It’s round two for the Honor Magic Vs. I first looked at the phone at the end of 2022 and was seriously impressed with the hardware. But at the time, we weren’t able to try the software or the camera. It’s crucial Honor get both these aspects exactly right — while also coming in at a great price — if it’s to take on the current top big-screen foldable, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4.
Now, at MWC 2023, I’ve had a chance to try both the software and the camera. The results are promising, but it’s not all great news. Here’s what’s going on with the Honor Magic Vs.
A reminder of the specifications
The Honor Magic Vs is a book-style folding smartphone with a 6.45-inch cover screen and an unfolded 7.9-inch screen. The OLED cover screen has a 120Hz refresh rate and a 2560 x 1080 pixel resolution, while the unfolded screen has a 90Hz refresh rate and a 2272 x 1984 pixel resolution. The phone weighs 267 grams and measures 12.9mm folded up, and 6.1mm when it’s closed.
Powering it is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor with 12GB of RAM, 512GB of storage space, and a 5,000mAh battery. This is recharged using the included Honor 66W SuperCharge fast charger. The software is Android 13 with Honor’s own MagicOS 7.1 interface, there’s a fingerprint sensor on the side of the phone, and you get stereo speakers.
There are three cameras on the back: a 54-megapixel main camera, a 50MP wide-angle camera, and an 8MP 3x telephoto camera. At the top of the cover screen is a 16MP main camera, and another camera is at the top of the unfolded screen too. Honor has developed its own hinge for the Magic Vs, which is made of titanium alloy and has been tested to 400,000 folds.
Revisiting the Honor Magic Vs’s design
The last time I looked at the Honor Magic Vs, I couldn’t try the camera, and the software wasn’t final either, so all I could really comment on was the design and the hinge operation. The model I have now, which is in the process of being fully reviewed, looks and feels superb. Even better than I remember. It’s thinner than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, and it closes without a gap between the two sections, just like the Oppo Find N2.
The back is so well designed it borders on the exquisite. Mine is in the beautiful blue (Honor calls it cyan) color, resplendent with depth and sparkle that gives it a really eye-catching look. The camera module has an asymmetrical curve at each edge and is mounted on a chrome plate with a tiny “Designed for Magic” inscription on it. Normally, I hate this kind of thing, but it’s so small here it becomes a cool little Easter egg. When you know, you know, and I like that.
The blue continues to the chassis, the phone has a pleasing soft-close action that’s well-dampened, and it feels very substantial. The protruding camera module means the phone doesn’t lay flat and wobbles about on a table, and the fingerprint sensor is absolutely tiny, but there’s potentially a more serious problem here: The Magic Vs I have doesn’t appear to enjoy opening completely flat yet. I think it’s to do with the hinge being brand new, as it seems to “settle” after being open for a while.
I haven’t lived with the phone on a daily basis yet, at which time the hinge may bed itself in and lose the springiness that it displays at the moment. Otherwise, the Magic Vs is a beautiful piece of design.
Trying the Honor Magic Vs’s software
The software is Android 13 with Honor’s MagicOS 7.1 installed. If you’ve used an Honor phone before, it’s very familiar and still reminiscent of Huawei’s EMUI software, despite it being years since the two companies split. Honor Health shares more than just its name with Huawei Health, for example. MagicOS 7.1 is pretty busy when you first start it up, with the home screen including various Honor-branded apps, including an app store, various utility apps, and Honor’s own virtual assistant called Yoyo.
Oddly, there doesn’t seem to be an option to use an app drawer, so all your apps are spread across multiple home screens. This iOS-style design for Android has long been an option for phones made with the Chinese market in mind, but there’s usually the chance to switch if you prefer storing apps in a drawer. If it’s here, I haven’t found it yet, and it’s a rather backward design decision if it has been omitted. There are several overly fussy themes to apply to the icons and home screen design, which makes the software appear older than it actually is.
The primary multi-tasking feature is unusual. When you open a compatible app, a single swipe down on the open screen lets you position it on the left or right side of the screen. After this, you can tap and hold a window to float it over the top of another, and the software supports two apps like this. The apps can also be hidden away in a menu that hides at the side of the screen, ready to be called back when needed. I like that Honor is doing something different here, and it certainly seems to operate well. I’ll know more when I use the Magic Vs every day for our review.
Taking photos with the Honor Magic Vs
I took the Magic Vs out to take some photos just before the official launch, and it’s clear the camera still needs work. It has potential, but it’s often inconsistent. There are often dramatic differences between the main and wide-angle cameras. The exposure is sometimes confused, the wide-angle camera’s photos can appear over-processed and unnatural, and there’s evidence the AI doesn’t always tweak images for the better, as it prefers to oversaturate.
Honor’s big crime is the addition of a 10x shortcut in the camera app, which sits alongside the 3x optical zoom. The 10x mode is a digital zoom, and bad quality. The trouble with adding a shortcut like this is it encourages people to use it, only to be disappointed by the end results. It seems to be there only to make people think the Magic Vs’s camera challenges the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra when it absolutely does not.
The main camera seems to take attractive, mostly well-balanced photos in the right situations, and I expect it can be improved with a few software updates in the future. I haven’t tried the camera out extensively yet, and have not taken photos in low light. I’ll know more about it once I’ve fully reviewed the phone.
The Honor Magic Vs has potential
It can sometimes only take a few hours to get a handle on what a new smartphone will be like to live with, but the Honor Magic Vs is not one of those devices. From the springy hinge to the busy software and the inconsistent camera, the phone clearly requires a lot more investigation before we know if it can take on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4.
Honor has produced some great phones over the years, including after Huawei sold it off, so it could be all these early, slightly concerning impressions disappear once I get into using the phone. We’ll find out soon.
The Honor Magic Vs won’t be officially available in the U.S., but it will be sold in the U.K. At the time of writing, Honor has not revealed the price, so we will update you here when the news is confirmed.