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

3 years ago

Motorola announces Xoom 2 and Xoom 2 Media Edition, coming to UK and Ireland 'mid-November'

12

We've seen the leaks and rumors, and now the Motorola Xoom 2 and Xoom 2 Media Edition are both officially official. The 10.1-inch Xoom 2 and its 8.2-inch media-focused sibling will go on sale in the UK and Ireland from mid-November, at retailers including the Carphone Warehouse, PC World and Dixons.

As far as specs go, it's pretty much what we expected -- both tablets feature some variety of 1.2 GHz dual-core CPU, alongside 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. Both flavors also ship with "HD" displays, which we're guessing will be your standard, Honeycomb-friendly 1280x800 panels. Speaking of Honeycomb, you've got Android 3.2 on-board, along with what looks like some minor UI tweaks from Motorola. So no Ice Cream Sandwich just yet, but then that's to be expected.

The tablets also sport the unique curved style edges that we'd seen in leaked photos, as well as phones like the Photon, and we're interested to see how this design choice works on a larger device. Weight-wise, the Xoom 2 sits at 599g, just four grams heavier than Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1, and two grams lighter than the iPad 2. The Media Edition, however, is significantly lighter, at 386 grams.

Moto's yet to mention any pricing information for the Xoom 2 series, nor when (or even if) it plans to release its two new tablets in the US. We'll keep you posted if we hear anything. In the meantime, hit the jump for today's announcement video, or use one of the links below to take a closer look at both Xoom 2 models.

Motorola Xoom 2 specs | Motorola Xoom 2 gallery | Motorola Xoom 2 forums

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3 years ago

Motorola Xoom 2 specs

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Motorola's official specs for the Motorola Xoom 2 and Xoom 2 Media Edition.

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3 years ago

Motorola Xoom 2 image gallery

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3 years ago

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Sony Ericsson has a little surprise waiting inside the latest software update for its 2011 Xperia series -- a Swype-style "gesture input" system baked into the Xperia keyboard. After enabling the new option it in the keyboard settings, you'll be able to type words by tracing a path through their letters, just like Swype or HTC's Trace keyboard.

All this goodness comes pre-loaded on the Xperia Arc S, which ships with SE's latest software, based on Android 2.3.4. But if you have an Xperia smartphone belonging to the manufacturer's 2011 line-up, you'll be able to get your hands on the new software through an over-the-air update, or manually via the PC Companion suite.

Join us after the jump for SE's gesture input video demo.

Source: Sony Ericsson Product Blog

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3 years ago

Apple loses design lawsuit against NT-K (Spain) and is being countersued for damages

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image credit schmidling.com

The Spanish courts have decided against Apple, Inc. in its design patent dispute with NT-K, a small tablet manufacturer in Spain.  Using the same arguments that have been partially upheld in Germany, and dismissed in the Netherlands, Apple brought an import ban and subsequent lawsuit against the small OEM, had their company placed in a European list of "pirated electronics" and even went as far as pursuing criminal charges -- all over rounded corners and a similar look and feel.  NT-K decided they weren't going to take this sitting down, and aggressively fought back, -- finding victory in the courtroom.

While we consider the arrogance of filing criminal charges and mumble under our breath, we can also feel a tiny bit of justice ourselves -- NT-K has filed a suit for monetary damages, lost profits, and "moral damages," and is in the process of filing anti-trust proceedings against Apple alleging abusive anti competitive behavior.  I loathe lawsuits between tech companies, because in the end the consumers are the biggest losers.  In this case however, I hope NT-K wins their suit, only to teach Apple an expensive lesson (that they hopefully wont pass the costs of to their customers).  And if the Spanish courts find that Apple does violate antitrust laws, I hope other countries take a close look. 

There's nothing wrong with an iPad.  A good friend of mine just got himself one, and he agrees that other than the drag of iTunes, they make a great product.  There's a good reason why so many people buy an iPad.  But the way to keep their 100 percent market saturation was to innovate, not stifle competition.  I hope this hits home and they reconsider, but I'm doubtful. 

Source: NT-K (Spanish); via FOSS patents

Thanks, BBPandy!

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3 years ago

Optimus 3D Gingerbread update set to bring faster HSPA+, video enhancements

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LG Optimus 3D owners are on track for few extra treats along with their Gingerbread update later this month, if an early leaked firmware build is any indication. The leaked build, which recently cropped up on XDA, is based on Android 2.3.5, and comes with enhancements like 2D and 3D video editing, 3D to 2D conversion and higher bit-rates for 3D videos. There's also the promise of faster HSPA+ cellular data on supporting units, with speeds of up to 21Mbps.

Don't get too excited about trying this on your Optimus 3D just yet though, as the firmware is pretty severely broken in its present form. Once you've channeled the black magic necessary to get it installed, you'll still likely run into issues getting cellular data and Wifi to work.

So it's a little unstable, as you'd expect from an unofficial, pre-release build. We were impressed with the software's general responsiveness though, which seemed markedly improved from earlier Froyo-based efforts. Hopefully we'll see all this good stuff carried over into the official build.

Hit the jump for a few more screenshots. The official Optimus 3D Gingerbread update is due to arrive from Nov. 21.

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3 years ago

Rockin' them beats, Galaxy Note in the US [From the Forums]

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With Google rolling out a bunch of new app updates and HTC getting ready for their latest event, things were busy today. If you need to catch up on the news make sure you skip a page back or head on into the forums for more Android talk.

If you're not already a member of the Android Central Forums, you can register your account today.

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3 years ago

HTC Sensation and Galaxy S II for T-Mobile get special deals at Costco

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Costco has some nice deals coming if you are you are looking to get into a T-Mobile plan. $69.99 will get you unlimited data, talk and text with a bunch free additional features added to that list as well such as T-Mobile TV, games and magazines. The image shows available for select devices but we're told it is for the HTC Sensation and the Samsung Galaxy S II. As always, a new two-year agreement will be required but you're saving some coin in the long run.

Thanks, Anon!

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3 years ago

Google Reader and Docs updated with ICS makeover

24

Google has been making a lot of changes as of late and while we knew an update to Google Reader for Android was coming we didn't know when, exactly. The update has now landed though and with it also came an update to Google Docs.

For the most part -- Google Reader doesn't appear to of have changed all that much. Nothing like it's online counterpart that has seen some radical changes over the past few days love it or hate it. In this release you'll find left/right navigation and just visual changes for Ice Cream Sandwich and now rather then Google Buzz you have Google+ sharing options.

Google Docs however, has quite a few changes. You do get the visual changes that put it more inline with the look of Ice Cream Sandwich but you also get more optimizations for Honeycomb tablets, improved video playback as well as portrait and landscape modes. Information about your documents is now more easily found and sharing options have auto complete added as well. Both updates are available in the Android Market right now.

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3 years ago

Yahoo! Weather app storms its way into the Android market

16

No one wants to leave their house in the morning dressed in their finest only to get hit ten minutes later by a nasty rain storm, do they? Sure there are tons of weather applications already available in the market, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for one more and the next one to enter is from Yahoo! Unlike any other application out there Yahoo! Weather gives you beautiful hi-resolution images of the city you are viewing the weather for, in addition to all the standard features like a five day forcast, the ability to share your current conditions on your favorite social media channel, and much more. Download links after the break.

Source: Businesswire

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3 years ago

Android 101: How to enable / disable screen rotation

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Ever lay in bed trying to send a text message only to have your screen fight your for which orientation it wants to be in? Yeah, well it gets old quick trying to do something in portrait mode while your display is switching to landscape mode, doesn't it? Luckily with just a few simple clicks you can take care of this issue and lock your screen into portrait mode.

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3 years ago

Costco to carry AT&T's upcoming HTC Vivid

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The HTC Vivid, one of AT&T's first LTE phones set to launch on November 6, will be carried by mega retailer Costco, according to the internal doc pictured above. While the announcement doesn't mention anything about price or availability, we don't see the Vivid going for much less than the $199 that AT&T has already announced. The November 6 launch date is only a few days away so we'll keep our eyes peeled for more details as they become available. One more document listing all of the Vivid's goodies can be found after the break.

Thanks anonymous!

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3 years ago

iOS finally gets a native gmail app, but is it as good as Android's?

38

Rut ro, Raggy. The iOS -- and therefore the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch -- just got itself a native Gmail app, straight from Google itself.  That means proper Gmail on iOS, in its own application, and not though the iOS mail app with IMAP. Guess that means the end of Android, right?

Not so much.

The app itself isn't horrible. But neither does it feel like an Android or iOS application. It's in a weird in-between place. It's got push notifications, but you have to pull to refresh (on the other hand, the Android version doesn't do that -- it has a refresh button). You can get to your labels via a nice slide-out section on the left -- just like the Android version.

But the five-minute version is this: The addition of a Gmail app on iOS is a plus for iPhone and iPad users, and it's not likely steal users away all by itself.

We've got a brief walkthrough after the break (note that Google's pulled the app from the Apple App Store to fix a few bugs), and you can find loads more on our sister site, TiPb.com.

More: Google Mobile Blog; More iOS news at TiPb.com

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3 years ago

Age of Defenders - A unique multiplayer cross-platform tower defense game

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If you're into tower defense games then you'll want to get your hands on Age of Defenders from Cuketa. Having now gone official on the Android Market, Age of Defenders allows for multiplayer cross-platform action meaning, through the help of P2P and realtime sockets you can go head-to-head with iOS, Mac, PC and of course -- other Android players.

Given how the game is set up, phone users won't be able to get in on this action. However, tablet users -- game on. Age of Defenders will only set you back a few bucks in the Android Market and looks to be well worth it. Check out the trailer above, you'll find the download link past the break.

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3 years ago

HTC Amaze 4G launching on TELUS Nov. 4

4

Back in October, TELUS put up their 'coming soon' page for the HTC Amaze 4G but never mentioned any dates for release. Now, it looks as though they are finally getting set to roll this one out to everyone on November 4th. Pricing details are said to be laid out like this:

  • $99.99 on a 3-year contract
  • $500 on a 2-year contract
  • $550 on a 1-year contract
  • $600 with no contract

What do you get in return? A 4.3-inch qHD display, Sense 3.0, a dual-core 1.5 GHz processor, Android 2.3.4 and an 8MP rear camera, Not bad, make sure you check out our T-Mobile HTC Amaze 4G review though if you're not sure whether or not it is a right fit for you.

Source: Mobilesyrup

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