To say Huawei has a complicated relationship with the United States is a pretty massive understatement, but it’s still here at CES showing off laptops, a mobile photo printer and the surprisingly nice Honor View 20. (A note for people who don’t routinely follow Chinese phone makers: Honor is Huawei’s budget phone brand.)
Our own Richard Lai saw the Honor View 20 in Hong Kong so I won’t retread too much ground — that said, it’s worth revisiting what makes the phone so tantalizing.
The View 20 packs one of Huawei’s Kirin 980 chipsets (the same used in the Mate 20 Pro we loved, 6GB or 8GB of RAM, up to 256GB of onboard storage, a 4,000mAh battery and a whopper of a 48-megapixel rear camera. Not too shabby. While I’m not usually one to dwell on looks, the Honor View 20 is nothing if not eye-catching. That’s partially due to its rear, which pops dramatically thanks to a laser-etched V pattern nestled under the back glass. More impressive, though, is the 6.4-inch LCD screen up front — it essentially leaves no room for bezels, and there’s no missing the 25-megapixel front camera exposed by a hole in the display itself.
This is one of the first hole-punch displays I’ve ever seen, and I’ll be honest: future smartphones should all look like this. (Since Samsung is moving in the same direction with its Galaxy S10, that’s probably exactly what will happen.) It didn’t take that long at all to stop noticing it was there, either, and, which is the best case scenario for a curious screen design like this one. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the screen itself seems pretty solid — it doesn’t pack the same punch as the Mate 20 Pro’s AMOLED, but it’s a concession that’s easy to live with considering the price.
The Chinese variant costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $500, and Huawei hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a US launch either. It makes sense considering you used to be able to walk into a Best Buy and leave with a solid, reasonably priced Honor phone. Considering Huawei’s tenuous ties with the US, though, most of you probably shouldn’t hold your breath for this thing.
That is a shame, though, because the Honor View 20 proved itself to be awfully quick, even with the love-it-or-hate-it Honor UI interface running on top of Android 9.0 Pie. And beyond those good looks, the View 20 is plenty quirky, especially when it comes that 48-megapixel camera. In addition to the main camera, Huawei also added a secondary time-of-flight sensor meant to help the phone more accurately distinguish objects in front of it. For now, though, it seems more like a gimmick than anything else.
I jumped in to play a motion-tracked game briefly since the crowds had died down, and what can I say? The system seemed to work as advertised. That’s not to say I had much fun or that I would ever really consider doing it again, but maybe all Huawei needs is some more (or possibly just different) developers working on these experiences. Rounding out the list of quirks is a new Link Turbo feature that lets the phone use its LTE and WiFi connections at the same time for different things — an app that needs a reliable connection might stick to WiFi, while others in the background could rely on LTE for features that don’t need much speed.
Smartphone fans in China can already claim their View 20s (or V20s, as they’re known over there), but Huawei is holding is global launch in Paris later this month. With any luck, we’ll get a sense of when this pretty powerhouse will become go on sale outside of Huawei’s home country — a phone as seemingly good as this would do well just about anywhere.