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

5 years ago

It's official -- Evo to get Froyo starting Tuesday, August 3

179

Sprint Evo 4G

Sprint has just announced what we all were hoping for -- the Evo 4G will be getting Froyo starting August 3, making Sprint the first carrier to upgrade their devices to Android 2.2.  Hit our story HERE to see what's included with the update.  Sprint says that the OTA will roll out in stages, but they will be providing a manual download link for those of us who just can't wait.  (That's you and I )  Yes, we'll have a nice set of simplified instructions to make it as easy as possible, just as soon as we get the link and the method.  Check out the source link to see Sprint's official announcement.  [Sprint]

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5 years ago

Security firm details privacy concerns; developer tells us its side of the story

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Bad wallpaper appBad Wallpaper App

Let's recap: Late Wednesday night (or early Thursday morning), we reported on a story published at Mobile Beat that came out of the Black Hat online security conference. At the conference, Kevin MaHaffey, CTO at mobile security firm Lookout, told of an app from developer "jackeey,wallpaper," which basically is a portal for downloading wallpapers for your Android phone. The story told the tale of "a questionable Android mobile wallpaper app that collects your personal data and sends it to a mysterious site in China, (and) has been downloaded millions of times."

We've been in contact with Lookout -- which reiterates that the apps, while suspect, aren't necessarily malicious. We've also have a response from the developer in question. Updates from both, after the break.

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5 years ago

Android Central Editors' app picks for July 29, 2010

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apps

Applications -- they make the world go 'round. OK, maybe not exactly, but there sure are a ton of great ones in the Android Market, and finding the right one can be a bit difficult. Take a look after the jump, as we bring you another edition of our weekly selections.

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5 years ago

Froyo for the Sprint Evo 4G as early as tomorrow?

71

evo gets froyo?

What you see above is a document leaked to Engadget, showing that Android 2.2 (Froyo) is about to roll out for the HTC Evo 4G as early as this weekend.  Supposedly an announcement will be made tomorrow, and the software will be made available for users to download and manually install as a sort of test bed.  Along with the update comes all sorts of new widgets and features -- flashlights, upgraded video recording quality (720p!), LED flash during video capture, and more.  Looks like I'll be getting up early tomorrow to hopefully hear an announcement and download some Froyo for my Evo.  Engadget has a gallery of the rest of the document right HERE, it's chock full o' changes.  Now let's hope this pans out and we're not just getting set up for another disappointment.  [Engadget]

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5 years ago

Droid Incredible costs just under $164 to build, iSuppli says

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droid incredible

A while back, the Droid Incredible was torn apart and revealed some things we never knew it was capable of. Like an FM transmitter tuner, and full 720p video recording. Recently, however, another dissection done by iSuppli Corp’s reveals that the Incredible has a $163.35 Bill of Materials (BOM) price tag. Although the Nexus One’s BOM is slightly higher – $174.15 – the materials used are almost identical except, of course, support for Verizon’s CDMA network. What adds to the price tag? That bright AMOLED screen and DDR RAM for starters, and apparently that Snapdragon CPU isn’t in the bargain bin, either. Those three components cost about $90 total, and when you add in some of the other features such as the camera, Bluetooth, and all the mechanical and electro-mechanical gizmos, it adds up pretty quickly. This goes to show that building a quality smartphone costs more than nickels and dimes to the manufacturer, but the end result is definitely worth it. [iSuppli]

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5 years ago

Google bolsters mobile apps with expandable app 'extensions'

4

Google App Extensions

Back at Google IO in May, our benevolent overlords detailed their intentions to make mobile advertising more immersive, akin to Apple's iAds. Today, we're starting to see some of the fruits of that labor with AdWords location extensions. Businesses can show their location (via an embedded Google Map, natch) and clickable phone number all in an expanding and contracting ad, right inside an app. Says Google:

This new ad format is available on mobile devices with full Internet browsers and allows you to expand your advertising campaigns to reach highly engaged mobile users with relevant local information as they use their favorite apps or websites to check the weather, read the news, play games or pursue other mobile interests.

Ads that truly are useful? Crazy talk! [Google Mobile Ads blog]

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5 years ago

Official Froyo update for the UK Galaxy S in September

3


According to Samsung's official UK Twitter account, the Galaxy S (the non-U.S. version, anyway) will receive Froyo (2.2) near the end of September; it is currently in development, according to the spokesperson. 

There has been a Froyo ROM leaked for the international version of the Galaxy S, so if you can't wait, try that. But it's nice to know that Samsung appears dedicated to its Galaxy S phones and is looking to update them as quickly as possible. (Via @SamsungUKMobile)

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5 years ago

Hold search button for voice search

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5 years ago

Droid 2 leaks continue, entire user guide finds its way online

21

Seriously, the Droid 2 might just be the worst-kept secret in the mobile industry at this point. Add this onto the pile of leaks we have already seen, but now Droid-Life seems to have gotten their hands on a full copy of the phone's user guide. They have gone ahead and posted the entire thing for your viewing pleasure as a PDF.

Some notable finds:

  • Will launch with Froyo (which of course everybody's known for a while).
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  • Comes with Swype pre-loaded.

Click on the link to get the full scoop and lots of pretty pictures. [Droid-Life]

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5 years ago

Another rogue app stealing data, security firm reports [updated]

63

Bad wallpaper appBad Wallpaper App

Update 2: We've heard back from the developer of these apps, who tells us the following:

"What the ceo [sic] of Lookout said  makes no sense. I will email you with details later."

We await the details. In the meantime, be aware that the developer listed on the suspect wallpaper apps has been changed to callmejack. We're still diving into this one. But for the time being, we recommend not installing these apps.

Original: Before we start, grab your phone and your computer and hit this link: Android apps by jakeey, wallpaper.  If you have any of these applications on your Android phone, uninstall them.

We'll wait.

Now you ask why did we recommend (nay, demand!) you uninstall any of those apps?  Lookout says that one or more of these apps are stealing your data and sending it to an unknown person or persons in China.  Yup, innocent looking wallpaper apps.  According to Lookout, the app(s) in question are collecting:

  • browsing history
  • text messages
  • your SIM card data
  • subscriber ID
  • voicemail password (if it's set to be entered automatically)

Look for Google to pull these soon, as they potentially affect at least 1.1 million users, but for now remember to read what an app can do when you install it. That's that screen you ignore every time you install an app. The one that tells you what system permissions the app has access to. If, say, a calculator wants to see your contacts list, think twice.

It's worth reminding that Android is the only OS that gives you these sort of warnings. And before any Apple fanatics get too cocky, at least these apps aren't stealing money from your Google checkout account.  We're keeping a close eye on this one, you'll hear more as it unfolds.  [Mobile Beat via 9 to 5 Mac]

Update: Lookout got back to us during the overnight to clarify a few things as reported in the Mobile Beat story. They're not going quite so far as to call the app "malicious," but questions remain. Read Lookout's e-mail to us after the break. We've e-mailed the apps' developer for further explanation.

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5 years ago

New shot of the myTouch 3G HD's backside appears

7

 T-Mobile myTouch 3G HD (back)

We've already seen the mysterious (and as-yet unannounced) myTouch 3G HD, which is rumored to be T-Mobile's first HSPA+ phone, from the front. Looks like the same tipster fed TmoNews the back of the device. 

No word yet on if these pictures are real or if this is in fact T-Mobile's first HSPA+ phone. T-Mobile is keeping their lips sealed on this one, so it's likely we won't know for a while. But we're likely to see more of this before release, we reckon. Does the back of the phone change any opinions you had about the device prior? [TmoNews]

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5 years ago

LG Optimus Z now available in Korea

12

lgoptimusz

LG Electronics has announced another heavy hitter into its home Korean Android market, the LG Optimus Z. This device has a 3.5-inch WVGA "Hyper" HD LCD powered by a 1GHz Snapdragon processor and runs Android 2.1 currently, but they have stated by the end of the year the device will receive a 2.2 update. Equipped with two batteries this device is ready to power the 170 pre-equipped applications along with the T-DMB mobile TV that is preinstalled. The Optimus Z offers users some great features, and has brought a couple of amazing new features to the table with this device.

In a first for Korean smartphones, the LG Optimus Z offers On Screen Phone function that lets user display their phone interface on the screen of their PC. Using Bluetooth or a data cable, the interface will appear onscreen, letting users manage the phone’s various functions – including applications and e-mail – on the computer. In addition, any documents, images or music files stored on the PC can be easily transferred to Optimus Z using this interface. Furthermore, Drag & Shake allows LG Optimus Z users to share files between smartphones with a simple shake of the handset, while LG Air Sync lets them constantly sync the phone with their PCs or other mobile digital devices.

While the device is only available in the Korean market, this brings a glimmer of hope that we can see some of these new features on some U.S.-based devices in the future. Full presser after the break.

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5 years ago

Viper SmartStart launches on Android, brings remote vehicle start and more

13

Viper SmartStart

Directed Electronics has released its popular Viper SmartStart application for the Android platform, which allows drivers to remotely start their car, lock and unlock doors, pop the trunk, and more.

You've probably seen their iPhone app featured in an AT&T iPhone commercial.   Be aware, it does take hardware in your vehicle, which you may not have and will need to have installed.  While applications like this may not be for everyone, it's great to see developers of top tier products supporting Android, it shows that they too see the potential behind out friendly green robot.  You can download the application from the market and at Viper.com , and it would be great to hear from anyone who's converted over from iOS and is using the iPhone app -- let us know how they compare.  Hit the jump for the full press release. [Viper]

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5 years ago

Motorola sells 2.7 million smartphones in Q2, $162 million in earnings overall

0

Motorola Q2 2010 earnings

Motorola this morning announced its second-quarter numbers, earning $162 million in Q2. That's up from $26 million in Q2 2009. Overall, however, mobile sales were down 6 percent, to $1.7 billion, compared to last year. Motorola cited the Droid X, i1 and it's applications section as it shipped 2.7 million smartphones.

CEO Sanjay Jha said he expects sell between 12 million and 14 million smartphones by the end of the year, and Motorola should have released more than 20 models worldwide. [Motorola]

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5 years ago

Wii remote + Droid X + Mario 3 = best mobile gaming platform ever?

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Wii remote controlling the emulator action on the Motorola Droid X.

As if the Droid X wasn't awesome enough, Android Central reader Derek, dwd3885 on the forumsshows us what gaming on the go is really about. He shows off his amazing Super Mario Brothers 3 skills on his X using his Wii remote to control the action. This goes right along with the PlayStation emulator to make Android one of the most versatile work/entertainment/communication platforms ever seen, and the Droid X is just the right hardware to really bring out the best. Check out the video after the break. Thanks, Derek! 

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