The first year of Honor’s run as an independent company was a successful one inside China but a modest one outside: the Shenzhen-headquartered company released several devices including a flagship phone inside mainland China, but for the global market it stuck to mostly mid-range phone releases and budget wearables.
Now in year two of its independence from Huawei, Honor is finally ready to go big: the company launched last month in the U.K. its first true flagship phone for the global market: the Magic 4 Pro.
Also selling in chunks of Asia including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand (but curiously, no Hong Kong), the Magic 4 Pro packs all the latest components one would expect from a 2022 Android flagship including a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip sourced from Qualcomm, a quad camera system with some eye-catching numbers, and perhaps most importantly, full access to Google Mobile Services, which Honor’s former parent company Huawei still cannot access.
Design wise, the phone is eerily similar to the Huawei Mate 40 Pro that launched in fall of 2020—but this is not unusual, as smartphone development cycles can last anywhere from 16-20 months, so it’s possible this design was conjured before Huawei sold off Honor in November of 2020. Or maybe Honor engineers think this design looks good and decided to stick with it. I’d agree with them if that’s the case. I thought the Huawei Mate 40 Pro was the best looking and feeling phone of 2020 and the Honor Magic 4 Pro is now my favorite looking and feeling phone of 2022. It’s not just the symmetrical circular camera module or the reflective, shimmery glass back that somehow doesn’t attract fingerprints; it’s also that the 6.8-inch OLED display is subtly curved on all four sides. Curved left and right sides of screens, we have seen hundreds of times in the Android space, but curved top and bottom too is rare, and the bottom curvature particularly makes for a pleasing usage experience. The nature of navigating a smartphone today means we constantly swipe up from the bottom of the device, and a screen that’s curved and sloped to blend into the bottom chassis just make for a smoother swipe. The same action on an iPhone or Samsung phone’s bottom, and your finger will inevitably feel a sharp corner: not here.
In terms of resolution and color output, the display is absolutely top class: a WQHD OLED screen capable of pumping out refresh rate up to 120Hz and reproduce over a billion colors. There’s not much to nitpick about, other than perhaps the larger than usual pill-shaped cutout.
But there’s a reason for that larger cutout: it houses a 12MP selfie camera along with a ToF (time-of-flight) scanner, the latter allows for real 3D face scanning for a more secure face unlock. Compare how small this cutout is to the giant notch in iPhones, and it’s obvious which approach is more visually appealing. There are very reliable rumors that say Apple will finally go this route soon—that the upcoming iPhone 14 will finally sport a rectangular cutout like this too.
The main camera system consists of a 50MP main camera, 50MP ultra-wide, 64MP periscope zoom lens and another ToF sensor for mapping the scene. I am currently stuck in quarantine in Hong Kong so I can’t test the cameras much, but the main camera has produced some impressive day and night shots out the window, while the ultra-wide camera appears a bit soft on details. I will reserve judgement until I can actually step outside for testing.
Inside the phone is a 4,600 mAh battery with 8GB of RAM and both are fine—the battery is a bit on the small side, so battery life could be a concern, but the phone comes with a really fast 100W charger that can top up the phone from 0-100 in under 30 minutes.
As mentioned, the software is where this is exciting: when Huawei was banned from using Google Mobile Services by the U.S. government, it also affected Honor devices, so Honor phones released from mid-2019 until its sale in late 2020 had software limitations. That is no more: the Honor Magic 4 Pro runs Google services perfectly fine, and in the international model I am testing, it comes shipped with Google apps just like any other Android device.
Since this is a proper flagship phone, it’s priced like one, too: the Magic 4 Pro retails in Europe at €1,099/£949 (which converts to around $1,220). In Singapore and Malaysia, it is a bit more affordable, at roughly equivalent to $980.
These prices are about on par with what Samsung, Vivo, Oppo are asking for 2022 flagship phones. It remains to be seen if Honor’s camera prowess is as good as its parent company’s, but so far, the overall package is looking attractive for those who really enjoyed using Huawei devices before the Google situation made the phones harder to use for some. And as I said, I personally think the Honor Magic 4 Pro is tied with Oppo’s Find X5 Pro as the most comfortable and best looking phone so far this year.