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.
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
Huawei's EMUI software is overbearing as ever
Many software issues from the P8 left unaddressed
Camera hit and miss in low light
5.64 in 143.2mm
2.83 in 71.9mm
0.33 in 8.5mm
5.2-inch Full HD
1920x1080 resolution (435ppi)
20.7MP, ƒ/2.0 lens
5MP front-facing camera
Octa-core Huawei Kirin 935 processor
4x2.2GHz A53e cores + 4x1.5GHz A53 cores
16GB internal storage
microSD slot (also second SIM slot)
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Even after nearly a decade of modern social networking, we're still having trouble grappling with privacy. We're not talking about when some server is compromised and your password ends up for sale in the seedier parts of the internet — no, this is about our own management of our own privacy.
What are we supposed to be posting on Facebook and Twitter and Google+? What shouldn't we be posting? Can we depend on the privacy features these social networks offer, or should we just assume that if we post it online behind supposedly closed doors that it's not necessarily going to stay behind those closed doors? And once it's online, is it yours anymore anyway?
Do our employers have the right to see what we're posting online? Should they care? And how are we supposed to teach our children how to properly and safely use social networking when we're clearly failing at doing so ourselves?
Social networking can be awesome, and it can be dangerous. Just how are we supposed to manage our own social privacy?
The question of just how much control we allow our employers over our private lives in this extremely social new world is one that is of utmost importance. Specifically we are referring to the idea of certain employers asking to see the contents of one’s private Facebook or Twitter page — mind you, this information isn’t necessarily public, but rather what that person says or does on their own time, within their private network.
Currently, at least in the United States, this idea that an employer can compel an employee to reveal the private contents of their social networks as a condition of employment is technically legal. The United States Congress had a bill proposed to amend FCC regulations on the matter, but it was struck down, clearing the way for the continuation of what many would say is an invasive tactic by employers.
The notion of whether or not this is a “right” is a legal one and laws can be written or overturned through the democratic process. Therefore, the notion that companies can force you to reveal your Facebook password as a right is purely relative — we can just as easily make it illegal as well, ergo not a right.
Is this the kind of work environment that we want?
The question should be: is this the kind of work environment that we want? Sure, we understand that an employer may take umbrage at something posted publicly by an employee that could reflect negatively on them — after all, “at will” jobs are just that. But this overreaching of companies into the private lives of their employees reeks of servitude and surrendering of one’s freedoms for the “privilege” of working.
But so long as the economy is weak, specifically with high levels of unemployment, the employer will always have the upper hand to dictate the terms and conditions — after all, if you won’t give your Facebook password for a job, surely someone else will. Since labor unions, which traditionally have defended workers, are increasing out of vogue, it will be up to the masses or legislative bodies to act. Neither of which look likely anytime soon.
Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your mother to see
Everything on the internet is public. It’s 2013, we all know this by now, right? Everyone from politicians to business leaders to celebrities to athletes have been caught with their pants down, figuratively and literally, online and even in court, thanks to something they posted online. Big brother is here, and he’s brought along little brother — all of us, online with cameras, all the time — just to make certain our every private moment can be viewed on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.
Even if you truly believe your online activities can and will remain private, it’s safer to assume the opposite. One mistake, one careless moment, one lost device, one hack, and everything and anything can be compromised. And once it’s public, there's no going back.
The easy answer is never do anything that that you couldn’t survive if it went online. But that’s not practical, and it doesn’t account for all the shades of gray.
Many have made the mistake of thinking personal means private, that posting something on a personal Facebook page means it’ll remain between you and your friends. But downloading, copy-pasting, and screen captures are never more than a click away.
Companies are looking at Facebook pages now. That jerk friend of who shot video of your drunken dance on top of that Chevy in Mexico? They’ll see it. Significant others are scouring Twitter timelines. That hottie at the party who flirted with you and snapped a quick picture? It'll be online.
Back when I grew up, when I did anything dumb, only the people there saw it. Now all of us are only ever a moment away from being the next “Star Wars Kid.”
All of us are only ever a moment away from being the next ‘Star Wars Kid’.
For kids these days, online is just a fact of life. A good contingent of them use the internet nonstop — there’s little to no thought given to how what they’re doing online right now will impact them years from now.
Here’s the thing though — the same rules still apply. Digital you is largely inseparable from real life you. Don’t do anything online that you wouldn’t do anywhere else.
And if you do, hope so many other people are doing it as well that your awkward, embarrassing, or flat-out illegal moments get lost in the noise of billions of other posts…
My advice has always been: Be yourself as much as you can, but think about whether you'd want your mom to read this.
- Christina Warren Senior Tech Analyst, Mashable
Your content is no longer your content
We don’t own our stuff. Not when it’s online. Not when it’s hosted on someone else’s servers. We like to think we do. We like to translate old-fashioned, real-world concepts of ownership to new-fangled, virtual goods and pretend like our values will be honored and respected. It comforts us. But it’s not the truth. The reality is about as far from the truth as it could be.
The truth is, anything we put online is immediately and irrevocably no longer ours. Morally, even legally at times, it might be called or considered ours, but realistically and effectively it’s not.
Anything we put online is immediately and irrevocably no longer ours.
That’s why it should come as no surprise that Facebook, Google, Instagram, and others have faced strong reactions when they’ve updated their terms of service or engaged in practices that made people uncomfortable. Frustratingly, those terms of service updates have sometimes even been to update the previously vague protections afford to users, but outrage forced the service to back down in the face of a revolt.
Innately most of us just know we don’t want our casual, personal photography used or licensed out for use in ads, even in-network ads. We don’t want our information shared with divisions of a company, or third-parties that we don’t know and have no reason to trust. We feel betrayed when the contact information in our address books is uploaded without our express permission and used in a way that compromises our friendships and relationships. But selling and reselling our personal information is nothing new - corporations had been doing it for decades before the internet came along.
In all of these cases, reality is far less important than perception, logic than emotion. Terms of service are documents we skip through to get to a cool app or service. Respected is how we feel using that app or service. In the age of free-as-in-Google-or-Facebook, where they provide hosting but we provide everything worth hosting, that’s the only way things can work.
50 or 60 years ago you could move to a new town and change your name and you really could have a new identity. That obviously doesn't work anymore.
- Dalton Caldwell Founder and CEO, App.net
Phil NickinsonAndroid Central
Children don’t know what not to share unless we tell them
This may be the most important issue of this era. Social has exploded in the past five years or so, and suddenly we have a generation of children growing up with their entire lives documented online, at the hands of their parents and increasingly at their own hands. Those of us who were around before the Internet can remember a time when our exploits weren’t caught on camera and immediately uploaded to YouTube. A time when we didn’t broadcast every thought without thinking. And a time when it wasn’t easier than ever to to prey on the young and naive.
The late 1980s and early ‘90s were all about safe sex. Nearly as important is the burgeoning era of safe social.
What do you share? When do you share it? What is privacy? Does it even exist anymore? We live in an era where you should expect that anything you do or say outside of your bedroom (hell, not even then) could become public at any given time. That’s the harsh reality, and it’s not fair. So who protects the children? Who educates them?
We’re in the awkward adolescence of the social era. Some folks get it. Some don’t.
It has to start with the parents. But, again, we’re in the awkward adolescence of the social era. Some folks get it. Some don’t. Others are still getting their sea legs. Or, worse, some parents are the problem. Maybe they’re not on Twitter and Google+, but it's likely that one or both parents are on Facebook. You don’t have to look too far to find tales of “shaming,” in which a parent takes to the public arena to say “Look at this dumb thing my kid did! I’ll tell everyone! That’ll show ‘em!” While shame has its roots deep in traditional religion, social shaming’s not quite out of Dr. Spock’s manual.
Point is, for many parents the Internet and children remain uncharted territory.
At some point, Internet — and thus social — safety has to become a part of standard curriculum. It’ll have to be taught alongside math and science and English. It can’t be relegated to the back rooms of home economics and typing and computer literacy. Or, worse — our children can’t afford to not be taught importance of privacy and security. The importance of understanding that not everything you see or do or say is meant to be shared in public.
In the end, the best way of protecting your children is to be aware of what they're doing.
- Georgia Therapist, Host of ZEN & TECH
Even after years of social networking, we're still unsure of how best to navigate the waters of online privacy. Generally the best policy is the simplest one: if you don't want it online, don't put it online. Though sometimes that's easier said than done. Everybody has a smartphone with a camera these days and access to the internet, and sometimes not the forethought to stop before posting. It's all too easy to put something too damaging in all the wrong places.
Our families are watching. Our friends our watching. Our bosses our watching. The world is watching, and more than ever we have to watch ourselves and each other. And our kids are watching; not only do we have to be careful about what we put online to protect ourselves, we have to be careful about the example we provide for children.
Social privacy is tricky. Knowing what to share and when to share it, and what not to share and when not to share it is an evolving concept for each of us. So, where do we set the boundaries?
Portions of this page are modifications based on work created and shared by the Android Open Source Project
and used according to terms described in the Creative Commons 2.5 Attribution License. AndroidCentral is an independent site
that is not affiliated with or endorsed by Google.