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Honor V9 unveiled, Honor 8 Lite launches in China
While some companies are scrambling to get ready for one of the world’s biggest mobile industry events next week, others are trying to avoid the maddening rush instead. Huawei sub-brand Honor, for example, has just taken the covers off not one but two smartphones. The Honor 8 Lite, which was actually already revealed in Finland earlier this month, is now heading to China. The Honor V9, on the other hand, is a totally new and totally not mid-range smartphone that will hopefully also become available in other markets.
As the name so plainly points out, the Honor 8 Lite is a lighter version of the Honor 8 launched last year. It is, however, not a smaller version. On the outside, the two are nearly identical, with a 5.2-inch Full HD screen that hides a 3,000 mAh battery underneath. It has the same 12 megapixel camera on the back and 8 megapixel selfie shooter on the front.
Beauty is skin deep, as they say, and it’s true for the Honor 8 Lite as well. Instead of the Honor 8’s powerful Kirin 955 processor, it only has a Kirin 655. Instead of 4 GB of RAM, it only goes with 3 GB. As for storage, it’s bordering on suffocating with only 16 GB of space inside. It at least does have a matching price tag of 1,099 CNY, roughly $160.
Honor 8 lite specifications• Size: 147.2 x 72.9 x 7.6mm• Weight: 147g• Display: 5.2in 1080 x 1920 (Full HD) LCD• Operating System: Android 7.0 Nougat (EMUI 5.0)• Processor: HiSilicon Kirin 655• RAM: 3GB RAM• Back Camera: 12MP, f/2.2 optics, Full HD video, LED flash• Front-facing camera: 8MP• Battery: 3,000mAh• Internal Storage: 32, 64GB – w/microSD card slot• Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), Bluetooth v4.2• Other Features: Fingerprint scanner, microUSB 2.0, headphone jack
Perhaps more interesting is the Honor V9. Huawei’s sub-brand has mostly been painted as a mid-range and budget brand. The V9, however, turns that preconceived notion on its head. Everything about it screams premium, except perhaps for the design.
The Honor V9 is powered by a Kirin 960 processor, the latest from Huawei, with 4 or 6 GB of RAM, depending on the chosen configuration. Storage also depends on the configuration with choices of 32 GB with 4 GB RAM and 64 or 128 GB for the 6 GB option. The 5.7-inch LCD screen has a resolution of 2560×1440, a.k.a. QHD.
Honor V9 specifications• Size: 157 x 77.5 x 6.97mm• Weight: 184g• Display: 5.7in WQHD 1440 x 2560 (2K) LCD• Operating System: Android 7.0 Nougat (EMUI 5.0)• Processor: HiSilicon Kirin 960• RAM: 6GB RAM• Back Camera: Dual 12MP, f/2.2 optics, 4K video, dual-LED flash• Front-facing camera: 8MP with f/2.0 optics• Battery: 4,000mAh• Internal Storage: 64, 128GB – w/microSD card slot• Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), Bluetooth v4.2 LE• Other Features: Fingerprint scanner, USB-C, headphone jack
The Honor V9 boasts of a dual 12 meagpixel camera setup not unlike Huawei’s own flagships. Unsurprisingly, the Honor V9 seems to adopt the design of Apple’s dual camera model as well, though it apparently didn’t get the memo about the antenna lines. It at least still has a 3.5 mm headphone jack.
While the Honor V9 does have a higher price tag of 2,999 CNY, roughly $435, for the 6 GB RAM + 64 GB storage configuration, it is still considerably lower than premium smartphones with similar specs. It remains to be seen if honor will bring this particular premium model to the US as well.
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KuGi HUAWEI HONOR 7X thin wallet
One of the more popular options of smartphone case is the wallet-case. This is a protective case that serves the extra utility of carrying around your ID, credit cards, cash, etc. Since you’re going to carry around all that stuff anyway, why not combine them all into one case, rather than separate cases for each item. The benefit is that you have less to worry about, including dropping your phone, because the case is there to protect it. Add to that the utility of standing the phone up for media consumption and you have a case that does it all.
The PU leather finish looks great too. It’s a stylish way to carry your phone with four color choices — black, blue, green, and red. The HONOR 7X case will help protect your phone from damage and screen scratches, keeping it nice and cozy for as long as you own the phone.
Yiakeng Shock Absorbing Dual Layer Protective Fit Armor Phone Cases Cover Shell
The name is a bit of a mouthful, but this case offers a ton of protection for your HONOR 7X. This case is crafted with a TPU inner sleeve and an impact-resistant hard plastic outer shell. The corners are double-thick TPU to ensure the device can survive a fall. The phone offers drop protection, scratch protection, and slip protection. The phone is set back from the front of the case just enough to prevent screen impact when dropped on the face.
This HONOR 7X case is textured to provide a grippy surface. So many phones are slippery these days, so maintaining a grip can be difficult. The textured case allows for maximum gripping surface, keeping your phone secure in your hand. The built-in kickstand allows you to watch movies hands-free, making the case functional and helpful.
KuGiPremium Flexible Soft Anti Slip TPU HONOR 7X Case
If a hard case isn’t the right look for you, KuGi has a shock absorbing soft case that fits over the HONOR 7X like a glove. The soft silicone is textured to look and feel great. The sides are engineered for maximum grip. The holes for ports are precision cut to allow for access to the cameras, fingerprint sensor, charging port, and every other opening, without having to remove the case.
A creative new TPU formula helps extend the life of the case — providing long-lasting protection for your device. The HONOR 7X case also comes with a 100 percent satisfaction warranty, allowing you a full refund or a new case if you aren’t completely satisfied. This is a classic look that will offer your device maximum protection.
KuGi ultra-thin Flexible Rubber Soft TPU Hybrid Bumper Case
Finally, if you would prefer to show off your phone, but still have it protected, the KuGi ultra-thin Flexible clear HONOR 7X case will do just that. Made from a thin, drop/shock/scratch absorbent TPU, the case will allow you to admire the phone’s craftsmanship while still enjoying the protection the case provides.
The precision cutouts give you access to all of your ports, plus keeps your camera lenses and fingerprint sensor free. The TPU material is sturdy enough to maintain these port openings without a lot of wear and tear on the case, keeping your device safe and the case itself intact. The TPU has a soft touch feeling that feels great in the hand and is very grippy to prevent drops or accidental falls.
So, that’s our list of the best cases you can get for your HONOR 7X. It’s still a new device, so there are sure to be more cases coming, and we’ll update the list as they do. But this covers a good variety of styles, from the wallet case, to the ultra-durable, to the slim and fashionable. There is surely a case on here for you.
The Honor 20 Pro goes all out on cameras, and it’s a great choice if you love taking selfies in particular. The fact that it costs so much less than the Huawei P30 and OnePlus 7 Pro makes it even more tempting.
Many of Honor’s phones are priced low, and the Honor 20 Lite which sits at the bottom of the series costs £249.99. That was launched at the end of April, and Honor left around a month before releasing the 20 and 20 Pro, the latter of which we’re reviewing here.
These two phones are incredibly similar, save for the cameras but although we were given early access to the Pro model, Honor kept the prices under wraps until the launch itself.
Note: The Honor 20 and 20 Pro aren’t affected by the restrictions imposed by the US on new Huawei phones because they were already certified by Google. This means there’s no issue with Android security updates or access to Google apps such as Gmail, Google Play and YouTube on these phones.Price & availability
The Honor 20 Pro originally had an RRP of £549/€599 and went on sale in the UK on 1 August 2023. That undercut stiff competition, including from the £649 OnePlus 7 Pro or the £699 Huawei P30. It was, however, a decent chunk more than the regular Honor 20, which had an RRP of £399/€499.
Since launch, these prices have tumbled and – as of May 2023 when Honor opened the virtual doors of its UK-specific online store – the 20 Pro now costs only £399, with the Honor 20 at £299 and the Lite at just £189.99.
From 21-28 May, there’s a sale where you can get the Honor 20 Pro for just £329.99, making it extremely good value.
Of course, you may not want to buy the phone outright. There are contract offers available from Carphone Warehouse, which has the exclusive on the Phantom Blue colour. (It’s not the usual Honor blue – it’s more teal / turquoise).
There’s another phone which is even more similar to the Honor 20 Pro: Honor’s own View 20. This launched back in January 2023 .
The 20 Pro is sold as a 256GB model.Features & design
Similar to View 20
No headphone jack
Side-mounted fingerprint scanner
Punch-hole front camera
Put the 20 Pro next to the View 20 and apart from the smaller screen – 6.26in versus 6.4in – they both look the same with a small ‘pin-hole’ camera in the top-left corner of the screen.
Despite the fact that the 20 Pro isn’t water-resistant, there’s no headphone jack as you’ll find on top of the View 20. Another difference is the fingerprint sensor which has been integrated into the side power button – like several Sony phones – and the camera arrangement is completely different.
It’s now much more like the Huawei P30 and Pro, complete with camera bump. We’ll get to the specifics of the cameras shortly.
The SIM tray is found on the left-hand side and takes two nano SIMs – but not a microSD card. Storage is not expandable. While there are two speakers, only the bottom-firing one is used for music, game and video audio. The top one is just for phone calls and – usefully – has a notification LED hidden behind its grille. That’s something you won’t find on the P30 Pro.
If you like to control your TV and other set-top boxes with your phone, then you’ll appreciate the 20 Pro’s IR blaster, though we couldn’t find any pre-installed app that works with it.
Even at this price, you shouldn’t expect wireless charging, but there’s 22.5W Super Charge which fills up the 4000mAh battery in about an hour.
Design-wise, Honor is making a big deal about the world’s first Dynamic Holographic ‘glassback’. And it does look good, with a real depth thanks to the Triple 3D mesh technology used. But it doesn’t catch the light as well as the ‘V’ design on the rear of the View 20.
The 20 Pro is a fraction thicker than would be desirable and there’s a hollow sound when you tap the back with your nail. Neither of these are a big deal, but they mean the 20 Pro doesn’t quite feel the premium phone that it is.Screen
HDR not supported
This is the one area where the Honor 20 Pro hasn’t gone all out. It’s a completely flat LCD screen, unlike the OLED displays with curved edges on some competitors, notably the OnePlus 7 Pro.
With a 1080p resolution, it’s nothing really special: it’s perfectly adequate for most people. But it’s worth noting that it doesn’t support HDR, and doesn’t have an always-on clock option.
The thin bezels mean there’s a 91.6 percent screen-to-body ratio, meaning that the Honor 20 Pro isn’t as large as you might expect. It’s still a fairly big phone, but it’s not unwieldy.Cameras
48Mp f/1.4 main camera
This is what the Honor 20 Pro is all about, and why Honor uses the tagline ‘Capture Wonder’ for the phone. There are four cameras on the back, a 48Mp main camera with OIS, 16Mp wide-angle and an 8Mp 3x telephoto, again with OIS.
The fourth appears to have been put there just to bump up the numbers, as it’s a 2Mp macro camera which isn’t something many people will want to use very often and feels a bit gimmicky. It does take reasonable photos though.
Returning to the main camera, it uses a Sony IMX586 sensor which is found in a fair few phones now, including the View 20 and OnePlus 7 Pro, whose camera setup is extremely similar to the 20 Pro’s. But Honor has paired it with an f/1.4 lens, which is one of the widest apertures we’ve seen on a phone.
It uses pixel-binning as do most of these very high resolution sensors, so defaults to a 12Mp mode. But if you do want the full 48Mp resolution, not only can you have it, but you also get the AI Ultra Clarity mode found on the View 20.
So it’s no surprise that image quality is basically the same, which is to say it’s excellent. By default, the AI mode is switched off, and you may well prefer it that way. Turn it on and everything gets a saturation boost, plus sharpening so images are Instagram-ready.
We noticed some strange artefacts in some photos, possibly due to the AI or heavy-handed compression, but in most cases, photos are sharp, detailed and have great colours.
It’s likely the 3x zoom is the same as in the Huawei P30 and Mate 20 Pro: we took some side-by-side shots and really couldn’t tell the difference between them. Again, this is great news as it means you can get plenty of detail on those occasions where you can’t get closer to your subject. You also get the 5x hybrid mode which uses detail from the 48Mp sensor to zoom in even further.
It’s a shame HDR is – as with many Huawei phones – not automatic. It’s a separate mode you’ll find under ‘More’, along with Super Macro and the Pro mode.
For those concerned about video quality, the default mode is 1080p30 and there’s good stabilisation. You can use the three main lenses while shooting, and there’s freedom to switch between them at will. 4K is limited to 30fps, and stabilisation isn’t nearly as effective.
One of the other big features is the Super Night mode which works like the long-exposure Night mode on the P30, keeping shots sharp even if you have shaky hands. It’s good, but not amazing on the Honor 20 Pro, and certainly not as good as the OnePlus 7 Pro’s new night mode.
It’s still worth using though, and gives noticeably better results than the standard photo mode. Usefully, Super Night mode can also be used with the ultra-wide lens.
As mentioned, the selfie camera is excellent. And it’s great to have basically the same 32Mp camera you get on the much more expensive Huawei P30 Pro. In bright light detail is wonderful. It’s best not to use the portrait mode which doesn’t do an amazing job of separating wisps of hair from the background, but it’s there if you want it.
Portrait mode works a lot better on the rear camera and we were able to take some great-looking photos with it.Performance & hardware
With the Kirin 980 on board and 8GB of RAM performance was never in question. It’s a fast chip and more than up to the job, as well as competing with the Snapdragon 855. It’s great to see this level of power in phones a lot cheaper than Huawei’s flaghips, and it’s also great for gaming.
Battery life is also excellent, but as ever, how long you get between charges depends on how much you use the phone and how many apps you have running in the background. There are various power-saving modes, but you’ll prefer not to use them in order to ensure you’re not left waiting for emails and notifications to come through.
256GB of storage is generous at this price, but we can’t help but wonder if a cheaper 128GB version would make the 20 Pro a more tempting proposition. The rest of the hardware includes Bluetooth 5, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, NFC and GPS.Software
Magic UI 2.1
Honor calls it Magic UI these days – version 2.1 – but it’s hard to tell the difference between it and Huawei’s EMUI 9. There’s no shortage of reminders that Honor is a subsidiary of Huawei, with many references in the settings – the audio effects are still called Huawei Histen.
One gripe, which might be directed at Android rather then Magic UI, is that no matter whether in standard nav mode or the new full-screen gestures, we were too often thrown out of apps and back to the home screen as our palm came into contact with the bottom-left corner of the screen. That’s one of the problems with having virtually no bezels: you need a palm rejection feature to detect that it’s not a finger tapping a button or swiping.Verdict
The Honor 20 Pro stacks up well against its rivals, and is a great alternative to the OnePlus 7 Pro – especially if you love taking selfies.Related stories for further reading Specs Honor 20 Pro: Specs
Android 9.0 Oreo with Magic UI 2.1
6.26in 2340×1080 touchscreen, 412ppi
Kirin 980 octa-core processor
Quad lens rear camera – 48MP f/1.4 + 16Mp f/2.2 wide + 8Mp f/2.4 telephoto + 2Mp f/2.4 macro
In-screen front camera – 32MP f/2.0
Fingerprint sensor in power button
802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi dual-band
Dual nano-SIM (microSD shared with second SIM)
USB-C (USB 2.0)
4,000mAh non-removable battery
154.6 x 74 x 8.44mm
Beautiful 120Hz curved OLED display
Slim and light design
Full Google software support
Strong main cameraCons
Secondary camera lenses disappoint
No wireless charging
No waterproofingOur Verdict
The Honor 50 is a welcome return to the global market (with Google!) that stands out for its beautiful design and top-notch curved OLED display, though struggles to excel elsewhere.
It’s all change for Honor at the moment. Once part of Huawei, the brand was spun off into its own company last year to escape the worst impact of a restrictive US trade ban. It’s taken a while, but the Honor 50 is the first phone the company has released globally since striking out on its own.
That means that the Honor 50 is the first Honor phone in some time to ship with full support for Google Mobile Services – but it’s also one of the first Honor phones to use a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset and to run on software developed at least partly without Huawei’s support.
The good news is that Honor has hit the ground running with a phone that fits right in with its old game plan: flagship design, near-flagship performance, non-flagship price.Design and build
Curved display & body
Dual ring camera
In many ways, this is a pretty classic modern slab phone with familiar touches like a curved display, slim bezels, and a reflective rear – all of which help the phone feel premium, but also decidedly Honor.
I’ve been testing the phone’s ‘Emerald Green’ finish, but you’ll also find it in ‘Frost Crystal’, ‘Midnight Black’, and ‘Honor Code’. I’m a fan of the balance the green model strikes between understatement and pizzazz, but it is a fearsome fingerprint magnet, so you may find you want to throw a case on it anyway.
Thanks to the large display this certainly isn’t a small phone, but Honor has kept it light (175g) and slim (7.8mm) so it feels far less bulky than many of its rivals. With the help of the curved display, it actually feels rather slender, so this should be a great choice for anyone who likes small phones in theory but can’t quite resist the allure of a big screen.
The camera module is obviously the other main talking point. Honor says that the dual ring design is inspired by twin-lens reflex cameras, and also compares it unsettlingly to a pair of eyes. I can’t say I love the design, but it is at least memorable and does help the Honor 50 stand out.
It only stands out so far though, as there’s another phone with the exact same design. It would seem Honor is still working through the release of phones that were designed while Huawei was still paying the bills, as the Honor 50 is the spitting image of the Huawei Nova 9, also launched in Europe this autumn.
The phones have much in common beyond their design, though are ultimately distinct – not least because the Nova 9 can’t access Google apps, including the Play Store, giving the Honor 50 a clear leg up. In design though, there’s really not much to pull them apart other than their finishes, so bear that in mind if it’s the aesthetic that you’re interested in.Display and audio
Large 6.57in display
120Hz OLED with high colour coverage
Mid-range phones have better displays than ever, and fortunately, Honor has managed not only to keep up, but to excel compared to most other phones at this price.
The 6.57in panel here ticks off a whole host of boxes: curved, OLED, Full HD+ resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, 300Hz touch sampling rate, 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut and support for over a billion colours.
In fact, it would be quicker to list the top specs this screen doesn’t have: there’s no LTPO tech to dynamically alter refresh rate (it can only jump between 60Hz and 120Hz); it doesn’t go up to Quad HD+ or 4K resolution.
Assuming you can live without those two – and really most people should be able to – then there’s no reason not to be happy with the panel here, which is bright, vivid, and colourful no matter what you throw at it.
The display also contains the phone’s under-screen fingerprint reader, which is about as fast and reliable as they come. Face unlock is also available if you prefer, though it’s the relatively unsecure kind driven by the solitary selfie camera found in a central punch-hole.
As with most flagship phones these days, you won’t find a 3.5mm headphone jack anywhere. Instead, you’ll have to make do with USB-C or Bluetooth headphones, or make do with the phone’s respectable speaker sound – though there’s no stereo support.Specs and performance
Mid-range – but powerful – Snapdragon 778G chip
Up to 8GB RAM and 256GB storage
5G and Wi-Fi 6
One of the other small compromises in the Honor 50 is on the chipset. You won’t find a flagship 8-series Qualcomm chip here, but instead the mid-range Snapdragon 778G.
I call this a compromise, but in all honesty, you’re not giving up much here. Even paired with just 6GB of RAM in the model I tested, which comes with 128GB storage, performance was rock-solid throughout my time with the phone and it’ll likely be even better in the 8+256GB version of the handset.
Realme GT Master Edition – which uses the same chipset – and on CPU tests came pretty close to some flagship Snapdragon 888-powered devices. Those tended to pull apart further on the GPU-focussed GFXBench tests, but the Honor 50 still performed solidly and will hold its own while gaming.
This is one of Honor’s first phones using Qualcomm silicon, after mostly using Huawei’s own Kirin chips before, and the company has no doubt faced teething pains working around the new hardware.
It says that tech like its GPU Turbo X graphics acceleration have already been adapted for Snapdragon, but it seems plausible – if not guaranteed – that performance here will only improve as Honor’s engineers get more time to optimise the new hardware.
As for connectivity, the Snapdragon 778G does pull its weight here. Along with 5G support you get NFC, Bluetooth 5.2, and Wi-Fi 6.
The long and short of it is that while this certainly isn’t the most powerful phone on the market, it’s no slouch. Factor in the price and the performance here feels truly competitive, with only the likes of the regular Realme GT and a handful of gaming phones delivering more bang for your buck.Cameras
Impressive 108Mp main camera
Forgettable additional lenses
Strong on selfies
When it comes to camera chops, the Honor 50 is a bit of a mixed bag. It has some undeniable strengths, and for most people, the capable main camera and selfie shooter will be enough to satisfy but the lack of versatility may well frustrate others.
The headline is the 108Mp main lens, which takes up half of the rear camera array all by itself. That’s thanks in part to a large sensor, which helps the lens capture more light for better results in almost all lighting conditions but especially in the dark.
This camera is undeniably capable, and I captured a few lovely shots in my week using the Honor 50. As you’d expect from such a high resolution camera it’s rich with crisp detail, and in good lighting, it produces punchy, vibrant colours.
I’ve been a little more disappointed in performance in dimmer light. Not only is detail lost, but shots often feel grey and washed out, suggesting that Honor has some fine-tuning to do here, though the lack of any physical optical image stabilisation (OIS) is no doubt playing a part too.
It’s been a recent trend to incorporate more and more night mode features into the default shooting mode when it detects low light, but there’s not much sign of that here. That means you will have to remember to switch to night mode in the dark, which produces dramatically improved results. Check out my comparison shots of two identical photos from London’s Leicester Square, one with night mode and one without.
The selfie camera tells a similar story. The 32Mp sensor here is capable of some really rich, detailed shots, but quality drops off even in only slightly dim lighting. The portrait mode produces attractive bokeh, but was a little aggressive on blurring my hairline. The hardware used here is capable enough, so it suggests some algorithmic tweaks are needed to make the most of it.
There are three more cameras on the rear to consider, but don’t get too excited – like on many mid-range phones, these seem to have been added mostly to make up the numbers.
The 8Mp ultrawide is a real disappointment, with a chasmic gulf in quality between it and the main sensor. If you really need to shoot wide landscapes it’s an option, but you won’t want to rely on it.
The 2Mp depth sensor will help with portrait mode but isn’t used otherwise, and the 2Mp macro camera isn’t the worst I’ve tested, but like many dedicated macro lenses it feels superfluous – Apple has proven with the iPhone 13 that a strong ultrawide camera with a macro mode is a more effective solution.
One other area that Honor has put work in is the phone’s video capabilities, in an open attempt to court bloggers. In addition to regular video shooting modes, there’s a ‘multi-video’ option that allows you to record split-screen or picture-in-picture video using a combination of the main, ultrawide, and selfie lenses.
In itself this is nothing new, but the Honor 50 has an interface that makes it impressively easy to switch between camera options (even while recording, albeit with a second-long blurry transition) and capture still shots simultaneously.
There are two big downsides though. First up, the aforementioned lack of OIS means you’ll be able to record more stable video elsewhere. Second, while the main rear camera can shoot 4K@30fps, the front-facing camera is limited to 1080p despite being high-res enough to handle 4K. So while ease-of-use is top notch here, there are some strict limitations on final quality.Battery and charging
Decent battery life
Super-fast 66W wired charging
No wireless charging
The Honor 50 offers impressive battery life, though it’s not likely to set any records.
Much like many mid-tier Android phones, the 4300mAh battery here will easily last a full day without breaking a sweat, even with 120Hz refresh rate and the always-on display enabled – two of the biggest battery drains around.
Making it to the end of the second day is more of a stretch, but with light use the phone will make it. Of course, that’s with a brand-new review sample, so expect battery life to deteriorate a little over time – but unless you’re an extremely heavy user, I don’t think there’s anything to be concerned about here.
The phone also takes what’s becoming a familiar stance in mid-range Android phones: deliver lightning fast wired charging speeds by ditching wireless entirely.
The 66W wired charger – which is included in the box, don’t worry – topped the phone all the way up to 52% in just 15 minutes in my testing, hitting 83% by the half-hour mark. It takes well below an hour to get a full charge.
It is a shame not to get any wireless charging option now that we’re seeing it work down into other mid-range options like the OnePlus 9 and Pixel 6. Still, those are the exceptions rather than the norm, and the Honor 50 remains cheaper than either of them, which justifies the omission somewhat.
Full Google support
MagicUI 4.2 on Android 11
No update promise
The big news with the Honor 50 isn’t really anything to do with Honor itself, or the phone: it’s the fact that it includes a full, up-to-date version of Android with complete support for Google Mobile Services.
Over the last two years, Honor phones have been subject to the same trade restrictions that crippled Huawei, which prevented the company from licensing Google’s smartphone software. Now that Honor is an independent company, that’s no longer the case.
Yes, this runs Android 11 rather than the latest Android 12, but it’s come out just a little too early to give Honor time to implement that update. Besides, it’s worth it just to boot up an Honor device and see all the standard Google apps pre-installed – including the Play Store for access to the full Android ecosystem.
Honor’s own Magic UI runs on top of Android, and not too much has changed here. The interface will feel pretty familiar to anyone who’s used a Huawei or Honor handset before, with a clean white-and-blue colour palette – I’ll be curious to see how this develops now that Honor is free to design its own software.
Even the phone’s biggest new software features are clearly hangovers from Huawei. The multi-camera UI discussed above is also seen on the Nova 9 (albeit with some slight variation), as are the Honor 50’s new always-on display options.
These includee a few familiar quirky clocks and text options, but the highlight is new abstract ‘artistic designs’. These echo the ‘Material You’ design language of the new Pixel software by allowing you to extract three colours from a photo (or just use pre-set options) to create custom designs.
As I mentioned, the Honor 50 doesn’t ship with Android 12, and it’s not yet clear when the new version of the OS will arrive on the handset. More to the point, Honor hasn’t yet promised any set number of years in which it will provide software and security updates to the device, so it’s hard to know what sort of long-term software support you should expect – a definite downside if you’re hoping for a phone that’ll last you for a few years.Price and availability
The Honor 50 is on sale now in markets across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia – though so far there are no plans to release it in North America. You can buy it from Honor itself or stores including Amazon.
It’s available in two versions with different RAM and storage:
That price point puts it right in the middle of what we consider a mid-range phone, with recent competition including the OnePlus 9, Pixel 6, and Realme GT. Those all cost a little more than the Honor 50, though it also has to face up against our current favourite mid-ranger, the even cheaper OnePlus Nord 2.
That’s pretty tough competition for Honor to face, and while I’m a fan of the Honor 50 I will admit that you could probably find a better camera in the Pixel 6, more power in the Realme GT, and smoother software in either of the OnePlus phones. Still, this is a capable all-rounder, and depending on your taste could easily be your favourite of the lot when it comes to the design and display quality.Verdict
The Honor 50 is a welcome return to the global market from Honor, though it hasn’t quite done enough to stand out from a competitive pack – yet.
The design is the biggest standout feature, as while the aesthetic is a little generic – giant camera circles aside – the slim build and premium finish make this feel a little more expensive than most other phones around the same price, helped by a display that’s difficult to beat.
Battery life, charging, and processor performance all impress, though none excel. It’s a similar story with the camera: the main lens proves powerful, but lacklustre secondary lenses hold this back against the camera competition.
In short, the Honor 50 is good, but it’s not quite great – though if the aesthetic appeals, the phone likely won’t disappoint.
Plus, it finally has Google, and that’s enough to make this handily the best Honor phone in years – and a good sign of things to come from the company’s comeback. With the flagship Honor Magic 3 set for a global release next, let’s hope this is only the start.Specs Honor 50: Specs
6.57in 120Hz curved Full HD+ (2340×1080) OLED display
Always-on display functionality
In-display fingerprint sensor
108Mp main camera w/ 0.7µm pixels, f/1.9, 1/1.52in image sensor, EIS
8Mp ultrawide camera, f/2.2, 120° FoV
2Mp macro camera, f/2.4
2Mp depth sensor
32Mp hole-punch front camera, f/2.2
Wired charging up to 66W
Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G 5G chipset
Android 11 with Magic UI 4.2
160 x 73.8 x 7.8mm
Colours: Frost Crystal, Emerald Green, Midnight Black, Honor Code
India has been one of the fastest growing smartphone markets across the globe for more than half a decade now. The appetite for smartphones has kept growing unabated ever since the first wave of cheap Android devices hit the market.
While 5 years ago hardware makers had to make the call of whether they would focus on online sales or offline ones, it had become increasingly clear with the success of Moto G, India’s first online-exclusive phone, that online shopping was the way to go. The Moto G launched in 2013 and found great traction through Flipkart. Smaller brands found that offline channel selling was far more expensive, and establishing trust in an unknown brand isn’t that easy among skeptic Indians.
So online is the route that most new hardware makers have taken to these days. But there are many indications that the next stage of the smartphone battle in India will take place in the offline markets! Offline retail is attracting a lot of attention as buyer habits change, and a new kind of buyer emerged in India – the first-time phone buyers outside India’s big cities.Dawn Of The Online Era
The decision to sell their devices exclusively using a single e-commerce platform was a transformative strategy, benefiting both parties equally.
It not only helped hardware makers cut the distribution costs and focus on the delivery of devices directly in the hands of Gen-Y and Gen-Z, who were being rapidly attracted to the online world. This also enabled them to make their phones available at costs lower than all its competitors due to less overhead.
But, while these phone makers were making waves online, selling hundreds of their phones through flash sales, there were a few others who preferred the old school way. Oppo and Vivo are two of the most prominent Chinese brands who’re well-known among the people in the retail market, all thanks to their hefty spend on retail establishment and marketing campaigns. This also gave these phone makers a chance to listen to consumer feedback first-hand and launch phones that meet their desires (like better selfie cameras and bigger batteries).It’s All About The In-Hand Feel
Xiaomi, Moto, and Honor, may have arrived in India just a few years ago but have managed to rule the e-commerce portals in a short time. They no longer plan to limit themselves to one platform and extend their reach to an even wider audience, which is available just via offline channels. This means you will soon have access to touch and feel the devices from every phone makers, right at the very nearest retail store.
As phone sales staggered a little earlier in 2023, Xiaomi started taking measures to make its presence known in the offline market. The company tested the waters by launching its Redmi 3S Plus device in retail store to give users a chance to familiarize themselves with what their phones have to offer. Lenovo made a similar move and released an offline variant for the K6 Power.
The Chinese giant has started building a network of offline partner shops and has signed up several Mi Preferred Partners across the country. It plans to add more preferred partner stores to the benefit of prospective buyers who are skeptical of online purchases.
Exciting scenes from the Delhi meet with 200+ Mi Preferred Partners.
— Manu Kumar Jain (@manukumarjain) January 18, 2023
In a recent interview, Xiaomi India’s Managing Director Manu Kumar Jain revealed that it’s the offline market that they plan to capture this year. Xiaomi has already opened about 17 Mi Home Stores in India, with projections to grow this number to 100 by mid-2023. He added,
“If you look at 2023 and 2023 combined, the biggest change in our strategy is our focus on offline.”
Even the flagship killer Chinese giant, OnePlus has also dipped its toes in the offline space with the launch of their maiden authorized store in Mumbai. It had previously set up OnePlus Experience Stores and partnered with Croma to make its devices available across the country. Talking about their offline strategy, Vikas Agarwal, General Manager of OnePlus India, said:
The new ‘OnePlus Authorised Store’ is designed to complement our online first business strategy and also attract new users, while serving as a destination for our fast-growing community to experience and purchase OnePlus products”
Honor also plans to launch a slew of Honor Experience stores in the country this year, as per reports following the launch of the online-only Honor 9 Lite. Allen Wang , Director, Product Center, Huawei India Consumer Business Group, was quoted as saying, “Even though a product is selling online, people are very keen to see and feel a product at an offline store. The experience store is a part of our offline strategy.”
Their renewed strategy puts Samsung in further danger, who is now ready to fight back by launching its own online-exclusive phone lineup. It has recently debuted Samsung Mall e-store in India to make it simpler for consumers to purchase its devices from the comfort of their homes. It already holds an impressive hold over the offline Indian market.
Brands like Xiaomi and Moto have earned a great following in India and their plan is to no longer miss out on buyers by only conducting flash sales on e-commerce platforms. It sometimes does get frustrating when you’re not able to snag a phone in flash sales, which ultimately pushes users to look for alternatives in the offline market, where Samsung is a strong contender still. This is the slice that Xiaomi and Moto are after, while Samsung zags to go for their online pie.
The Honor Note 10 loses a star as it must be imported from China and you have to sideload Google services. It also has no headphone jack. Otherwise, this is a very good smartphone with one of the best large displays you can buy without a notch. Performance is excellent and it really can be a replacement for a small tablet. It’s not for everyone, but that’s the whole point.
Honor is fairly firmly established in the European smartphone market, making budget to mid-range smartphones with good specs. Many of the company’s best handsets have the same internals as the best Huawei phones.
But not all of Honor’s phones launch globally. The unapologetically huge Honor Note 10 is one of these, a massive flagship glass slab with dual cameras and a 6.95in screen.
The Chinese market traditionally demands huge screens and the Note 10 has nearly seven inches of display, without a notch. It’s nothing if not impressive, even if you think it’s overkill.How to buy the Honor Note 10
As it’s not officially sold in the UK or Europe, you’ll have to import the Note 10 if you want it (our device was provided for review by Honor).
Prices tend to fluctuate on import sites that send phones from China to the UK, but at the time of writing Geekbuying is selling the Note 10 for about £360.
There is also stock at Gearbest, but again, prices can change. We’ve received products from both retailers before and have found them in new working order with no issues.
If you can get it for around £400 it’s a great deal. If it’s a large screen you’re after, it’s larger than the one on the Galaxy Note 9 and would be less than half the price. Bear in mind though that despite sharing ‘Note’ branding, the Honor Note 10 does not have a stylus like the Galaxy Note 9.Giant by design
The Note 10 is incredibly well-built, helped by its sheer imposing size. Yes, this phone will be too big for 95% of people. But if you want a huge phone and notches bring you out in a full-on rage, then this could be the niche smartphone you need in your life.
From the front it looks similar to a Pixel 2 XL thanks to the bezel shape and curve, an already large phone that the Note 10 dwarfs. The design is fairly uniform – glass on front and back with an aluminium frame. The flat back glass is for aesthetics only as the phone cannot charge wirelessly.
That back has a fingerprint sensor and two cameras that poke out slightly. Otherwise it’s clean, smashable glass that doesn’t stay clean for long (although there is a rubberised case in the box that we used constantly).
The phone has dual speakers on the top and bottom edges in an attractive symmetrical grille pattern. We found that we blocked them quite a lot though when holding the phone landscape, the way it ended up staying quite a lot thanks to the large screen that’s best for video.
But when unimpeded they are plenty loud, if a tad tinny but hey, this is a phone we are talking about. They’re not as good as the front facing speakers on the Pixel 2 XL but they are far better than most phones with a single downfacing speaker, and show that the Note 10 is in its element in landscape.
Maybe it’s a sign that all phones are gradually getting larger, but even with our small hands we got used to typing (with both thumbs) on the Note 10 pretty quickly. The AMOLED display, while large, has an 18.5:9 aspect ratio that makes it just that bit slimmer.
But when a phone makes the iPhone 8 Plus look small, it ain’t for everyone. It’s also very heavy at 230g.Getting Google going
Our review unit is a Chinese model and yours would be the same if you decide to import. This means we had to sideload the Google Play Store ourselves, as Google is banned in China.
We didn’t have any problem doing this, and neither will you – you can simply use the preinstalled browser to search for ‘Google Play services .apk file’ and download it from a listed source like this one.
We were then able to download Google services and third-party apps from the Play Store rather than trying to do it through Huawei’s App Gallery. From here, the Note 10 has acted just like an Android phone with Google pre-installed.
Aside from the occasional part of the OS such as the screensaver text that remains in Chinese (as it’s an overlay) we were using the phone in English from set up.Screen to be believed
With a Kirin 970 processor, the Note 10 is no slouch. This is the same chip inside the Huawei P20 Pro and Honor 10 and performs just as well on the Note 10, paired with 6GB RAM (an 8GB RAM model is also available in some markets).
Despite being outgunned on a spec sheet by Apple’s A12 Bionic, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 and even Huawei’s own Kirin 980, the 970 is more than powerful enough in 2023 into 2023. The below benchmarks show that it is the previous generation, but these scores are still very good.
The Note 10 runs Android 8.1 Oreo with EMUI 8.2 overlaid and it didn’t stutter or creak under anything we threw at it.
We live in an age of smartphone one-upmanship and marketing that say we need to upgrade every year. But if you buy a phone as powerful as the Note 10 in 2023, it’s going to be good for at least three years use. Don’t believe the hype!
A significant upgrade from the regular Honor 10 is the display, which comes with a screen protector preinstalled. The Note 10’s screen is a 6.95in AMOLED with 2220x1080p resolution and surely the sole reason anyone would opt for this phone. It is a screen, that’s why you buy it.
It has support for HDR10 content and no notch. All video we streamed to it looked awesome, if a touch below the market-leading quality of the OLEDs on the iPhone XS and Sony Xperia XZ3. But paired with the dual Dolby Atmos speakers, the Note 10 is one of the best media-friendly phones we’ve reviewed.
But other than the screen size, this is basically any other high-end Honor (or Huawei) phone thanks to the specs and software experience. In fact, the Note 10 is basically the Honor 10 in a different shell, from the CPU and GPU right down to the same camera parts (annoyingly, the Note 10 loses the headphone jack).
There’s also an extra button on the right edge of the phone, and it’s a bit odd. It’s a turbo button that only works in some games, such as PUBG. Press it, and (in Chinese!) you’ll be told you can push the phone into turbo mode to eke better performance out of it at the cost of battery life.
It’s nice to have, but not essential. The button proved far more useful in its other guise as a camera shutter.Cameras
Dual cameras mean you can do quite a lot with them– bokeh effect, 2x zoom and monochrome. The cameras are very good but not truly great, in part thanks to the oversaturation we saw when we reviewed the Honor 10.
Like that phone, the Note 10 has an ‘AI’ mode that aggressively changes the colourisation of your snaps to make them more social media ready. If you take photos in AI mode you can turn off the effect, but if taken without the mode switched on, you can’t apply the changes. We prefer shots without AI turned on, but you might think otherwise. Oh, it’s also not AI. But that’s a rant for another day.Specs of Note
Add to that a 5,000mAh (yes, five thousand) battery and you have a phone that can last all day. Much of that extra power is there to simply power the hug display though, so battery life isn’t actually overly that much better than other flagship phones. It charges very fast with the included charger.
There’s no wireless charging and, as we have lamented, no headphone jack, and no headphones in the box though there is a 3.5mm jack dongle. With 64 or 128GB storage and dual SIM support as standard, the Note 10 is pretty fully featured.
You shouldn’t be too put off by the software, which we find perfectly usable if a little too far removed from Google’s vision of Android (this is the case with every recent Huawei and Honor phone we’ve reviewed. EMUI works, but it makes you work a tiny bit harder than it should).
Once you’re used to menus and quirks, you’ll be fine. Just don’t forget you’ll have to get Google Play services running on your own.Verdict
All smartphones have screens but the Honor Note 10 is a phone that feels like it is just a screen, and not in a bad way. If you want a big, well-priced Android smartphone with no notch, this is the one to get.
It’s verging on tablet sized yet somehow remains acceptable (just) in a pocket. We are used to fairly big phones though, and if you are rocking an iPhone SE then you won’t be interested in the slightest.
If you’ve got this far into researching and can be bothered with the faff of importing the Note 10, we think you’re going to love it.Related stories for further reading Specs Honor Note 10: Specs
Android Oreo 8.1 with EMUI 8.2
6.95in 2220x1080p AMOLED, 355ppi
Huawei Kirin 970
Mali-G72 MP12 GPU
64GB/128GB expandable storage
16Mp f/1.8 + 24Mp monochrome dual cameras
13Mp front facing camera
802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual band Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX
Dual nano SIM
GPS NFC 5000mAh non-removable battery
149.6 x 71.2 x 7.7mm
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