It’s been three years since Chinese smartphone brand Honor first dipped its toes into the European waters. In that time, it’s topped online smartphone sales in its native China, released four flagship phones, and even entered the wearables market.
Despite all that, it’s still a brand that’s battling to get noticed in the UK. So how can it change this? Make like the Honor View 10, cramming plenty of flagship specs into a sub-£500 smartphone – that’s how.
Labelled by Honor as “your first AI phone”, it takes its cues from Huawei’s Mate 10 but in a cheaper offering – which makes it a very tempting proposition.
The Honor View 10 is the latest smartphone to ditch the standard 16:9 screen ratio for a 18:9 one, allowing for a whopping 5.99-inch display to sit in a compact, easy-to-hold body.
It isn’t quite bezel-less, but the screen surround is very slender, reaching almost to the edge of the device on the left and right.
The top and bottom edges are a bit wider, but only to provide sufficient room for the V10’s speakerphone and selfie cam at the top, and a front-facing fingerprint scanner along the bottom.
In my short time with the device, the scanner proved fast and accurate – not to mention much better situated than the Galaxy Note 8’s awkwardly placed back-panel option. The scanner also doubles up as a touchpad for navigational gestures, so you can swipe left and right to browse through photos, or up and down when reading a website, for example.
The back panel on the View 10 is made from aluminium, with softly rounded edges meeting the very slightly curved 2.5D screen. Colour-coded antenna strips ensure signal isn’t hampered by the metal casing, plus there’s a microSD card slot should you need to boost the 128GB of on-board storage.
Being a unibody design, the View 10’s battery can’t be swapped out. However, it does offer a larger capacity than both the Galaxy Note 8 (3300mAh) and iPhone X (2617mAh) at 3750mAh. More impressive is the fact that it achieves this in a slimmer body than the Samsung and Apple devices at just 6.97mm thick (versus 8.6mm and 7.7mm respectively).
The screen on the View 10 is 2160 x 1080, which equates to a Full HD resolution in real money. There was no video content to test on the demo device, but the display certainly looked bright and sharp in use, with some extra tweaking available in the settings too. This includes the ability to set your own colour balance, as well as choose between standard and vivid picture modes.
At the heart of the View 10 beats a Kirin 970 processor, with an embedded neural processing unit for delivering built-in AI smarts (the same as the Mate 10), and 6GB of RAM.
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Elsewhere, you’ll get the trusty 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C charging with Honor’s SuperCharge tech (promising up to 50% battery in 30 minutes) and a dual-SIM card slot.
The View 10 uses a dual-lens rear setup, consisting of a 20-megapixel monochrome lens and a 16-megapixel RGB lens, both with native f/1.8 apertures.
That said, there’s a virtual wide aperture option that lets you shoot a range of f/0.9 to f/16 too, adjustable via a bar along the bottom of the screen.
The portrait mode can be used to create an auto depth-of-field effect. Unlike the iPhone, this is available on both rear cameras as well as the 13-megapixel selfie cam.
Like the Mate 10, it’s in the camera app that a lot of the View 10’s AI smarts are currently focused. This includes the phone recognising what it’s shooting and adjusting the camera’s settings accordingly (an intelligent auto mode, ultimately). This saves you the hassle of digging through stacks of pro settings.
I used two devices in my hands-on time with the View 10 – neither of which were running 100% finished software (Huawei’s EMUI 8.0 over the top of Android Oreo).
Both were still admirably fast in use, with next to no waiting around as we skipped between screens and menus. The second one I was given was running slightly more up-to-date software, and showed noticeable improvements in the camera. Pictures were sharper, intelligent scene selection was quicker and shutter speeds faster.
However, neither model was running the View 10’s face recognition software as yet, which promises security features such as tracking your face for auto-rotate, and hiding sensitive notifications unless it sees your face. Honor’s global president George Zhao struggled to get this feature to work at the launch event – here’s hoping the feature is honed to a better standard on the finished device.
Apps on the phone were limited, too, which meant we weren’t really able to try out any of the device’s AI knowhow outside of its camera smarts – such as its real-time language translation. That will be one for us to tackle in our full review.
It’s clear the View 10 has some work left to do before its January 8 release date, but in my brief time with it, the device certainly looks promising for its £449 price tag.
It’s fast, well built and has some pretty impressive specs at this level. Whether these specs all come together to produce the premium smartphone experience that Honor is aiming for remains to be seen.