Honor 6A review: A good, cheap phone with a couple of flaws

The quick take

There's nothing really wrong with the Honor 6A, at least not with what you get. It's a good looking, well-made and decently-performing phone that only costs £150. The issue is what you don't get, namely NFC and that fingerprint sensor the phone was announced with in China. That means no Android Pay and no taking advantage of the biometric security many of the top apps and services have built in support for.

The Good

  • Excellent price
  • Nice looking display
  • Huge battery
  • Decent camera for this price point

The Bad

  • No fingerprint scanner
  • No NFC, so no Android Pay
  • Pre-installed screen protector is nasty

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Honor 6A full review

The budget phone market is perhaps more interesting in the current day than the super high-end, uber expensive mega phones. Not that many years ago it was a sad truth that cheap phones were mostly just terrible things no one would really want to use.

The game changer was the original Moto G, with Motorola proving, finally, that you could have a great phone that didn't cost a lot of money. Ever since we've been inundated with budget phones that deliver above their punching weight.

The latest one across our desk is the Honor 6A, having just arrived in Europe for £150. Huawei's sub-brand has been making some seriously good phones, and this latest entry level model takes the place of 2016's Honor 5C.

It's very affordable, and it's very good. But it's also not quite the best you'll find at this price.

About this review

I (Richard Devine) am writing this review after a week of using a UK Honor 6A provided by Honor for testing purposes. Throughout the course of the review, the phone remained on Android 7.0 Nougat beneath EMUI 5.1.

Honor 6A

Honor 6A hardware

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Operating SystemEMUI 5.1 / Android 7.0
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 430
Display5-inch 1280 x 720293 ppi
Main Camera13MP with phase-detect autofocus
Front Camera5MP
SIM CardDual SIM (nano + micro) or nano SIM + microSD
ColorsGrey (other colors available in Asia)

The first thing you notice about the Honor 6A is just how nice it feels in the hand. It's one of those phone reviewer cliches, but in the case of the Honor 6A, they really nailed it. The balance of size and weight coupled with that sleek metal body produces a phone that just sinks into your palm.

Even at 720p the display is really nice.

It's fairly bezel-y on the front, but don't let that put you off. Honor hardware is usually top drawer and that doesn't change down at the bottom end, either.

Perhaps surprising is how nice that 5-inch 720p display is. It's bright and vivid with good sharpness, especially for a cheap phone. I mean, it's not that many pixels behind the iPhone 7 in the grand scheme of things. It's what you do with them that counts. It's also benefitted by the somewhat brighter color scheme you find alongside EMUI.

What's less pleasing is the pre-installed screen protector. It's nasty.

Honor 6A

The hardware is very good though from whichever angle you look at it. It's a very handsome phone, its physical buttons together on the right side, and its 'speaker' holes perfectly symmetrical at the bottom. The Honor 6A doesn't have stereo speakers, but it looks good. And it's way better than having a speaker on the back of the phone.

This is a very handsome phone.

Speaking of the speaker, it's OK. You'll hear it easily enough when it rings, but it's a speaker on a cheap phone. Don't expect too much.

Moving to the inside, and hardware snobs would no doubts turn their nose up a little at the thought of a Snapdragon 430 processor and 2GB of RAM. But this phone isn't for those people. Equally, whichever phone you spend your money on you deserve good performance, and the Honor 6A delivers.

On paper, the internals may feel a little thin but in practice, you'd be pushed to notice. This is no doubts also down to Huawei having done some serious work on EMUI in recent years, and the experience is basically faultless on the Honor 6A. It's smooth, it's snappy, it can happily play fairly demanding games from the Play Store and during the course of my time with it at least, there have been no dramas.

Honor 6A

What's not so good about the Honor 6A is that there's no fingerprint sensor as on the Chinese version, nor NFC. So no Android Pay. In the case of the former, the decision was made, Honor says, to remove it in order to balance price with what their customers actually want. Even so, there are cheap phones out there with a fingerprint scanner.

And can we stop omitting NFC in phones, please? Being able to use Android Pay shouldn't be a premium feature.

Honor 6A

Honor 6A software

Remember when we'd review a phone made in the Huawei factories and say really great things about it. And then we'd get to the software and be banging our heads on a desk. Those days aren't missed.

The truth remains that EMUI will split opinions, especially among Android purists. It's still bright and bold, the menu system is blindingly white and by default, there's no app drawer out front. But at least the last of those is now an option to have. Options are good.

The truth is also that EMUI just performs a lot better than it once did. The "WTF" moments are few and far between and it's just plain fast. That's as true here as it is on the top of the line Honor 9.

Honor 6A

EMUI 5.1 on the Honor 6A is also built on top of Android 7.0. Mildly disappointing it's not 7.1, but it's Nougat at least. Much of the rest is the same as it is on the much more expensive Honor 9. For a more detailed run through on the software be sure to check out that review.

More: Honor 9 review

The bottom line is that it's pretty good to use and it's fast. If you don't like the launcher, go ahead and swap it out, but just adding an app drawer makes a big difference.

Honor 6A

Honor 6A camera

Buying a cheap phone means there will be compromises, and the camera is usually one of them. The Honor 6A has some decent specs going for it on paper, with a 13MP rear camera with phase detect auto focus. There are no fancy dual-cameras here, just a single shooter that takes pictures.

What I particularly like is the ultra snapshot feature. A quick double press on the volume down button, while the phone is locked, will wake it and take a photo within a couple of seconds. You're not going to get the absolute best quality photos, but if you need to very quickly shoot something your kid is doing, for example, it's a tremendous feature to have.

Image quality is pretty good, though. While on the whole, the Honor 6A shoots a little on the dark side, you can, of course, tweak the settings before hand to compensate. All of the samples above were just shot with stock settings.

If you swipe in from the right in the camera app you gain access to all kinds of more creative modes, including HDR and a pro mode for photo and video. Other items of note include a document scanner, time-lapse and panorama shooting modes.

Despite the low price point of the Honor 6A, the camera app features from the more expensive phones are brought over. And while raw image quality isn't as good, for £150 you're not likely to complain.

Honor 6A

Honor 6A battery life

There are two things to know about the battery on the Honor 6A. The first is that at 3020mAh in a phone like this is huge and if you're burning this thing down before the end of the day you are really hammering it. There is no quick charge, so you can't get a speedy top up, but you should be good to get home at the end of the day.

The more interesting thing is the claim that Honor has on the longevity of the actual battery cell. After 800 charges or two years of use, it should retain 80% or more of its original capacity. Batteries degrade over time that's just what they do, but even at 80%, you'll still have a fair capacity to use.

Of course, this is all based on lab testing and we've no way to confirm or deny. But it's little details like this which might make the difference to an average consumer picking up a phone like this.

Honor 6A

Honor 6A bottom line

The Honor 6A is yet another good smartphone from Huawei's sub-brand that's also available for an excellent price. It looks great, it performs very well, the camera isn't bad and the battery life is superb.

There's nothing wrong with it in so far as what you actually get. It's all very good. The Honor 6A is let down by what isn't there, notably the fingerprint scanner. If that or NFC for Android Pay is on your must have list, then the Honor 6A is not for you.

However, if you're not bothered by those things and just want a good phone for £150, you'll enjoy the Honor 6A. It's just impossible to say this is the outright best in this price bracket.

Should you buy the Honor 6A? Your call

It really depends on what you're looking for and what you're happy with on your phone. For one, the Honor 6A is available directly from Three in the UK, which might be of use to you.

The elephant in the room is the Wileyfox Swift 2. For similar money you can get this or the Swift 2 Plus which has Android 7.1.1 and both a fingerprint scanner and NFC for Android Pay. You can't ignore how tempting that is.

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Richard Devine