Robert Triggs

Honor 50 hands-on preview: Breaking away from Huawei

Honor 50 lying on the tree stump

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Huawei sold his Honor sub-brand last year, allowing the latter to establish itself as its own independent company. Importantly, the move allows Honor to revisit old partnerships, such as Google and Qualcomm, which were sorely missing in some of the brand’s recent releases.

The Honor 50 series, first launched in China, is making its way into global markets this month. It will be the brand’s first phone to land for a global audience with Google services installed since it gained its independence. Although Honor and Huawei may be separate entities, their intertwined heritage remains evident on the Honor 50. Well, let’s dive into that later, but first, let’s dive into what Honor can do with its new control and direction.

A design of its own

Honor 50 colorway special edition in hand

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

The special edition of the Honor Code coloring of the Honor 50 that was sent to us is not afraid to make a statement. Although I’m not exactly sure what this statement is. If you like the flamboyant brand or just want to look like it’s owned by a dystopian megacorporation, then this might be the look for you. If not, the Honor 50, fortunately, is also available in the more conventional Frost Crystal, Emerald Green and Midnight Black colors.

The Honor 50 is eye-catching, although not necessarily in a good way.

The phone’s camera housing is equally eye-catching, though not necessarily in a good way. The two large circles, or Symmetric Dual-ring as Honor calls it, actually house four cameras and a flash. There’s the large 108MP main camera located in the top ring and three smaller apertures for the 2MP depth, the 2MP micro and 8MP ultra-wide cameras in the bottom ring. But we’ll get into those in our full Honor 50 review where we’ll take a closer look at what these shooters can do.

I’m not sure if the symmetrical design is certainly as elegant as, say, Huawei’s Mate 40. You’ll find a large 32MP selfie camera cutout in the display that’s noticeably larger than Samsung’s Galaxy cutouts. But the front camera takes pretty good selfies.

Speaking of which, the display package boasts a 2,340 x 1,080 OLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate for smooth animation and scrolling. This is set to dynamic out of the box, which regularly switches to 60Hz to save power. There are options to lock 120Hz or 60Hz modes in the settings if you prefer. The panel looks good even if it is perhaps not bright enough for flawless outdoor viewing, even with maximum brightness. We’ll confirm more in our full review to come.

However, the build quality is decent for a cheaper phone. It is light and thin in the hand, thanks to the predominant use of what looks like plastic. The power and volume rockers deliver a sturdy and satisfying click and fit neatly into the lovely curved frame that frames the edge of the phone. The dual speakers sound good, but most of the volume comes from the bottom of the phone, producing what appears to be a lopsided presentation. There’s a responsive in-display fingerprint scanner but no IP ratings for dust or water resistance here.

See also: The best Honor phones you can buy

First impressions of the Honor 50’s design suggest more attention to style, even if the package isn’t exactly lacking in substance. However, there are clearly some corners to cut to keep the price down. Please, please, don’t buy special edition coloring unless you really love bling.

Software: Google returns

Honor 50 software

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

If you have used a recent Honor smartphone or even Huawei, you will feel right at home with Honor 50’s Magic UI 4.2 software based on Android 11. Although I’m not sure why the phone doesn’t come with Honor’s new Magic UI 5 software, which will be available on Honor Magic 3 when it finally arrives. Honor notes that we’re not running the final software on this phone yet, so some of what you read here may change when we’re ready with our full review.

Unlike new Huawei smartphones and pre-breaking Honor phones, you will have no problem running third-party applications built using Google’s API library.

While Honor and Huawei may have separated, Magic’s UI hasn’t changed significantly in a while and is still packed with many features from the old partnership. The settings menus, quick toggles, navigation gestures, and even wallpaper selection are identical to existing smartphones from both brands. Greater differences between the two will clearly take longer to manifest. However, the Magic user interface is very functional with lots of extra settings to dive into, such as the always-on setup, various power settings, and wireless projection capabilities. Yet the UI holds out well enough to avoid feeling bloated.

Importantly, the laptop comes with Google Mobility Services (GMS) installed, giving you access to the Play Store, Gmail, Maps, and Google’s wide range of other services. Unlike the new Huawei smartphones, this means that you will have no problem running third-party applications built using Google’s API library and you won’t have to deal with third-party stores to find popular applications. There’s an Honor Store installed on the phone, but this seems to get you selling on Honor’s growing portfolio of laptops, smartwatches, and the like, rather than apps.

It cannot be underestimated how important a return to GMS support is for Honor. We have previously found the brand’s phones without GMS, such as the Honor 9X Pro And Honor 30 Pro Plus, virtually impossible to recommend to a global audience. Fortunately, the Honor 50 series doesn’t have this warning this time around. Although we still don’t know what the update schedule for the 50 series will be.

And the main specs?

Another benefit of Honor’s ability to do business with Western companies is that it is able to buy chips from Qualcomm again. Packaging of a medium-high level Snapdragon 778G chipset, there is little to complain about when it comes to the performance of the Honor 50 based on our first tests. That chipset isn’t built to deliver cutting-edge flagship performance, but it’s as solid as the best chips of a year or two ago. So there should be plenty of performance on offer when paired with 6, 8, or 12GB of RAM.

We can’t properly talk about benchmarks until the retail software is run, but suffice it to say that everyday apps, like Chrome, email, and social media access, all run smoothly. I used the 6GB RAM model and that is also sufficient for multitasking. Switching between apps didn’t cause them to reload. The chipset is a reasonable player too, running Call of Duty: Mobile smoothly and stuttering.

Charging is fast if you use Honor’s supplied charger.

Speaking of speed, the Honor 50 comes with a 66W charger in the box based on its proprietary SuperCharge technology. It’s blazingly fast even running on pre-production software, recharging the phone to 50% in just over 10 minutes and to 75% in about half an hour. We will have more detailed figures in our full review.

However, you won’t want to misplace the bundled brick. The Honor 50 is much slower to charge when using third party plugs. I couldn’t get more than 10W using a selection of other chargers. It’s also worth noting that Honor’s charger still uses an old USB-A connector and includes a USB-A to USB-C cable in the box.

Honor 50 specifications

Honor 50
Screen 6.57 inches, 120Hz, OLED
Resolution 2,340 x 1,080
Aspect ratio 19.5: 9
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G 5G
RAM 6GB, 8GB, 12GB
Warehousing 128GB or 256GB
Cameras Quad rear cameras:
180MP wide, f / 1.9, 1 / 1.52 “sensor, PDAF
8MP ultra wide angle, f / 2.2, 112˚
2MP macro, f / 2.4
Depth 2MP, f / 2.4

Front:
32MP, f / 2.2, 1 / 3.14 “

Battery 4,300 mAh
66W wired charging
IP classification Nobody
Software It comes with Android 11
Magic UI 4.2
Dimensions 160 x 73.8 x 7.8 mm
175 g
Colors Emerald Green, Frost Crystal, Midnight Black, Honor Code
Safety Facial recognition
In-display fingerprint scanner

Honor 50 preview: the early verdict

Colored Honor 50 Camera Case

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Despite having only spent a short time with the Honor 50, I feel I know what to expect. And so will anyone else who has used an Honor phone in the past. Honor focuses on its well-known strengths: AI selfies, a unique design, and compatibility with its broad product portfolio. But that leaves the phone with some familiar flaws, like gimmicky camera features, meticulous charging, and software that hasn’t changed in years.

Honor gets back in shape with a little help from Google and Qualcomm.

Flamboyant special editions aside, it doesn’t look like Honor is really striking on its own with the 50 series. Rather it’s a continuation of the Honor / Huawei formula before the US Entity List got in the way. That’s not a bad thing, but those, myself included, who had hoped that brand independence would lead to exciting new ideas from the company might be a little disappointed. Even if it’s only been a year and things could very well change in the not too distant future.

Speaking of the future, Honor’s global product ambitions are still unclear. Relationships keep circulating that Honor could rejoin Huawei on the US entity list, which would leave the brand in Google’s free zone. Nothing is certain at this point but hopefully any developments won’t affect the phone’s long-term support.

The Honor 50 will be launched to global audiences on October 26th. Keep an eye on our full review then.

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