Ever since HONOR became an independent company, after separating from Huawei, it gradually started building momentum. In Q4 2021, China’s smartphone shipments fell 11% YoY, but despite that, HONOR became the second-largest smartphone brand. It was the mid-to-high-end smartphones that helped HONOR drive its sales. Now, it is set to take the premium battle outside of China and expand to overseas markets like Europe.
At MWC 2022, HONOR announced the Magic 4 series flagship smartphones, TWS earbuds, and a smartwatch. The company also showcased its first foldable, the Magic V. We got to try out the smartphones and other products, and here are some thoughts.
HONOR Magic 4 Pro: A Flagship Smartphone to Compete with OPPO Find X5 Pro, realme GT 2 Pro
- The Magic 4 Pro with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage is priced at €1,099.
- The smartphone comes with quad-cameras at the back and dual cameras on the front.
- It also supports 100W fast wired and wireless charging.
HONOR is going all out with its premium smartphone offering to make the Magic 4 Pro as competitive as possible. From top-notch hardware to the latest Android 12 OS with Magic UI 6 skin on top, to high-resolution cameras, the Magic 4 Pro is a great challenger to the OPPO Find X5 Pro and the realme GT 2 Pro that were launched at the MWC 2022.
HOT TAKE: HONOR Magic 4 Pro, A Key Device for HONOR in Europe This Year
Under the hood is a flagship SoC from Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, paired with 8GB/12GB RAM options, and 256GB/512GB storage to choose from. The smartphone will be offered in at least five different color options. It comes with a bold design with curved edges on both sides (waterfall display). The back is made of glossy glass, which attracts a lot of fingerprints, but otherwise adds to its premium look and feel. The giant, circular camera module at the back housing four sensors offers a distinct look and feel. It also reminds me of the Nokia 9 PureView that featured five cameras at the back.
The camera setup on the HONOR Magic 4 Pro is interesting. It features a 50MP wide, a 50MP ultrawide, and a 64MP periscope style zoom lens (90mm) with 3.5x optical zoom. HONOR is also using two more sensors – one is a dToF (Time of Flight) depth sensor, and the other is a flicker sensor which improves image focus, speed, and accuracy, according to the company.
The talking point of the cameras is the “Ultra Fusion Photography” algorithms which combine the photos shot on the wide and ultra-wide cameras to boost colors for better accuracy and also correct the distortion. Besides photography, HONOR also highlighted video recording capabilities, such as a 10-bit 4K 60fps log with IMAX Enhanced certification for smooth video capture and playback.
There are significant improvements that also come on the display side where the smartphone features a 6.81-inch LTPO panel. It has an adaptive refresh rate of 120Hz, and LTPO technology means the refresh rate can be adjusted between 1Hz to 120Hz depending on the on-screen content. There are other features like MEMC that upscales 30fps content to 60fps to offer a smooth content viewing experience.
With a 4,600mAh battery, HONOR is offering 100W fast wired charging which can fully charge the battery in 30 minutes. And while we saw fast-charging solutions from OPPO and realme offering 150W and even 240W with a wired charger, HONOR has stepped up a notch by offering 100W wireless charging. It can wirelessly charge the battery to 50% in about 15 minutes. There is support for reverse wireless charging too.
WATCH: MWC 2022: Fast Charging – A Key Trend This Year
Clearly, fast charging will be one of the marketing strategies that smartphone OEMs will be using this year to promote the innovations they have been bringing to the consumers. We did cover this topic at length in our recent webinar, talking about fast charging, new battery materials, battery health and, autonomy. Do watch it here in case you missed catching the live stream.
While HONOR also announced the more affordable Magic 4 with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage for €899, it wasn’t showcased at the demo zone. These smartphones are scheduled to go on sale in Europe in Q2 2022.
HONOR Earbuds 3 Pro & Watch GS 3: Expanding Availability of Ecosystem Products in Europe
Along with the smartphones, the company announced pricing for its TWS earbuds and a smartwatch that it is bringing to the European market. First is the Earbuds 3 Pro TWS, priced at €199. These are the world’s first TWS earbuds with a body temperature monitoring system. HONOR says that the accuracy of monitoring temperature is +/- 0.3 degrees Celsius.
With these COVID-19 pandemic times, continuous temperature monitoring has become important, and these earbuds support this feature. This is also a big differentiator for HONOR when compared to competitor TWS earbuds in the market. These earbuds can offer up to 24 hours of music playback, and fast charging offers two hours of music playback with just five minutes of charging.
It also supports features like dual device connection and adaptive active noise cancellation – with different scenarios like Ultra Mode (46dB) for airplanes or subways, General Mode (30dB+) for cafes and streets, and so on.
Up next is the HONOR Watch GS 3, which is priced at €229 for the Black color variant, and €249 for the Blue or Gold color variant. It comes with support for over 100 workout modes, continuous SpO2 monitoring, and dual-frequency band GNSS that improves the GPS positioning speed and accuracy. HONOR claims that the positioning is accurate enough to track not only that you’re running on an athletics track, but which of the eight lanes you’re running in. We have not been able to check this claim, but if true, it would up the ante among sports watches on which the location tracking accuracy can be variable.
It also features a 1.43-inch AMOLED touchscreen. The colors were punchy, the screen was quite sharp, and the touch felt smooth and responsive too. Though the UI felt like Huawei’s HarmonyOS. But overall, the smartwatch felt quite stylish and premium in its look and feel.
HONOR Magic V: A Challenger to Existing Foldable Smartphones
Now, while HONOR did not reveal the pricing of its first foldable smartphone, Magic V, for the European markets, it did showcase the device at its MWC booth for media and analysts to try out. After using the Galaxy Z Fold 3 for over five months now, the HONOR Magic V instantly felt a bit bulky and heavy.
The 6.45-inch cover screen is bigger and wider than the Galaxy Z Fold 3 which is, kind of good, as you get more screen real estate. The folding screen inside is also bigger at 7.9-inches, appearing more like a square, compared to 7.6-inch one on the Z Fold 3, which feels a bit rectangular. But the big difference with the HONOR Magic V is its teardrop style hinge which perfectly folds with the screen in a curve without leaving any gaps. This also ensures that the crease is barely visible, unlike in the case of the Z Fold 3, where the crease is more prominent.
While we did not get much time to spend with the Magic V, using apps in split-screen and multi-window felt smooth. The smartphone also offered a good overall experience, but how more apps take full advantage of that big screen real estate we will only come to know with longer usage.
HONOR’s Europe Strategy – Interaction with CEO George Zhao
We attended a round-table with HONOR CEO George Zhao following the Magic 4 Pro launch. George Zhao is clearly relishing the more expansive potential that HONOR now has following the spin-off from Huawei. Under Huawei’s ownership, HONOR was somewhat restricted in the market segments it could target and was always half a step behind Huawei in accessing the leading technologies. Freed from those restrictions, we get the sense that HONOR is accelerating into the space left by Huawei and that has not been fully absorbed by other Chinese OEMs.
Internationally, HONOR is targeting growth in several global regions and, according to George Zhao, will specifically target between 16 and 20 countries including many in Western Europe as well as in MEA, SEA and Latin America. Russia has historically been a strong market for HONOR. Unsurprisingly given the Ukraine conflict, George did not want to say much about its immediate plans in the country.
In terms of channel strategy – HONOR is aiming for a balanced approach to both online and offline channels, claiming 30,000 points of sale already – mostly in China, and it will be pursuing partnerships with mobile operators. HONOR claims to have more than 200 operator partners including over 90 in Europe alone.
HONOR will be launching mid- and low-tier products from its X series later in the year for international markets, however, HONOR’s Play sub-brand will likely be limited to China for now. HONOR does not have any immediate plans to develop its own silicon solutions – preferring to work closely with partners such as Qualcomm.