Honor split from former parent company Huawei, but the new Honor 70 still feels like a Huawei phone.
That’s not a bad thing. Huawei made some of the best Android phones in recent years, before a US trade ban meant it couldn’t release new ones with Google services or the Play Store.
The release frequency of Honor phones in Europe has been knocked but is not part of the ban. It’s slowly re-establishing its presence in the market – and using Google’s services – by releasing excellent devices like the Magic 4 Pro and now the Honor 70, a mid-range phone with solid performance, great cameras and an attractive design.
I just feel that Honor is still playing it pretty safe where it needs to stand out and differentiate itself – from current competing manufacturers and from Huawei of old.
Design & Build
Slim and tall
Eye-catching camera design
Looking great is as good a place to start as any. The Honor 70 is a leader in a market where it’s hard for phones with weak displays to stand out.
My review unit came in a beautiful matte green finish that hides fingerprints very well, although the most eye-catching version is the shiny silver with a diamond pattern on the back. Of course, there is also black. Although the phone looks and feels premium, it is made of plastic. In a way, I prefer it over glass because it’s less likely to break if dropped, though it does mean it’s more prone to scratches and rules out wireless charging.
Two large circular islands protrude from the top left of the phone and house the triple cameras and flash in a striking way. The phone has some text on the back with unnecessary camera specs and the requisite EU business script. As always, there’s no doubt it would look neater with just the company logo.
Many high-end phones have curved displays, but the mid-range Honor 70 pulls it off, too. I quite like curved displays because they make phones look thinner and narrower in the hand, as in this case. The volume rocker and power button sit on the thin right edge, with the USB-C port on the bottom next to the SIM tray and a single mono speaker.
The other is in the handset just above the centrally placed cutout selfie camera. All these choices look like a 2022 101 smartphone on paper, but the Honor 70 looks like more than the sum of its parts. It’s a design I really like.
One downside, a hard one, is the lack of waterproofing, when at this price I would have expected at least a splash-proof rating.
Screen and speakers
6.67-inch curved OLED
Vivid color reproduction
The phone’s 6.67-inch OLED display with a resolution of 1080 x 2400 is very large thanks to its tall 20:9 aspect ratio. I have small hands and found it impossible to use one hand for anything other than just scrolling or swiping. Fortunately, the 120Hz refresh rate means such scrolling is very smooth, but it’s easy to tell that this is a cheaper panel than the more expensive Honor Magic 4 Pro or OnePlus 10 Pro.
As with many curved screens, there’s a hint of dimming as its left and right sides slope when viewing bright content directly, but day-to-day use of the phone didn’t spoil it. If anything, the curves make it easier to use Android’s back swipe gestures.
Brightness is good, if below the peak levels of more expensive phones, but I had no problem seeing anything in direct sunlight, which isn’t always the case with a phone of this price.
The sound from the mono speaker is firmly in the middle of the road. They’re fine for a few YouTube videos and podcasts, but you won’t want to blast music or movies for any length of time, and at this price I expected dual stereo speakers. The lack of a headphone jack means you’ll have to plug in wired USB-C headphones or go wireless.
The phone came with a pre-installed screen protector which I soon removed as it felt cheap and scratched very easily.
Specifications and performance
Snapdragon 778G+ 5G
8/12 GB of RAM
The Honor 70 uses the updated Snapdragon 778+ 5G chipset, which is a small step up from the 778 used in the 2021 Honor 50 (the Honor 60 is MIA).
In my time with the phone, the chipset is fast enough. Apps open quickly and the user interface is responsive thanks to 8GB of RAM (a 12GB model is available in China, but not in Europe). It moved slightly when playing high-end games like Call of Duty Mobile, but for most normal smartphone use – social media, light gaming, music, photos – it’s all you’ll need. It’s the level of chip you can expect for the 2022 price.
In the Geekbench 5 and GFXBench benchmark tests, the Honor 70 performed better than the Honor 50 or the Google Pixel 6a, but slightly below older flagships like the OnePlus 9.
5G connectivity is racing down the price bands to support virtually every new phone, so you’ll get that here too.
A slight disappointment is the haptics of the vibrations, which feel mushy. Keyboard feedback on cheaper phones like the Google Pixel 6a is tight and clipped. Honor’s is busy and takes away from the premium feel of the phone.
Sure, the in-screen fingerprint sensor is responsive and reliable for unlocking the phone or verifying your biometrics, but there’s also a very quick face unlock option.
Battery life and charging
66W cable charging
No wireless charging
The £399/€469 Nothing Phone (1) subverted my expectations of mid-range phones by including wireless charging. It’s not here on the Honor 70, but it’s on almost every other phone in the mid-range, so I can’t knock Honor too much.
The included cable charger charges the phone at a whopping 66W, charging it from empty to 44% in 15 minutes and 77% in 30 minutes.
A 4800mAh battery in a mid-range phone is a reason to celebrate. It lasted nine hours and 28 minutes on PC Mark’s battery drain test, though I found real-world battery life to be much better than that number suggests.
The Honor 70 performs very well and easily lasts a day even with heavy use. If you’re a light user, this will stretch to two days, and you can always go back to fast charging if you need to top up on days when you’re taking a lot of photos or using Google Maps to navigate – the batteries will definitely come in handy. .
Cameras and video
54Mp Sony IMX800
50 Mp ultra-wide
No telephoto lens
32Mp selfie camera
The Honor 70 is the first smartphone to use a Sony IMX800 sensor for the main 54Mp camera lens.
What does it mean? Great photos, thankfully. It absolutely sings on bright sunny days, with excellent color reproduction, solid dynamic range and good detail. Between that main lens and the 50Mp ultrawide, there’s fairly good color consistency that you don’t often see on phones at this price point.
Ultra-wide is also used for solid macro shots. Nice one, Honor. However, the cameras perform worse in low light. Even shots in the shadows, not in the dark, aren’t rendered accurately, and the overall image is a bit grayed out. It’s even more noticeable in low-light indoor shots.
On the plus side, I really like the portrait mode on the phone – aided by the 2Mp depth sensor – although you’ll probably want to turn off the annoying beauty modes that are on by default.
There’s no telephoto lens, so you have to fall back on digital zoom. I don’t because it’s not great and the photos end up looking like watercolors when you go through 2x. The 32Mp selfie camera is solid for selfies and videos, but struggles in direct sunlight, as many of these small sensors tend to do.
Browse through the slideshow below to see images from all of the Honor 70’s lenses.
When the hardware can be stretched at this price point, the software steps in. Honor’s main camera feature for the Honor 70 is called solo cut. It uses the rear cameras to capture a wide-angle landscape video of the scene while allowing you to tap on a person in the scene, which is then tracked in a separate portrait video.
This will appear on the screen in a small window so you can make sure they are in the frame. You can also partially switch to someone else.
I haven’t found much use for it, as clever as it is, but it could be good in children’s games or concerts to follow a topic you’re interested in while attending to an entire scene, for example.
Software and Updates
Magic UI 6.1 on Android 12
Only two years of Android updates
Three years of security updates
The Honor 70 has the same software look and feel as Huawei or Honor phones from two years ago. It’s basically EMUI, Huawei’s old software.
After a few days with the phone, I got used to it again, but it feels a bit dated. Despite running Android 12, the phone feels more like Android 10 as Honor hasn’t changed much to Magic UI 6.1 or adopted any of Android 12’s cool theme options or more modern aesthetic design.
The company tells me that Magic UI will be renamed Magic OS with the next release and promises a visual update. What would also be nice is less bloatware as you have the likes of Booking.com, TikTok, Game of Sultans, Lords Mobile and more – although you can uninstall them thankfully.
Honor should also work on providing longer software support. The Honor 70 will get three years of security updates, but only two Android platform updates. That’s far less than Samsung’s five years and four years, respectively, and Honor will have to do better if it hopes to keep people holding on to its phones for longer.
Price & Availability
The Honor 70 starts at £479.99/€549 for the 8GB RAM and 128GB storage model. It’s available in black, silver or green from Honor, Argos, Currys, Amazon and Very.
If you buy the phone before September 16 from any of these retailers, you can get a free pair of Honor Earbuds 3 Pro. You can also buy the Honor 70 directly from Amazon France, Amazon Spain and other popular European retailers.
The 8/256GB model is available in black or green exclusively from Three and Vodafone in the UK. In Europe, this version will be sold for €599, but neither will be on sale in the US, where Honor does not operate.
This puts the Honor 70 in direct competition with the $449 / $399 / €459 Pixel 6a, which has Android 13, longer software support and much better cameras. The £369 / €399 OnePlus Nord 2T is also lower than the 70 with faster charging and a glass build, but the Honor phone has a higher refresh rate display.