The Honor 50 series made its debut in China today (June 16), and while the phone maker was eager to talk about the many cameras that come on the Honor 50 and Honor 50 Pro, it's the software on board the new phones that's going to command the most attention.
Both the Honor 50 and Honor 50 Pro include Google apps, which had been missing from recent handsets released by the Chinese phone maker. The absence of Google apps was keenly felt, so their return makes the Honor 50 phones more attractive options for Android users.
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Honor confirmed the return of Google apps in a statement to Tom's Guide. Honor's phones "will undergo Google's Play Protect certified security review and compatibility testing process to ensure they are ready to run apps from Google and the Google Play Store," a spokesperson said. "Honor devices will therefore have the option to have Google Mobile Services preinstalled on compatible devices, in accordance with Google's licensing and governance models."
Honor lost the ability to use Google apps on its phones because it had been a subsidiary of Huawei, the Chinese phone maker that ran afoul of the U.S. government. Huawei continues to find itself on a government blacklist that prevents U.S. companies from doing business the Chinese firm. That includes Google, which means Huawei couldn't use Google apps on its phones; Huawei has even gone so far as to launch its own mobile OS.
Huawei spun off Honor into a standalone business last November, largely as a result of U.S. sanctions. Now that it's on its own, Honor can once again do business with Google, and the software on the Honor 50 reflects that.
Honor phones used to hit the U.S. — I remember reviewing the Honor 8 five years ago — though the devices have bypassed this country in recent years. Huawei's troubles with the U.S. government were only part of the reason, as it's hard for phone makers to break into the U.S. without first lining up a carrier partner. So we're unlikely to see either the Honor 50 or Honor 50 Pro buck that trend.
The Honor 50 series is coming to the U.K. later this year, though, after its initial release in China. The phone will also ship to France, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia and Saudi Arabia, though there's no timeframe as to when. The Honor 50 costs 2,699 yuan (about $421 if you convert that to U.S. dollars) while the Honor 50 Pro costs 3,699 yuan (around $578).
Honor 50 series specs
Anyone who buys the Honor 50 will get a lot of cameras for their money. The rear camera array on both phones features four lenses — a 108MP main shooter augmented by an 8MP wide angle lens and dedicated macro and depth cameras. It's the front of the phone that Honor is touting, though, as there are a pair of lenses, a 32MP selfie cam and 12MP video cam, being targeted at video bloggers.
The front cameras include support for a super night mode as well smart switching features powered by artificial intelligence. Honor says you'll be able to record simultaneously from front and real cameras using the six multi-lens shooting modes.
The batteries on the Honor 50 series are also noteworthy, not just for their size — 4,300 mAh on the Honor 50, 4,000 mAh on the 50 Pro — but for how quickly they charge. While the Honor 50 supports 66W fast-charging, the Honor 50 Pro trumps that with 100W speeds. Honor claims that gets a drained Honor 50 Pro back to 90% of its battery capacity after 20 minutes of charging. The Honor 50 can reach 70% in that same time.
You'll get a 6.57-inch curved display with the Honor 50 and a 6.72-inch screen on the Honor 50 Pro. Both phones support a 120Hz refresh rate. The Honor 50 Pro is capable of dynamically adjusting that rate; it also boasts 300Hz touch sampling rate for a more responsive screen.
Powering all this is a Snapdragon 778G system-on-chip. That means the Honor 50 series comes with 5G connectivity.
All told, it's a pretty impressive pair of midrange phones made even more appealing with the return of Google apps. Now it just remains for Honor to broaden out the markets where its phones will go on sale.
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