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The Camera-Packed Honor 20 Pro Could Be the First Gadget Casualty of the Trade War

Illustration for article titled The Camera-Packed Honor 20 Pro Could Be the First Gadget Casualty of the Trade War
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

Earlier this year, Honor followed Samsung’s footsteps and quickly jumped on the hole punch selfie cam trend with the Honor View 20. And now, Honor has returned to refine that design with a new phone sporting what the company is calling a holographic glass back and even more cameras. But as slick as it looks, the shiny new Honor 20 Pro feels like it’s about to get lost amidst all the troubles surrounding Honor’s parent company Huawei.

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Featuring a vibrant 6.26-inch full HD+ display combined with side-mounted fingerprint sensor and glass panels in front and back, the Honor 20 Pro feels like a mix between a Galaxy S10e and a normal Galaxy S10. Except that with an expected price of around $650 (the Honor 20 Pro is listed at 599 euros overseas), it might be an even better deal.

Illustration for article titled The Camera-Packed Honor 20 Pro Could Be the First Gadget Casualty of the Trade War
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)
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Then, to really spice things up, Honor equipped the Honor 20 Pro with a massive 32-MP selfie cam (which Honor claims is the highest resolution front-facing cam on the market) along with not three, but four cameras on the back.

As we’ve come to expect from modern day flagship phones—even more affordable flagships like this one—the Honor 20 Pro includes an ultra wide-angle camera (16-MP) and main camera with a whopping 48-MP sensor. But where Honor changed things up is by going a bit longer with the zoom on the Honor 20 Pro’s 3x telephoto camera, and then tossing in a dedicated 2-MP macro lens for good measure.

The tiny lens below the three main cameras is the Honor 20 Pro’s macro cam.
The tiny lens below the three main cameras is the Honor 20 Pro’s macro cam.
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

With the Honor 20 Pro using a Sony IMX586 sensor for its main camera—the same sensor used in the View 20 and the OnePlus 7 Pro—the Honor 20 Pro starts off as a pretty proficient shooter. But when it comes to that 2-MP macro lens, Honor did something unusual and opted not to give its macro lens any sort of auto-focus system at all.

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That means to focus, you need to physically move the phone closer or farther away from your subject, with the ideal focusing distance being about 4 centimeters (about an inch and a half) away.

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Compared to the sophisticated autofocusing systems when snapping pics normally on the Honor 20 Pro, this method seems a bit crude, but it does work. That said, I often found myself struggling to see if nailed focus just by looking at the phone’s screen. And with such a shallow depth of field, there’s not a lot of room for error when trying to make something look super sharp. But compared to the main 48-MP cam, it does give you one more way to capture close-up details a normal smartphone camera might not see.

Elsewhere, the Honor 20 Pro comes with a healthy assortment of specs including 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, Kirin 980 processor (the same as what you get in the much more expensive P30 Pro), dual nano-SIM card slots, and a sizable 4,000 mAh battery. Honor even gave the Honor 20 Pro’s virtual 9.1 surround sound when you’re using headphones and 22.5-watt wired charging, the latter of which can bring the phone from zero to 50 percent in just 30 minutes.

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trying to snap pics from just 1.5 inches away is actually harder than it seems, especially when you can’t rely on autofocus.
trying to snap pics from just 1.5 inches away is actually harder than it seems, especially when you can’t rely on autofocus.
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

As for Honor’s so-called holographic glass back, Honor says it developed a new type of three-layer glass the slightly distorts things to give reflections a sort of ghostly appearance. It’s a neat trick, though like a lot of things that claim to be holographic, it’s not exactly on the same level as Leia’s iconic call for help.

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However, in order to make the Honor 20 Pro a bit more affordable, some compromises were made. The phone doesn’t have wireless charging and while Honor says it should survive a random splash, it doesn’t have an official rating for water-resistance. The Honor 20 Pro also doesn’t have a headphone jack, although unlike the OnePlus 7 Pro, it at least come with a 3.5mm adapter in the box. Meanwhile, on the non-pro Honor 20, you get a smaller 3,750 mAh battery, less RAM and storage, while also forgoing that 2-MP macro lens.

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But the big concern is that with the U.S. having officially put Huawei on the list of potential security threats, the Honor Pro could be one of the first phones to suffer the fallout of the mounting digital cold war between the U.S. and China. And even with Google having recently granted Huawei a 90-day license to continue working with U.S. companies, it’s hard to get really excited about the Honor 20 Pro knowing that there’s a possibility the phone could lose access to the Google Play Store and future security updates in the not too distant future.

To its credit, Huawei released a statement saying the company “will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally.” But with so much in flux, there’s no telling how all this will actually play out.

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If the Honor 20 Pro really is priced around $650, it would be an interesting alternative to phones like the OnePlus 7 Pro or the Galaxy S10e. But for now, it seems forces outside the gadget world are trying to make this phone and other future handsets from Huawei and Honor a less attractive package.

Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

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DISCUSSION

This is, unfortunately, the real aim of the Trump administration - protectionism. This would be a *fantastic* phone for the price, and it achieves it by working on drastically lower margins. Apple manufacturers a phone for $400 and sells it for $1,000, while companies like Huawei manufacture it for $400 and sell it for $600. And since tariffs would hit all manufacturers equally (since almost all phones are made in China anyway), the only way to target the #2 largest smartphone manufacturer in the world is by claiming some ambiguous “national security threat”.

Edit:  This really does suck, because the smaller up-and-coming companies are the ones really driving the innovation and value right now.  This looks fantastic, and if I was going to drop $1k on a phone I’d pick up the One Plus 7 Pro in a heartbeat and pocket the other $300.  I’d absolutely choose something like this over a comparable Samsung, LG, Moto, etc.

In other great Trump news, the cat food that I purchase every couple months (made in China) went up by exactly 15% over the last 6 weeks or so. $14.79 up to $16.99. Yeah, good thing that trade wars are good and easy to win...