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

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We have seen the Motorola Xoom Family Edition a time or two already, and today Motorola has made it official, and it will be an exclusive to Best Buy. The tablet is aimed at being a kids media tablet by day, but still being able to keep up once the kids go to bed with the professional stuff that needs to get done. The tablet brings quite a few features in tow with it, such as

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3 years ago

Motorola Xoom Family Edition outed once again ahead of announcement

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A couple of days ago we got a look at was dubbed the Motorola Xoom Family Edition and now, we're starting to see some accessories for this device pop up that confirm what was sent off to bix box retailers. Still no word from Motorola confirming the device, release date or price but we're expecting to here something come Monday when Motorola shows off their goods.

Thanks, Anon!

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3 years ago

Spec pr0n: Upcoming Droid RAZR said to be 'faster' than the iPhone 4S, but faster at what?

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Youtube link for mobile viewing

You'd think by now people would have learned to stop comparing other smartphones, spec-by-spec, to the iPhone. It's apples and oranges. But that hasn't stopped the latest unsourced rumor from BGR, which claims to have the lowdown on the upcoing Motorola Droid RAZR, which we fully expect to see unveiled on Tuesday in New York.

So what are the specs? Let's break it down:

  • 4.3-inch display. OK.
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Anyhoo, we'll be there Tuesday to find out. Stay tuned.

Source: BGR

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3 years ago

O2 offering Xperia Play on PAYG for £149.99

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Source: O2, via: Eurodroid

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3 years ago

Participating Subway restaurants will accept Google Wallet

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Hit the break for the internal Subway e-mail, or find the official press release here.

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3 years ago

Microsoft reaches licensing agreement with Quanta computers, the manufacturer of the Kindle Fire

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Quanta Computer probably isn't a name you recognize, but there's a good chance you're using some of their products.  They build hardware to spec for other companies -- including the Amazon Kindle Fire.  This, and the addition of Chrome OS to the mix makes this a dangerous precedent.  Microsoft has long considered open source software, and the Linux kernel in particular, a thorn in their side and have used creative ways to try to stop the distribution of products using the technology.  Let's have a look at the history a bit after the break.

Source: Microsoft

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3 years ago

Motorola Mobility shareholders to vote on Google merger on Nov. 17

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Motorola this morning announced a special meeting Nov. 17 to vote on the merger agreement with Google -- that little deal announced in August. Maybe you heard of it. Stockholders have to be on the books as of Oct. 11, 2011, in order to vote. The meeting will be in San Diego. Full word's after the break.

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3 years ago

Grand Theft Auto III coming to Android this fall

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Wow -- Talk about something to make you feel old. 10 years ago this month Rockstar Games released the original Grand Theft Auto III to the masses and now it is time to celebrate once again by taking it mobile. Soon, Grand Theft Auto III will be available on various Android Smartphones and tablets including:

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Source: Rockstar Games; via: Game Hunters

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3 years ago

The Android team now has its own Twitter account

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If you're using Twitter and reading Android Central, here's a quickie for you -- the Android team now has a dedicated Twitter account.  Follow them here, and be sure to follow Android Central as well for the latest news, reviews, and tips!

Via @Tim Bray

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3 years ago

Ice Cream Sandwich statue arrives on Google campus [updated with video]

45

As is the tradition with each new version of Android, a new dessert-themed statue has appeared outside Building 44 on Google's Mountain View campus. This time it's an Android-shaped Ice Cream Sandwich, that's joined other tasty treats on Google's lawn, in a photo uploaded by Google software engineer Michael Soland.

Not long now, folks. We'll very likely have more Ice Cream Sandwich goodness in the next week at the rescheduled Samsung Unpacked event, along with a shiny new Nexus device, too.

Update: Andy Rubin has posted the video of the event, and you can find it after the break.

Source: +Michael Soland

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3 years ago

Google opening their own MP3 store? [rumors]

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According to the New York Times, Google executives have claimed that they will be opening a Google Music MP3 store in the coming weeks.  Likely to be connected to the current Google Music Beta offering, the service would compete with Apple and Amazon to allow users to purchase and store music files in the cloud.  (Cue the lawsuits in 3, 2...).  While Google officially declined to comment to the Times, as did any of the Music labels, the idea makes perfect sense.  We know Google wanted to get content agreements for music, and after publicly criticizing the music industry Google decided to follow the route taken by Amazon and offer users storage for their own files.  In addition, the songs that are offered for free on the existing service certainly aren't royalty-free, so some arrangements have to be already standing.  If the rumor is true, this may be something we hear about on Oct. 19 at the Ice Cream Sandwich event.  We'll keep you posted if anything further develops.

Source: New York Times; via CNETThanks, Derek!

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3 years ago

Google Q3 earnings conference call [audio]

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Missed out on the call but still want to hear it? No problem. We got you covered. You can listen to the audio from the call below or simply download the file for later.

Direct Audio Download Link

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3 years ago

Amaze 4G buyers, ICS Incredible [From the Forums]

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Nothing quite like an earnings call from Google to help break up the day. Long story short -- Google is making a lot of money and Android is doing amazing, plus -- Ice Cream Sandwich is going to be incredible. If you missed out on any news from today, make sure you get caught up either here on the blogs or in the Android Central forums:

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

Larry Page: "We're serious about protecting the Android ecosystem."

20

Google is in the middle of their Q3 earnings call, where they have announced that they are doing very well. During the Q&A, someone asked about the patent issues currently going on and what Google is going to do about them.

Larry Page, CEO, had a few things to say regarding the patent issues:

  • "We see our partners and our ecosystem growing hugely. Ultimately other companies actions will alienate their customers."
  • "We're serious about protecting the Android ecosystem."

Another question later on was pointed directly at Microsoft and the licensing deals they have been reaching with companies such as Samsung. Here is what he said:

  • "Rather than seeing Microsoft compete in the marketplace with their own phones, they continue resorting to legal measures to hassle their own customers. We haven’t seen the details of those agreements and I assume our partners are making good deals for themselves. We see Android growing Gangbusters and we don’t see anything that will stop that."

So, Android is growing remarkably well and he doesn't see Microsoft or any other company slowing that growth down any time in the near future.

Source: Google

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3 years ago

Larry Page on Ice Cream Sandwich -- it's incredible

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While on the Google Quarterly earnings call, Google CEO Larry Page let slip a little bit of his enthusiasm for Ice Cream Sandwich.  With words like "You won’t believe what we have managed to do in this release", "I'm super excited", and "incredible" being thrown around, it's easy to see he's pumped about the ICS release.  We are, as well, and I'm sure a good many of you guys are, too.  Oct. 19 can't come soon enough!

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