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

Cliq XT maintenance update being rolled out now

1

Looks like the maintenance update that was being tested on the Cliq XT is now being rolled out to everybody. It's in two parts, so you'll need to do both of them. The update brings you fixes to:

  • Improves Overall Phone Performance
  • Visual Voice Mail Enhancements
  • Bluetooth Audio
  • Camera Correction
  • Screen/Display Performance
  • Text Messaging Improvements
  • Touch Screen Enhancement

And we're reminded that, no, it's not Android 2.1. Gonna have to wait a little longer for that. [T-Mobile]

Read more and comment

 
5 years ago

Installation of Android apps on SD cards now slated for 'future release'

12

Good news for those of you who just have to be able to install applications to the SD card. Google -- which said in January that this would be addressed -- has officially marked the issue (1151, if you're counting at home) with a "future release" status and has closed the thread.

And one Googler replied with the following:

Apologies, but I'm not permitted to disclose scheduling information - suffice to say it's coming soon :) Sorry for being vague, and thank you for your continued patience - I sincerely appreciate it.

Dunno about you guys, but Froyo and Google IO can't get here soon enough. Thanks, Jacob!

Read more and comment

 
5 years ago

Motorola Shadow gets its WiFi certification

24

 

Whoa!  The WiFi Alliance certified the (likely Android) Motorola MB810 today for IEEE Standard 802.11 b/g/n.  Yes, that's the Shadow, and I know a lot of us have been waiting for more info about this screamer.  Still no concrete details or specs, but in case you forgot here's what we think we know:-

  • Full Qwerty landscape slider
  • 4.3-inch capacitive screen
  • 1080p playback
  • Android 2.2
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • 8MP autofocus camera
  • microSD slot
  • AT&T 3G GSM radio

If you're an AT&T subscriber, start gathering up the change from your ashtray and from deep down in the couch.  This is one you don't wanna miss out on. [via Phonedog]

Read more and comment

 
5 years ago

HTC releases GPS fix for Telstra Desire

2

HTC Desire

For you folks in Australia using the HTC Desire on Telstra, know that there's a software update available that should en your GPS woes. You can download it over the air (either WiFi or network), or directly from HTC, though doing it from the desktop will wipe the device. [HTC]

Read more and comment

 
5 years ago

Vodafone 845 May launch confirmed

0

 The Vodaphone 845 is launching in May.

The Vodafone 845, the first Vodafone-branded Android device, is now confirmed for a May launch. No specific date has been given, just May and "coming soon." There is an official video of the phone, and while I can't confirm this, the video makes it look as if it has a resistive touch screen. The first thought behind that is "ouch," but it doesn't look too bad in the video. It's expected to be offered as a bargain phone, so we can't really complain about the lack of fancy features. Video after the break. Thanks to Dave for sending this in. [Vodafone]

Read more and comment

 
5 years ago

Public Flash preview on Android at Google IO; general release in June

14

Flash on Android

Adobe responded to Apple CEO Steve Jobs' attack on Flash yesterday by dropping a fair big (and well-directed) bombshell of its own: A public preview will be given in a few weeks at Google IO (we'll be there for it), and Flash will see general release for Android in June. Said Adobe CTO Kevin Lunch in his "Moving Forward" post:

We look forward to delivering Flash Player 10.1 for Android smartphones as a public preview at Google I/O in May, and then a general release in June. From that point on, an ever increasing number and variety of powerful, Flash-enabled devices will be arriving which we hope will provide a great landscape of choice.

Now all Adobe has to do is deliver. And it damn well better work well out of the box, or the pitchforks are going to be raised pretty quick. [Adobe] Thanks to everyone who sent this in!

Read more and comment

 
5 years ago

Best Buy gears up for an HTC Hero update; Cyanogen releases for G1, myTouch

HTC Hero update at Best Buy Mobile

While you slept, Cyanogen released his Android 2.1 ROM for the HTC Hero Dream and Magic (that's the G1 and myTouch 3G, respectively). Most of the bells and whistles are there, save for the new launcher (app drawer) and stock live wallpapers. And while his ROMs for the Droid and Nexus One are painless (and pretty damn awesome), this one comes with a tad of caution because you have to load the "DangerSPL" to get it to work. And if an SPL flash goes wrong, your phone is pretty much bricked. Full instructions are here.

Meanwhile, it looks like Best Buy Mobile is gearing up for some sort of official update to the Hero. As for exactly what or when? Check back later.

Read more and comment

 
5 years ago

HP Compaq Airlife 100 Android netbook now available in Spain

1

HP Compaq Airlife 100

Seems like only yesterday that we were talking about the HP Compaq Airlife 100 Android netbook -- oh, wait, it was, both here and on the special Emergency PalmCast Broadcast in the wake of HP buying Palm for $1.2 billion. Anyhoo, we got a good look at the Airlife 100 at Mobile World Congress but had seen neither hide nor hair of it since. But, as expected, it's now available on Telefonica in Spain, bringing its 10-inch screen and 1 GHz Snapdragon processor for about $300, not counting data plan. [Carrypad via Slashgear]

Read more and comment

 
5 years ago

New Eclair leaked for HTC Droid Eris

11

HTC Droid Eris 2.1 Eclair leak

Caddyman over at androidforums  has posted up a new Android 2.1 leak for the Droid Eris.  There's a huge list of bugfixes, and from the looks of it the odd connectivity issues Eris users were seeing with the previous leaks should have been addressed, as well as the pesky bugs with the latest Google Voice app.  For those of you running one of the previous leaks, this is something you'll want to look at for sure!

Warning - This is leaked beta testing software, and wasn't meant for general use.  Flashing it will wipe your phone, and take away root if you have it.  As always, use your best judgment and flash at your own risk!

Links, changelog, and further instructions can be found HEREThanks, kbaker!

Read more and comment

 
5 years ago

LG Aloha will be the Ally on Verizon

19

Verizon LG Ally (or Aloha)

Oh, you wanted to know about the LG Aloha, did you ? Sorry, alls we have here is the LG Ally -- which is what we're told the Aloha actually will be called -- and it's said to be destined for Verizon in the middle of May. Specs should still be about what we've been told for the Aloha (aka the LU2300), with a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 3.5-inch AMOLED touchscreen at 480x800 pixels, QWERTY keyboard, Android 2.1, 720p video out, 5MP camera and the kinda-weird round D-pad. More or less par for the course these days. More on the Ally as we get it.

Read more and comment

 
5 years ago

HTC expects a record setting Q2, credits Android

6

HTC has announced its projections for the second quarter, and they are aiming high.  HTC says it expects to sell 4.5 million handsets, with revenue to peak at 1.6 billion USD.  This is a pretty big jump from the 3.3 million handsets sold in Q1, and the company is ahead of market analyst expectations.  In today's ecomony, any earnings increase is nice.  This kind of growth is phenomenal, and HTC's CFO Cheng Hui-ming credits the increase to one thing -- the "growing popularity of the Android platform in Europe and the US.

Keep pumping out phones like the Desire, Legend, Incredible, EVO, etc. and the sky is the limit Mr. Hui-ming.  We all love stylish, top quality hardware that runs the best Mobile OS
on the planet, and can't wait to see what's next. [Financial Times via Engadget]

Read more and comment

 
5 years ago

Hands on with the Skyfire 2.0 Android browser

33

Let's take a quick look at the new Skyfire 2.0 browser for Android, shall we? Full page rendering? Check. Flash video? Check. Bells and whistles? Check and check. Our quick verdict: So long as you're not worried about any privacy concerns regarding proxy browsers, this could easily become your main browser.

Update: Re-recorded the video to fix an error or three.

Read more and comment

 
5 years ago

Verizon's Droid Incredible commercial shows specs, doesn't show phone

33

It's Verizon's first commercial for the Droid Incredible. Impressive. Most impressive. [YouTube link]

Read more and comment

 
5 years ago

Skyfire 2.0 now available for Android

34

Here's Skyfire's promo video for its new Version 2.0 browser, which should be available for Android any time now. (It's not appearing in the market, and the manual download link's not working yet either.) Update: It's there now. Here's the link.

Anyhoo, check out the video above, and we'll give Skyfire the what-for just as soon as we can. [Skyfire]

Read more and comment

 
5 years ago

Want an Incredible? Better hit a store -- fast

27

Verizon Droid Incredible shipping

If for some reason you can't make it to a Verizon store to buy an Incredible in person, you're going to have to wait a few days. Verizon's website says new orders won't ship until May 4 -- a testament to the phone's popularity (or initial low inventory). That's echoed by reports in our forums discussing limited in-store inventory. Anybody out there have a hard time getting one?

How are you getting your HTC Incredible?customer surveys

Read more and comment

 
Show More Headlines

Pages