The Honor 8C has a starting price of Rs 11,999, and is exclusive to Amazon India.
It's the world's first smartphone to have the Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 SoC.
A 4,000mAh battery ensures up to two days of use on a single charge.
Earlier this year, Huawei became the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world. That’s no mere feat, especially considering the fact that it edged out Apple to gain the second spot in the rankings. However, the telecommunication behemoth’s (obvious) aim is to overthrow Samsung and become the numero uno player in the world’s mobile space. If Huawei wants to do that, it simply cannot afford to ignore India, the fastest-growing smartphone market in the world.
And ignoring India, it hasn’t been. Of late, Huawei’s approach towards the Indian market has been quite aggressive. In fact, the company recently brought its top-of-the-line Mate 20 Pro flagship to Indian shores. However, when it comes to the price-conscious Indian smartphone market, the real action is in the budget and mid-range segments. And that, is where Honor comes into the picture.
Huawei’s sub-brand has been on some sort of a launch spree this year, having unveiled a truckload of smartphones, one after the other. To close off 2018, Honor recently launched the 8C, a lower mid-range smartphone. With a starting price of Rs 11,999, the Honor 8C brings a lot to the table (at least, on paper), including everything from AI-enhanced camera systems to a big battery. But when put together, do these things make Honor 8C a compelling package? Find out, in our full review of the Honor 8C.
Appealing design, Solid build quality
Most mid-range smartphones these days come with either metallic or glass casings, which is why the Honor 8C struck me as a bit of an oddity the moment I held it in my hand for the first time. It is made from plastic (or maybe polycarbonate?), but that’s not a bad thing at all. The 8C is a well-built smartphone, and one that has a solid in-hand feel. The plastic construction also helps in keeping the weight of the smartphone under control. Weighing in at 167 grams, the 8C feels surprisingly light for a smartphone with a 4,000mAh cell (more on this later) packed inside.
Oh, and that plastic looks quite good too! Our ‘Aurora Blue’ color variant had a hybrid matte-glossy finish, with vertical streaks of light moving horizontally across the back panel when the smartphone was moved under a source of light. As eye-catching as this finish makes the 8C, it unfortunately also makes the smartphone catch a lot of smudges and fingerprints. If you don’t want that, I suggest you slap on the TPU clear case that comes in the box.
The top-left corner of Honor 8C’s rear panel has the rear camera system, comprised of two vertically-stacked lenses. Just below them sits the LED flash module, and the words ‘AI Camera’ printed vertically. Move down along the left edge, and you’ll see the ‘Honor’ logo embossed in a similar orientation. There’s also a circular fingerprint sensor in the center of the rear panel’s upper-half section.
Coming to the edges, the top is home to a 3.5mm audio port, while the bottom is where you’ll find the micro-USB port and a mono speaker. There’s a triple-slot tray (two nano-SIM cards and one microSD card) on one side, with the power button and volume rocker being on the other.
Taking up most of the 8C’s front is a 6.26-inch IPS LCD panel, complete with a notch and a chin. With a resolution of 720×1520 pixels and a low pixel density of about 269ppi, it’s average at best. Sure, you can view web pages and watch videos just fine, but an HD display on a mid-range smartphone in 2018 is simply inexcusable.
Even in terms of quality, the Honor 8C’s display is just about okay. By default, its color temperature appears to be a bit on the warmer side, but that can be changed under the display settings. The display is usable under direct sunlight, provided you crank up the brightness all the way up to maximum. On the plus side though, color reproduction and viewing angles are quite nice!
Even though it’s not exactly the widest out there, Honor 8C’s notch looks just as bad as that of any other similar smartphone. It houses the earpiece (with a notification LED hidden behind it), the usual array of sensors, and of course, the front-facing lens. If Huawei had to put a notch, I would’ve preferred one with the ‘waterdrop’ style. But at least you can mask the notch via a simple option under the smartphone’s settings, so you don’t have to live with it.
Capable hardware, marred by bad software
Powering up Honor 8C is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 632 SoC, which makes the smartphone the first in the world (according to Honor) to use this chipset. The silicon is helped by 4GB of RAM and 32GB/64GB of internal storage.
Now, for a mid-range smartphone, this hardware should be more than enough, and indeed it is. For the most part, I found overall usage experience with the 8C to be quite good during my review period. Apps launch fast enough, split-screen multitasking works as expected, and even PUBG Mobile runs fine (albeit at the lowest settings). There are no issues as far as the core spec sheet is concerned.
However, it’s the software that’s Honor 8C’s biggest Achilles’ Heel. No matter how you slice it, EMUI isn’t among the best. Animations are slow, there are a lot of duplicate apps, and whatnot. EMUI is visually-inconsistent as well; some icons are circular in shape, others are square, while some are square with rounded corners. The same goes for the notification shade and individual notification cards. To top things off, the Honor 8C comes with a slew of bloatware apps (e.g. AppGallery, Camera360), and some of them can’t be uninstalled.
Add all of that up, and you’ve got a well-rounded smartphone that feels sluggish way more often than it should. The Honor 8C comes with Android Oreo out-of-the-box, and I’m not sure if Android Pie (with EMUI 9.0) will make things better for this smartphone, whenever that update arrives. As it stands, this is not the smartphone for users who value a good software experience. All said and done, EMUI does have a few useful features like one-key navigation, and the face unlock works quite well too.
Watch: Huawei Mate 20 Pro First Look
The rear camera system on the Honor 8C is comprised of two lenses – a 13-megapixel (f/1.8) primary sensor and a 2-megapixel (f/2.2) secondary depth sensor. There’s phase-detection autofocus (PDAF) as well, with Huawei claiming that the AI-based enhancements allow the smartphone to capture some great photos. This isn’t always the case.
Over the course of my review run, I found the imaging performance of the 8C to be disappointing. Even in well-lit conditions, photos from the dual-lens primary camera setup come out to be vastly-overexposed, with details in brighter spots of the scene getting completely lost. Turning on HDR doesn’t help things either. The ‘Portrait mode’ generally works fine, allowing you to adjust the background blur even after the photo has been captured.
In low-light conditions, things get even worse. Photos are full of digital noise and compression artefacts, and while toggling the prominent ‘AI’ option in the camera app does make the phone recognize the scene as ‘Night mode’, and does little to improve the actual image quality. The front-facing 8-megapixel sensor captures selfies with adequate amount of details, even though sharpness levels aren’t exactly the best. Of course, the ever-so-important ‘beautification’ feature is thrown into the mix too.
Great battery endurance
Having a 4,000mAh battery, Honor 8C is targeted at users who don’t really like to hook up their smartphones to chargers every night. I used this smartphone with that expectation in mind, and I’m glad it didn’t disappoint.
During my review run, the fully-juiced Honor 8C easily lasted me up to two days at a time. The daily usage involved an hour or so of video streaming, a couple of voice calls, some music playback, and constant incoming notifications from a bunch of apps, all with automatic brightness and Wi-Fi/Cellular data always turned on. The bundled charger can top-up a completely-drained battery in about two and a half hours, which is alright, given that there’s no fast-charging support.
The Honor 8C isn’t a bad smartphone; none of Honor’s (and by extension, Huawei’s) smartphones are. It looks funky, has a lightweight yet sturdy build quality, and the battery life is awesome. But when you factor in disadvantages like underwhelming cameras and a frustrating software experience, the overall package becomes far less appealing.
Now, consider the alternatives. By paying just Rs 1,000 more (in comparison to the 64GB storage variant of the 8C), you can get Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro, which beats the Honor 8C in every single way imaginable. Then there’s the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1, which offers near-stock Android, a higher-resolution display, and an even bigger battery, all at the same price as the 8C.
To sum things up, if you’re in the market for a stylish lower mid-range smartphone, and don’t really care about things like camera quality and software experience, the Honor 8C is going to serve you just fine. However, if you’re looking for a value-for-money mobile device that checks all the right boxes, I’d advise you instead go for the aforementioned Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro, Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 (or perhaps wait for the upcoming Zenfone Max M2), or even the entry-level variant of the Realme 2 Pro.