With a new Android device announced ever hour, it takes a lot to make a device stand out from the crowd. Some devices are marketed heavily, some bring new features and others just fall to the wayside after announcement, and the Huawei Honor is a handset that falls in the middle of a bunch of these categories. Claims of three-day battery life certainly piqued our interest, but we'll have to get this in the States first before we'll celebrate too much. But that didn't slow us down at all. We got the Honor in our hands, and it's time to put it through its paces.
Could the Huawei Honor bring enough to the table to make some folks want to import the device, or to make it a daily driver for those who are able to purchase and make use of it? Let’s hit the break and take a look at how it rates.
The Huawei Honor offers a solid build quality, large screen, fast processor and a demo ICS ROM already.
The self-proclaimed amazing battery life was anything but, and the 8-megapixel camera disappointed. Currently unavailable in the U.S.
The hardware is very well built and the Honor runs rather smoothly. We can expect to see support for ICS on this device since we already saw the demo ROM available, and with multiple colors available the device is sure to meet your style requirements.
The video hands-on
Youtube link for mobile viewing
Oh, what I wouldn’t do to see a little bit of innovation in form factor and design on Android handsets. With that said, the Honor offers the typical candybar design with the 4-inch display taking over most of the front, and a nice glossy battery cover taking over the back of the device. One cool thing to note is it's available in five colors, so that large battery door can be your favorite color instead of you being stuck with a single pre-determined color from the manufacturer.
The front of the Honor is almost entirely consumed by the 4-inch display, which is a great thing. With the larger displays hitting devices, there is no need to waste space around the edges and make the phones even larger. Above the display is the logo, speaker and a front facing camera. The bottom features the standard (for now) capacitive buttons and that does it for the front.
The left hand side solely features the volume rocker and the right hand side is just smooth plastic.
Up top there's the power button to the left and a headphone jack to the right. Down on the bottom is where you will see the micro-USB charging port and a pinhole mic.
The battery door covers the entire back of the device, and boy does it have a slick feel to it. Towards the top you have the 8-megapixel camera in the center with a small flash positioned next to it. To the right of the camera is a speaker which pumps out some decent audio. Down the bottom of the battery door, next to the microUSB port you will notice a little indent, this is to help you get the door off. Most of the time these single piece battery doors are a bit of a struggle to remove but luckily there is no extreme prying required to remove this one, and the door does not feel as though it is going to snap at any point while removing it.
As far as weight I was a little surprised after picking the device up due to how light it is and it actually caused me to double check that the battery was installed.
Overall feel in the hand is rather comforting but for myself it is too slick. The screen is slick, the edges are slick and the large battery cover is slick. This could add up to a recipe for disaster for some, unless you plan on adding a case which makes none of that important.
One of the big pain points in the Android community is software updates, and what version the phone runs and if it will be updating to the most current release. The Huawei Honor ships with Gingerbread, specifically Android 2.3.5, and Huawei has just released an OTA update bumping it up to Android 2.3.6. For most users this is great, it's running one of the most current versions of Android. With ICS having only just come out, we wouldn’t quite expect to see it on the device just yet.
This is where Huawei has thrown us all for a loop, releasing a “demo ROM,” which is basically a full ICS build for the device minus Google Apps. Take a minute to swap the recovery.img file, and run the Google Apps zip as an update file and you have a fully functional device running ICS with access to the Android market (some apps show as incompatible still) along with all the other great apps like Gmail, Talk, Google +, etc.
So, you don’t have the know how/don’t want to mess with loading up Ice Cream Sandwich on it? No problem. Huawei has a few neat features baked into their Gingerbread builds that are rather useful instead of the typical bloatware.
With tons of different skins on the market, Huawei has added their own which offers dock access to three user defined applications and an app launcher along with some light skinning throughout the OS. Unlike some others, this skin doesn’t feel clunky or seem to clutter the device and doesn’t adversely affect performance. The app drawer offers a page view that allows right and left navigation. The apps on the pages can be moved to make it easier for you, and doing so is only one click.
Also inside the app drawer you can create folders to help keep you organized and creating them is as simple as dragging and dropping one icon on top of another in the edit mode. Once you create the folder you can rename it and move the icons around in it as well.
The lock screen is nice in that it offers quick and easy access from unlock to jump into your messages, call log, camera or just unlock the device. Having these additional applications accessible from the lock screen allows you to quickly get things done, get in and get out which is definitely a benefit for many users.
Included in the device is also some cloud software which you must sign up for. Signing up is free, there is no charge for this service, and it gives you access to 160GB of cloud storage space. That's a huge chunk of space. Most of the time you are given 2GB or maybe 5GB of free cloud storage so the leap to 160GB of space is a large one, and a huge benefit to many users of which most will never come close to reaching.
Right from the time of release Huawei made some pretty wild claims when it came to battery life on the Honor, claiming the battery could power the device for three days. Spoiler - not the case.
And the disappointing battery life is also a bit susrprising. I was running this one on T-Mobile EDGE, so you'd think it'd last forever. And a lot of my usage is done while connected to a WiFi network. But compared to other Android devices the battery life was on par with what we have grown to know as “normal” battery life. To say I was disappointed by the battery life at first is an understatement. The three-day battery life claim just didn't happen. Not that I ever really expected it to, but, still.
With average to heavy usage I was still able to get through the day with the device, but come the evening hours the device needed to hit the charger. With mild internet use, minimal phone usage, regular checks of Twitter and email the device was able to make it through a normal days worth of usage, and if you have access to a charger even for 30 minutes here and there you won’t have an issue making it through the day with the stock battery.
For having a 1930mAh battery you would certainly hope for more battery life, most of us are purchasing extended batteries that size now a days. We can hope that in future updates they are able to improve the battery life and get closer to the predictions from the release.
We're all trying to carry around fewer devices, and so cameras are becoming more important on our phones. The Honor's 8MP shooter just isn't up to snuff.
One major quirk is that what you see on the display isn't actually what you're taking a picture of. On many indoor photos, the images once captured were a good bit darker than what was shown on the screen before taking the picture, which depending on what you will be using the camera to capture images of may or may not be a huge deal.
Bottom line, if you are looking to replace your current point and shoot you may not be overly thrilled with the camera, but if you are looking to just capture some memories while out and about the Honor will do just that, but one would likely expect a lot more out of 8MP than this delivers.
The front facing camera on the Honor is actually a 2MP camera, a higher resolution than you'll often see on that end of the phone. While I was rather unimpressed with the rear camera, the front facing camera is solid and will give a rather clean crisp picture for all those video chats and other times you may find a use for it.
On one hand, the Honor is a fairly solid mid-range device. On the other, battery life was disappointing, as was the camrea. And those are pretty big negatives. With a rather impressive set of specs and having already released an Ice Cream Sandwich build, this device hits a lot of key needs, and does it well.
The bad news is that Huawei still has some work to do on the Honor. But that the manufacturer has already released official ICS demo ROMs means they're pretty likely to do it. We're not expecting to see any lines for the Huawei Honor, but it's a good start.