Hands-on with the Huawei Honor

Huawei Honor - A Compelling Package

Huawei's Flagship Model

If a phone maker is to survive in today's highly competitive smartphone market, it should not rest on its laurels; instead, it should strive for constant improvements in its product portfolio. This is even more so for the dozen of Android vendors who struggle to outdo one another and stay ahead. Whenever the industry talked about the next powerhouse, a name that frequently popped up in the discussions is Huawei.

Primarily known as a manufacturer of USB modem devices, Huawei has gradually gained momentum as a smartphone brand in the industry. We have seen its range of Ideos and niche smartphones in the first half of 2011 and the unveiling of the Huawei Vision in August. Earlier today, we had an exclusive preview of the Huawei Honor, the company's flagship Android smartphone for the mainstream market. 

Running on a single-core 1.4GHz processor, the Huawei Honor is the speediest among the company's portfolio of smartphones.

The Huawei Honor joins the league of superphones with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.4 GHz single-core processor and a 4-inch display. It runs on the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system and features an exclusive Huawei user interface which makes it easier for you to customize and manage your phone. 

Although the Huawei Honor will be powered by Android 2.3 Gingerbread out of the box, the company stated that the device can be upgraded to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. No time line has been provided at the moment.

You can find a metal button strip on the left side of the Huawei Honor. Due to the difference in materials used (plastic body with metallic button), you can easily feel for this volume button.

A Power button and 3.5mm audio output jack sit on top of the Huawei Honor.

Compared to today's super thin smartphones such as the 7.1mm Motorola Razr and 8.49mm Samsung Galaxy S II, the 10.9mm Huawei Honor looks and feels bulky.

In line with most smartphones today, the Huawei Honor has a micro-USB port for charging and data transfer.

We could not help but notice the slight similarity in appearance to the white Apple iPhone 3GS. You can also find an 8-megapixel camera at the back of the Honor. As the unit is a pre-production prototype, we were unable to assess its imaging performance.

Powered by a 1900mAh battery and with a highly efficient power management system, Huawei claims that the Honor can last up to three days of normal usage on a single charge - the longest battery life among smartphones with a 4-inch display.

As the company's flagship smartphone model, we feel that Huawei should have used more premium materials to construct the chassis of the Honor, which pales in comparison with the aluminum alloy unibody of the Vision. Although it weighs the same as an Apple iPhone 4S at 140g, the Huawei Honor clearly lacks the solid build quality. Moreover, it is rather thick at 10.9mm (at its thinnest point), making it look like a brick beside some of the ultra thin top-end Android smartphones.

Similar to the Huawei Vision, you will see a customized Android user interface on the Honor.

The lock screen allows you to access four shortcuts - messages, call records, unlock and camera.

The customized UI actually felt quite snappy. We encountered no lags or freezes during our time with it.

You can remove but not add more than five home screen panels on the Huawei Honor. On this aspect, it is slightly inferior to HTC Sense 3.5 and Samsung TouchWiz UI which offer up to a maximum of 7 home screen panels.

Huawei joins the cloud bandwagon by equipping the Honor with CloudDrive, a feature that enables users to share their files seamlessly. As the Honor is the only device that supports CloudDrive, do not expect cross-device compatibility like Dropbox or iCloud. The service will only be available in Singapore by end Q1 2012.

Closing Thoughts and Availability

Looking at the Huawei Honor, we couldn't help but ask ourselves how or where such a device would find a place in a market flooded with dual-core smartphones. When asked about this, Huawei commented that it remains committed to the company's beliefs of delivering affordable but highly innovative products to the mass market segment. Huawei believes that the Honor strikes the fine balance between value, power and performance. 

In terms of value, it is true that the Huawei Honor is a compelling option for anyone who is yet to jump onto the smartphone bandwagon. Our hands-on experience with the Honor's user interface debunked the myth that a high-end processor is needed for smooth operation of the user interface. In addition, with battery life as the top concern among users these days, Huawei invested heavily on research and development to enhance the power management on the Honor. Huawei claims that the Honor provides up to 30% more standby time and talk time compared to better equipped smartphones due to its efficient power management. 

The Huawei Honor will be available on 16 December at a recommended retail price of S$528 (inclusive of GST) without contract at selected carriers and retail outlets.

For a company that's been making smartphones for less than two years, due credit ought to be given to Huawei for continuing to provide affordable mass market devices. You can expect Huawei to unveil more competitive offerings such as devices with Super AMOLED displays and dual-core processors during Mobile World Congress 2012.

Huawei Honor

  Key Highlights of the Huawei Honor 

  • Google Android 2.3 Gingerbread (Upgradeable to Android 4.0)
  • 4-inch TFT capacitive touchscreen / 854 x 480 pixels  
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.4 GHz single-core processor 
  • 512MB of RAM / 4GB ROM
  • MicroSD expandable to 32GB
  • Wi-Fi 802.11/b/g/n
  • 8-megapixel autofocus rear HD camera with HDR capabilities + 2-megapixel front camera
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + A2DP 
  • MicroUSB 2.0
  • Access to CloudDrive (available end Q1 2012)
  • 1900mAh battery
  • 140g
  • 122 x 61.5 x 10.9mm
  • Available from December 16 at S$528 (inclusive of GST) without contract at selected carriers and retail outlets

Huawei Vision

  Key Highlights of the Huawei Vision

  • Google Android 2.3 Gingerbread (upgradeable to Android 4.0)
  • 3.7-inch capacitive touchscreen
  • 1GHz Qualcomm single-core processor
  • 512MB RAM / 2GB ROM
  • Up to 32GB microSD (external)
  • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
  • 5-megapixel camera 
  • 1400mAh battery
  • 121g
  • Available now at S$438 (inclusive of GST) without contract at selected carriers and retail stores