Honor as a brand has been rising quite dramatically in the Indian market space. A few years back it was Samsung, Apple and to a certain Xiaomi who had dominated the mobile sector. Now, Honor has also made its presence felt by offering great devices and at highly competitive price points.
The budget and mid-range segment are filled with Honor phones such as the Honor 9 Lite, Honor 9N, Honor 7X, Honor 7A and more. Among the high-end sector, there is the Honor 10 which competes with the OnePlus 6.
In China, the Honor Play has been marketed as a gaming phone owing to the big eSports industry in the country. However, in India, the phone is going to being introduced as a performance device. The actual launch of the phone will happen on 6 August but I got my hands on the Honor Play a bit earlier and here are my first impressions of the device.
Build and Design
Like any other Honor phone I've laid my eyes on, the Honor Play is a very sturdy looking device which is aesthetically pleasing. The curved bottom along with the unibody aluminum design makes the phone less slippery and easy to hold. This is also one of the first Honor phones to have a complete metal back.
On the front, we see the notched display along with a small chin at the bottom wherein you can see the Honor branding. On the bottom, we see that the phone thankfully has a 3.5 mm headphone jack along with type-C port and speaker grill. I was a bit disappointed not to get dual-speakers.
The back of the device sees a dual-camera system along with a fingerprint sensor which in my opinion is placed a bit higher than I would've wanted. Also one small but insignificant detail I noticed was that the Honor logo on the backside is written vertically instead of horizontally. The phone is quite light and is manageable for one-handed usage.
The phone has 6.3-inch FulHD+ IPS LCD screen, and has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and in-line with the current design trend, we spot a notch at the top.
I noticed that even at full brightness the screen was not quite as visible as I would've wanted. Though sunlight is a rare commodity these days in Mumbai, even in cloudy conditions the screen was quite dim. A full review will reveal if there is an anomaly in the display or not.
Apart from that, the Honor Play has a soothing display with vibrant and punchy colours. This is to be expected if you are going to play a lot of games on it.
Chipset, RAM and Storage
As was the case with the Honor V10, Honor 10, Huawei P20 Pro, P20, Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, the Honor Play also comes with the Kirin 970 chipset. This makes me wonder how many phones will Huawei and Honor dump on us with the Kirin 970 chipset and still call it a flagship. In my opinion, this is getting too repetitive and needs to stop.
However, Honor representatives told me that the Honor Play comes with an additional technology which is called as GPU Turbo out-of-the-box and this, in turn, will offer better gaming performance while conserving battery. This is a software-based feature and in time should be seen on other Honor and Huawei devices with the Kirin 970.
Now I haven't tested this GPU Turbo feature so much but my initial impressions while playing PUBG on the phone was that it does indeed run quite smoothly. You can be quite sure that in my full review I'm going to put the phone through the metaphorical grinder and test how well games run on it.
Apart from that, you see 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of hi-speed UFS 2.0 storage. As per Honor, this is the only variant that will be launching in India, however, there is the option to increase the storage of the device using a microSD card to 256 GB.
No surprises that Honor Play comes with Huawei's custom EMUI skin which is overlayed on Android 8.1 Oreo. I expected the software to be the typical clunky experience I've had with other Honor phones. But to my relief using the phone was quite satisfying and quite unlike what Vivo offers with the FunTouch UI (more like iOS) or Xiaomi's MIUI.
Even so, I still prefer stock Android over pretty much anything. Xiaomi and Nokia have opted for the Android One program for some of their devices (only the Mi A2 in case of Xiaomi) to provide stock Android experience for users. I would love to see Honor do the same sometime soon. More details about the UI and software will be revealed in the full review.
The dual-camera system on the back has a 16 MP + 2 MP configuration and as far as initial impressions go, I was quite satisfied with the photos clicked by the Honor Play. My full review will give more details on how good or bad the camera is. Oh, and it also has some AI functionality that seems to be more gimmicky than useful.
On the front, we see a 16 MP front camera which also takes pretty good selfies. However, some of the portrait lighting features looked unnecessary. I shall give the front camera a more thorough test in my review.
While on paper the Honor Play is nearly the same as the Honor 10 (except for the cameras) it is the pricetag of the Honor Play which could be its main USP. Knock off the shiny, glossy back and downgrade the camera slightly from the Honor 10 and purely based on specs you get the Honor Play could be more economical than the Honor 10. The Honor Play has been launched in China for CNY 1,999 that works out to around Rs 20,000 here. We will come to know the actual price of the Honor Play on 6 August.
While my initial impressions of this device have been good, it is the gaming sector which I'm itching to try out. My full review featuring an in-depth section related to the phone's gaming attributes will reveal if the phone is all that Honor claims it is.