Honor View 20 First Look: The First Post-Notch Flagship Phone

Editors' Note: Updated on Jan. 10 to include a video and specs for the Honor View 20.

LAS VEGAS — Watch out, Samsung. Honor just gave us a sneak peek of its next flagship Android phone, the Honor View 20, and the phone maker isn’t pulling any punches.

The View 20 packs in every feature you could hope for from a premium smartphone in 2019, and it doesn’t look anything like an iPhone XS. The only problem? It’s unclear if the phone will ever arrive in the U.S.

Honor View 20 Specs

Screen Size (Resolution)
6.4 inches (2310 x 1080)
OS
Android 9 Pie
CPU
Kirin 980
RAM
6GB/8GB
Storage
128GB/256GB
Rear Camera
48-MP main camera, 3D camera
Front Camera
25-MP
Battery
4,000 mAh
Colors
Midnight Black, Sapphire Blue, Phantom Blue (8GB/256GB only), Phantom Red (8GB/256GB only)
Price
TBA

Design: Goodbye notch, hello punch

Samsung isn’t gonna be happy about this phone. After months of rumors that the Galaxy S10 will sport an edge-to-edge display with a hole punch in the screen for the front-facing camera, Honor just literally beat Samsung to the punch. The View 20 has a 6.4-inch full-view OLED panel with no notch — just a hole punch in its upper left corner for the 25-megapixel selfie camera.

The screen is striking, particularly in a sea of notched flagship phones. But when you flip the View 20 over, its finish is just as stunning. Honor used nanolithography to create a textured coating with an almost-holographic V-shape etched down the back of the case. In the Phantom Red model we got our hands on, the effect was particularly eye-catching, although I’m not sure how long I can stare directly at the device without going blind.

Last but not least, the Honor View 20 has a headphone jack. Many flagships do not these days. So that’s something.

Camera: A shot at Google

Google’s Pixel 3 isn’t the only flagship with a ton of camera smarts. Honor is making the View 20 competitive, and not just with a crazy 48-megapixel shooter and a secondary 3D lens. Honor also packed its camera system with artificial intelligence when your photos need a boost.

An AI Ultra Clarity Mode setting in the Camera app takes a burst of photos and then stitches them together to create a perfect photo with tons of detail. AI Super Night Shot is another smart camera setting, which rivals Google’s low-light Night Sight. The new tool offers artificial image stabilization to lengthen the exposure without losing detail due to hand shakiness.

The depth-sensing 3D lens measures distance between the camera and its subject, and it can recognize volume, too. An augmented reality engine powered by Honor’s 7-nanometer Kirin 980 processor offers a 3D shaping feature in Portrait mode that lets you shape the subject without losing background detail. One use case for that feature is slimming your subject, like an aggressive case of magazine PhotoShopping. The View 20 also uses AI to identify a food — not an uncommon feature with today’s smart cameras. But since the 3D camera on the View 20 can detect volume, it’s able to measure your portion size to more accurately count its calories. I’m not saying the phone could give you body dysmorphia, but it probably won’t help.

Performance: Running on all cylinders

The View 20 uses Honor’s Kirin 980 processor, which promises powerful performance. When we tested the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, which also runs on the 980, we found it outperformed flagship phones that use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845. (Of course, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 is expected to soon start appearing in Android flagship devices.)

Honor also packed in a 9-liquid cooling system and the second-gen GPU Turbo, both of which promise a more responsive gaming experience without any extra heat.

And the View 20 has an impressive 4,000 mAh battery with super-charging. All of these features combine to make this phone a beast. Potentially.

Models: Your choice of colors

The Phantom Red phone we got our hands on is a Pro version of the View 20 with 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage; it’s also available in Phantom Blue as well as Midnight Black and Sapphire Blue. Those latter two colors also make up the basic version of the View 20, which ships with 6GB of memory and 128GB of storage.

Outlook

There’s one big problem with the Honor View 20. It’s unclear when — or rather, if — the phone will ever go on sale in the U.S.

That’s disappointing, because Honor’s price points are typically more affordable than most flagships. The $499 View 10 was packed with features, and the company has leveled up with the View 20. That phone was available to buy online in the U.S. But Honor’s recent flagships haven’t made their way stateside, so don’t hold your breath. We’ll find out more detail, including price and availability, at Honor’s Paris launch event at the end of January.