Huawei shows off Ice Cream Sandwich on a budget
Huawei first started releasing quite low end Android phones in Australia and have recently started to build progressively better and higher spec’d models until we now have the Huwaei Honor which presents a lower end price tag with some fairly decent specifications such as a Dual-Core 1.4GHz CPU, 8MP HDR camera and 1900mAh battery running Ice Cream Sandwich. The Honor is the second phone from Huawei I’ve reviewed, the first the Huawei Vision was a pretty nice Gingerbread phone with decent looks and some fair specs.
When you first pick up the Huawei Honour it is quite a thick phone with a glossy back and the phone feels slightly heavy due to its 140 gram mass. The 4″ Screen is quite nice and bright and also makes for a smaller form factor than you’re used to if you use one of the raft of super-phones such as the Galaxy S III, One X or even the Galaxy Nexus. Overall it has volume rocker on the left, power button and 3.5mm jack on the top of the phone and a micro-usb port on the bottom. Front on the phone has a front facing camera and four capacative buttons below the display. As a phone even with the glossy back it is quite comfortable to hold although a little bit heavier than I’m used to.
I was looking forward to seeing what Huawei can do with Ice Cream Sandwich given that they tend to leave their phones stock with the option of a third party launcher, what they have done with the Honor is apply a light skin over the top. Whilst nothing overt that changes the core functionality of Ice Cream Sandwich, they have done minor things such as change the icons for applications for the stock Android applications : Messaging, Phone, calendar, calculator etc. The rest of the OS appears to be fairly stock other than quick settings for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Auto-Rotate are now in the notification tray and there is an option to restart the phone when holding the power button down.
In terms of applications, all the standard Android and Google Apps are installed but Huawei has added in some applications such as : All Backup, APP Installer, Cloud+ Settings, DLNA, Documents to Go, Facebook, File Manager, Flashlight, Hispace, Music+ Notes, Security Guard, Sound Recorder, Twitter and Weather Clock.
- Stock Android
- Ice Cream Sandwich
- Screen Resolution
As far as it goes the OS running on the Honor is pretty much stock, with some minor tweaks such as the different application icons and their own keyboard but overall it is just stock Android 4.0.3. That Huawei actually took time to change the icons and develop their own keyboard shows that perhaps the Emotion UI that they released may be starting to be implemented albeit slowly on their handsets.
The apps included on the Honor go a long way to show that some thought is being put into Huawei supplying some sort of cloud eco-system with All Backup and Cloud+ which backup your phone including messages, phone #’s, settings and also help you find your phone in the event of losing it or theft. Security is well thought of as well with the Security Guard app complementing the find your phone feature in Cloud+ offering Password Safe, File Encryption and black/white lists for URLs. Other apps have been included purely to help make the phone more useful such as the DLNA, Flashlight, Notes and Sound Recorder apps. All are fairly unobtrusive but handy to have when required.
As a phone the Honor works with no issues, calls are clear and I had no problems with reception except for those which are carrier based. Data was quite decent in terms of mobile web surfing and tethering which I tend to do a fair bit of was quite good as well, it is limited by the radio which only supports HSDPA 14.4 Mbps rather than the higher end 21Mbps that the Galaxy Nexus or other higher end phones will do but it does maintain a good connection which is what you expect from Huawei phones. As Huawei are a leader in telephony backbone infrastructure for mobile and landline phone networks it is expected that they can supply high quality phones with good reception.
I found the wireless aspect of the Honor to be well engineered in terms of connection to Wi-Fi networks, after having a couple of phones have issues establishing and maintaining a connection it was nice to have a phone just connect and happily remain connected. Bluetooth worked well, no reception or pairing issues were encountered. FM Radio whilst not something I generally look for in a phone worked well, it picked up the stations around town with no interference.
Sound quality was generally good, I had no issues listening to podcasts or music in terms of either sound quality or volume in fact I had volume spare in case I needed to turn it up at any stage. The external speaker on the Honor is fairly basic as well, whilst nothing to rave about it is also not something you could really take exception to in terms of quality or volume.
The physical design of the Huawei is decent, from the front it is a basic black candy bar phone with rounded corners. The Honor does have a fairly thick profile and at just over 1cm thick the phone is considered ‘fat’ compared to phones coming out on the market now however I found the extra thickness does make it easier to grip the phone. Weight wise, the phone feels heavier than it actually is due to the weight being concentrated into a smaller area than on a device with a larger screen but it is not an overbearing presence you tend to forget it is in your pocket.
Camera wise the Huawei is packing quite a nice shooter, the 8MP sensor means you get a fairly high quality shot although not as ‘instant’ or as high quality as the shots on the HTC One X or Samsung Galaxy S III but it does move the Honor into a slightly better category just based on the shots the camera takes, bear in mind that this is a sub-$300 and comes with an 8MP camera with LED Flash and a HDR Mode in a time when most phones in this category still come with a 5MP camera. The HDR Mode takes a decent snap which is a little over processed but then, that is the point and the camera is more than good enough for the average phone owner.
My main gripe on the physical design is with the button position both physical and capacactive. Physically the location of the power button appear to be more suited to a left-handed person and I find the power button when located on the right hand side of the display much easier to use and I’m never going to be convinced that the headphone jack should be on top of the phone.
I mentioned before that the Honor had been released initially with Gingerbread but has since been upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich, the capacative buttons which are left are a reminder of one of the reasons that both Google and end users are better off without them. In the last 6 weeks I have handled a number of Gingerbread devices and not a single one had the capacative buttons in the same order, soft buttons from Ice Cream Sandwich. Even though you get used to the layout of the capacative buttons in my opinion everyone will be better off when capacative buttons are gone for good.
The screen on the Huawei Honor is 4 inches with a resolution of 854×480 most likely in the end due to keeping costs down. The main place the lack of resolution affects you when reading email or viewing web pages, whilst not a major factor, the screen is what you spend most of your time looking at so in the end I would love to have seen even a qHD resolution screen on the front of the Honor but maintaining the price point is also a factor that has to be thought of when building a phone.
In terms of software the phone is fairly stock apart from the previously mentioned cosmetic changes. You also have to take into account that the phone has been upgraded from Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich and one thing I have found with any phone being upgraded is that it can be a hit and miss affair in terms of giving improvements in performance. Whilst I have not yet experienced the Huawei Honor in its Gingerbread configuration I can say that the Honor can at times be frustratingly slow to respond taking 3-4 seconds and even longer just to switch to another application or launch an app. I would love to have experienced the Honor before and after the upgrade to see just how much the ICS upgrade improved or degraded performance.
Huawei has previously gone with third party keyboards such as the Touchpal keyboard supplied with the Huawei Vision. This time around they have actually provided a keyboard they made themselves. From what I used the Huawei Keyboard is not as desirable as you would like or expect, making spelling mistakes on it is quite easy. When compared with even the stock Ice Cream Sandwich keyboard which is more than serviceable and when compared with third party keyboards available on the market such as Swiftkey, Huawei would be much better off approaching them to supply the keyboard.
Huawei Honor (U8860)
- Android™ 4 Ice Cream Sandwich
- 4.0” FWVGA 854×480, 16M colours
- 1.4GHz MSM8255T
- MicroSD (up to 32 GB)
- 8MP HDR camera, with autofocus and flash
- Bluetooth 2.1, MicroUSB, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
- 1900mAh Li-ion
- 121 x 61.5 x 10.9mm @ 140grams
The Huawei Honor has again struck me as another quality phone that for the price you really can’t go too far wrong with, at times it can slow down to a crawl or become un-responsive but the majority of the time you tend to be able to navigate around with no issues. The Honor is one of a few phones coming out from Huawei this year such as the Ascend P1 and the Ascend D Quad that shows Huawei’s intention to transcend the lower tier vendor status that they have at the moment and quite frankly I’m welcoming the transition, whilst other vendors push the prices quite high, Huawei has consistently delivered good quality hardware for a decent price.
Thought and effort have gone into designing and releasing the handset and the subsequent followup to push Ice Cream Sandwich to the handset shows attention to customers clamouring for the latest version of the Android OS on their phones, which will only lead to better customer satisfaction for Huwaei. All up despite the occasional slow down I like the Huawei Honor and for $298 on-sale unlocked from Dick Smith I don’t think you could go far wrong with it.