When you have only a certain amount of money to spend on a new smartphone, you want to make sure the one you choose is going to last. The Honor 6A, which replaces the old Honor 5C, is a device worth investigating. It oddly isn’t as technically impressive as the old model, yet still costs the same 150 British pounds (about $195). For that price it won’t take on the Honor 9, and will instead be an object of desire for those looking at a Moto E4 Plus, a Samsung J series phone, or any other number of the best budget smartphones. Why go with Honor? In our Honor 6A hands-on review, we find it’s all about longevity.
Metal body, big battery
Honor, a subsidiary of Huawei, made the Honor 6A with a metal body, which is unusual at such a low price. It feels great in the hand, with its gently-curved body fitting neatly in my palm. It’s light at under 150 grams, and not too thick at 8.2mm. Keeping a slim and light body hasn’t meant Honor’s put a laughably small battery inside the phone. Instead, it has a 3,020mAh cell, which Honor says will offer 10 hours of continuous web browsing over a 4G LTE network, or 12 hours of video playback.
This means the battery will easily last for a day without recharging under all but the most strenuous use. What’s more, the company has worked some magic to make sure the battery stays a strong performer over two years of ownership. Batteries degrade over time, but Honor’s tests on the 6A’s battery claim it will still have an 80 percent charge capacity after 800 cycles, which works out to about two years of average use.
Having a battery that lasts for years is no good if the software has ground to a halt, which can happen with some Android phones. Since Honor is a subsidiary of Huawei, it gets to use the EMUI 5.1 user interface over Android 7.0 Nougat on the Honor 6A, complete with Huawei’s special algorithms that keep the system running smoothly — at optimal speed levels, even after 18 months of use. This is a big bonus, and a feature more usually found on expensive devices like the Huawei P10 and Mate 9. We like EMUI 5.1 too. It’s considerably more pleasurable to use than older versions, and significantly faster.
The Honor 6A isn’t a rocket ship though. It uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor with 2GB of RAM, and performance in our brief hands-on was adequate. It can’t compare with the Honor 9, the P10, or other high-end phones, and the speed disadvantage was obvious. You only get 16GB of internal storage, but at least the Honor 6A comes with a MicroSD card slot, along with a dual-SIM option too.
You get what you see, and it’s not hiding anything terrible underneath the body.
Also helping the battery last a full day is the 5-inch screen. It has a 1,280 × 720 pixel resolution, which is low by today’s standards, but in-line with what we’d expect from a phone at this price. The glass cover was extremely reflective and made viewing in daylight, even on an overcast day in London, difficult. The problem was compounded by the screen’s low brightness. Again, this isn’t a flagship phone with a ridiculous price tag, and concessions have to be made. But this aspect is something that may require further investigation in a long term test to assess if it’s a serious red flag against the Huawei Honor 6A.
Finally, there’s a 13-megapixel camera on the back with fast autofocus, and a 5-megapixel camera on the front with Honor’s usual beauty mode. It doesn’t have NFC, so you won’t be able to use Android Pay.
The Honor 6A is what car dealers would call an “honest” model. You get what you see, and it’s not hiding anything terrible underneath the body. We particularly liked the in-hand comfort, and the smooth metal body. We’re less convinced by the screen; and recommend trying the 6A outside before deciding whether to buy it, to see if you can live with the performance.
If the Honor 6A is within your budget, then it’ll be up for pre-order through the online Vmall store on July 31 in the U.K., with a release to come in August. It’s also available on the Three network, and is ready to order now with deliveries expected to start on August 7. Plans start at 11 British pounds each month. If you can stretch to 200 British pounds, or are looking for a bargain device at $250 in the U.S., where it’s uncertain the Honor 6A will be sold, then take a look at the Honor 6X, a phone we rate highly that’s only a little more expensive, and take a look at our list of best cheap phones for more recommendations.
Update: The Honor 6A is now available through the Three network in the United Kingdom.