So, why a new brand? There are likely a few reasons. Firstly, Huawei itself hasn’t yet made massive inroads into the Western market. Secondly, perhaps the company has looked at the success of the OnePlus project and thought that it, too, can provide a high-spec device at a low cost. However, it’s a little strange that the firm chose to use the ‘Honor’ moniker, as this is also the name of an existing range of Huawei devices.
The Honor 6 costs £249 SIM-free, sold only by Amazon UK, which is pretty low for an unlocked Android phone. Yes, it’s £100 more than a Moto G (2014), but it is a lot cheaper than flagship devices. So it’s low cost, but is it high spec? Yes! The Honor 6 comes with an octa-core processor, 3GB RAM, 16GB storage with microSD expansion, 4G LTE CAT-6 connectivity, a 5-inch Full HD IPS screen, a 13-megapixel camera on the back with a dual flash accompanied by a 5‑megapixel camera on the front, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC. Oh, and there’s an IR remote transmitter too (but oddly no built-in app to use it).
In the hand, the feel of the Honor 6 also belies its price. It’s encased in glass on the back and front, similar to a Sony Xperia, but with a plastic edge. It feels light but well made and the overall body size is good given the large screen and capacious 3100mAh battery. A notification LED is included on the front and the speaker, sadly, is on the back of the device, as is the smart silver ‘Honor’ branding. The speaker is quite loud, but very tinny and almost completely devoid of bass.
When the phone is fired up, if you’ve used Huawei devices before you’ll immediately recognise the boot sound. The Honor 6 runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat with a custom skin called Emotion UI (version 2.3 in the software on our device). It touches virtually every aspect of the phone – the lockscreen (which we actually found a bit fiddly to use), the homescreen (which quickly clutters with icons as there is no conventional app drawer), the notification panel (which has a light grey background that frequently has white text/icons on it) and custom icons for a number of the pre-installed apps. Much of this can be replaced by downloading the appropriate ‘stock’ version, but it’s unfortunate to see the impressive hardware of the Honor 6 blighted by a polarising software build.
The Honor 6 performs impressively, which is a relief since previous Kirin-branded chips have been underwhelming. Paired with a mighty 3GB of RAM, the phone’s performance feels smooth at all times and it coped admirably with the most demanding of apps and games that we threw at it. Everything looks beautiful on the extremely sharp and bright screen, too.
Stock Android has a particularly weak camera app, so this is one area where the Honor improvements are welcome. Pictures are taken quickly on both the main and front cameras and there’s a wealth of modes at your disposal. Neat touches, like a box to show you where to look for the best selfies, round off the experience. Image quality from both cameras is not outstanding, but certainly good enough.
Overall, the quirky software fortunately doesn’t ruin an impressive phone at a fantastic price point. Whether Honor will succeed as a brand remains to be seen but if it does, it will certainly be on merit.