Honor 7

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

The quick take

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

The good

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

The bad

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

Honor 7

About this review

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

Honor 7 Video Walkthrough

Honor 7

Familiar, Sturdy, Dependable

Honor 7 Hardware

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

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

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

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

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

Honor 7 swipe

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

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

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

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

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

Honor 7

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

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

Honor 7

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

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

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

Honor 7 apps

Familiar caveats

Honor 7 Software

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

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

EMUI continues to be afflicted by visual and functional annoyances.

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

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

Honor 7 apps

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

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

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

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

Honor 7 camera

Competent, if not spectacular

Honor 7 Camera

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honor 7 camera options

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

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

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

All that juice

Honor 7 Battery Life

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

One day with ease, or two at a squeeze.

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

Honor 7

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

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

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

Honor 7

A worthy contender?

Honor 7: The Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

Should you buy the Honor 7? Maybe

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

Headlines

4 years ago

Nexus S listed as 'in stock' at Carphone Warehouse

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Carphone Warehouse ordering page

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Andy Rubin's full All Things D video now online

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As promised, All Things Digital has posted their interview with Android's lead-man, Andy Rubin. In the video from last week's Dive Into Mobile conference, you'll see Rubin tear up the stage with some sweet Honeycomb action -- running it all on the highly anticipated, Tegra 2 Motorola tablet. And even though the Nexus S is officially coming out Thursday at your local Best Buy, here is where it was officially announced for the first time. Oh yeah, Mr. Rubin also shows off the new Google Maps update for Android. [All Things Digital via Engadget]

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4 years ago

Vodafone HTC Magic Android 2.2.1 OTA now available

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Long live the HTC Magic. For some out there, the HTC Magic may have been your first leap into the Android platform and many are still making use of the device today. Vodafone UK is well aware of that fact and as such, have started pushing out the Android 2.2.1 update for it. As noted on the Vodafone UK forums:

Android 2.2.1 will give customers a number of improvements including: latest Gmail and Android Market clients; ability to save applications directly onto an SD card; support for USB tethering so the phone can be used as a modem; improved support for Active Sync Exchange (email, contacts and calendar sync); enhancements to Bluetooth; and enhancements to the camera. The update also includes the latest Google security patches.

HTC Magic users should be getting the automatic notifications on their devices advising to update although, it is mentioned that it is a gradual roll out so if you're not seeing yet you'll just have to wait a little bit longer. [Vodafone UK via CoolSmartPhone]

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4 years ago

Facebook for Android finally gets chat, push notifications!

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Facebook Chat for Android

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4 years ago

Best Buy Mobile proffers list of stores that will sell Nexus S on contract

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nexus-s

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And thanks to one of our readers (we love you guys) we have a short video showing the Best Buy Special Edition Nexus S Buyers Guide (and that's a mouthful).  Looks like Best Buy will be offering a $60.00 accessory bundle that includes a Rocketfish car charger, a Zagg screen protector, and a Platinum case. Be sure to have a look after the break. [via Best Buy Mobile Twitter] Thanks J. for the video!

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4 years ago

Android Market refunds, G2 Proximity sensor issues and laggy Evos. [From the forums]

2

Android Forums at Android Central

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Also, when visiting the forums take note of the sexy new button we just put in. As new users register daily and the forums continue to grow, we realized a lot of our news tips actually come from there. So, if you see something we may have missed just click that button and let us know.

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4 years ago

Review: Mobi Products skin case for the Samsung Fascinate and Mesmerize

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Mobi products skin case

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4 years ago

nullDC now running (slow frame rate) Dreamcast games

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Yesterday we posted a video of drk|Raziel's nullDC emulator running the Dreamcast bios. Today he posted on his blog two new videos of some Dreamcast classics running on the emulator: Power Stone, Crazy Taxi, and Dead or Alive 2. While the frame rate is still super slow, we are definitely excited to see this project evolve. Now where is Sonic? Videos embedded after the break. Thanks, Bl!

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4 years ago

Android Market update not so welcome for Xperia X10 users

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SE Xperia X10

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Seems like the new and improved version of the Market wont run on the X10, with users waiting forever as it fails to load.  Sony Ericsson was quick to address the issue via their Facebook page, telling users to uninstall the updates for the Android Market.  But, as we all know, the Market auto-updates -- leading some users into an endless loop, and no Android Market on their expensive phone.  I've reached out to SE, but short of keeping the updates for the Market uninstalled, I have no advice to offer to help.  This one needs addressed -- if not from SE, then from Google, who may be able to halt the updates for the affected devices. 

If we hear anything that may help, we'll be sure to let you know.  Thanks for the heads up, Conan!

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4 years ago

Google acquires mobile payments company Zetawire

1

 Nexus S with new Maps

Although they are a small, Toronto-based firm, the news of Google acquiring mobile payments startup Zetawire could mean a lot in the upcoming months. It was revealed yesterday by tech analysts at the 451 Group that Google had acquired the small company quite some time ago and that the purchase had gone unnoticed until now. 

So what is Google's interest in a small, mobile payments company that seemingly only has one patent to their name?  Well, that's pretty much it. That one patent which Zetawire owns “a payment system, an advertising system, and an identity management system” fits right into Google's interests. Especially when you start considering the Near Field Communication chip in the Google Nexus S.

Combine NFC with Zetawire's technology and you have a pretty awesome jump start on the market of mobile advertising and payments and most importantly, tracking of it's usage. Not that Google is new to any of that just, they can now offer it in better ways. [451Group via Techcrunch]

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4 years ago

Android Voice Search gets personal with personalized voice recognition

14

Google Voice Search oldGoogle Voice Search New
The old Voice Search options (left) and new options (right)

Voice search on Android is pretty good. And it's about to get better. Google's updated the app and given us the option for personalized recognition. The premise is simple: Voice Search remembers words that you search for (and the sound of your voice doing so) and associates them with your Google account. It's an opt-in service, so it's not automatically recording your voice without your knowledge. You'll get the option to turn on personalized recognition when you first fire up voice search. And from there on out, it's all transparent. The goal? To understand you better and make searches faster and more accurate.

The update and personalized recognition are only available on Android 2.2 and up, and for English in the U.S. Google says it plans on supporting other nations and languages in the future. You can update in the market, and we've got download links after the break. [Google Mobile Blog]

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4 years ago

Skype updated, now installs to SD card

26

Skype for Android

If you're keeping an eye on your storage space and move as many apps as possible to the SD card, note that the Skype Android app has been updated for that very reason. You're not going to save too much space -- its less than 1 megabyte -- but every little bit helps, right? Download link's after the break if you need it. (And, yes, you have to have Froyo to move apps to the SD card. That hasn't changed.) Thanks to everyone who sent this in!

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4 years ago

NookColor getting Froyo and Android Market -- officially -- in January [updated: Erm, not so much]

23

Barnes & Noble NookGood news for those of you looking longingly at your Barnes & Noble NookColor and wishing that the Android-based e-reader could one day legitimately run Android apps. An update to Android 2.2 Froyo is coming, and it's bringing with it the traditional Android home screens and access to the Android Market.

That's right, none of that hackery required -- and hackery that's as liable to give you a third eye as it is access to Android apps. The word is that the update's coming in January and in addition to the Market and homescreens will bring pinch-to-zoom to the browser. There's also the requisite battery and performance improvements you supposedly get with just about every update.

With the prospect of an official update and traditional Android features, the $250 NookColor is starting to look like an affordable and attractive Android tablet. [SmartphoneMag via Engadget]

Update: Bad news folks. Barnes and Noble PR got in touch with the authors of the original piece at Engadget, and while the Nook Color will be adding apps to it's own market, there is no plan to add the official Android Market to the device. Back to the hackery, I guess.

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4 years ago

Xperia X10 goes buy-one-get-one on AT&T

4

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10

If you're in the mood for a year-old smartphone that's struggling to get to Android 2.1, know that the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 is available as buy-one-get-one free until Jan. 1, 2011. At that point it'll be about a year old -- we had our first hands-on at CES in January 2010 -- and it's been plagued by a lack of updates ever since. But you can't beat BOGO, even on the X10. [via Twitter]

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4 years ago

Android Quick App: YouMail Visual Voicemail

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You ever get a call from someone you really don't feel like talking to at the moment and decide that you'll just let it go to voicemail and wait and see if they leave a message? I know I do. In fact, I really dislike talking on the phone so I tend to do it a lot. That habit of mine used to make checking my voicemail rather annoying as well. Especially after letting 5-6 messages build in there.

So instead of actually, you know answering calls I decided I'd switch to a visual voicemail service and make it a lot easier on myself. I decided to go with YouMail. Read on after the break for a quick run down of what YouMail is all about.

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