We have barely gotten into the groove in 2019, and the first Android flagship phone has already dropped. In great style, we must add. The Honor View 20 isn’t just the mandatory upgrade that phone makers are obliged to make, year on year. The headline specs of the Honor View 20 include a 48-megapixel camera and a punch-hole display, which an evolution from the opinion dividing notch so common in Android phones last year. The Honor View 20 is priced at Rs 37,999 (6GB + 128GB) and this goes head to head with the very popular OnePlus 6T which is also priced Rs37,999 onwards.
The first time you look at the phone, you will either love it. Or begin the process of falling in love with it. Honor phones have never been short on visual appeal, and the View 20 really takes it up a notch. Or two. You may have to get a bit used to the shiny finish on the back, but not before you notice and admire the “V” reflection pattern every time lights bounces off the View 20. What we reviewed here is the Sapphire Blue colour option, and while there are many blue phones out there for you to splurge your money on, we can bet that none look as visually different and exciting as this. The glass nicely curves and cascades into the spines, while the back panel also curves very gently around the edges. All this not only accentuates the vertical dimensions of the phone but makes it great to hold. That said, watch out for some slipperiness if your hands are moist or if you are a tad absent-minded while using it with one hand.
Once you are done admiring the back panel, you can switch to the business end of the phone, which is the front. The View 20 is the first commercially available smartphone with what is known as an in-display front camera. basically, a part of the display has been cut out, for the front facing camera sensor to peek out from. This implementation is lovingly referred to as a “punch-hole”, a term you may have read on the world wide web. This evolution perhaps was a necessity borne out of the hate for the notch, and its various iterations, across Android phones over the past year. Just as was the case with the notch, you will notice the presence of this cut-out initially, but pretty soon get used to it being around. Since it is on one side, you’ll never really find it directly in the line of sight.
The Honor View 20 has a 6.4-inch IPS display (2310 x 1080 resolution). Switch this on, and you’ll immediately notice it is bright and colours are rich. Perhaps a tad too rich if you like to keep them a tad more subdued. In fact, look closely and you will notice a slight discoloration of the pixels around the front camera, but that could perhaps be to not spoil the front facing camera’s line-of-sight by reducing the brightness of that thin layer of pixels. The other OCD-tickling observation is that the bezel below the screen is thicker than the bezel above the screen. The screen is bright and comfortable to use in most lighting scenarios, except under bright sunlight, where reflections do tend to get in the way from time to time, depending on what you are watching. That said, this display has no obvious shortcomings—it is great to look at, adequately sharp, vibrant colours and works with a variety of content.
The Honor View 20 has a large 4,000 mAh battery, which offers good endurance levels. A heavily used View 20 (for photography and watching videos included) still ends the day with about 40 percent battery left in the tank. The Super Charger is rated at 22.5-watt and can charge a completely discharged battery to 60% in 30 minutes flat. This is great for a splash-and-dash in the morning, or during the day before heading out for meetings, for instance. In the battery comparison, the OnePlus 6T brings to the table a smaller 3,700mAh battery but the 20-watt Dash Charge feature. In similar usage scenarios, the OnePlus 6T ends the day with around 30 percent battery left in the tank.
The 48-megapixel Sony sensor is the highlight of the Honor View 20, for many. To be precise, this is the IMX586 sensor with the f/1.8 aperture. This is a dual camera setup, but not exactly how you expect. The second sensor is what is called ToF, or “Time of Flight” sensor for depth. This ToF sensor uses infrared (IR) to map the area in front of the camera and make a three-dimensional model of the surroundings. In terms of photography performance, we are truly impressed by the 48-megapixel photos as well as the 12-megapixel photos that use the Quad-Bayer pixel binning technology for high resolution shots. Either mode you select, you will get rich and vibrant photos. The other big change that we noticed is that the built-in artificial intelligence (AI) is considerably more subdued than previously on Huawei and Honor phones, and now you can leave this on without running the risk of leaving your photos looking unnaturally rich, for instance. That said, if you take photos of dull light environments or a scene with inconsistent lighting, the 48-megapixel photos tend to have some noise visible in the shadow areas and the overall photo tends to be a bit softer in comparison with the 12-megapixel photos that are a lot sharper in comparison.
To counter that, there is a 48-Megapixel AI Ultra Clarity mode which attempts to take care of the issue we just mentioned. The tradeoff is that you need to hold the phone still for much longer, and the image takes time to process—we suspect that is because it is taking multiple photos at different apertures and then joining together the best bits into one photo.
In terms of the software, the Honor View 20 runs Android 9 Pie with Magic UI 2.0 wrapped around it. This is like the EMUI software that the Huawei Mate 20 Pro runs, and by default, there is no app-drawer, though you can bring it back from the settings. There is the typical set of preloaded apps that you probably don’t need, such as the SwiftKey keyboard (no, Google’s GBoard is significantly better) and the Huawei App Gallery (why would you want to use this instead of the Google Play Store). This is where the OxygenOS on the OnePlus 6T has a significant advantage, since the additional features and tweaks to the Android interface are minimal and well done, with hardly any third-party apps preloaded. Honor could do with some fine-tuning of the way the Magic UI 2.0 looks on a flagship phone, a complaint (a rare one, we might add, since it is a brilliant phone) we had with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro as well.
That said, once you do clean up the unnecessary apps, the HiSilicon Kirin 980 chip which also powers the excellent Huawei Mate 20 Pro really comes into its own. This is a 7-nanometer architecture chip. Needless to say, the performance is flagship level, and you’ll never really feel the View 20 feel bogged down even with multiple apps running. Like for like, the performance feels at par with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 powered OnePlus 6.
This is, from what we have experienced, an Honor phone that is truly grown up. The Honor View 20 is a true flagship, in every sense. Whether it is a bargain at Rs 37,999 is a matter of debate though and depends on which of the two you prefer more—the Honor View 20 or the OnePlus 6T. The Honor View 20 gets the display and camera aspects spot on, aided by the fast performance and good battery life. Not to forget the gorgeous design, which immediately captivates your attention which just any paint job on a phone cannot do.