The HONOR 20 Pro looks really great on paper. But there are some areas where it falls short. This shouldn't come as a surprise, given the fact that there is no perfect smartphone available – and likely never will be. There are some issues with the HONOR 20 Pro, but are they deal-breakers that should keep you from buying the phone? Let's find out
Disclaimer: At Android Headlines, we now review all phones from the "good" and the "bad" perspectives. Our reviews are designed to give a deeper perspective on the positive and negatives of each new device and should help readers who are specifically looking for why a phone is really good, or why its negative aspects might make it worth avoiding. This "bad" review focuses on the negative for the HONOR 20 Pro. For an idea of everything HONOR did right with this phone, visit our "good" review.
Stereo speakers don't always mean loud speakers
HONOR does have stereo speakers on this smartphone. With a downward firing speaker and then an earpiece speaker. But they are not very loud, and the quality of the sound that it outputs could definitely be better. For instance, if you watching a YouTube video, you'll barely be able to hear the video if there is any background noise at all. Say you're running a robot vacuum around your home, and listening to a YouTube video, you're not going to be able to hear it over the robot vacuum – even on its quietest setting. And coming from the Pixel 3, and Galaxy S10+, that's a pretty stark difference.
The sound quality is also not great. Though this isn't out of the ordinary for HONOR. It's smartphone speakers have been missing some boomy bass for quite some time. The mids and highs are pretty good, but there's not much bass included on the speaker. If you really want to watch a video or listen to music on the HONOR 20 Pro, headphones using the USB-C dongle is going to be the best route to go.
There's also no Dolby Atmos included on the HONOR 20 Pro. Which is something we can't really understand. Literally every other company is embracing Dolby Atmos – even OnePlus. While the Virtual 9.1 Surround Sound for headphones on this phone is pretty nice, having Dolby Atmos for the speakers would have been even better.
Not a carbon copy of P30 Pro's cameras
Typically with HONOR's Spring flagship, that launches after the Huawei P series smartphone, it's basically the same phone, but without the Leica branding which makes it a cheaper phone. But that's not the case this year. The HONOR 20 Pro is vastly different from the P30 Pro, especially when it comes to the camera. There's no Periscope camera, and no Time of Flight Sensor. That means that 10x optical zoom and 50x digital zoom are not available on this phone. Though the Macro camera on the HONOR 20 Pro does seem to offer the same features as the ToF on the P30 Pro.
With the HONOR 20 Pro, you're stuck with 5x optical zoom. Which is still pretty good, and that's thanks to the telephoto sensor. However, having that stalker-style zoom available on the HONOR 20 Pro at this price point would have been pretty impressive, and something a lot of people would have loved to see.
The Macro camera is pretty nice to have on this phone. But it's not all good news. HONOR says you can get as close as 4 centimeters, for a picture with this camera. What HONOR did not mention was the fact that you can only be that close to the subject. If you are trying to take a picture of a larger object – where you'd need to be more than 4 centimeters away – it's not going to come out as crisp. It's actually going to come out a bit blurry.
Now one could argue that if you don't need to be that close, you can just switch to the Aperture mode. They wouldn't be wrong. But switching from mode to mode to get that shot – especially when these are all in the "More" section – is a usability nightmare. Most people won't be taking super macro shots all that often, but it is nice to be able to do so with flowers and such. Since it is now Spring, many people are going to be doing that more and more.
No dark mode in sight
HONOR has renamed its software, Magic UI in the past few months. But it is still basically the same as EMUI that is available on Huawei phones. There are a few subtle differences. The main one here is the fact that there is no dark mode. Now it's likely that this is because the HONOR 20 Pro does not sport an AMOLED display, so a dark mode wouldn't really offer much battery savings on this LCD display. But users still want it. And seeing features that are on other Huawei smartphones and not on this one, is pretty annoying. Talk about fragmentation, Huawei has it within its own line of smartphones.
Magic UI is a decent operating system, but it still has plenty of problems. Something that Huawei and HONOR have been dealing with for quite a few years. The biggest complaint though, is the amount of apps that are pre-installed on the HONOR 20 Pro. This includes Booking.com, Amazon Alexa, Amazon, Fortnite, HiCare, HONOR Store, and Translator, just to name a few. Pre-installed apps is nothing new, especially when it comes to HONOR smartphones, but it's still an annoying thing that users are going to need to deal with.
The HONOR 20 Pro is also pretty aggressive with closing apps in the background, to save battery life. That's not a great thing, considering most people have smartphones so they can get notifications on the go. Whether that's messages from family and friends, emails, or even just notifications from Twitter and Facebook. Closing these apps, means that those notifications won't come to your device until you open that app again. That's a big deal for some people.
A lot of people will prefer the better battery life, but at what extent? HONOR can still get some pretty good battery life out of this 4000mAh capacity battery, without being so aggressive in closing apps that are open. Luckily, you can change these settings, but it's not turned off by default. Which means a lot of people won't be turning them off, because they simply don't know about it.
Virtual Surround Sound, but no headphone jack?
HONOR is touting its virtual 9.1 Surround Sound on the 20 Pro, but there's no headphone jack. Why not? That would be perfect for a headphone jack. But like most other smartphone makers out there, there's no headphone jack and it likely isn't coming back. Instead, to utilize this virtual surround sound, you need to use the USB-C dongle that is included in the box. That's not a big deal for a lot of people, as we've gotten (somewhat) used to having to use a dongle with our headphones.
However, this also doesn't work with Bluetooth headphones. Which is a real head-scratcher. So literally the only way that you can take advantage of the Virtual 9.1 Surround Sound, is to use the dongle and a pair of wired headphones. It just really feels like HONOR did not completely think this through, unfortunately.
Smartphone makers always say that they remove the headphone jack to allow for more space for things like the battery and such. But the headphone jack doesn't take up that much space. And this is a pretty big, and thick smartphone, so HONOR could have definitely found a way to make it work with a headphone jack.
No waterproofing is just idiotic
The HONOR 20 Pro is not waterproof, or at least it doesn't have an IP rating. That's just idiotic in 2019. Seeing as literally every other flagship smartphone is now waterproof. It's now become a feature that people look for before buying their smartphone. And HONOR leaving it out is a pretty big deal. This is likely a "waterproof" or water resistant phone, but without the IP rating, it doesn't mean much. And no, we did not toss our HONOR 20 Pro into a bucket of water to test it out ourselves.
It's not that people want to be able to dip their phone in a bucket of water, but not having to worry about damaging your phone if it does fall into the toilet, or takes a dip in the pool. Users won't need to run over to a bag of rice to save their phone.
The HONOR 20 Pro doesn't have a lot that's bad with it. There are a few things that are on the bad side, and the majority of it is with the sound and the camera aspects of the phone. Two things that are super important to smartphone buyers right now – though the camera is definitely higher on the list than the speaker and headphone jack. Seeing as this is the camera that they always have with them, it makes sense that it would be one of the more important features of the phone.
HONOR 20 Pro is coming to Europe and Asia later this month.