Last night, Thursday 27th August 2015, in London, Honor had a launch party for their newest flagship, the Honor 7. The Honor 7 is the beastly phone from Honor, a Huawei Subsidiary for “digital natives”, is intended to be their flagship, or Hero device for 2015 and the first half of next year. I was there to cover the end….Let’s take a look in more detail.
The Honor 7 has a spec sheet that matches or exceeds others in its class category. A 5.2” 1080p IPS-NEO display, a 20MP primary camera with a Dual-Tone LED Flash, 8MP front facing “selfie” camera with its own LED flash start the specs run down. An Octa-Core HiSilicon Kirin 935 with 8 Cortex A53e CPUs running at 2.2Ghz, with a less than Stellar Mali-T628MP4 GPU deal with the SoC. 16GB of on-board storage is available, with a MicroSD slot capable of expanding that up to 128GB as well as Dual-NanoSIMs and much more are delivered, all housed in a beautiful metal body. Something that isn’t exclusive to the Honor 7 this year is a fingerprint scanner, but what is is the fact that this, they say, is the first fingerprint sensor that doesn’t have a metallic ring around it. Thanks to a friend of ours (Matteo Doni/@Todoleo of Skyscanner) we found out that the metallic ring on most all other fingerprint scanners acts as almost a ground, which is why on the iPhone, if that gold ring around the TouchID sensor breaks or becomes dislodged, it is unable to function properly. Huawei and by extension Honor have been able to make an extremely efficient industrial design decision that is better for the end user. Kudos!
From our hands-on, we can tell you the Honor 7 has a phenomenal screen. We were also able to briefly test out the fingerprint scanner ourselves and what we saw matched what we saw with executives using their own personal Honor 7’s with the fingerprint scanners set up. We are very impressed. The Honor 7 doesn’t even need to have the screen on for the fingerprint scanner to work and unlock your phone. Honor have made sure that it unlocks in roughly 0.5 seconds as well. It’s a bold claim but one that we can confirm seems to hold true after the presentations today and from our small hands on. We were able to test the fingerprint scanner on a demo device that had a magnetic cage type security device on it. It took just 5 readings to get our fingerprint recognised during setup, and even with that horrid cage, we didn’t have it fail once whilst trying to use it.
The Honor 7 has some other neat tricks with its fingerprint scanner. You like gestures? How about gestures from your fingerprint scanner then! Swiping a finger down on the scanner pulls down the notification shade, you can accept or decline calls using the fingerprint sensor and you can even use it as a shutter buttons in the camera when taking selfies. A truly phenomenal fingerprint reader that we can’t wait to get our hands on in a review period. Swipe up opens up the recents menu as well, and whilst this’ll be of more use on a really large phone (like the Ascend Mate 7 sequel) it really is a great sensor that beats anything I’ve ever used, hands down.
Another unique hardware element is the programmable function button on the left side of the device. You can use it to start apps or specific functions etc. It functions imilar to the Active button on Samsung’s Galaxy Active devices however has three stages of use. Tapping once, twice, or long pressing can all be assigned to a shortcut. Honor is making some great stuff here. Imagine the possibilities. You could have one tap to launch Twitter, a double tap launches the camera application and a long press takes a screenshot.
Next up is Software, no longer do we have KitKat masquerading as Lollipop (the Honor 6/6+), we actually have Lollipop 5.0 (sadly no 5.1), though you wouldn’t be able to tell under the heavy customisation that is EmotionUI 3.1. EMUI hasn’t been one of my favourite OEM skins simply because of how deeply it permeates the device. However Honor/Huawei are putting some really useful things into the EMUI build on the Honor 7 and although I’m going to instantly replace their launcher with the Google Now Launcher as things stand, there are other things of theirs that I may keep. The latest UI does indeed seem to be better designed than previous attempts. Demo devices at trade shows and PR events are devices that have been abused for hours upon hours, and these didn’t seem to show any struggles or slowdown to me at all.
We didn’t get a chance to really test the camera here, because as you well know, PR shows and launch events like this must have trendy and cool lighting, which is the absolute worst lighting for getting hands on video and photo demos. So if we are gifted by the PR gods and get a demo/review unit we will be sure to put the Honor 7 camera through its paces. 1080p video is able to be recorded via both the front and rear cameras. I believe this limitation for the rear camera is the same as to why the Huawei P8 is also limited to this. It’s to do with the ISP (Image Signal Processor) on the Kirin 935 SoC. Honestly I need to do some more research and obviously hands-on is the ultimate test, but I’m not too enthralled with the Kirin 935. Cortex A53’s are great but 8 of them serve next to no use. The GPU is all kinds of ancient and obviously, for a flagship device, the ISP is completely inappropriate.
I’m interested to see how the Honor 7 turns out. At an incredibly low price of just £249/€349 you’re getting a hell of lot of phone for your money. You better spend that money quickly though because they’re pretty much selling them as fast as the batches are rolling off of the production line.
Let us know your thoughts on the Honor 7. Are you excited by this type of device that seems to try and bridge mid and flagship tiers?