Huawei Honour

Not every phone will be earth-shatteringly beautiful. The Huawei Honour - or Honor, if you're from a non-English speaking country - is one phone we don't think you could ever describe as beautiful. But just as all of us can't look like Brad Pitt, there's still a place in the world for normal-looking people and normal-looking phones.

The Hounour is the very epitome of normal. It's not ugly, not at all, but it's not the sort of device you're going to lust after either. But like all normal people, the Honour has lots to offer, including a battery that some of those airhead pretty phones can only dream of.

Practical design

Pick up the Honour, and the first thing you'll notice is the back cover. It has a pattern that gives lots of extra grip when you're holding it. This means, no matter how hot it is, or how greasy your hands are, you won't feel it slide out of them and toward that hard floor. That's more than we can say for the Samsung Galaxy S III, with it's slippery rear.

We wouldn't, however, accuse the Honour of being a beautiful phone. It's really just a slab of dark plastic with a glass front. It's hopelessly generic. That's a shame, because Huawei proved with the P1 that it's capable of producing handset that are is inspiring as any Android phone, without resorting to copying Apple. But the truth is, the people who will buy this phone are looking for a device to see them through the day, and not to show off.

The back cover is removable, and within there is a removable battery, full-sized SIM socket and a microSD card slot.

On the top of the phone, there's a power button along with a headphone socket. Volume is adjusted by a rocker on the left of the device and there are four capacitive touch buttons on the bottom of the front face. The only other socket is the USB used for both charging and data transfer.

Old Android

Although there's nothing wrong with Gingerbread, it is now a slightly out-of-date version of Android. The Honour is initially being sold with 2.3.6 installed, but there are some decent rumours that it will get an Ice Cream Sandwich update at some point.

What you do get, however, is a thoughtfully customised version of Android with some nice touches to make it more functional than the standard build. The notification tray, for example, has buttons to toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, data and auto-rotate. The lock screen also features a four-way control. Flick your unlocking finger to the right, and you get the home screen; down takes you to the camera, left to messages and up in to the call log. It's basic, but it makes the phone more usable than those that just have a "slide to unlock" button.

There are almost no extra apps provided either. We aren't too bothered about that, as most apps pre-loaded on to Android devices are useless, or just not required by the user - Evernote is a classic example, great app, just not especially popular among most people.

You do however get Huawei's data monitor app, which is very good indeed, and very handy at keeping you within your data limit. It has reminders which you can set, as well as a hard cap. Very handy, and likely to keep you out of trouble and extra expense.

For music, there's Google's Play Music, which works as well as any third-party music app we've used. You also get a sound recorder, which is always handy - at least for us - and an FM radio, which works well enough although the audio quality of the phone isn't remarkable. It is, however, astonishingly loud, to the point of being dangerous. If you're giving this to a young person, make sure you explain how bad it is listening to things at full whack, so they can ignore you while having all the facts.

Wireless woes

When it was on a Wi-Fi network, the Honour worked well. Sometimes though, especially after being locked, the phone would struggle to get back on to our, fairly standard, network. This means you get stalled downloads and such. There's never much of an error about this either, it's just frustrating. Usually, disconnecting and reconnecting works, but we also found that the phone didn't display good signal strength, even in the next room as our router.

Screen

The screen has enough detail for a basic handset. There are some problems though, the biggest of which is the brightness, which is nowhere near sufficient to be visible outside on a bright day. Add to that the auto-brightness, which is pretty rubbish, and you have a phone that doesn't suit being outdoors in the sun very well.

Indoors, it looks great. Colours are rich, and there's more than enough detail on the 4-inch screen, with its 854 x 480 resolution (245ppi). It's sensitive enough too, with us never really struggling much - which is more than we can say for the ZTE Grand X, which struggles a little with touch input.

Camera

Perhaps the nicest surprise about the Honour is the camera. Okay, it's not going to set the world alight or anything, but for a simple on-phone snapper, it can produce some really nice results. We tested it both in bright daylight, where it seemed to overexpose ever so slightly, and indoors, where it seemed to manage with slightly lower light.

It's not perfect, and there's plenty of colour "ringing" if you look closely enough. There isn't too much of that horrible mush you get on some cameraphones though, and zooming in to 100 per cent of images doesn't yield any nasty surprises.

It can also cope well with close-ups, making it nice for using inside where you might not have acres of space to move around in.

Video is pretty disastrous though, and the camera can handle only 720p video at 30fps. That's in spite of a big, 8-megapixel sensor, so we suspect that the low processing power is the problem here. Still, it's fine for silly little clips for YouTube or Facebook.

Power and power

One of the selling points of the Honour is that it has a 1900mAh battery, which should deliver some pretty decent life on a device that is endowed with only modest hardware. This, then, is a phone for people who want to call and text, rather than those who live on the internet, in apps and playing games.

Annoyingly though, needing the screen brightness turned up will knock a fair chunk off the overall life. If you never go outside, or live on the dark side of the Moon, this might not be a problem. For the rest of us, it could undo all the good work that large battery puts in.

Although it's powered by a single-core Qualcomm chip, with just 512MB of RAM, it feels reasonably responsive. There's little or no lag when switching between home screens. And apps seem responsive enough and we never felt like we were wading up hill through treacle.

Verdict

Comparing the Honour to the ZTE Grand X seems fair. Both are about the same price, and both will be sold to the same people. Sadly, both are flawed. The Grand X suffers from an insensitive screen that isn't great in sunlight, while the Huawei has a better touchscreen, but still doesn't work well outside in the sunlight.

The ZTE has a smaller battery, but Ice Cream Sandwich, while the Huawei should last longer on the go and may soon get an Android upgrade, although that's far from certain.

Perhaps the problem with this phone, and the ZTE, is that at £200 they don't feel better than phones which cost half that. Of course, some people will have limited budgets, and need to consider a handset like this, but our advice is to look elsewhere. You'll get something more inspiring second-hand than you will new here.

Oh, and if you can find another £120 you can have an iPhone 4 - a 4S is a lot more, sadly, at £450. And for an extra £80 a Samsung Galaxy Nexus. That won't be possible for everyone, but you'll be going from a choice of 3-star phones, up to 4.5-star handsets, even if they are aging a little now.