The Honor Holly price may drop below £99 but even if it doesn’t, it’s an affordable Android smartphone. It might not look stylish and have brick-like proportions but it does offer a large HD screen, dual-SIM slots, expandable storage and good battery life. Software is not great with Emotion UI 2.3 and there’s no 4G support though.
After the impressive Honor 6 and not so great
Honor 3C, the firm backed by Huawei has brought another existing
smartphone to the UK – this time a 4G phone with a 5in HD screen for under £100. Here’s our Honor Holly review. See also:
Best smartphones 2015.
Honor Holly review: Price and release date
Launched in February, Honor let its customers decide how much the Holly was to cost. The more pre-subscribers, the lower the price and in the end it dropped to just £75 which is a crazy low price. However, this bargain offer was only available to those early adopters and the regular price for the Honor Holly is around £90.
There’s really not much to say about the design of the Holly. This thing is about as close as you can get to a bog standard ‘candybar’ smartphone. We’re not saying it looks bad but it doesn’t exactly look exciting or stylish either. It just looks like a generic phone. In fact, it looks like a rounded version of Honor’s own 3C.
The Holly is one of the biggest budget phones we’ve seen partly because it has a 5in screen but partly due to its chunky bezels. The back, home and menu buttons are off-screen which is now unusual for an Android phone and menu has been replaced with recent apps. We’ll talk about what this means more in the software section below.
A curved rear cover feels good in the hand but we’re not particularly keen on the shiny plastic. The cover comes off so you can access the battery, dual-SIM slots and microSD cards slot.
This handset is neither thin nor light at 9.4 mm and 156 g which is slightly understandable considering the budget price tag but not compared to rivals including the Moto E and Kestrel which are far more desirable.
Honor Holly review: Hardware and performance
Much of the Holly’s spec sheet is the same as the Honor 3C with the same screen, processor and rear camera but there are a few differences.
That 5in screen is a good size and has a good HD 720p resolution. Many go for qHD instead so a pixel density of 294 ppi is a good result and the display is IPS so viewing angles are good. Brightness is also decent if you feel the need to crank things up but it’s not all good news.
The display is set back from the screen a little which doesn’t feel good when interacting with the phone. You can get used to it but there’s a bigger problem. The glass front attracts grease and quickly gets smeared creating a very distracting moiré effect. It’s a bit like a digital oil slick of blue, red and green pixels which is most noticeable when the screen is white so normally when browsing the web.
Inside is the same MediaTek 1.3 GHz quad-core processor and Mali-400MP2 GPU. However, there is half the RAM compared to the Honor 3C at 1 GB. There’s no surprise that it benchmarked similar but strangely outpaced its sibling in the SunSpider web browsing test where lower is better. We think this is down to the 3C running older Android 4.2 Jelly Bean while the Holly in on 4.4 KitKat.
From a user perspective, performance is good – better than you might expect for a phone this cheap. It’s by no means slick but you can play games like Temple Run 2 with no major issues and web browsing is smoother than we thought it would be. There is the occasional delay when launching apps and the like but it’s almost on a par with the Moto G.
Motorola Moto E
Although the Holly has less RAM than the 3C – understandable since it’s cheaper – it bizarrely has more internal storage. It offers twice as much, in fact, at 16 GB and there’s still a microSD card slot for adding up to 32 GB more should you need it.
As mentioned previously, the Honor Holly has dual-SIM slots so you can use two different cards at the same time. You can still just use one but it makes the phone a cheap option for anyone looking for a handset with this feature.
It comes as no surprise that the budget friendly Holly doesn’t come with any additional features in terms of hardware. You get basic 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and A-GPS. Importantly there is no 4G support so you’ll need to look elsewhere if this is a must.
The removable battery which we mentioned earlier is 2000 mAh so a little smaller in capacity compared to the 3C’s. Although the battery isn’t particularly big, we found the Holly lasted well and will easily get you through a day or more as long as you don’t go too hard on it with video and gaming. If you like you can schedule the phone to switch on and off by itself to save battery – this would make most sense overnight.
Honor Holly review: Cameras
At 8 Mp the rear camera on the Honor Holly sounds impressive – that’s the same resolution as the iPhone 6. However, it’s not as simple as that. It can’t match up to premium phones but the results are actually pretty good although lack detail if you dive in. There’s an HDR mode and we found the Holly could take photos quickly although the auto focus does struggle a fair amount. An LED flash is a nice addition for a budget phone and video can be recorded at Full HD.
At the front is a 2 Mp camera which is lower resolution than the 3C’s impressive 5 Mp selfie cam but there is a good amount of detail there if you will use the front camera a lot. Check out our sample photos and video below.
Honor Holly review: Software
As mentioned earlier, the Honor Holly runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat which isn’t the latest version but this isn’t a brand new phone – just to the UK. The firm uses Huawei’s Emotion UI 2.3 and although the Honor 6 has been updated to version 3.0, PC Advisor has been told that the Holly will only receive the upgrade if enough users want and ask for it.
The user interface is fairly lightweight, using the stock notification bar and quick settings. However, there are a number of areas where we’re not so impressed. For starters you must swipe down to unlock the Holly which is unnatural compared to other user interfaces –other directions launch apps such as the camera.
The Emotion UI also ditches the traditional app menu so all your icons must be stored on the homescreen panels like iOS. We like the themes usually on offer but they are missing from the Holly leaving just the rounded and colourful style which looks a little childish. For some reason, these are on the 3C, and although it’s not much of consolation, you can adjust the screen transitions.
There are only a few additional apps but the Holly is stuck in the past with off-screen capacitive buttons which don’t match up to modern Android. These make more room on the screen for content but there’s haptic feedback is quite light and the menu button is obsolete.
The way Android works now means that off-screen buttons make it difficult and unintuitive to access Google Now (normally an upwards swipe) and recently used apps (normally a button in its own right). On the Holly you must long press the home and menu buttons for these features respectively.
Tech Advisor's Reviews Editor, Chris has been reviewing all kinds of tech for over 10 years and specialises in audio. He also covers a range of topics including home entertainment, phones, laptops, tablets and more.