Lots of great smartphones have been hitting the market in the $400 range, proving that a decent phone doesn’t have to cost over $600. Huawei’s contribution to this is the Honor 8 — a phone that feels more premium than any flagship smartphone and has very iPhone-esque software.
Huawei doesn’t have a large following in the US, but the Honor 8 is certainly worth your time. Let’s take a closer look at it.
- Price: $330–420 at Amazon (CDN$545/£370)
- Chipset: Octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 950
- RAM: 4 GB
- Storage: 32 GB or 64 GB
- Cameras: 12 MP rear-facing, 8 MP front-facing
- Size: 145.5mm x 71mm x 7.5mm (5.73in x 2.80in x 0.30in)
- Weight: 153g (5.4oz)
- Screen: 5.2″ 1080p LCD
- Expansion: microSD card slot up to 64GB
- Battery: 3,000 mAh
- Operating System: EMUI 4.1, based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- Extra Features: Dual SIM support, microSD card support,Fingerprint scanner, LED notification light
Physically, the Honor 8 is just a bit smaller than most other flagship devices thanks to its 5.2″ screen (whereas most Android phones come with a 5.5″ screen nowadays). It’s a 1080p display that’s bright, colorful, and just looks great.
Navigation keys are included in the software, so there’s no physical home button. The power key and volume rocker are on the right side, the SIM/microSD card slot is on the left, and the headphone jack, USB Type-C port, and speaker are along the bottom.
The speaker gets reasonably loud, but its placement makes it a little difficult to hear unless you’re watching a video in landscape and cup your hand around it. On the back side, you’ll find the dual camera lenses that Huawei says results in crisper photos, along with the fingerprint scanner.
The fingerprint scanner actually doubles as a button, dubbed the Smart Key — it has a nice satisfying click when you press it. Unlike other fingerprint sensors that really do nothing except unlock the device, the Honor 8’s Smart Key can be used to swipe the notification tray up or down (like the Google Pixel) or swipe between photos in the gallery app.
You can also set it to take a screenshot, turn on the flashlight, or open an app. You can have up to three of those actions assigned since it can differentiate between a single click, double click, and long press.
Overall, the Honor 8 feels premium in your hand, albeit extremely slippery. The curved 2.5D glass feels great and definitely puts it in the same class as the Pixel and the iPhone 7. It certainly took a bunch of design cues from both.
Hardware-wise, the Honor 8 won’t let you down. It’s solid in just about every aspect.
While the Honor 8 might technically be running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, it’s a heavily tweaked version called EMUI 4.1 that looks nothing like stock Android. In fact, is has a lot more in common with iOS 10.
There’s no app drawer here (though you can change this by installing any alternative launcher). All your apps are just out on the home screen. The icons for apps made by Huawei (like Phone, Messaging, Gallery, and Files) are all rounded and colorful. There’s even a built-in theme engine for changing them all at once.
The notification shade blurs out the background and has two tabs: Notifications and Shortcuts. The shortcuts can be easily rearranged and customized.
Where EMUI really shines, though, is in the extra features. While most Android skins tend to feel like nothing more than bloat, EMUI actually adds quite a lot of value.
For instance, the Smart screenshot function allows you to take a screenshot of just a portion of your screen — a feature that I really wish existed in stock Android.
You can also customize the navigation bar, choose what the Fingerprint scanner does, and toggle a Windows 10-style Simple home screen.
And that’s barely scratching the surface of some of the features buried in the Honor 8’s settings. It has one-handed controls, voice controls, and motion controls as well. You can toggle a Floating dock option or schedule times for your phone to turn on or off. In the Battery manager, you can adjust your power plan and get fine-tuned controls for what apps are running in the background.
There are also a bunch of Huawei-designed apps that I’m less enticed by, but which are nonetheless pretty useful and add to the overall aesthetic.
Apps like Phone, Files, and Music look nothing like they do on stock Android, but if you like the look the Honor 8 offers, this could be a positive. This theming runs throughout the rest of the built-in apps as well, leading to a rather consistent interface.
Performance and Battery Life
While the Honor 8 isn’t using a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor like other high-end devices, it still didn’t struggle at all in my testing. Lag was negligible, gaming was fine, and multitasking was easy.
The Octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 950 processor coupled with 4 GB of RAM seemed like plenty. And the phone comes in 32 GB and 64 GB models, which means you’ll have plenty of space for music, videos, and pictures. You can even add storage with a microSD card.
4G LTE and Wi-Fi speeds were great, and Huawei even added a Wi-Fi+ feature that allows you to use both 4G LTE and Wi-Fi at the same time for increased speeds. It’s fully GSM compatible, meaning it works on T-Mobile and AT&T in the US, but not Verizon or Sprint.
In terms of battery life, the Honor 8 seemed about average. The 3,000mAh battery wasn’t mind-blowing, but it wasn’t terrible. You’d probably make it through a day with light to medium usage — though you might want to pack an external battery if you’re planning on using it a lot.
The Honor 8 also charges super fast thanks to the USB Type-C connector. For me, it went from dead to full in about an hour and a half.
Should You Buy It?
The Honor 8 occupies an interesting space. Cheap Chinese knockoffs of the iPhone have been on the market for years, but Huawei seems to be evolving into its own now. Though the Honor 8 clearly takes a lot of inspiration from the iPhone, it’s not a direct copy, and it manages to balance between Android and iOS quite well.
Whether you like the Honor 8 or not will mostly come down to personal preference. If you’re a stock Android devotee, it won’t be for you, but if you have a soft spot for the iPhone but want something a little cheaper and more customizable, the Honor 8 is perfect.
With premium hardware and unique software features, the Honor 8 manages to offer a lot of value for a low price. It’s a fantastic option for anyone who wants a flagship smartphone without breaking the bank.