Huawei Honour U8860: High spec at mid-tier price

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Huawei continues to quietly impress with sophisticated devices at a lower price point than you’d expect. The new Honour U8860 easily competes with £400-plus devices yet costs around £260 (SIM-free)

The handset market is no stranger to underdogs. Take HTC, for example. It came from nowhere to become one of the leading manufacturers in the world – having spent its previous life building devices for the likes of O2 with the XDA range.

Apple is another, having never even dipped its toes in the handset space before launching the iPhone back in 2007. And we all know how that story is continuing.

Chinese firm Huawei (pronounced ‘who-are-we’, ironically) wants to make its mark this year. Many a manufacturer, often Chinese, have tried and failed. But perhaps Huawei should not be dismissed too quickly.

Who is Huawei?
Huawei is the world’s second-largest builder of mobile networks, operating in more than 140 countries – and will soon to be in the UK, too. If you have ever used a mobile broadband dongle, it was probably made by Huawei. It also supplied millions of handsets to Vodafone, Orange or T-Mobile in 2011.

Huawei now wants brand recognition in its own right and has been drip-feeding its products into the mobile retailing channel, earning a reputation for producing high-end features in a mid- to low-tier package.

We reviewed the Android-powered Blaze handset in November. The Blaze reinvented the budget handsets, cramming in 3.2-inch touch screen, 3D graphics, WiFi, 3G and GPS for under £100.

In February, it announced ‘the world’s fastest’ handset in the Ascend D Quad – and ‘world’s slimmest’, at just 6.68mm, in the Ascend P1. Last month it launched the Android 2.1 powered Ascend G300 exclusively with Vodafone, again cramming features such as GPS, 1Ghz processor, touchscreen, five-megapixel camera, WiFi and sat-nav for under £100.

The Honour U8860
Its latest release is the Honour. Unlike Samsung’s hyped Galaxy S III, it’s under no pressure to outdo previous efforts.

With its slate design it looks like dozens of other handsets already in the market.

The front touchscreen cover is made from Gorilla glass, giving a quality feel and the ability to probably take a knock or two.

The four-inch touchscreen is half an inch bigger than the iPhone 4S and gives the phone a stretched look.  A 2MP front-facing camera peeks out from the top next to an LED that glows red when the handset is being charged.

Under the screen are four touchscreen icons to navigate around the functions. A metallic bar about an inch long on the left side controls the volume. The right side has no buttons at all. Along the top you’ll see a small metallic power button next to a 3.5mm headphone jack. The matt finish of the removable back is more ‘plasticky’ than the front.

Flip the back off and you’ll see the battery compartment and memory card slot. The 8MP camera lens is the top centre with the LED flash to its left. An additional speaker is next to the lens. A Huawei logo and ‘with Google’ banner completes the external look. The curvaceous, slim 11mm body weighs only 140g. It feels slippery and I nearly dropped it a couple of times.

Five seconds to launch
Switch on and the Huawei logo lights up the 480×854 pixel screen. The touch screen was responsive.  The Honour is powered by a 1.4GHz processor which gives a very speedy five-second start-up sequence. Some reviewers reckon the screen is poor in sunlight, although I found it was fine outdoors (pun intended).

Even though most smartphones have the same Android operating system, manufacturers are striving to differentiate the way you interact with their products. Motorola has

Moto Blur while HTC has Sense. Huawei has tweaked Android 2.3 Gingerbread to create HAP 5.1 (Huawei Android Platform). It is immediately noticeable, with four options displayed on the screen in a north-east-south-west position within a circle.

The icons unlock the device and allow access to the common features. Sliding the lock key in the middle  of the circle up takes you to calling  options. Sliding to the left takes you to the text menu. The bottom icon brings up the camera. Slide to the right and reveal the home screen or whatever you were working on before the last power down. It quickly becomes intuitive and is simple to operate, with pleasant 3D graphics animating the screen changes.

Full article in Mobile News issue 517 (July 2, 2012).

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