Honor 9 Lite with 5.65″ 18:9 display & Android Oreo coming to India for Rs. 10,999 ($172)
Last month, Honor, a subsidiary of Huawei, launched the Honor 7X for international markets, including India. Then, on January 8, the company launched the flagship Honor View 10 in the country at the competitive price of Rs. 29,999 ($469), putting it in direct competition with the OnePlus 5T and the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2. Keen to keep its momentum going, the brand launched another smartphone in India on Wednesday: The Honor 9 Lite.
The Honor 9 Lite debuted in China last month, and at the time, the Honor said that it would also come to India, Russia, and the UK later in the year. Now, India is the second market after China to get the device, and the Honor 9 Lite starts at Rs. 10,999 ($172) in the country.
To recap, the Honor 9 Lite is a mid-range smartphone that shares a lot in common with the Honor 7X and the Honor 9i. It has an aluminum frame and a glass back, similar to the Honor 9 but notably different from the Honor 7X, which has metal unibody construction. It’s worth noting that in its price range, it’s one of the few phones with glass back, which could be positive or negative depending on your perspective.
The phone has a 2.36GHz octa-core HiSilicion Kirin 659 system-on-chip, with four ARM Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 2.36GHz and four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.7GHz, paired with the Mali-T830MP2 GPU. In India, it’s available in two variants: 3GB of RAM with 32GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM with 64GB of storage. There’s also a model with 4GB RAM/32GB in China, but the company didn’t bring it to India. All variants have a microSD card slot which supports up to 256GB expandable storage, but it’s a hybrid slot: You have to choose between two SIM cards or a single SIM and a microSD card.
The Honor 9 Lite has a 5.65-inch Full HD+ (2160×1080) IPS display with an 18:9 (2:1) aspect ratio, with 428 pixels-per-inch (PPI). The display is smaller than the 5.93-inch displays of the Honor 7X, as well as the Honor 9i.
The quad cameras are a highlight of the Honor 9 Lite. Just like the Honor 9i, the Honor 9 Lite has dual rear cameras with a wide aperture mode as well as dual front-facing cameras. The former consists of a 13MP primary rear camera with phase detection autofocus (PDAF) and a 2MP depth-sensing secondary camera. On the front, the device has 13MP+2MP cameras. Both cameras can produce a bokeh effect like that seen on the Pixel 2 XL.
The Honor 9 Lite has a 3000mAh battery, which is smaller than the Honor 7X’s 3340mAh battery. It ships with EMUI 8.0 on top of Android 8.0 Oreo, which makes it one of the first devices in its price range with Oreo. That means it’s required to support Project Treble, Google’s modular upgrade scheme that makes it easier for manufacturers to update device software.
Moving on to connectivity, the device has a 3.5mm headphone jack, 4G VoLTE, Bluetooth, a microUSB port, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, and Bluetooth 4.2.
The Honor 9 Lite measures 151×71.9×7.6mm and weighs 149 grams. In India, it comes in Sapphire Blue, Midnight Black and Glacial Grey colors. The 3GB RAM/32GB storage variant costs Rs. 10,999 ($172), and the 4GB/64GB variant costs Rs. 14,999 ($235). Notably, it’ll be available on Flipkart and the Honor India Store via flash sale events. The first flash sale will be held at 12 a.m. on January 21.
Our view: The Honor 9 Lite looks to have a capable set of dual front and dual rear cameras, which is its biggest selling point. Also, its smaller 5.65-inch display may appeal to users who are looking for a more compact device than a 6-inch phone.
Unfortunately, it has quite a few weaknesses on paper. The HiSilicon Kirin 659 SoC is getting old. Although system-on-chips with ARM Cortex-A53 cores were common in 2017, it’s disappointing to see that Honor hasn’t upgraded the chipset. Also, the GPU of the SoC — ARM’s Mali-T830MP2 — just isn’t competitive anymore. Compared to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, the Kirin 659 features a noticeably slower GPU.
The absence of features such as USB Type-C and Wi-Fi 802.11ac are also disappointing. Plus, there’s a substantial price difference (Rs. 4000) between the 3GB/32GB and 4GB/64GB variants of the Honor 9 Lite, which doesn’t make much sense.
At Rs. 10,999 for the 3GB/32GB variant, the Honor 9 Lite undercuts the Honor 7X in pricing, but it’s worth noting that the Honor 7X is available in a 4GB/32GB configuration. In effect, Honor has cannibalized the Honor 9 Lite with other phones in its mid-range lineup, particularly at the Rs. 14,999 price point for the 4GB/64GB variant, where it has to compete against phones from rival manufacturers such as the Xiaomi Mi A1 as well.