The Honor 6A being the latest to squeeze itself into that bracket — it goes on sale Friday August 4 2017 in the UK, or is available on contract via Three — alongside competition from the likes of the Moto E and Moto G, and even Vodafone's own (carrier-locked) Smart V8.
Does the 6A do the business for its modest price tag, or does its presence further confuse Honor's brand positioning?
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Honor 6A review: Design & display
- 143.7 x 70.1 x 8.2mm; 150g approx
- 5-inch, HD (1280 x 720 resolution) display
- Metal build
We mention Honor's market position because it's a sub-brand of big-boss Huawei. Which is fine, no complaints, except the likes of the Honor 9 is one example of the sub-brand making a better and cheaper device than Huawei's own P10 flagship. That just seems illogical to us.
Back in 2014 we saw the Honor 6, with the A derivative focusing on affordability in 2017. Not that you'd immediately think so when looking: there's a metal rear, which is non-removable, metal buttons to the side and trim bezels to give a neat and tidy appearance.
That's no longer the stand-out finish it once was, however, as even the Motorola Moto G comes with a similar coat, albeit available in different colours such as gold, whereas the Honor 6A is silver only.
Telltale signs that the Honor 6A not a flagship are clear to see, though, given the lack of a fingerprint scanner and no off-screen buttons at all — despite, apparently, the space to facilitate them — meaning its Android soft keys all the way.
At around 150g it's a light phone in the hand. The screen, at 5-inches in scale, is fairly small compared to many of today's mega-phones, too, which makes for easy one-handed use. It's a fairly slim handset at 8.2mm, ensuring it's easy to slip into a pocket.
The screen isn't totally standout in terms of spec, though, given its "HD" panel — that's 1280 x 720 pixels of resolution — putting it a step behind both Moto G and Vodafone Smart V8 (which are "Full HD" 1920 x 1080 pixels in resolution). Does it look bad as a result? No, plus the small-scale 5-inch panel helps to negate the difference. Its viewing angles are fine and brightness levels ample too.
Honor 6A review: Power & performance
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 430, octa-core 1.5GHz, 2GB RAM
- 16GB storage, microSD slot/dual SIM
- Non-removable 3020mAh battery
- EMUI 5.1 software (over Android 7.0)
- Rear 13MP camera; front 5MP camera
In terms of power, you get what you pay for: the Honor 6A has a middling processor arrangement and 2GB RAM, which is entry-level these days.
Figures are one thing, how it performs is the key thing. And, having side-by-sided the device with our current Honor 9, the 6A does a good job — considering its price. It's fairly adept at opening apps, even if it's not lightning fast, but it's as we would anticipate at this level. And if you've never used a flagship phone then you'll know no different.
The SIM slot has a second SIM slot, which can instead be used to inser"t a microSD card to expand internal storage from its 16GB base. If you intend to host music, videos and lots of apps on the device then it's well worth investing in a card — a 16GB one isn't too pricey.
We've only spent a dozen or so minutes with the Honor 6A so can't critically comment on its overall performance without a deeper dive. The same can be said for the 3020mAh battery — but given the middling processor power not being too demanding, we suspect that's a recipe for decent longevity per charge. Top-ups can be made via the Micro-USB cable to the base, there's no USB-C or fast-charge technology here.
Software is one of those areas that Honor — and, indeed, Huawei — has improved upon over the years. Its EMUI, short for Emotion User Interface, started out life a bit fussy, then got overzealous with constant alerts beyond what standard Android phones would usually present its users.
In 2017, and with EMUI in version 5.1, the software acts less like the "me me me" spoilt child, instead giving more breathing space, more gauged alerts for the sake of battery saving. Plus, ignoring some not perfect design choices, it's a perfectly usable operating system. We've written about it at considerably greater length in the feature below.
On the rear of the Honor 6A is a protruding circular camera, equipped with 13-megapixels of resolution.
The software is much the same as you'll find on other Honor devices, such as the Honor 9, albeit it's just the one camera rather than a dual camera system. Face detection and phase detection autofocus are relatively rapid, too, from the brief test we performed with the camera.
It might not be the flashiest Honor on the market, but the 6A seems like a solid effort in the £150 phone category. Its metal build, neat design and operation are all plus points.
Its downsides are the lack of a fingerprint scanner and, well, its surrounding competition. With Motorola already ruling the budget category — there's a choice of Moto E, Moto E Plus or Moto G for roughly the same sum of money — and Vodafone's (admittedly carrier-locked) Smart V8 punching a level above in the specification stakes, there perhaps isn't any one must-buy feature about this particular Honor.
In the same breath, it does little wrong, so would make a savvy out-and-out purchase for someone who doesn't want all the bells & whistles and, of course, associated costs of a higher-end smartphone.