2023 Winners and losers: Honor

The past twelve months have been a massive success for Honor, especially in China. The company quickly filled the gap that was left by its former parent Huawei, and is currently number 1 in two major categories at home – most smartphones sold and most foldables sold.

Domestic success is generally a healthy indication that the company is ready to expand overseas, and the past twelve months have been a testament to Honor’s dedication to becoming once again a leading player in international markets.

The Honor handsets arrived in India, another big achievement, under the management of Htech, a company led by former Realme CEO Madhav Sheth. The company partners with major local distributor PSAV Global to setup its local division, which should help it hit the ground running.

Winner: Honor 90

The smartphone is a pretty decent midranger with a Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 chipset, a 200 MP main camera, a big AMOLED display with curved sides and a 5,000 mAh battery with 66W charging.

Honor 90 review

Specs are just the raw indicator of what a company can achieve from a manufacturing point of view. The Honor 90 is a success because it drove sales up in virtually every market Honor appeared during 2023. The number series sits in an hotly contested market of high-performing midrangers, bordering with the premium segment, and the way Honor 90 managed to position itself is truly remarkable.

Yes, the phone lacks stereo speakers or any ingress protection, but this is once again just a specs read; the phone has much to offer, and the sales numbers confirm that.

Loser: Honor 90 Pro

On the other end of the spectrum of our emotions sits the Honor 90 Pro. It was launched as a bigger, mightier device with more capable cameras. It adds the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset, the 32 MP telephoto camera with 2.5x optical zoom and the 90W charging.

Honor 90 Pro

However, we wouldn’t know how much better the Pro was since the phone was never launched outside China. The 90 Pro could have helped the maker expand a bit closer to the premium market, but Honor put all its resources into pushing the vanilla version; it was an understandable decision but disappointing nonetheless.

Winner: Honor Magic5 Pro

George Zhao, Honor CEO, introduced the Magic5 Pro during a keynote in Barcelona during MWC 2023. We spoke with him after the event, discussing the flagship and the company’s plans for the upcoming year. He was excited to announce the wide availability of the phone, including Europe.

The Magic5 Pro was the flag carrier for Honor on the Old Continent, and we really loved what the company brought to the stage. The phone looks good, has an outstanding display and battery life, and the camera performance across the board was more than impressive.

Yes, just like any other phone, this too had some shortcomings. Despite them, this is a proper flagship that deserves praise even today, especially when its price tag is almost 30% down from the initially announced €1,100.

Loser: MagicOS

Honor phones come with Google Services, but this is simply not enough. Honor’s breakaway from Huawei happened two years ago, but the now-independent company is still struggling to keep up the development of its own user interface that still sticks close to former parent’s EMUI.

Even the current version MagicOS 7.1, based on Android 13, is missing some widgets and simple features like the long press on the home screen – you can’t even get basic App Info, let alone have shortcuts like on other interfaces.

Honor Magic5 Pro review

The UI has been an issue with Honor since the beginning of 2022, when developers dropped a bunch of features shared with Huawei, only they are yet to develop the functionality themselves. Honor promises there is a major overhaul coming “soon”.

As we are preparing to send off 2023, and we can only hope MagicOS 8 with Android 14 will be the change users desperately need once it arrives in January 2024 with the Magic6 series.

Winner: Honor Magic Vs

This phone was actually launched in November 2022 and was available for purchase before the year even ended. Yet it only made its global debut at MWC 2023 with sales starting a few months after than that.

The Magic Vs was the first phone with an inward vertical hinge that arrived as a real threat to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold domination, marking a new beginning for the foldable market.

The Magic Vs was one of the lightest foldables at the time, although it’s been comfortably surpassed by the Magic V2 since. Alas, the newer device is yet to make it outside China, so we’ll take any competition to the Galaxy Z Fold series we can get.

Loser: Honor V Purse

While we are on the topic of foldables, we must mention the V Purse. The device was initially introduced as a concept, and we would’ve been fine with the device remaining a limited edition. It is essentially a remade Huawei Mate Xs 2 with a thinner profile but a less impressive chipset and camera setup.

The Honor V Purse as a purse
The Honor V Purse as a purse
The Honor V Purse as a purse

The Honor V Purse as a purse

Honor decided to market the V Purse as a fashion accessory first and smartphone second, which is the one thing this phone has going for it. The chipset is old, the cameras are basic, the hinge is not where it should be.

This Snapdragon 778G-powered phone costs CNY6,000 – that’s over $850/€800 at the current exchange rate. At this point, we suggest buying an actual designer clutch for this amount of money, in which there will be room for a proper phone, as well as other essentials.

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