With manufacturers showing increased attention to the the low-to-mid-range smartphone market, it’s quickly becoming a hotly contested space. One of the newer entrants in the UK is Honor, a smartphone brand backed by Huawei, but one that operates (almost) completely separately from its parent company.
Its first device for the UK – the Honor 6 – only arrived in November, but yesterday saw its third launch in about as many months. We went hands-on with the £110 Honor Holly to see if it could measure up to the ever increasing competition.
Where top of the range premium handsets now favor all-metal shells, the ‘value’ end of the market often has to make do with an altogether more plasticky affair, and it’s no different with the Holly.
Front and back you’ll find glossy plastic, and down the right-hand side of the device, there’s the power button and volume rocker. There’s no dedicated camera shutter button.
The display is 5-inches and 720p resolution – it’s not ideal for a 5-inch device, but it’s certainly not a compromise too far in this bracket. It’s bright enough outdoors too, if a bit of a fingerprint magnet.
It may not sport the luxurious design of high-end handsets, but then it doesn’t command the same sort of price tag either, and under-the-bonnet there’s a quad-core 1.3GHz processor and 16GB of storage.
The handset arrives packing Android 4.4.2, albeit tweaked with Huawei’s Emotion UI. If you’ve used a Huawei device before, you’ll be comfortable. If you haven’t, it won’t take you long to work things out.
Whether or not you like the tweaks is a different question; for me, I’d prefer a more ‘vanilla’ Android experience.
Things like a slightly adapted pull-down notifications menu aren’t going to throw you – in fact, I prefer the options presented here by default – but not having an app drawer is pretty frustrating for anyone remotely familiar with Android.
In some ways, it forces you to be a bit tidier, keeping apps in their own folders and such, but I’ve never really appreciated being forced to do anything by a phone.
As well as the usual Android fare – Mail, Photos, Play Store etc. – the unit we looked at also comes with Facebook and Twitter pre-installed, as well as the WPS Office document editor. You also get first-party video and photo apps.
On the rear there’s an 8-megapixel snapper that (like most other smartphones) seems happiest in well-lit indoor scenes or sunny outdoor shots. Anything aside of that and you’ll get considerably noisier pictures.
As you can tell from the few test shots above, there’s a slight tint to the pictures taken outdoors in sunlight too.
Camera options aren’t extensive, but you can do things like control exposure, color effect, white balance or apply specific Scene modes to your shots.
Honor’s biggest challenge, in many ways, is nothing to do with the handsets it produces.
For many years, the options on Android market were high-end or decidedly ‘value’ devices. At that lower end, the performance was noticeably degraded, however. Now, you can get a perfectly capable device like the Honor Holly for around £100, without making such huge sacrifices in performance, but I’m just not so sure the market knows it yet.
That’s not to say that the Holly is as good as a £600 smartphone, but the gap between the two in performance isn’t as big as the gap between the two price tags.
At a brief first run, the Holly seems to hit all the core boxes – provided low-light photography isn’t on your list of hobbies. If you need a phone with a decent screen, enough under-the-hood to play games like Asphalt 8 while multi-tasking with other apps, and general messaging and email needs, then it’s hard to ignore this £110 Android phone.
However, it does have a notable Achilles heel: just like the 2014 Moto G, it doesn’t support 4G. So if that’s a deal-breaker, you’ll need to look elsewhere.If you can live without luxury design, and 4G support, then it’s probably worth considering if you’re looking at this sort of budget.
The Honor Holly goes on sale in the UK from February 26 at £110, but is being offered at an as yet unspecified lower rate (to be revealed on February 23) to people who register interest at Honor’s Price Hacker site, which goes live tomorrow.