A look at the evolving design language of Honor phones which has put it the forefront of smartphone design

Let’s take a trip back in time to 2014. Top end premier phones like the iPhone 6 and the Galaxy Note 4 are all the rage, with Google still cluttering up the smartphone race with the Nexus 6. The budget range also has a lot of heavy hitters during this time, with the likes of Lenovo’s Vibe X2, the second generation of Moto G devices, not to mention OnePlus One entered the market with its first phone in 2014.

We can safely say that the smartphone market was more than crowded at this point but this isn’t a story about the best phones of that year instead we are going to focus on one phone that paved the way for design compared to others at this price point - Huawei Honor 6.

The design of the Honor 6

In 2013, Huawei established a new brand, one that was conceived to help compete with other phones in the budget segment. The challenge for the company was to do this while maintaining a style statement that was unique to it. The Honor 6 may have looked like a iPhone 4S clone but at Rs. 20,000 in 2014, there was really no other phone that matched it in terms of design.

Sure, the rounded edges and the camera placement near the top left at the back had been done to death at this point but the Honor series captured that look and feel reserved for the high end premium segment and bought it to a mid-range device.

It made looking at a budget phone with good design, a viable criteria. The larger variant of the phone, the Honor 6 Plus took even more cues from premium design, offering smooth gentle curves and a nice glass back with a metal trim around the edge. The best part? Consumers only needed to pay a few thousand extra for the upgrade. It kicked off Huawei’s mission statement in style and helped establish it as a design leader in the budget segment.

The refinements of the Honor 7

If the Honor 6 was successful in establishing a style for the budget conscious, Honor 7, the company’s 2015 follow-up refined it and sandpapered it down to a sheen. It took cues from Honor 6’s inviting design and made it more appealing.

It was sleeker, felt more compact in the hand and oozed premiumness despite it being a Rs. 23,000 phone. The move to brushed aluminum on the back meant it was nicer to hold, while the smooth metal trims and rounded edges ensured it didn’t dig into your hand.

The front in comparison, looked a little basic but it was Huawei’s attempt at reducing the bezels on the side that made the screen stand out that much more. The basic facade also ensured that the screen was always front and center, with nothing to distract you from enjoying your content.

Honor 8’s bold new direction

While the design of the Honor 6 and 7 were lauded and considered the best among the budget segment, Huawei opted to completely redo it once more for the Honor 8. Switching back to glass for the back felt more natural and the metal frame around the structure was more refined.

The unique pattern on the back created by reflections on the glass made the phone look absolutely premium something way above the Rs. 30,000 price bracket it was sold at. It was the natural evolution of the design from the Honor 6 and 7, made more appealing and importantly, more stylish.

A year later Huawei returned with the Honor 8 Pro, the most stunning honor phone conceived yet. The switch to an all metal unibody allowed it to achieve a distractingly minimalist design language. With edges being rounder than they had ever been and the phone gaining a lot of durability as a result of the shift to unibody aesthetics. The front once again put the stunning display front and center, with minimal bezels on the sides.

The Honor 9: A bubblier more colorful Honor 8

If you thought the bezels around the Honor 8 was slim, The Honor 9 slimmed it down even further with only minimal concessions for hardware at the top and bottom. They also introduced 2.5D curved glass for the back and the front which smoothly segued into the rounded edges, making it feel absolutely wonderful in the hands.

The 9N refined this further reducing the bezels on the front to a singular notch and giving consumers more choices in various attractive colors. After a brief stint with metal aesthetics for the Honor 8 Pro, the smooth mirror back returns and looks as vibrant and feels as premium as ever. The combination of this 2.5D glass at the back with 8 Pro’s more subdued industrial design language produces an odd hybrid, one that successfully captures what makes both the phones unique.

And it wasn’t just the Honor 9N, Huawei also saw it fit to release another iteration of the phone here, in fact releasing it before the 9N. It’s called the Honor 9 Lite and it consolidates the strengths of the design even further. Combined both these phones were among ‘Notch’ heavy phones to fall under the Rs. 15,000 price bracket, an unbeatable price for aesthetics like these. It democratised a premium feature like the notch that was relegated behind a steep paywall previously and bought it to the budget segment.

The Honor 10: The logical conclusion to what started with the Honor 6

The Honor 10 not only serves as a logical conclusion to what started with the Honor 6 in terms of design but also efficiently boxes up everything the company has learned through the years with Honor, in a neat package for the consumer. The front of the phone has an even smaller notch than the 9 series and the back looks as attractive as ever. The screen now has an 86.2% screen to body ratio, which makes a taller phone feel more compact and sturdy in the hands.

The quality of the polished 2.5D curved glass used on the phone has also been raised dramatically and looks more premium than ever. Don’t like the notch? Well...Huawei has thought of that as well, with an option to mask it using software. The rounded edges feel even more smoother and the glass back is truly a treat to behold.

The best thing about the phone? It still maintains a price lower than Rs. 35,000, can’t get any better than that.

10’s design is a jumping point for the future for Huawei and we can’t wait to see where the company goes next.
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