LAS VEGAS—If you want to see a little of the Samsung Galaxy S10, take a look at the Honor View 20. Teased here at CES before its Jan. 22 launch, Honor’s new phone has the same corner-cutout selfie camera the next Galaxy is rumored to have.
The Honor View 20 is powerful. It has a Kirin 980 processor, which should measure up to Qualcomm’s flagships, along with 6 or 8GB of RAM, 128 or 256GB of storage, 3×3 MIMO Wi-Fi and a big 4,000mAh battery. The 6.4-inch, 2,310-by-1,080 edge-to-edge screen is big and bright.
And it’s really pretty. Honor is using a “nano-texture” on the back of the phone, kind of like automotive paint, which gives it a shimmery effect with chevron designs down the back. I handled a blue one, but the phone also comes in red and black. It certainly attracts finger grease, but lay it face down and it doesn’t look like the other big black slabs on the market.
The camera is interesting, and a little mysterious. Honor bills it as 48MP, which is impressive, using Sony’s IMX586 sensor. It’s truly 48MP, but there are some things I don’t understand going on here. These are teeny, tiny little pixels, and there’s also no middle mode between 48MP and a 4-pixel-binned 12MP. Attempting to take 48MP photos indoors, the phone would sometimes tell me to keep the phone still as it collected extra data—maybe reflecting how tiny those pixels are.
A 48MP shooter with a phone-sized sensor is a feat, to be sure. There’s nothing else like that in the US right now. But I’m not convinced it gives great additional quality over the 12 to 16 megapixels on most phone cameras.
Honor also claims a 3D camera mode, but in my quick hands on, I couldn’t find it. Anyway, the phone doesn’t have a 3D screen, so it’s not clear how it would show 3D images.
The front camera is a real 25MP, with a bunch of portrait-mode tricks simulating different kinds of lighting. The phone also has special camera tricks to match the latest Samsung and Apple capabilities: animated face-tracking cartoon characters like Apple’s Animoji, which worked well and weren’t as creepy as Samsung’s AR Emoji; and a 720p, 960fps super-slow-mo mode.
The big problem with the Honor View 20 is, well, we don’t know if we’re ever going to be able to buy it. Honor is wholly owned by Huawei, which is public enemy No. 1 for the US government right now. As a result, Honor wouldn’t say whether or not the View 20 will be sold here, telling us to wait for the official launch in Paris on Jan. 22 for more details.
But prospects don’t look bright. Checking out the spec sheet for the unit we handled, it’s loaded down with the right LTE bands for Europe and Asia—not for the US, where it won’t work properly on any of our networks. That’s something that could be fixed with a regional model, but Honor would have to create a special US unit for us. Given Huawei’s political problems, that’s unlikely, which leaves the View 20 as yet another groundbreaking foreign phone that US consumers won’t get a chance to use.