Huawei spin-off Honor launches $1,690 foldable smartphone in challenge to Samsung, Apple


Honor launched the Magic Vs foldable smartphone globally in a bid to take on Samsung in the premium end of the handset market.


BARCELONA, Spain — Chinese smartphone maker Honor launched its foldable phone globally on Sunday, as it looks to compete with Apple and Samsung in the premium tier of the market.

The Honor Magic Vs was first launched in China in November. Now the company is bringing the device to a number of markets abroad, including the U.K., Germany and countries in Latin America.

It marks the Chinese firm’s ambition to expand into the latest smartphone technology — foldables — at the high end of the market, where it will compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung.

Honor was spun off from Huawei, after a number of U.S. sanctions cut the Chinese telecommunications giant off from critical chips and access to Google’s Android mobile operating system, crushing its smartphone business. As a separate entity, Honor has access to Android and to the components that it needs for its high-end devices.

Huawei sold Honor to a consortium of buyers that includes the government of its headquarters city, Shenzhen. Honor was the budget brand under Huawei, but has looked to market itself as a premium player since its independence, filling the gap that Huawei once did.

Honor launched its first smartphone overseas toward the end of 2021 and has since moved aggressively to bring more models to countries outside of China.

The company has been trying to distance itself from Huawei and establish itself independently.

“Although Honor is operating as a completely independent entity, it still has to regularly explain that is it not part of Huawei. Over time this is becoming less of an issue, but it is still a challenge it faces,” Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC via email.

Honor Magic Vs specs

The Honor Magic Vs is a so-called foldable smartphone. These are devices that have a screen that can bend. Honor said it has tested the device by folding it and opening it up to 400,000 times with no problem.

Honor’s smartphone runs Android and has a 7.9-inch display when it is fully open. The phone also has a second display on the outside of the device when it is folded, which is 6.45 inches.

The Magic Vs will be offered at a price of 1,599 euro ($1,690) to the European market. It will compete with foldable devices from Samsung and Chinese firm Oppo on the world stage.

But the foldable phone category, which was pioneered by Samsung, is still in the early phases. Foldable devices accounted for only 1.1% of total smartphone shipments in 2022, according to IDC, and this share is expected to increase to just 2.8% in 2026.

The Magic Vs is one of the first foldable devices available in markets outside of China, as Honor attempts to get ahead in the nascent segment of smartphones.

High-end push

While Honor has emerged as one of the biggest smartphone players in China, it has yet to find similar success overseas. It will be hoping its more premium devices can help it win users abroad.

At its peak in 2020, Huawei had managed to become the number one smartphone player in the world, overtaking Samsung and Apple by launching premium devices, equipped with some of the latest technology. Since its smartphone business has been crippled, there has been a big gap left that companies like Samsung, Apple, and other players like Xiaomi, have taken advantage of.

Honor will be hoping to wrestle back some of those users.

“I’ve been impressed by the products that Honor has unveiled and some of the DNA harking from its roots as formally being part of Huawei are clear in the quality of the products. Huawei was snapping at Samsung’s heels when it got stopped in its tracks by the U.S. administration and was setting the benchmark amongst Chinese smartphone makers,” Wood said.

“Honor now needs to assert its independence and start on the long road of establishing its brand in Western markets in a similar manner to other Chinese phone makers. This took Huawei nearly a decade, so there is a significant journey ahead for all those companies seeking to compete with Samsung and Apple.”

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