Honor 7

The latest from Huawei's Honor brand boasts phenomenal value — but with a few familiar caveats ...

The quick take

Through a mix of solid hardware — in terms of performance as well as build quality — the Honor 7 finds its way into the fast-growing category of really-good-and-extremely-affordable Android phones. At a functional level, it does just about everything really well, and it packages that functionality in the kind of impressive metal chassis we've come to expect from Huawei. But just as Huawei is a strength for Honor, it's also a weakness. For some buyers, particularly Android purists, the company's highly customized EMUI software will be the biggest reason not to buy.

The good

  • Solid build quality and easy one-handed use
  • Fingerprint scanner works well
  • Speedy, lag-free performance
  • Bright, punchy display and impressive speaker
  • Excellent value for money

The bad

  • Huawei's EMUI software is overbearing as ever
  • Many software issues from the P8 left unaddressed
  • Camera hit and miss in low light
Width Height Thickness
5.64 in
143.2mm
2.83 in
71.9mm
0.33 in
8.5mm
  • Display:
    • 5.2-inch Full HD
    • LCD Display
    • 1920x1080 resolution (435ppi)
  • Camera:
    • 20.7MP, ƒ/2.0 lens
    • 5MP front-facing camera
  • Battery:
    • 3100mAh capacity
    • Quick Charging
  • Chips:
    • Octa-core Huawei Kirin 935 processor
    • 4x2.2GHz A53e cores + 4x1.5GHz A53 cores
    • 3GB RAM
    • 16GB internal storage
    • microSD slot (also second SIM slot)

Honor 7

About this review

We're publishing this review after a week using a European-spec Honor 7 (PLK-L01) in the UK. Most of the time we used our review device on Vodafone UK, in areas with decent LTE and HSPA coverage and a 64GB Samsung microSD card fitted. To test the phone's dual-SIM capabilities, we used it with an EE SIM alongside the Vodafone SIM.

Honor 7 Video Walkthrough

Honor 7

Familiar, Sturdy, Dependable

Honor 7 Hardware

If you know your Huawei phones, the look and feel of the Honor 7 is pretty easy to sum up. It's basically a cross between the Mate 7 — last year's Huawei "phablet" device — and the company's current high-end offering, the P8. Although Honor is its own distinct brand in the UK, the Huawei design traits are clear to see. There's a largely untouched front face, save for the usual earpiece, camera and sensors, while the back panel serves as a reminder of Huawei's high-end phones, with a curved aluminum surface and eye-catching chamfers.

Veterans of the Honor series will find a device closer to the Honor 6 than the larger (and beefier) 6 Plus. The LCD gets a modest bump up to 5.2 inches with the same 1080p resolution, while modest hardware upgrades from the Honor 6 can be found in other areas.

This is basically the offspring of a Mate 7 and a P8.

The Honor 7 runs Huawei's homegrown 64-bit Kirin 935 CPU, an octa-core chip packing four higher-clocked "A53e" cores at up to 2.2GHz and four lower-power A53 cores at 1.5GHz. If you're keeping score here, that's basically the same as the Kirin 930 powering the Huawei P8, only at higher clock speeds. And it's paired with an ARM Mali-T624 GPU and a roomy 3GB of RAM. Elsewhere, the battery capacity stays at an ample 3,100mAh, while the front and rear cameras earn upgrades to 8 and 20 megapixels respectively. (The front camera's also grown an LED flash for low-light duckfacing.)

There's an even more significant addition around the back. The Honor 7 features a touch-activated fingerprint sensor with a few neat tricks to offer. As well as biometric security — no need to unlock first, by the way, as touching the sensor will activate it even when the phone is off — you can swipe down to open the notification shade, or up to view recent apps. The notification shortcut in particular is ridiculously useful — even on a relatively small phone like the Honor 7, reaching up to the notification shade can be troublesome, and the swipe shortcut replaces this awkward finger-gymnastics with one easy gesture. We really hope everyone working on a fingerprint-scanning phone steals this feature.

Honor 7 swipe

The new fingerprint sensor enables a couple of ridiculously useful software shortcuts.

And like just about everything else in Huawei's EMUI, these extra functions are configurable in the menus. There's also a "smart" button on the left edge, which can be programmed to load up different apps or perform various tasks on a single, double or long press. All genuinely useful stuff, though it's easy to accidentally press the "smart" button along with the power button when picking the phone up.

The Honor 7's display matches that of the P8 on paper, and we found it to be equally bright and vibrant as well. (And, anecdotally, perhaps a bit easier to see in direct sunlight.) There doesn't seem to be anything too crazy going on with contrast enhancement, though Huawei has implemented a brightness-limiting feature that adjusts the backlight brightness depending on the brightness of the image being shown.

Despite the presence of two grills, there's just a single loudspeaker to be found, located to the left of the microUSB port. Smartphone speakers are still really hit-and-miss, but the Honor 7's impressed us, and like the P8 it offers surprising volume, bass and clarity from a relatively small cutout.

In the hand, the Honor 7 feels sturdy yet classy. The top and bottom sections are plastic to allow those all-important radio waves in and out, but the main contact points are along the metal sides and back, so this isn't especially noticeable. The same goes for the slim plastic border between screen and body — which should protect the phone from knocks and scrapes as well.

Honor 7

Like most Huawei phones these days, the Honor 7 nails the fundamentals.

Conventional wisdom suggests that a 5.2-inch screen is about the limit for comfortable one-handed use, and this holds true for the Honor 7. There's no in-hand slippage due to the metal body, and the combination of this screen size and the angular metal design makes the Honor 7 easy to one-hand. While it's not spectacularly thin or light, it feels solid and dependable — arguably more so than a lot of more expensive phones.

Honor 7

Dual-SIM connectivity is the other big trick up the Honor 7's sleeve. The SIM tray has two slots — a primary nanoSIM slot, and a secondary slot that can hold either a second nanoSIM or a microSD card. In a country like the UK, where users aren't generally hopping between two coverage areas, dual-SIM support isn't especially useful. But it is an added bonus for frequent travelers, and doubling it up with the microSD slot means it's not wasted if you're just using one network.

As for internal storage, you're limited to 16 gigabytes, which is the bare minimum of what we'd consider acceptable from any smartphone in 2015. You'll have 10GB and change left over for your own stuff, though the SD slot may alleviate some of your storage woes.

Other hardware notables? There's a top-mounted IR blaster that works with the built-in "Smart Controller" app, allowing you to control just about anything with an IR receiver. And quick charging support is included, though we're told the bundled charger won't be quick-charge compatible. While we couldn't confirm that the phone was definitely charging at higher voltages on our Motorola Turbo Charger, it seemed to reach peak capacity pretty quickly.

Honor 7 apps

Familiar caveats

Honor 7 Software

The Honor 7 runs Huawei's EMUI 3.1 software atop Android 5.0. And if you've read our P8 review you'll know what to expect here — a heavily-skinned version of Android with a highly-customized look, a few pet hates, and system that feels at odds with Google's vision of the OS.

Though most of the things that were straight-up broken about the P8's initial firmware have been fixed, many visual and functional annoyances remain.

EMUI continues to be afflicted by visual and functional annoyances.

Aesthetically, there's a lot to like. The UI is built around circles, lines and rounded icons, with accent colors from your chosen wallpaper being included in Huawei's built-in apps. Everything, including app icons, is heavily themeable, and the library of themes has been expanded upon since the days of the P8, including some that now actually look pretty good.

The entire theming system still feels overbearing, though, and because not all the themes are up to date with the latest app icons, the experience is somewhat disjointed too. It's one of many areas of the software where we wish Huawei would have just left things alone.

Honor 7 apps

Others include the notification system, which duplicates notifications from some apps, including Gmail, and only shows notifications on the lock screen if you're using a certain lock screen style. If you're used to the relatively light touch of Samsung, HTC or LG, these changes may well be maddening. If not, then they are what they are: Different, and not necessarily for the better. In particular, Huawei's approach to "protected apps" — apps with permission to run when the screen is off — and constant notification area nags about apps using power in the background, add unnecessary mental overhead.

When it comes to overall performance and the visual cohesiveness of Huawei's own apps, there's not much to complain about. While it might not gel with Google's vision of the OS, it's clean, sharp and undeniably iOS-influenced.

You also can't fault EMUI's expansive feature set, which is surprisingly light on cruft and surprisingly heavy on genuinely useful stuff, like programmable shortcut buttons, voice-activated wake-up functionality and a wide array of camera features. But we'd still like to see a comprehensive overhaul of Huawei's software for EMUI 4.0, and hopefully see this highly customized layout replaced with something closer to vanilla Android.

We've got a more in-depth look at EMUI 3.1 in our P8 review, so check that out for more of the good, the bad and the confusing from Huawei's take on Android.

Honor 7 camera

Competent, if not spectacular

Honor 7 Camera

As smartphone hardware becomes more commoditized, imaging is one of the few areas left where traditional flagship phones have an edge. Even so, we're starting to see some impressive photographic capabilities from less expensive handsets, including Huawei's own Honor 6 Plus with its wacky dual-camera setup.

The Honor 7 opts for a traditional front and rear camera arrangement, however. There's a 20-megapixel shooter around the back, behind an f/2.0 lens with dual-tone LED flash, while the front-facer gets bumped up to 8 megapixels and is joined by a single LED of its own.

This is no Galaxy S6-beater, but it is capable across the board, and occasionally very impressive.

When you're selling a phone around the £250 price point, however, there are some trade-offs to be made. The biggest of these is the lack of optical image stabilization, which is the main reason the Honor 7 can't match the clarity of phones twice its price in low-light conditions. (And that's not unexpected, honestly.)

There is a "super night" shooting mode that combines a series of longer exposures, though this is largely useless without a tripod. We've also noticed an unfortunate tendency for the Honor 7 to miss focus in darker conditions, resulting in shots that are both blurry and grainy.

As for pics in good to moderately-lit conditions, the Honor 7 is a reliable performer across the board. Auto HDR mode dutifully kicks in to prevent washed-out skies and underexposed landscapes, keeping everything evenly lit. Overall, we have no real complaints when it comes to image quality — plenty of detail is captured thanks to the high-resolution sensor, and colors are generally accurate, if somewhat desaturated compared to the likes of the GS6 and G4.

Honor 7 camera options

Huawei's camera app also presents a bunch of useful features, including a dedicated light painting mode like the P8's, where longer exposures are used to create artistic light trail effects. You'll want to use a tripod with this feature though, as the lack of OIS makes it almost impossible to get steady, longer exposures with the phone in-hand.

As for the front camera, it's comparable with what you'd get from the current Android flagships, complete with beautification modes to either enhance your features, or make you look like a terrifying live waxwork version of yourself. There's also a front-facing LED for when the lights are low and fun things are happening, which, given the proximity to your face, takes a little getting used to.

So that's the Honor 7 camera experience — competent, capable, but not quite a match for the current flagships, or, we'd argue, the Honor 6 Plus's insane low-light capabilities. Everything about this phone needs to be considered in the context of its price, though, and with that in mind you're getting a pretty solid imaging setup for your money.

All that juice

Honor 7 Battery Life

By the numbers alone, a 3,100mAh battery should be able to provide more than enough juice for a phone like the Honor 7. The manufacturer claims heavy users will comfortable get more than a day (1.2 days, in fact) out of the phone's fixed battery, with lighter use getting you up to two days per charge.

One day with ease, or two at a squeeze.

And our experiences with the phone track pretty closely to that. Throughout more than a week of testing the Honor 7 never died on us before the day's end, even with extensive use on LTE, and with two SIMs inserted. On lighter days, which were mostly limited to Wifi usage indoors, we easily reached the evening with 50 percent or more remaining. In terms of screen-on time, we're looking at anywhere between 3.5 to 5 hours, depending on usage.

Honor 7

A word of warning on some of the battery charts displayed here: The firmware version we're using doesn't seem to display awake time and mobile network reception properly, so take both with a pinch of salt.

For all practical purposes, though, you'll simply won't need to worry about battery life if you're used to a regular nightly charging pattern. That's still not true of all high-end phones, so Huawei deserves credit where it's due.

As for charging, the Honor 7 supports quick charging — a welcome addition given the battery size — although Qualcomm's standard isn't specifically mentioned by the manufacturer. That said, Quick Charge 2.0 doesn't necessarily require a Qualcomm CPU, and as previously mentioned we've found the phone charges fast enough using a Motorola Turbo Charger.

Honor 7

A worthy contender?

Honor 7: The Bottom Line

The Honor 7's impressive array of hardware and highly competitive price point makes it worthy of your attention, and perhaps your money too. As usual, Huawei gets the hardware side of the equation right — the Honor 7 is a well-built, premium handset and a quick performer, camera capabilities that stand out in the mid-range space. EMUI, despite its flaws, adds genuinely useful capabilities, and has a coherent look throughout, even when themed.

The brand is different, but the hardware and software remains the same.

But we think it's time for an overhaul of Huawei's software experience. From the confusing notification and background app management system to the overbearing way in which EMUI takes over icons and status bar colors, there's plenty here to irritate Android purists. If that's you, that could be a reason not to buy.

Ultimately, as much as Honor is a distinct brand in its own right, its handsets' triumphs and foibles run in parallel with the parent company's. You're still getting a Huawei phone through-and-through, with all the benefits and annoyances that brings.

Should you buy the Honor 7? Maybe

We keep saying this over and over, and we'll have to do so again here: Huawei makes great hardware — really great hardware. But software continues to be a glaring weak point. For that reason we can't recommend the Honor 7 unreservedly, but it is worthy of your consideration if you're shopping around for a capable new mid-range handset. But the Honor 7 has tons of competition from countless rivals, and you'd be wise to take a look at the hardware-software balance from the likes of Alcatel, Motorola and ASUS before parting with your cash.

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  1. Thread Author  Thread Author    #1  

    Default Some tips I've found for good battery life.

    Last Edit 3/18/2011

    Hello everyone. I made this account at first just so I could download all the stuff needed to root my V, but now I wanted to tell everyone what I use to get really good battery life with this phone:



    -Rooted with Stock + Xionia Kernel

    -Widgetzoid Widget set up to have a Data (3G) On/Off toggle, kept off when not using it. Its set up with the APN toggle and not the APN rename.

    - NOT RECOMMENDED ANYMORE, NO BENEFIT -Advanced Task Manager set to AutoKill everything whenever screen turns off

    -Set CPU with profile for Screen Off that drops speed down to lowest available (~120mhz)

    - 50% Signal Fix installed http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=938677
    (if you dont want to install this fix for fear of messing up your cell radio settings you can just turn on airplane mode for ~15 secs every time you turn on your phone, achieves same result)

    - Screen Brightness at 50%

    -Auto Killer memory Optimizer installed and set on extreme - (I dont think this one is that bad since it only kills stuff if you get really low on memory)




    The two greatest helps on battery life I believe are keeping 3G off with the toggle and the 50% fix.

    I may be using too many programs ( like 2 auto killers ) but I can have my phone on all day, play around with it for an hour or two, make a couple of calls, and at the end of the day its in the 75-80% range, which I think is great. Overnight if not charged it only loses 1% about every 2 hours.

    I know there are other threads on this but its more of people complaining and then you have to dig through pages to find the apps and techniques to actually help your battery life.

    If anyone has any other recommendations, you're welcome to post them and I'll update this post so people don't have to dig through it to find them!

    Cheers,

    Bocklar
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  2. #2  
    munkyvirus's Avatar

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    50% Signal Fix?
  3. Thread Author  Thread Author    #3  

    Default

    updated with link to the fix
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  4. #4  
    psygn's Avatar

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    Thanks
  5. #5  

    Default

    the signal fix didnt do anything. Installed, rebooted, still have the signal bug. I wonder if its because its on the SD card instead of phone memory.
  6. #6  

    Default

    You may not want to run a task killer it usually uses more battery reloading programs into memory.
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  7. #7  

    Default

    nvm the signal fix worked. Installed it to phone memory and that did the trick.
  8. #8  
    LeslieAnn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bocklar View Post

    If you use this, and you lose your data connection, it will NOT auto-reconnect.
    You will have to toggle each time you lose the data signal.
    Once installed, the only way to correct it, is a wipe.

    You are better off toggling to airplane mode for 10 seconds after boot has finished then turn off airplane mode manually than using this app. It's a nice idea, and a great app, it just doesn't work properly with out phone.

    No app that changes data settings work properly with the OV.
  9. #9  

    Default

    Thanks for the 50% battery tip!
  10. #10  

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by LeslieAnn View Post
    If you use this, and you lose your data connection, it will NOT auto-reconnect.
    You will have to toggle each time you lose the data signal.
    Once installed, the only way to correct it, is a wipe.
    Hmm.. That's not good... Guess it's too late for me.. Oh well. My 50% dropped down to 2%. Hopefully it doesn't disconnect too often.
  11. #11  
    Hugh Johnson's Avatar

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    I've done most of the things you've mentioned, Bocklar. No way my phone lasts that long but I'm using Zefie's CM7 too.

    Quote Originally Posted by LeslieAnn View Post
    If you use this, and you lose your data connection, it will NOT auto-reconnect.
    You will have to toggle each time you lose the data signal.
    Once installed, the only way to correct it, is a wipe.

    You are better off toggling to airplane mode for 10 seconds after boot has finished then turn off airplane mode manually than using this app. It's a nice idea, and a great app, it just doesn't work properly with out phone.
    How come you have to wipe, even after uninstalling?
  12. #12  

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bocklar View Post

    -Widgetzoid Widget set up to have a Data (3G) On/Off toggle, kept off when not using it.
    I've heard that it's a battery killer when the phone is switching between 3G and non-3G. Does this widget option turn off just the 3G or the data altogether? Cause I'd like to just turn off 3G when I want, but still have data so that I can receive G-mail notifications and stuff.
  13. #13  
    LeslieAnn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh Johnson View Post
    I've done most of the things you've mentioned, Bocklar. No way my phone lasts that long but I'm using Zefie's CM7 too.


    How come you have to wipe, even after uninstalling?

    Someone has made an app that does that airplane mode trick you mentioned (but for the first 12 seconds) too. I've seen it on XDA and I believe I have it on my phone but unfortunately it doesn't seem to be in my Android apps folder on my desktop so I can't give you its name.
    It's not toggling Aircraft mode properly. It's possibly a bug in the menu structure, but no app seems to work properly for it.

    Uninstalling does not reverse the changed setting.
  14. #14  
    Hugh Johnson's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeslieAnn View Post
    It's not toggling Aircraft mode properly. It's possibly a bug in the menu structure, but no app seems to work properly for it.

    Uninstalling does not reverse the changed setting.
    Do you know if there's a way to manually change the option back? Seems like it would be a lot easier then reinstalling all your apps!
  15. Thread Author  Thread Author    #15  

    Default

    I havent had a problem with the 50% fix losing my data connection, and if my data is ever off and i need it, i have the widgetsoid widget on the desktop to turn it on... i was using juice defender and had problems of losing 3g with that though...

    also i dont use any task killers anymore after reading up on them... ill modify the first post to reflect that
  16. #16  
    Eollie's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeslieAnn View Post
    If you use this, and you lose your data connection, it will NOT auto-reconnect.
    You will have to toggle each time you lose the data signal.
    Once installed, the only way to correct it, is a wipe.

    You are better off toggling to airplane mode for 10 seconds after boot has finished then turn off airplane mode manually than using this app. It's a nice idea, and a great app, it just doesn't work properly with out phone.

    No app that changes data settings work properly with the OV.
    I installed this the other day. Decided I wasnt noticing any change and my problem was just poor signal at home. Uninstalled it and havent noticed any problems.

    Is it possible its a bug with the stock rom? Im on the official Zefie not the v port and frankly the only issues I have now is the stupid mms and BT not working as a phone headset.
  17. #17  

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by LeslieAnn View Post
    It's not toggling Aircraft mode properly. It's possibly a bug in the menu structure, but no app seems to work properly for it.

    Uninstalling does not reverse the changed setting.
    It worked and continues to work for me. Maybe you would like to explain more as to how it doesn't work for you and what settings it has messed up. What rom are you using? I have tested this fix on stock, Romdimus, and Zefie's CM7. And by the very nature of how aps work, you never need to wipe to reverse a problem.

    One of the reasons you might not think it works is that you look at your battery usage through settings->about and see that the Time Without Signal is some really big number (but not 50%). Try this, plug your phone into the charger and reboot it that way. Once the 50trick app has finished doing it's thing, unplug from the charger. Then check settings->about->battery usage->standby time. Magic! I don't think rebooting while charging adds anything to the fix. I think it just hides the few seconds that the phone has the bug before airplane mode is toggled from the statistics of your battery.

    Also note that the 50% bug will not drain your battery until you start using 3G. If you have your phone on wifi, the battery drain will be normal.
  18. #18  

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by LeslieAnn View Post
    If you use this, and you lose your data connection, it will NOT auto-reconnect.
    You will have to toggle each time you lose the data signal.
    Once installed, the only way to correct it, is a wipe.

    You are better off toggling to airplane mode for 10 seconds after boot has finished then turn off airplane mode manually than using this app. It's a nice idea, and a great app, it just doesn't work properly with out phone.

    No app that changes data settings work properly with the OV.

    Um...that fix isnt for the random data disconnects. Its for the 50% without signal bug that drains battery even when the phone is on standby. It has nothing to do with data toggling other than the fact it uses airplane mode to fix an issue unrelated to random data disconnects.
  19. #19  
    LeslieAnn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh Johnson View Post
    Do you know if there's a way to manually change the option back? Seems like it would be a lot easier then reinstalling all your apps!
    Nope, once changed I could never find a way back.
    As far as I know every app that messes with this setting messes it up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eollie View Post
    I installed this the other day. Decided I wasnt noticing any change and my problem was just poor signal at home. Uninstalled it and havent noticed any problems.

    Is it possible its a bug with the stock rom? Im on the official Zefie not the v port and frankly the only issues I have now is the stupid mms and BT not working as a phone headset.
    It's supposedly a bug with the hidden menus being labeled wrong or something.
    What happens, is that once you lose data, it will not reconnect. Next time you go to use data, it will show it working, but you receive nothing.

    Quote Originally Posted by mmarz View Post
    It worked and continues to work for me. Maybe you would like to explain more as to how it doesn't work for you and what settings it has messed up. What rom are you using? I have tested this fix on stock, Romdimus, and Zefie's CM7. And by the very nature of how aps work, you never need to wipe to reverse a problem.

    {cut}

    Also note that the 50% bug will not drain your battery until you start using 3G. If you have your phone on wifi, the battery drain will be normal.
    I understand the 50% bug.
    See what I wrote above.


    Quote Originally Posted by Helgaiden View Post
    Um...that fix isnt for the random data disconnects. Its for the 50% without signal bug that drains battery even when the phone is on standby. It has nothing to do with data toggling other than the fact it uses airplane mode to fix an issue unrelated to random data disconnects.
    No, it doesn't fix the random disconnects.
    See above.




    Before I installed it, no problems. Installed the app, I no longer reconnect after a data loss. Wipe, re-install everything, problem is gone.

    I can repeat this over and over with Stock, Stock with Xionia and Rodimus. I am pretty sure I saw it on the 2.3 roms as well. Completely repeatable. The "Network app, *#*#numbers#*#* trick anything accessing the hidden 3g menu causes the same problem.
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  20. #20  

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bocklar View Post
    ...
    The two greatest helps on battery life I believe are keeping 3G off with the toggle and the 50% fix.
    ...
    I'm fairly certain that the 50% time spent without a signal is a cosmetic bug that doesn't affect battery life.

    Turning off 3G, underclocking, and running the screen at half brightness will measurably improve your battery life.
  21. Thread Author  Thread Author    #21  

    Default

    The reason I have a hard time believing that the 50% fix messes with data and can not be unchanged without wiping is that its only purpose is to mimic the user turning on and off airplane mode and not going into the hidden menu and changing the settings. Therefore that data problem you are encountering should come up as well if someone turns on and off airplane mode then loses data...
    -LG Optimus V w/ CM7
    -Nook Color w/ CM7

    Helpful Tips to extend battery life on the Optimus V

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