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Cheap and cheerful smartphones are heading back to South Africa in abundance this year. Samsung and Huawei are leading the charge in the lower-mid range segment, especially as both recently launched new model lineups. But another company is also making moves in South Africa.
Honor debuted its 8X late last year — it’s first official foray into the local market. But it has recently added its second device to its stable. Dubbed the Honor 10 Lite, you’d expect it to feature ahead of the 8X, but nope. It’s as mid-range as you can get. That said, it’s far from terrible.
I’ve spent around 48 hours with the phone as my review device and daily driver thus far, and these are my initial thoughts of what I hate, love, and could live without on the Honor 10 Lite.
Honor 10 Lite: the great
- Rear fingerprint reader is as fast as you’d expect from a modern smartphone.
- Mid-range phones getting in on the shimmering colours trend? I like it. (But arguably, the other colour variant is more attractive, and less garish than my sapphire review model.)
- The Honor 10 Lite looks awfully similar to the Huawei P30 Lite side by side, although the latter is slightly smaller. It’s not a bad thing by any means.
- A plastic case is included in the box. Gold star. This saves consumers from dropping more cash on an aftermarket case after buying the phone.
- Headphone jack? That’s an immediate upvote.
- Running Android 9 Pie out of the box, and on the February 2019 security patch. Received another security update a day after I switched it on.
- NFC. Enough said. While Huawei Pay isn’t in South Africa yet, Android Beam and NFC tags are two of life’s unappreciated wonders both powered by the technology.
- It’s powered by the same Kirin 710 chipset as the more expensive Huawei P30 Lite, and it sure is snappy.
- Although it’s large, the screen’s responsive, and confidence is easy to find in gentler taps. You know it’s going to respond as anticipated wherever you tap on the screen, which is what you really need for fast navigation across the device.
- The notification light at the bottom of the phone is weird, but I still prefer it over no light at all.
- The Honor 10 Lite’s rear camera can be hit and miss, especially indoors and when minimal light is available. When light is good, and you’re outdoors, the camera absolutely shines.
Honor 10 Lite: not good, nor bad
- I know many swear by it, but I just can’t use SwiftKey as a default keyboard. Huawei and Honor insists on preinstalling it on EMUI.
- The Honor 10 Lite’s 6.21 inches is pushing the size limit in terms of usability.
- While I like the styling — the understated front and the completely obnoxious rear — the Honor 10 Lite doesn’t really stand out. It can easily be mistaken for another phone. It doesn’t have “presence”. And in the mid-range market, where practically every phone does the same thing, Honor needs a phone that stands out.
- Switching the “Display Size” to “small” does the screen size and resolution proper justice, allowing more content to be displayed on web pages and the settings menu. Dropping the font size to its lowest setting to is best.
- The Honor 10 Lite isn’t what I’d call thick, but slap the included case on it and it does begin to feel substantial in the hand and pocket. Strangely enough, I wouldn’t say it feels as premium as the 8X or P30 Lite, but yes, both devices are more expensive.
- As for the onboard speaker, audio’s pretty average for a smartphone speaker. Treble’s clear, but mids are muddied and bass is clappy. Although audio is loud and clear at lower volumes, distortion kicks up as you turn it up.
Honor 10 Lite: the terrible
- Nothing ruins a device more than Vodacom’s boot logo and wallpaper.
- Speaking of which, why does EMUI still insist I head into the settings menu to change the lock screen wallpaper? Who thought this additional step was a good idea?
- Uneven backlighting really plagues the Honor 10 Lite’s screen, especially in the corners and around the notch. It’s only really noticeable on white backgrounds, but considering there’s no dark mode on this phone, it’s not something that’s going to just go away.
- Facebook comes preinstalled, along with Booking.com, Vodacom’s wad of bloat, and EMUI’s load of apps I’ll probably uninstall before this review is through. I also spotted Showmax, Supersport and Deezer preinstalled.
- Honor, once more, has launched a mid-range smartphone in 2019 with a microUSB port. While I’m not against the port, it does limit transfer speeds from device to, say, a PC. USB-C is also fast becoming ubiquitous, but it seems that Honor doesn’t want to acknowledge this.
- Battery life is fairly ordinary. With the P30 Lite I could easily eke out more than a day and a half on one charge. The Honor 10 Lite, with its smaller battery, lasts just over a day if you practice restraint. The battery manager’s suggesting that more power is used by cell standby than the screen, which makes this a problem for those relying heavily on 4G.
- There is a 4GB of RAM and 6GB of RAM/128GB of internal storage version of the Honor 10 Lite available internationally, but the company felt the 3GB/64GB storage version was enough for the SA market. It’s a bit disappointing, but I can understand if it didn’t want to overlap with its more premium mid-range device, the 8X, which does feature 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage.
- You can only buy it as a Vodacom exclusive for now, which isn’t great for those potential customers on other networks.
- Oh, and while it does fit two SIM slots, it will only recognise one SIM. It’s labelled as a single SIM device. There are dual SIM variants, but it’s not clear if Honor will ship those to SA.
Keep your eyes fixed on Gearburn for a more substantial review coming in May.
Editor’s note: clarified that our review unit, although it fit two SIM cards, only supported one as a single SIM device.
Feature image: Andy Walker/Memeburn