In a world of Octa-core CPU’s, 20mp cameras, and £700 phones sometimes its nice to look in the other direction. What phone do you recommend to your friends for say, a teen about to get her first smart phone, or a granny looking to talk to her children with video?
Over the last few years, mainly led by the excellent Moto G, budget phones have become far better than before. While some companies still sell under powered, over priced “budget phones” other companies have stepped up to the plate and dealt us really cracking devices.
Honor, the new brand from Huawei, are one such company and with the release of the Holly they have aimed straight at the sub £100, first time buyer market, and struck dead centre
Build & Aesthetics
The Honor Holly is not fancy. You won’t be getting “Milled from one piece of granite and sanded by virgins” here. What you get however, is a solid device that looks good and functional. It’s plain black glass front and white plastic back actually compliment each other fairly well but it isn’t winning any awards for design.
Build quality is extremely good, the phone feels solid in the hand while not feeling overly heavy. The back peels away without feeling flimsy and it shows throughout that Honor have thought about build quality in a very specific way.
Testament to this thought, I emailed them when I received the device as I felt that the battery was difficult to remove, they responded by saying the battery is designed to be a snug fit and that it reduces knocking noise whilst adding to the over all rigidity of the phone.
Thinking on it a little more I was impressed at the thought that went into it and you know what? They are right! The phone does feel rigid in the hand it also doesn’t suffer any of the creaking you get in budget devices.
The Holly has a fairly decent IPS LCD display running at 720p and it’s just peachy. The viewing angles are perfectly acceptable and the colours are rich and vibrant.
720p I hear you gasp! surely it’s 1080p or GTFO? No, 720p is more than adequate on a 5″ display and not once did I feel the display let me down in terms of viewing pleasure.
The biggest drawback I have found on the Holly is the glass. The budget factor of the device shows up in this area and the review device has picked up a fairly deep scratch in the middle of the screen from being in my pocket. I would recommend a glass screen protector straight away which can be picked up for as little £3.99 (well worth it to protect your screen).
I will start with the negative. 2mp for a front facing camera is not enough, we live in a selfie world now there is no escaping it. Everybody does it (even grannies) and at for this reason 2mp is just not going to cut it. In anything other than perfect light the front facing camera is a bust.
OK so back to positives…
The 8mp rear facing camera is actually pretty good in normal lighting conditions. In daylight or well-lit rooms it will be perfectly acceptable for the Facebook generation who only need their pictures to be web quality. Colour reproduction is good, if a little rich and the white balance is not too bad either. Having looked through the Facebook accounts of my non-tech friends I realise how much they don’t really care about good pictures. What they want is the picture right then and there, blurry or not. Personally it makes me want to go on a murderous rampage when I see blurry, awful pictures but I hold it back.
For the target market the Holly camera is more than enough and compared to its competitors it is ahead of the pack.
*sigh* oh emotionUI how you frustrate me.
Based on Huwawei’s EMUI this launcher is really not very nice. EMUI is made to emulate the iPhone style, in that it has no app drawer and everything is just sat on your main screen cluttering it up like a windows XP desktop with no real order. It’s saving grace is the ability to move the apps into folders however even this is a pretty annoying if you have a large amounts of apps to go through. I’ll be honest I used it for about a week and got so frustrated I put the Google Now Launcher on.
Lets talk Duality. Dual Sim cards have always been an intriguing idea, with many people having a work phone and home phone this seems like a perfect solution.
The actual process of the dual sim on the Holly works really well, you can even choose between separate tasks for each sim, for example; I use the EE sim to make calls and texts while my GiffGaff runs the data, however because both sims are running at once you can still receive calls and texts from both on the fly. The big issue I have right now is the Dual sim setup seems to stop my contacts from showing up when they call. Maybe its just me not doing it right but I cannot get it to tell me who is calling. very frustrating.
Overall the software is average. If you are an older person coming from a feature phone this will not bother you and if you are a first time phone user you won’t know any different however, if you are coming from another Android device you may find the UI sloppy.
Running Android 4.4.2 it is fast and fluid and I say again it is leagues above anything else in this price bracket.
The most important speaker on any handset is the one you use to make calls with so we can start there. It’s great, the internal speaker is sharp and not too loud. I know volume is important but too much creates feedback and the Holly just feels the perfect volume for me.
The external speaker however is simply par. I admit I have been spoiled by the M8 speakers but the Holly has a single rear facing speaker that is loud but slightly tinny. It will do for quickly showing a friend YouTube videos but for a BBQ you may want to pick up a Bluetooth speaker.
Development for the Honor Holly is certainly out there. XDA has several threads for rooting and custom ROMS including the latest Cyanogen and MIUI. I see no reason to root this device however. There is a target audience for this phone and that isn’t the hardcore modding community. The target audience is, as I have said, is the young and first time phone buyers, the kind of people who just want the phone to work.
That said, if you do want to play then you can find info here: http://forum.xda-developers.com/android/general/huawei-honor-holly-hol-u19-root-t2996617
The Honor Holly uses a Quad-core 1.3 GHz Cortex-A7 Mediatek MT6582 chipset with a Mali-400MP2 GPU. Now I don’t really know what any of that means but I can tell you the Holly is fast. I haven’t felt it couldn’t keep up with anything I threw at it. Its handling of the dual sim flip-flopping is flawless and while I don’t play many games the games I do throw it seem to work fine.
The device hasn’t suffered from over heating like some of it’s bigger cousins do and using it as a daily device really has worked fine.
Battery life also seems to be spot on. The days of me trying to squeeze out more than a days battery are gone. The reality of the world we live in is simple, you will have to charge your phone every night. All I ever ask is that a device lasts from when I wake up, around 6:30am to when I go to sleep, around 11:30pm. The Holly does that with room to spare (normally about 20% left) which is good enough for me. This usage is with fair to high use of music streaming, phone calls, constant hangout messages, Skype and YouTube.