The mid-range smartphone segment is always an exciting place to be in. Here we have phones that offer the perfect compromise between features, performance and value and every once in a while, we’ll get a high-end phone that drops in to make way for new offerings in the upper segments. In India, this sweet spot for phones is typically in the 18K to 22K price range. Today we’ll be looking at a new entrant from Huawei, and when I say new, I mean in the Indian market. Huawei launched the Honor U8860, back in December of 2011 and it only recently hit our streets. Let’s see if it has what it takes to find a place in this crowded group. 

Design and Build
The Honor U8860 is a perfectly presentable phone, something you won’t be ashamed of flaunting among your friends. From the front, it’s reminiscent of the iPhone 4 with an all black bezel and rounded edges. Up top, we have the earpiece and the front-facing VGA camera. Down at the bottom are the usual set of capacitive buttons. There’s no mention of any anti-scratch glass or coating on the screen, but it does manage to hold up well with everyday use. Fingerprints are a big problem and since the brightness levels of the LCD aren’t great, using it in direct sunlight is a real challenge. The Honor measures 11mm in depth and weighs around 140g, so it’s not the slimmest, but it’s far from bulky. The reason for this extra heft is the chunky battery in the phone.

Decent build and design

Decent build and design

For connectivity, we have a microUSB port at the bottom, besides the microphone, while the volume rocker and power/sleep buttons take up their usual spots. Around the back, we have a textured rear panel with the Huawei logo and speaker grill. The memory card slot does not support hot-swap, though. The camera is an 8MP sensor and you also get an LED flash. In the box, you get a charger, data cable and a headset. Overall, the Honor doesn’t really come across as a phone that costs 20K, as it feels more like a 15K and below phone. Having said that, the build quality is pretty good and we didn’t find any creaking parts or weak spots – it feels rugged and durable.

Features
Interface
The Huawei Honor U8860 comes with Gingerbread, along with their own skin. They say that it is possible to upgrade it to ICS, although nothing has happened yet, so don’t hold your breath. The phone is quite popular on XDA forums, however, so I’m sure you’ll find a nice custom ROM for it. The skin is a mash up between a bunch of other skins and has the look and feel of LG’s UI, along with similar icons from Samsung’s TouchWiz and topped off with a sprinkle of iOS. I like what they’ve done with the lock screen, which gives you quick access to phone features or to unlock the phone. The interface is pretty quick overall, thanks to the 1.4GHz Qualcomm MSM8255T SoC, along with the Adreno 205 GPU. This is the same chipset used in the Lumia 800 as well.

A mashup of different UIs

A mashup of different UIs

The pixel density of the screen is quite good and at 854 x 480 on a 4-inch LCD screen, images and text appear decently sharp and crisp. The black levels and colours are also rich and vibrant. The screen does not have the best sensitivity though, and many times it would not register light touches. Huawei have also included toggle switches in the drop down notification bar, which is handy. The icons have a very TouchWiz feel to them and are big and colourful. In the main menu, there’s a little cog like button, which when pressed, causes all the icons to wiggle (like iOS) and you can delete an app directly from there. Also, holding the home button on the homescreen brings up the task manager.

The 8MP cam performs well

The 8MP cam performs well

The interface is far from pretty or slick, but it’s functional and we give Huawei props for making an effort. They’ve also added a ‘Power Saver’ mode to the otherwise stock Gingerbread settings. Have a look at the benchmark score against other phones below.

Fares well for a single-core chip

Fares well for a single-core chip

Media
The U8860 does an excellent job with music playback. Huawei has installed two music players, one custom and the other is taken straight from ICS. The custom player gives you access to folder views amongst the standard offerings as well as equalizer presets for headphones, like SRS WOW HD. You can also view the lyrics of the song if it’s present. The audio quality is really good with a good pair of IEMs, like the EP-630. The other player is the same stock ICS player and works just the same. The phone has a 4GB ROM, out of which 2.3GB is available to the user.

Good media performance

Good media performance

We really wished Huawei had beefed up the video player as well and added support for DivX and DivX HD out of the box. Moboplayer does come to rescue and manages to play everything from MKV to MOV, but upto 720p only. 1080p files don’t play at all. Clearly dual-core is needed for decoding 1080p video content.

Connectivity
The Honor is a quad-band GSM and supports 3G bands up to 2100MHz. This gives it an HSDPA speed of 14.4Mbps and HSUPA speed of 5.7Mbps. Also present is Wi-Fi ‘n’, Bluetooth v2.1, and DLNA. There’s no NFC present. The stock browser does a good job of rendering pages, although the issue with the screen's sensitivity can be a problem when zooming in and out. Apart from the host of default Google applications, like Google+, Maps, etc., Huawei have also bundled some of their own cloud-based features, like Message+, Cloud+ Drive, Cloud+ Gallery and HiSpace. Cloud+ Drive lets you backup apps and data in the cloud or you could back up all your contents to your SD card through AllBackup. They even pre-install Twitter and Facebook, so as far as functionality out-of-the-box is concerned, Huawei has you covered.

Good set of bundled apps

Good set of bundled apps

Misc. Features
Huawei has included a ton of miscellaneous apps for you as well. There’s a file manager, task manager, Richpad, a cool weather clock, data traffic manager similar to ICS, DLNA app, DocumentsToGo and Security Guard to block unwanted calls. They also have Streams, which lets you manage and view all your social feeds on app. 

Camera
The Honor U8860 comes with a standard 8MP shooter (no BSI sensor) and an LED flash which manages to capture good pictures with fair amount of detail. We also liked its indoor performance and macro shots. The interface is of stock Gingerbread and it also features an HDR mode, which didn’t seem to work as well as we hoped. Video recording maxes out at 720p and apart from slight jerks and skips, the frame rate is pretty consistent. Check out the camera samples for yourself below.

Indoors with flash

Indoors with flash

Outdoor shot

Outdoor shot

Battery Life
Perhaps the best feature of the Huawei Honor U8860 is the battery, which is a very healthy 1930mAh. In our video drain test, with Wi-Fi ‘On’ and the brightness set to medium, we got nearly 7hrs and 40mins of battery life. We expected much more, but this is not a bad figure either. The phone lasted for about 7hrs in our loop test, which involved 1.5hrs of calls, 2hrs of audio streaming over Wi-Fi and audio and video playback.

A big battery

A big battery

Verdict
At a street price of Rs. 19,900, the Huawei Honor U8860 is playing with the big boys, like the Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro, Xperia Sola, Galaxy S Plus and the HTC One V. Perhaps its closest competitor is the Galaxy S Plus due to the same screen size. This makes it very difficult to recommend the Honor, since it doesn’t have enough to take any of them down. Like I said earlier, the U8860 would make a very good buy at Rs. 15,000, but not at this price. Plus, issues like the screen sensitivity and poor sunlight legibility make it all the more tough to recommend at its current price.

Specifications

  • Display Size and resolution – 4-inches, 480 x 854
  • Display Type  – LCD capacitive touchscreen
  • Processor – Single-core 1.4GHz Qualcomm MSM8255T
  • OS version out of the box – Android OS, v2.3 
  • On-Board Memory – 4GB. microSD support for up to 32GB more
  • Net connectivity options – 3G, EDGE, GPRS, Wi-Fi
  • USB Connectivity – Yes (Standard micro USB) 
  • GPS Software – Yes, with A-GPS support
  • Bluetooth – Yes, v2.1+HS
  • NFC Support – No
  • Camera Resolution – 8 MP, LED Flash
  • Secondary Camera – VGA for Video calling, Self Portrait
  • Video Recording – Yes, 720p@30fps
  • FM Radio – Yes
  • AV Out Option – No
  • Noise Cancellation – Yes
  • Price – Rs. 19,900

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