tell the world about it? E-mail us here and we'll make you famous!)

Read more and comment

5 years ago

The rumors are true: Qik video chat will cost extra on the Evo 4G


Qik video chat fee

Time to get the pitchforks out, people. We slept on it in hopes it was all a nightmare, but the ugly rumor that began yesterday (first by Android Guys and later confirmed by Engadget) is true: Video chat on Qik on the Evo 4G is going to cost an extra $4.99 a month, payable by Paypal.

It's more than a little suspect that this wasn't mentioned -- ever -- during Sprint's Evo 4G launch party in New York, nor did any of the Qik folks there drop the bomb, and here we are just a week from launch. The good news is that there's already one free alternative in Fring, and Skype may be bringing video chat as well in the form of a "consumer app" (outside the bounds of its exclusivity with Verizon) later this year. [Android Guys, Engadget]

Read more and comment

5 years ago

Samsung Behold II gets updated to Donut (Android 1.6), but the sweets stop there


Samsung Behold II no eclair for you

The Samsung Behold II is finally getting updated from cupcake (Android 1.5), but it's not exactly what you'd expect.  It's a big drawn out mess of pulled youtube videos, supposed broken promises, random forum posts, and even threat of some sort of legal action. Thankfully the good folks over at Phone Scoop reached out for the official word from Samsung and Kim Titus, the Director of PR for Samsung Telecommunications America, let them know that the Behold II will indeed be updated, but only to Donut (Android 1.6).

According to Samsung, the Behold II is not upgradable beyond Android 1.6.  To sweeten the blow a little bit, Samsung says they will also offer the Swype keyboard, an improved media player, improved bluetooth capabilities, and the Android core apps (the apps like Gmail, Maps, or Talk) would be getting an upgrade.  We don't like it any more than you do, but this is how legacies are built.  [Phone Scoop]

Read more and comment

5 years ago

Hands-on with Fring video calling on the Sprint HTC Evo 4G


[YouTube link]

It's a brave new world with the addition of video chat on the Sprint HTC Evo 4G. And what better way to break in Fring's new free video calling service than with one of our deepest darkest competitors dear friends in this Android world. In the video above, we chat it up with Taylor from Android and Me -- both of us on the Evo 4G. It wasn't the smoothest connection in the world -- though I was on WiFi and Taylor's in a 4G town -- but it's video calling, and we're glad to see it.

Read more and comment

5 years ago

Facebook releases SDK for Android


Have you ever wanted to share your new Doodle Jump high score with all your friends only to realize that the game lacked the ability to publish your score to Facebook? The Official Facebook SDK for Android developers was released today, allowing communication between native Android apps and the Facebook social network. One feature that the Android edition of the SDK has that the iPhones version lacks is the Graph API that was displayed at Facebook’s f8 developer’s conference last month. The Android SDK also includes the latest installment of OAuth authentication, version 2.0, which enables the user to publish stories to Facebook via Feed forms.

With more than 100 million people accessing Facebook on their mobile phones every month, this SDK will give Android developers even more room to develop and explore. When it comes down to it, it’s the developers that define where an SDK goes and what it’s ultimately capable of and with Android being one of the fastest growing mobile platforms, it's apparent that there's nowhere but up. [Facebook]

Read more and comment

5 years ago

Sling Player, Android, Evo 4G - 'nuff said


[YouTube link]

Not sure which one of these we wan to see released more -- the Evo 4G, or Sling Player. Regardless, here they are together. That's right, Sling Player on the Evo 4G. It's still in private beta and said to be "coming soon," so you'll have to make do with this teaser for now. Go ahead and watch it again. It'll last longer. Thanks, George!

Read more and comment

Show More Headlines