The 'independent' Honor now exists 1 year and recently they presented their fourth aircraft for the Dutch market; the Honor 7.
As a flagship, the Honor 7 is the successor to the Honor 6. This time it is shrouded in metal but the price must remain modest, as it should be at a subsidiary of Huawei. Nevertheless, it has a 5.2 inch screen with Full HD resolution. Even more striking are the 20 megapixel camera and fingerprint scanner. All this is powered by a 2.2 GHz processor and 3 GB of working memory.
At first glance, this is a very attractive total package of which you may wonder what other manufacturers can offer for a comparable price. Some of the competitors we have been able to select are the Motorola Moto X Play, Samsung Galaxy S5 Neo and yet also the G8 of parent company Huawei.
What's with the device?
In the turquoise coloured box, directly under the plastic tray in front of the device, there is a small folder for the necessary documentation, which also contains the skewer for the holder of microSD and SIM cards. Underneath we find two more separate boxes. One for the USB cable and the other for the socket adapter. Both in white.
Our 'Fantasy Silver' test sample of the Honor 7 has a white front. This mainly relates to the surfaces above and below the screen and a thin border around the device. On both sides of the screen there is only a very thin border. Above the screen are a sensor, front camera, thin slot for the speaker and an LED light. A notification light is hidden in the earpiece, which can display a variety of colours.
The Honor 7 is not entirely made of metal. A closer inspection shows that the top and bottom, together with part of the back, are wrapped in plastic. Although these pieces have almost the same silver colour, they still look a bit cheaper and provide two ugly seams at the back. On top of the device is the headset connector and an infrared transmitter. At the bottom there are two grids on either side of the microUSB port. Only behind the left one is a loudspeaker.
The sides, together with the rest of the back, are shrouded in metal. On the right side are the volume and power buttons. On the left side, besides the slot for microSD and SIM card(s), we find a button that looks like a power button. This turns out to be a so-called Smart Key. It can be used to open apps or applications by pressing or holding the button once or twice. The latter is set to open Google Now by default. On the back of the device there is a fairly large camera lens that protrudes a little bit with a double LED flash and underneath it the fingerprint scanner. On the fingerprint scanner we will go deeper in later on.
The silver color will not appeal to everyone, but the use of materials and finishing are neatly cared for in the Honor 7. However, the device is a bit cumbersome. This is mainly due to its thickness and weight. Nevertheless, the polished sides and slightly convex back make it very comfortable to handle. You could also turn it to his advantage; because of its weight it feels a bit more premium.
The Honor 7 knows how to maintain its normal use for a maximum of 1.5 days. In addition, we get a screen on time of about 5 hours. We use this time mainly for checking news and social media and using WhatsApp. In addition, we sync two e-mail addresses on the basis of push. All in all, even with more intensive use, a long and full day should not be a problem for a single battery charge.
In the settings menu of the Honor 7 there is a cup for battery and one for energy saving. In the former, in addition to an overview of the energy consumption, the 'fast charging' function can also be switched on. In the energy saving section the so-called battery monitoring can be carried out. This seems to be a handy and user-friendly function, but just like with real Huawei appliances, it is dirty. It scans the appliance for possible 'problems' and saving options. However, the problems detected are generally regular functions of the appliance and the proposed optimisations have a relatively large impact on the operation of the appliance with limited power savings as a result. Furthermore, it is possible to set the power plan. This regulates the CPU and network usage to match performance and power consumption. We chose the 'performance' setting. With the 'ultra setting' the endurance can be stretched considerably but only the call, message and contact list apps are available.
The power saving settings can be adjusted even more. For example, the 'power-intensive prompt' can be switched off here. If you don't do this, the device will give a notification every once in a while if an energy-intensive app is detected. This energy consumption is normally not that bad and Android will also take care of shutting down apps if necessary.
In addition to the contact list, the phone application is also merged with the message application. The tab for the number dialler shows the log with a numeric keypad underneath with which the desired contact can be found via smart dial. Call settings can include 'pocket mode' for more volume and vibration intensity in the pocket and 'virtual HD call' for better clarity. Why the latter is not turned on by default is a mystery to us.
Like the Huawei P8, the Honor 7 has Link+. Part of that is Signal+. This should, among other things, improve the call quality by receiving signals better. Handy you would say, but the function is difficult to test because it is on by default and you can not change settings. It is therefore rather confusing that after using the device you get a message about this which makes you think that something still needs to be activated.
The 5.2 inch screen of the Honor 7 has a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels. As far as we are concerned, such a Full HD resolution on a screen of this size is more than sufficient and you don't need to long for something like Quad HD. It is an easy-to-read screen with good contrast reproduction. The automatic screen brightness works quite well but is quickly a bit too dark. This is fortunately easy to solve by moving the slider at the quick settings a little further. In addition to brightness, the colour temperature of the screen can also be set. Turning it a bit colder can do no harm, especially for the display of white areas.
Honor may like to pretend it's an independent brand, but the devices really run on exactly the same EMUI interface as that of parent company Huawei. We have now reached version 3.1 of this Android shell. Underneath that, the Honor 7 runs on Android 5.0.2. Not the latest version of Android Lollipop but they participate in the top category. Although you can hardly see anything back from standard Android due to the thorough rebuilding that comes with EMUI. That's a bit of a pity for us personally.
The EMUI interface ensures, among other things, that there is no application menu but that all apps are on a home screen. This is a bit like Apple iOS. There are up to nine home screens available on which you can put those apps. What's more, the number of beautiful and/or useful widgets is rather limited. In addition, all icons have the same shape and size. To maintain this, icons from other developers are squeezed into this fit as well. This doesn't always give the best results. For the home screens, grid size, screen rotation, alignment and notification badges for app icons can be set.
The notification window hidden behind the status bar has also been taken care of. Notifications are nicely arranged on a kind of timeline and can still be swiped out of view. If there are no notifications, when dragging down the status bar, the tab with shortcut keys for settings immediately appears. It is not immediately clear but it can be scrolled through to make more shortcuts visible.
The settings menu has been expanded with a smart assistance section. To keep the overview a little bit, a tab for general settings has been added. Compared to standard Android, the on-screen control buttons are very close together. This takes some getting used to in the beginning and sometimes causes you to press the wrong button. Moreover, the order of the keys can be changed and it is possible to add a key for the notification panel.
EMUI uses themes and this makes it very easy to change the look and feel of the interface drastically. In addition to the six standard themes, numerous variants can be downloaded. We found the standard interface rather drab and unclear but that was quickly solved with another set of icons.
Despite the fact that the Honor 7 has a strong processor and enough working memory on paper, it seems to need a bit too much time for some processes. Honor (Huawei) tries very hard to make the interface as user friendly as possible, but it doesn't make sense. All that extra functionality for monitoring and controlling your usage seems to place a heavy burden on the hardware. There are also still sloppiness and ambiguities in the translations into Dutch. This is especially the case with names of functions and/or applications. It is not a nuisance, but it does slightly detract from the appearance.
The contact list shows groups at the top, like your favorite contacts. Furthermore, the phonebook works like we are used to from Android. It is basically automatically filled with the contacts from accounts you set up on the device. Then it's handy to only show contacts with phone numbers and to merge duplicate contacts. There are also a number of other display and sorting options.
The messaging app is not spectacular in terms of functionality but does sort your messages on a nice timeline. This is not the case in the email application, but this app is also neat and tidy. Renewing is easy by dragging the top of the message list downwards. Strangely enough, it is not possible to zoom in on a message by double tapping it. To add an account you can choose from Exchange, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and others. Setting up an Outlook account automatically went a lot smoother than we were used to from Huawei/Honor. The Honor 7 has some trouble with notifications from WhatsApp. A new icon appears in the notification bar for every call and every contact that makes a comment.
For entering text, the Honor 7 is equipped with the Swype keyboard. This has been a favourite of ours for quite some time now, although we have exchanged it for the standard Android 5.0 keyboard. That doesn't alter the fact that Swype still works very well. Entering text by dragging and dropping from letter to letter is very easy and the appearance and behavior of the keyboard can be easily adjusted. It is possible to enable two input languages at the same time, but also switching between languages is easy by holding down the space bar.
The Honor 7 can connect via WiFi, Bluetooth, 4G and NFC. Besides Signal+, the Honor 7 also has WiFi+. This evaluates your WiFi connection to switch between WiFi and mobile networks. It also enables WiFi when you approach a known location. As far as we are concerned, this is a nice feature but sometimes the device switched from WiFi to mobile data while we were at home for unclear reasons. This can unintentionally have a negative impact on your data bundle.
The Honor 7 supports the use of two SIM cards at the same time. The second card must then be inserted at the location of the microSD card in the device. You can then set which of the cards should be used by default for 3G/4G, mobile data and calls/messages in the menu.
For surfing the internet the Honor 7 has besides the obvious Chrome also another browser. This is nicely arranged with clear control buttons but works purely as a stand-alone mobile browser. It is therefore not possible to synchronize with your desktop as Chrome does. Also in the browser it is not possible to zoom in by double tapping.
The camera interface is also the same as Huawei's, although it was obviously inspired by Apple. The 20 megapixel camera of the Honor 7 is, especially in this price range, impressive hardware. The aspect ratio has to be changed from 16:9 to 4:3 to be able to use the full 20 megapixel.
The camera interface is reasonably clear and effective. It is quite unpacked with different recording functions. In addition to photo and video, the search screen also allows you to choose 'make beautiful', 'light painting' and 'good food'. Apart from the fact that these are rather poor translations, they each have a rather nice functionality. By making beautiful, the level of beauty can be improved by smoothing facial skin to the extreme. Light painting makes it possible to play with light and lighting. For this purpose the modes backlight tracks, light graffiti, silky water and star track are available. Good food should enable you to make attractive close-ups of food.
Through the settings menu you can select the modes slow-mo, panorama, supernight, HDR, focus, best picture, watermark, time lapse and audio note. For all of them it is not possible to turn them on permanently. From this menu you can also access the other settings, which by the way do not rotate automatically when you keep the camera horizontal. Different color filters can also be applied.
That's all very nice and nice, but with telephones it's all about how the snapshots you take in everyday life come out. The camera has no image stabilization and that is noticeable. Photos are therefore not always nice and sharp. In good light conditions, colors are a bit pale but details come out nicely. Indoors the exposure is generally in order, but focus is a bit bumpy.
To take pictures with the front camera, a light can be turned on. This does not work as a flash. The 8 megapixel camera shoots fairly detailed images but exposure is a weak spot.
Because the apps on the Honor 7 are not in a menu but on a home screen, part of the apps are placed in folders. This does not apply to phone management, music, videos, clock, calendar, files and HiCare. The folder tools contain the applications weather, mirror, magnifying glass, flashlight, calculator, FM radio, recorder, backup, updater, downloads, SIM toolkit, screen lock, notepad and smart remote control.
Then there is a folder with top apps where Twitter, Facebook, WPS Office, Highlights, vmall and Honor Club can be found. With the exception of social media, only WPS Office is worthy of the title 'top app'. The other three are shortcuts or worthless applications. Fortunately, part of them can be removed.
In the Google folder we obviously find Google, Chrome, Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Google Drive, Play music/films/books/kiosk/games, hangouts, photos, Google+, voice search and Google settings.
Honor (Huawei) is one of the few manufacturers that still deliver standard games on their devices. The folder Gameloft contains Top Games, Dragon Mania, Puzzle Pets and Bubble Bash Mania. Top Games is a shortcut to the manufacturer's website and Bubble Bash Mania is a trial version. Only Dragon Mania and Puzzle Pets are full games.
If you want to use the fingerprint scanner to unlock the device, you must also set an access code. This is to prevent the scanner from being easily bypassed. The code must be entered if the device is activated in any other way. Because the scanner is located at the back of the device, you cannot quickly unlock the device when it is on the table, for example. You can store multiple fingerprints in the device. For example, a left and right index finger so you can unlock the device with both hands. The scanner activates and unlocks the screen at the same time. This happens quickly as long as your finger covers the scanner properly. Due to the size of the device, this is sometimes quite difficult and we rarely succeeded in unlocking the device at the first attempt. It can help to re-register your fingerprint in the device.
In addition to unlocking the phone, the scanner can also perform other functions. For example, going back to the home screen or answering a call by holding it down. By swiping from top to bottom the notification screen can be opened. There is no need to save a fingerprint first.
The Honor 7 is in almost every respect a big step forward for the Huawei subsidiary. At the same time, we don't quite understand what Huawei is trying to achieve with this device. It seems that they want to try to squeeze as many high-end specifications as possible into a device but at the same time keep the price low. However, that is more or less the same as what Huawei is doing with its own devices and with that it is competing with itself. Moreover, it is questionable whether that really makes a good smartphone.
Its solid display and endurance make the Honor 7 a pleasant device to use. Its considerable dimensions do not directly detract from this. As far as we are concerned, the EMUI interface does. It is unfortunate that Huawei hasn't improved this yet. The fingerprint scanner is not an indispensable addition that brings the balance back to the right side. Because of its malfunctioning, it is not exactly an enrichment of the user experience.