The timing could have been better, but Huawei-owned Honor went ahead with the launch of its 20 Series handsets this afternoon. At the launch event in London, Honor president George Zhao, unveiled three new devices, the Honor 20, Honor 20 Pro and Honor 20 Lite. He also unveiled Spurs and England footballer Dele Alli as Honor’s new UK brand ambassador.
He spent roughly an hour on stage, but once his presentation was over, that was that. No Q&A on what he'd just presented (though to be fair there were plenty of product experts on hand to demo the devices), and definitely no discussion of this week's Android shenhanigans.
Virtually all of Zhao’s time on stage was spent talking about the phone’s photographic capabilities, and they are indeed impressive, with a total of four on-board cameras on each device for standard, wide-angle, zoom and macro shots. In live demos of the 20 Pro against an iPhone Max and Samsung Galaxy S10, the Honor device delivered visibly better results in low-light and at 10x zoom. But from a mobile marketing standpoint, there was little on show here to interest or excite brand marketers in the same vein as recent folding phone launches from Samsung and Huawei.
One notable neat feature on the Honor devices, however, is a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, whose position enables the user to unlock the phone in the process of picking it up. Indeed, Honor claims that the user can activate the voice assistant in one second from the phone’s locked state.
Pricing is also keener than other recent high-profile releases. The Honor 20 Pro, which comes with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage, will sell for €599 (£524). No release date was given. The Honor 20 comes with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage for €499. This converts to £436 though a release from Honor states that it is available to pre-order for £400, complete with a free Honor Watch Magic worth £180 . And the Honor 20 Lite will come with 4GB Ram and 128GB storage and is available to pre-order for £250.
In his closing remarks, Zhao told the audience: “We will continue to work hard to develop the best innovations, technology and product for everybody, and we will continue to work to bring the best experience to our customers, and we will continue to grow in this industry and continue to grow with young people.”
All fine sentiments, but they have been severely undermined by this week’s decision by Google to block Huawei from accessing some updates to the Android OS, and from accessing some Google apps such as Maps, YouTube and Gmail. As Ru Bhikha, “mobiles expert” at uSwitch.com, put it:
"The Honor 20 is the latest in a number of consummately well-made handsets from the Chinese manufacturer that punches well above its weight in the affordability stakes. As with other recent handset launches, Honor is fighting to win hearts and minds with marked improvements to its camera technology - both in terms of elevated hardware, such as the quad-lens camera on the 20 Pro, and software improvements…
"Undoubtedly the most appealing thing about Honor's latest handsets are the price tags which are refreshingly affordable when compared to the slew of top tier devices we've seen recently.
"For all of the improvements made to these devices, Honor will struggle to convince users to pay for a smartphone that – in the fullness of time – might not be able to tap into a Google ecosystem which millions of people use on a day-to-day basis. This kind of uncertainty could prove to be an insurmountable challenge for a manufacturer just starting to make waves in the UK."