Update: after Google suspended Huawei's future access to Android Play Store and security updates, there are serious question marks over the future of Huawei and Honor phones.
While Google and Huawei have promised to support phones currently on the market, it's not clear how long they'll receive Android updates or access to the Google Play Store, which would severely curtail their usefulness compared to the competition.
Honor's new budget smartphone seems to have a lot going for it on paper, packing an 18:9 Full HD+ screen, an aluminium frame, a glass back and Android 8; in some respects, it even trumps of few of today's flagships.
But the Honor 9 Lite isn’t a flagship phone. It has 32GB of storage in contrast to the 64GB or 128GB found in today's top-enders. Its camera has no image stabilisation, and it's powered by a mid-range Kirin 659 chipset with 3GB of RAM if you're in the UK, though a 4GB variant is available in India and other regions.
Do these compromises prevent this phone from coming highly recommended, or has Honor done it again and released a mid-range handset that punches way above its price?
Honor 9 Lite price and availability
- Costs £199
- Out now in the UK
Costing £199, the Honor 9 Lite sits at the lower end of the Android smartphone price spectrum, particularly if you're in the UK.
It's available now, both online and in high-street stores, though you will need to buy it SIM-free or off-contract for the time being.
Its price puts it on a par with the Moto G5 Plus and Nokia 6, and makes the Honor 9 Lite the most affordable widely available 18:9 phone currently available in the UK. In the Honor line-up it sits below the recently announced Honor 7X, which is priced at £269, and above the Honor 6A (£139).
- Premium look, but attracts fingerprints
- Comfortable size and in-hand feel
With a 5.65-inch screen, the Honor 9 Lite isn't too big and it isn't too small; this phone hits a sweet-spot size that gives you a generous amount of screen while also being manageable, even for smaller hands.
This optimum ratio of screen size to overall size is achieved by Honor's adoption of an 18:9 aspect ratio with no physical front buttons. These factors combine to shrink the bezels, resulting in a 75.5% screen-to-bezel ratio.
The bottom of the phone is home to a micro USB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack, along with the single speaker, while the power and volume rocker buttons are on the right-hand side.
The frame is softly curved and feels solid. The phone's corners are rounded too, which results in a really comfortable in-hand feel, and for the price it's sufficiently premium.
The glass back, however, is the biggest giveaway that this is actually a fairly budget smartphone. For starters, it's an absolute fingerprint magnet, so will look grubby almost as soon as you start using it. Tapping the Honor 9 Lite's back with your fingernail also makes an inexpensive-sounding hollow noise.
Still, for the price, we're hard-pressed to complain. The Honor 9 Lite looks sleek, is skinny in the pocket and feels reasonably well built.
- 18:9 IPS display is great for the price
- Very sharp with FHD+ resolution
The Honor 9 Lite's screen has a Full HD+ resolution of 1080 x 2160. With the display measuring 5.65 inches the resulting images are sharp, with a pixel density of 428 pixels per inch – that's better clarity than some flagships, such as the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and OnePlus 5T.
The screen is an IPS panel that offers great viewing angles and good brightness levels, making it usable in bright conditions. The colours are a bit on the cool side, sporting an ever so slight blue hue, but Huawei offers a range of white balance options in the settings, so you can tune the screen to your own preference.
Night mode is also available for some added eye protection, and you can drop the screen's processed resolution to 720p. Making the screen look less sharp may sound counter-intuitive, but it puts less strain on both the battery and the chipset.
In terms of sheer quality, the Honor 9 Lite won't have the punch and depth of the OLED screen on the Samsung Galaxy A5, but with virtually no OLED screens currently available on phones of this price, this screen choice is easily justified.
And what Honor does deliver is class-leading for the price: an 18:9 screen, perfectly suited to enjoying websites and watching widescreen content. This aspect ratio also keeps the bezels on the slim side, and puts the screen and your content centre stage.