It’s been almost two years since Honor split from parent company Huawei. This means that – unlike Huawei – it can sell phones with Google apps and services pre-installed, which means it’s really worth considering if you live in a country where Honor sells phones. This includes several European markets, but not the US, at least not yet.
But while this change has allowed recent Honor phones like last year’s Honor 50 and Magic4 Pro to compete in a crowded Android smartphone market, the brand has yet to find its unique selling point. Its phones have not exceeded expectations in any area, be it camera or screen quality, performance or length of software support.
That doesn’t change with Honor’s latest international phone, the Honor 70. In the last week I’ve been using the phone, I haven’t found anything I’d consider a compromise. Everything is fine: battery life is great, camera performance and quality are adequate, and overall performance is solid. But there’s also nothing here that stands out enough to recommend the Honor 70 over any number of other cheaper mid-range phones released this year. The Honor 70 needs a showstopping feature to stand out, and it doesn’t quite have one.
The Honor 70 starts at £480 (roughly $566) for the 8GB RAM and 128GB storage model. Stepping up to £530 (roughly $625) gets you 256GB of storage. I was using the latest model.
With its 6.67-inch curved OLED display and punch-hole cutout for the front-facing camera, the front of the Honor 70 looks very similar to last year’s Honor 50. It’s an always-on display with 1080p resolution, a dynamic refresh rate of 120Hz, and an in-display fingerprint sensor that it was fast and reliable enough that I barely noticed it.
What I did have a problem with is the fact that it is curved, with the sides of the display disappearing around the left and right sides of the phone. Yes, it gives the phone a premium look similar to flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and Pixel 6 Pro, and the bezels on the left and right sides of the screen look smaller than they actually are. However, it does mean that the sides of the display have a slight shadowy tint because you’re always looking at them off-axis, and the curved edges have a habit of concentrating light reflections into bright lines at the edges of the display. I’ve been more forgiving of curved displays in the past, but in the case of the Honor 70, the phone’s screen is less functional, reducing usable space with very little benefit.
On the back, the design of the Honor 70 is slightly sleeker than the Honor 50. The two prominent circular camera bumps are no longer connected by a raised section, giving the back of the phone a simpler and cleaner look. In the UK, the phone is available in three colours: silver, black and the green version I’m using. There’s no official IP rating for dust and water resistance, no headphone jack, and no expandable storage.
The Honor 70 runs Android 12 out of the box, running Honor’s own Magic UI 6.1 software. I ended up loving the Magic UI, but it took a bit of work to get there—replacing the ugly and cluttered SwiftKey software keyboard (which kept trying to type my username in lowercase letters) for Gboard, uninstalling half a dozen bloatware apps (sorry, TrainPal, Booking.com, Lords Mobile, Game of Sultans and more) and re-enable the app drawer.
Once I got it set up to my liking, I found Magic UI to be a nice and clean Android launcher that doesn’t get in the way too much. Yes, it has several built-in ecosystem features that I doubt many people will find use for, such as Honor Share, which is designed to quickly transfer files to other Honor devices. However, these are offset by inclusions such as a small shortcut menu that can be accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the lock screen. Just be aware that the swipe gesture used to access this menu is the same as the one used to access the home screen if you use face unlock, which can be frustrating. I recommend sticking to fingerprint unlock.
The Honor 70’s Snapdragon 778G Plus processor easily keeps up with everyday tasks. Browsing through visually dense apps like Twitter is beautiful and smooth on the phone’s 120Hz display, and I didn’t experience any significant issues when switching between apps. One sore spot is the phone’s haptics, which can feel too aggressive and cheap compared to the subtle clicks you feel on other phones.
Speaker quality is average, with sound produced by the phone’s single set of downward-facing speakers. They’re loud enough that I could listen to a podcast out loud while washing dishes, but overall they sound tinny and hollow, and I found it harder than normal to make out dialogue in some YouTube videos with excessive background noise. iPhone 13 Pro VS Xiaomi 12 Pro: features, differences and prices
Honor says the Honor 70 will get two years of Android updates and three years of security updates. That’s a fairly typical software support time for Android phones, and matches what OnePlus offers with the mid-range Nord 2T, for example. But elsewhere in the Android ecosystem, Google and Samsung are taking things much further. The Pixel 6A gets five years of security updates and is more affordable at £399 (around $466), though Google is curiously refusing to specify how many OS updates it will get, while Samsung promises four years of OS updates and five years of security. repairs for your recent Galaxy A53 for £399. Even the £399 Nothing Phone 1 should (eventually) get three years of Android updates and four years of security updates. I don’t think we’re quite at the point where offering only three-year security updates should be considered a deal breaker, but we’re getting there.
That’s a lot of complaints, so let’s talk about something I really liked about the Honor 70 – battery life. I averaged a little less than 6.5 hours of screen-on time per day from the phone, and I was constantly charging it, with more than 50 percent charge left in the evening. After a day of heavy use, which included 90 minutes of the phone’s screen on while using it for cycling routes while streaming music to Bluetooth headphones, I ended the day with a 35 percent charge.
Honor includes a 66W fast charger in the package. It supports the Honor SuperCharge standard as well as Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0, but there’s no mention of Power Delivery (PD) support, which might explain why it wasn’t able to charge my MacBook. I found that the phone can get from empty to 52 percent in 20 minutes, 72 percent in 30 minutes, and fully charged in less than 50 minutes. That’s not quite as fast as the cheaper £369 (around $431) OnePlus Nord 2T, which can charge to 100 percent in less than half an hour, but it’ll still be more than fast enough for most people. There’s no wireless charging, which is still a relative rarity at this price point outside of devices like the iPhone SE 5G or the £419 ($429) Nothing Phone 1.
The Honor 70 has a 32-megapixel selfie camera and a trio of rear cameras at the back: a 54-megapixel main camera, a 50-megapixel ultra-wide and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. That’s one less than the Honor 50, as Honor now includes macro photography capabilities in ultra-wide mode. The company deserves credit for including a reasonably high-resolution sensor for the phone’s secondary ultra-wide camera when many other companies fail to follow suit. However, at this price point, the Honor 70 faces stiff competition from the more affordable Pixel 6A and struggles to compete with Google’s smart low-light photographers.
In good lighting, the Honor 70’s camera is on par with most modern smartphones. Images are nicely detailed, and Honor’s software tends to produce nicely saturated images that are colorful without looking unnatural, similar to Samsung’s smartphone cameras. Honor specifically advertises that it has tuned its cameras to better deal with brightly lit subjects, and sure enough, when I took a photo in front of a brightly lit window, Honor’s software kept me well-lit without ruining the rest of the shot. However, the flip side of this is that images can sometimes appear a little flat because the phone’s software doesn’t allow the shadows to be too dark. Switch to ultra-wide and the level of detail remains largely consistent thanks to the 50-megapixel sensor, although I think the colors in the photos it takes aren’t as accurate as the main camera.
For videos, the phone supports shooting up to 4K 30fps. Video quality is good, but not great, and there is some judder when trying to shoot in 4K. There are also some interesting software features for video, including one that Honor calls “Solo Cut Mode,” which is capable of shooting video in landscape while simultaneously recording zoomed-in portrait video that follows the subject across the frame. It just works, but I didn’t find it super reliable and she often lost me in a given scene. I’m trying to think of many situations where I’d use this feature, but it’s a pretty interesting novelty.
In previous reviews of Honor phones, I’ve noticed that its software tends to over-brighten photos of faces, and this continues to be true even with all of its software beauty modes turned off. The effect is even more pronounced with photos taken with the phone’s selfie camera, which all look like you’re using a filter.
If you’re careful, you can take some good low-light shots with the Honor 70. By default, the camera in primary photo mode will require you to hold the shot for a few moments before it can collect some images. other light data. This is fine for static scenes, but the moment you try to take a photo of a moving subject, such as a person, it’s difficult to hold the shot steady for as long as the Honor 70 asks. And that means a lot of my low-light handheld shots ended up a blurry mess.
Most of the Honor 70’s features are good enough. Its cameras are good enough, its software is good enough, and its length of software support is good enough. There are even some aspects of the phone that are better than good enough, such as battery life, charging speed and the responsiveness of its display. (Though I wish it wasn’t curved.)
But with a starting price of £480, which is £80 more than several other very capable mid-range phones launched this year, ‘good enough’ isn’t really good enough to justify a purchase. Google’s Pixel 6A is more affordable, has better cameras, longer software support, and an official IP rating for dust and water resistance. The Samsung Galaxy A53 is more affordable and offers a similarly long software support period and a fantastic flat display. The iPhone SE 5G is more affordable and offers access to the iOS app ecosystem and wireless charging. Nothing Phone 1 has fun flashing lights.
Unless you absolutely need an IP rating, I don’t think the Honor 70 has any serious flaws or obstacles. But neither does it have any mind-blowing features to justify its price premium.