BEIJING -- It hasn't been much more than a month since the launch of the Honor 6 from Huawei, but the Chinese smartphone maker is already launching a new model, the Honor 6 Plus.
Unveiled here at the 798 Arts District in the Chinese capital, the 5.5-inch smartphone clearly has Apple's iPhone 6 Plus in its sights, with the Honor 6 Plus offering features the Apple smartphone lacks -- such as dual 8-megapixel rear cameras and a large 3,600mAh battery.
If this innovation sounds familiar, well, just cast your mind back to the start of the year, to the HTC One M8 . Like the M8, the Honor 6 Plus' dual-camera system lets you take pictures where you can control the focus after the shot has been taken. But that's not all the phone has to offer.
Huawei isn't just chucking in a couple of cameras and calling it a day. The 7.5mm thick Honor 6 Plus shares the black glass design of the Honor 6, and has a metallic-looking strip running down the sides. My colleague Andrew Hoyle pointed out in his review that this strip is actually plastic and feels like it and, well, my experience is similar.
There's supposed to be a pattern on the rear, but I could really only make it out when the light hits the phone at the right angle on the black and white models. It's more readily apparent on the gold model. As part of Huawei's branding reboot, the only brand you'll see on the phone is Honor. The Huawei logo is not printed anywhere on the phone.
If you gave it a moment's thought, you'd notice that the Honor 6 Plus shares basically the same design as the Honor 6, only slightly larger and with two cameras on the back.
It's not a bad thing, especially if you're a fan of the older iPhone 5S design. Given how Chinese manufacturers like to ape Apple's design aesthetics, it's likely we'll start seeing rounded edges from phones coming out of China next year. I certainly won't be too surprised when that happens.
Specs-wise, the Honor 6 Plus is loaded with all the good stuff. It has a Kirin 925 octa-core processor, in a "big.LITTLE" configuration. This means it has four ARM Cortex-A7 and four Cortex-A15 processors, with the latter doing most of the work and the former coming online for less stressful tasks to save power.
The 5.5-inch display has a full-HD resolution -- 1,920x1,080 pixels. That's around 401 pixels per inch, similar to the iPhone 6 Plus, which also has a 5.5-inch screen.
The display has a 1,500:1 contrast ratio and an 85 percent color gamut. Huawei showed off a simulated comparison image against the iPhone 6 Plus with the Honor 6 Plus appearing more saturated. Until I put both phones side by side to compare, though, I'm hesitant to believe the claims.
Besides the screen, the other specs of the phone include 3GB RAM, a 3,600mAh battery and 32GB of onboard storage, with support for up to 128GB of microSD storage.
For those who travel between countries regularly and find dual-SIM support useful, the good news is that Huawei has managed to squeeze in active dual-SIM support as well as 4G -- often sacrificed for the second SIM slot. That means there's one 4G connection and one 3G connection in the phone. The phone has a built-in software SIM card, with support for cheap global roaming data, costing Chinese buyers RM28 a day (around $5 or £3) for unlimited data. Huawei hasn't confirmed whether these features will make it models that go on sale in the US, UK and Australia.
The dual-camera setup is somewhat similar to the One M8. It reminded me a lot of Corephotonics' system, but Huawei's setup seems lacking some of the key features (such as an optical zoom). You can refocus images after the shot is taken, and instead of a simulated background blur, the bokeh effect seems very natural. I'll have sample shots as soon as I get my hands on the phone, so check back.
Apart from this feature, Huawei has also packed in a sensor with a larger 1.98-micrometer pixel size. That's almost as big as HTC's "Ultrapixel", but you're taking pictures at 8 megapixels, giving you much more detail. The camera also has a quick 0.1-second focus for shooting fast-moving subjects, and there's a front-facing 8-megapixel shooter too.
The phone is powered by Android KitKat 4.4 -- not the latest Lollipop 5.0 -- but with Huawei's Emotion UI 3.0 overlayed. This skin does away with the app drawers, which means apps are always on your home screens, much like iOS. The lock screen has also been tweaked, allowing you quick access to media controls, a calculator and a flashlight.
The phone also takes a page out of Apple Pay's book, and next year, those in China will be able to use the phone to make payments at many retail outlets.
The Huawei Honor 6 Plus will be launching in China first in three colors (black, white and gold) for RMB2,499 for the 4G version, which converts to around $400, £260 and AU$500. A 3G-only version will cost RMB1,999, which is around $325, £200 or AU$400. There's no release date for the US, UK and Australia as yet, though I understand the company plans to roll the phone out to the rest of the world.
There's plenty of potential in this phone -- particularly if it can hit somewhere near those converted prices -- but unless Huawei can pull off its rebranding exercise, people are still going to think of the Honor 6 Plus as a cheap iPhone knockoff. The dual-camera system, however, has the makings of a feature killer that other handsets may find difficult to beat.