Honor released its Magic V2 foldable on July 12, 2023, starting with the China market.
Chinese consumer electronics firm Honor launched its flagship foldable smartphone overseas — venturing into a high-end market dominated by Samsung and Apple.
The Honor Magic V2 will go on sale in markets in Europe and elsewhere — but not in the United States — no later than the first quarter of 2024, the company said.
Honor was sold to a consortium of investors to spin it off from Huawei after the latter was slapped with a number of U.S. sanctions that cut it off from key technology and crushed its smartphone business, taking it from the No. 1 player in the world to a very small part of the overall market.
Honor has been looking to chart its own path since the spinoff, making a play especially for the premium segment of the smartphone arena and expanding overseas.
The Magic V2 is the company’s second foldable smartphone. The entire phone can be folded and unfolded.
Honor launched the handset in China in July, with the device starting at 8,999 yuan ($1,235), and it appears to have got off to a strong start. The Shenzhen-headquartered firm will be hoping for similar success abroad. Pricing has not yet been announced for the phone in international markets.
Honor commanded a 5.2% market share in the second quarter of this year, slightly higher than the 4.9% in the same period last year, and it remains a small player in the market, according to IDC. China accounts for nearly 78% of Honor’s total smartphone shipments, highlighting its reliance on its domestic market.
Part of Honor’s strategy in improving its global standing is launching high-spec phones at competitive prices, particularly in mature European markets like the U.K. The Magic V2 is part of that.
“Honor appears to be following Huawei’s playbook in its successful big push in the global smartphone market before U.S. actions set it in reverse, and is aiming for a largely upmarket portfolio with an emphasis on top notch technology and specs,” Simon Baker, director of IDC’s mobile phone research in Europe, told CNBC via email.
“However the now independent Honor is doing so with fewer resources than Huawei had.”
However, Honor faces a number of challenges in trying to compete in the high end with giants Apple and Samsung, particularly in trying to raise its brand profile.
“Apple and Samsung both have huge advantages in scale and R&D (research and development) resources and marketing clout. Honor’s new phones are generally being very well received as products, but it takes years to become a well known and respected name in the phone business,” Baker added.
The Magic V2 comes with all the latest features expected of a premium phone.
It has a triple lens camera, sports Qualcomm’s latest mobile chipset and has storage options that go up to 1 terabyte.
When the phone is unfolded, users can enjoy a 7.92-inch screen.
The device is also 9.9 millimeters when folded, smaller than the 13.4 millimeters of its closest rival — the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5. Honor’s product is also lighter than Samsung’s.
CNBC looked at the battery in the device which is extremely thin at just 2.72 mm.
While the specs are innovative, Honor could still have a hard time convincing people to buy its device.
“When Honor was a subsidiary brand of Huawei it was not present or well known in many countries. That is an advantage now as it is not readily associated with Huawei for many consumers, but at the same time Honor has to establish itself as being seen as a trusted and premium brand,” Baker said.
Samsung and Apple accounted for nearly 70% of the smartphone market in Western Europe in the first quarter, according to Counterpoint Research, while Chinese brand Xiaomi was a distant third with 15% market share. That highlights Honor’s challenge in some of the markets it is aiming to get a foothold in.
“The experience of the Chinese phone makers which followed Huawei into Europe in the last few years has been that this is a challenge, particularly in persuading consumers to buy their more expensive models,” Baker said.
On Friday, Honor also showed off a concept device designed to be worn like a handbag.