Honor's latest packs impressive specs, metal construction, fingerprint security — and could be shockingly cheap.
The Honor 5C — a new budget-centric option from Huawei's Honor brand — landed in China last month, bringing surprisingly decent hardware specs at a staggeringly low price point. The Chinese version of the phone packs Huawei's homemade octa-core Kirin 650 chip, 2 or 3 gigabytes of RAM, a 5.2-inch 1080p display, fingerprint security and a 13-megapixel main camera, backed up by an 8-megapixel selfie shooter. The price? 899 yuan — that's around £100, or US$140.
And it looks like Honor is poised to launch this highly affordable, potentially really good phone in Europe and India.
Honor UK is teasing an online-only event on Monday June 20, with a phone that's the spitting image of the Honor 5C. Meanwhile Honor India's social accounts are hyping up an event two days later for a phone running Kirin 650 — almost certain to be the same handset.
So what do we know about the Honor 5C? Here's the full spec sheet for the Chinese version of the phone. There's no guarantee the Euro and Indian models will match this exactly, but it should be a reasonable approximation.
|Operating System||Android 6.0, EMUI 4.1|
|CPU||Hisilicon Kirin 650 (4x ARM Cortex-A53 @ 2GHz + 4x ARM Cortex-A53 @ 1.7GHz), 16nm process|
|GPU||Mali T830 MP2|
|RAM||2-3GB depending on SKU|
|Display||5.2-inch 1080p LCD, 423 ppi|
|Internal storage||16GB/32GB; 16GB model has 10GB available|
|microSD||Up to 128GB supported|
|Main camera||13MP, f/2.0, LED flash|
|Front camera||8MP, f/2.0|
|Cellular||4G LTE Cat. 6|
|Wifi||2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n|
|Fingerprint security||0.5s unlock time|
By any measure, that's a lot of smartphone for not a whole lot of money. And a few things stand out to us that could give it an edge over rivals in the entry-level market — as well as addressing pain points from previous Honor phones.
The Honor 5C could address some of our biggest pain points from the 5X.
The first is the combination of CPU and battery. Huawei has been able to eke decent performance out of the similar but older Kirin 935 chip powering the Honor 7, but the company struggled with occasional lag and slowdown in the Snapdragon 616-powered Honor 5X.
We haven't actually used it yet, but Kirin 650 has a lot in common with the Honor 7's processor, with the notable advantage of an updated GPU and a more efficient manufacturing process — 16nm versus 28nm. A 16nm chip, combined with a relatively large battery and relatively small screen, bodes well for longevity, and there's a good chance the 5C could actually outperform the 5X across the board.
EMUI is no longer a dumpster fire of bugs and broken features, and that's a big deal.
Next is the fact that as of version 4.1, Huawei's EMUI software is no longer a dumpster fire of bugs and broken features. That's a backhanded compliment, but as recently as this January we've had Huawei and Honor phones shipping with notable software issues, be they minor bugs or core Android features that just didn't work as designed. In the West at least, software has been a historic weakness for both Huawei brands.
By comparison, the Marshmallow-based EMUI 4.1 on the Huawei P9 is a joy to use. The look and feel is still something of an acquired taste, but thanks to the ease with which you can skin EMUI, it's easy to configure things to look less overbearing. If EMUI 4.1 is as polished on the Honor 5C as it is on the Huawei P9, it could be the best shipping software experience on any Honor phone to date. Consider our laundry list of Honor 7 software complaints at launch and it's clear the company has come a long way in a relatively short space of time.
We'll reserve final judgment until we've spent more time with the Honor 5C, but on paper this looks like really promising entry-level phone. Of course, as with any budget-centric handset, everything about the 5C has to be seen in the context of its price. Even if taxes push the cost a little above the 899 yuan/£100 price tag of the Chinese model, Honor could still undercut competitors like the Moto G4 significantly, while offering similar specs, along with the added bonus of a metal enclosure and fingerprint security.
And so as hardware at the high end starts to plateau, the Honor 5C stands out as an example of premium features becoming more affordable than ever. Stay tuned next week as we learn more about the phone's arrival in Europe and India.