Honor, which was once a sub-brand of Chinese phone giant Huawei, has been running on its own ever since, debuting in late 2020. So far, the mid-range Honor 50 Global has been released, but various difficulties have prevented the company from creating A true flagship smartphone in the West, since it became an independent company. It even went so far as to announce global Magic3 pricing last August, however, the phone is only available in China.
That changes with this year’s Magic4 Pro, which will be available for pre-order in the UK from May 13 and shipped on May 27 from £949.99. (Honor says there are currently no plans to release the phone in the US.) This is the price at which Honor competes directly with Samsung’s premium phone. Galaxy S22 Plus 256 GB Memory Google Pixel 6 ProI Trusted iPhone 13 Pro from Apple. These are three excellent options for potential phone buyers and they are tough competition for the latest Honor phones.
On paper, the Magic4 Pro is a contender. It has three rear HD cameras, 100W wired fast charging, And It supports 100W wireless charging as well as a large bright color screen with a fast refresh rate. But while I liked many of these features individually, Honor is trying to stymie the end of the deal.
From the front, the Honor Magic4 Pro looks like most other major Android phones of 2022. It has a large 6.81-inch OLED display with a resolution of 1312 x 2848, a brightness of 1,000 nits and a maximum refresh rate of 120 Hz. It becomes very bright, beautiful and colorful. There’s a bead-shaped hole in the top left for the 12MP selfie camera, 3D face unlock hardware, and about two-thirds of the screen is an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor.
Honor calls this screen “quad curved”, but it’s only curved around the right and left sides of the phone, and hopefully not curved at all. Sure, you could say that the curves give the phone a more luxurious look, and I haven’t had any problems accidentally touching its sides, as is the case with some phones with a curved screen. But in the end, I lost the app sides and the top and bottom of my films around the curved edges with very little benefit. The phone has an IP68 dust and water resistance rating, which means you won’t have any problems using it in the rain.
Out of the box, the Magic4 Pro supports Android 12, but Honor only sticks to two years of Android updates and two years of security updates. In contrast, Samsung now offers up to four years of Android updates, Google offers three (or five, if you include security updates), and Apple continues to release new iOS updates for the 2015 iPhone 6S.
I don’t usually spend a lot of time talking about the biometric security options built into phones, but it’s worth noting the pretty horrible time I spent setting up fingerprint unlock on the Magic4 Pro. During the initial setup, I encountered a software error that failed in my attempts to enroll my right thumbprint on several occasions. Oddly enough, when I added three more fingerprints manually in settings after the initial setup, I didn’t experience any such issue, so I suspect the issue is software dependent and not the Qualcomm 3D Sonic Gen 2 sensor that Honor uses on this phone.
The Magic4 Pro 3D’s face unlock feature is smoother, and when tested with the iPhone 12 Pro, it was a millisecond slower under ideal conditions. But when conditions were more challenging, like unlocking in a dark room, looking into a corner, or wearing a hat, Honor’s face unlock sometimes failed, and its implementation was generally not as reliable as the Apple app.
The battery life with a 4600mAh cell is dependable, and the 100W fast charging phone is even more. Averaged over five hours of screen time with the Honor Magic4 Pro and I routinely finished my day with over 40 percent on a charge. It took a day of heavy use, including half an hour of video calls and an hour and a half of phone use for cycling directions until I saw the phone hit zero at about 11pm. When I did the charging test, the 100W charger that Honor provided in the box did a great job. It got to 46% in just 15 minutes of setting it to 0% (enough time to shower) and it reached 100% after half an hour.
The Honor Magic4 Pro also has 100W wireless charging, which in my testing charged the phone to 54 percent in just 15 minutes of charging and 100 percent after 31 minutes. But I would be surprised if a lot of people actually use this feature because getting those speeds comes with buying a 100W Wireless Charging Stand from Honor. And The power unit is 100W separately (The power brick that comes in the box with the wireless charging stand can only support 80W fast charging). Honor hasn’t answered questions about the pricing of these two accessories, but I bet it won’t come cheap.
Honor Magic UI 6 adds some interesting features to Android 12, but for the most part I was frustrated with the bloat. For starters, about half a dozen questionable third-party apps have been installed on the phone, such as Booking.com, TrainPal, Trip.com, and WPS Office, as well as Honor’s own apps, such as Honor Store and Honor Club. Elsewhere, I kept finding supposedly useful shortcuts when I wasn’t looking for them. For example, the phone asks you to swipe up on the screen to go to the home screen after unlocking it. But if you start scrolling down it will instead open a shortcut menu with links to your voice recorder and calculator app, and you accidentally activated that shortcut with an annoying amount.
Another feature is the “Just Say to Me” calling technology, which is designed to adjust the sound from the phone during calls so that it is inaudible to those around you. Honor claims that this feature is powered by “AI Directional Sound” technology, whereby the screen itself is used to transmit low- and mid-frequency sounds, leaving the phone to handle higher frequencies, thus reducing sound leakage. It seems to my ears that it modifies the incoming equalizer, reducing the volume of lower frequencies that may still work. The catch is that it only works when the phone call volume is set to 60 percent or less. I recorded how I was using it and it was definitely hard to hear the person on the other side of the call with the feature enabled but it’s hard to say exactly how much due to the fact that I had to turn the volume down to activate the feature.
In some cases it was possible to correct some of my annoyances with Honor. There’s a simple toggle to re-enter the standard Android app drawer (closed by default), and SwiftKey can easily replace Gboard. Honor also forces you to disable background apps if you don’t think you’re using them by disabling the running app you used to save time – but luckily you can manually exclude all or some of the apps from this behavior.
But even when I adapted its software to my liking, using the Honor Magic UI didn’t often feel like I was using a £950 smartphone with the latest first-generation Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 processor. The app drawer stutters a bit when I open it, sometimes apps get confused and need to reload content when switching to them quickly. Those are small downsides, but given how good mid-range phones are, it’s not great to see these things appear on the premium flagship. Internally, the Magic4 Pro has 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, which puts it on par with the Pixel 6 Pro.
That brings us exactly to the Honor Magic4 Pro’s camera system, which is housed in the large circular camera bulge on the back of the phone. The people I showed the phone to were divided on the design, but I like the way it depicts what the rear camera says, rather than trying to make it smaller. Magic4 Pro has three rear cameras: a 50-megapixel main camera; 50 megapixel ultra wide screen with 122 ° field of view; And a 64MP telephoto lens with 3.5x optical zoom. It’s good to see that Honor deviates from the trend of producers that combine a higher-resolution main matrix and auxiliary cameras with a much lower resolution.
In practice, daylight photography is a good thing as most smartphone manufacturers are doing in 2022. Honora’s tuning tends to prioritize strong colors and sharp edges, but with a well-appointed sensor it has enough detail to work with what I think the effect is. Works. It goes great with faces, making my skin look natural and not too light. High-resolution sensors behind the ultra-wide-angle and telephoto lenses mean continued performance for additional cameras. In cases where other phones’ cameras may be grainy or lack detail, Honor’s photos maintain the same level of quality.
Less impressed with the low-light performance as I tried to get the same amount of detail from the Honor Magic4 Pro. It did a good job with color accuracy, and I was impressed at first glance by the lack of visual noise. But if you look closely, Honor seems to try to soften as much of the film’s grain as possible and can make your photos look like soft watercolors when you look. Switch to the wide-angle camera or the telephoto camera, the performance is quite similar to the main camera, which is really good considering the low performance you often get from the auxiliary cameras on other phones.
Honor did a good job identifying the Magic4 Pro hardware. Its cameras are high-resolution, loads super fast, its screen is beautiful (despite its curved edges), and overall, the device manages to have a distinct main character. If you want a phone that can charge wirelessly faster than many others via a wired connection, the Honor Magic4 Pro will be happy to do so.
But I didn’t get to experience using Honor Magic4 Pro. Whether it’s occasional software issues, powerful background app management, or a lock screen shortcut that often gets in your way, it often feels like you’re only wearing half a pair of shoes. When a phone costs about the same price as a Samsung or Apple flagship, you might find a better fit elsewhere.