How Honor is overtaking Huawei and plans to conquer Europe

How Honor is overtaking Huawei and plans to conquer Europe

Rita L. Khouri / Android Authority

It’s been 20 months since Huawei sold Honor and completely distanced itself from its former sub-brand under pressure from US sanctions. But you would be forgiven if you thought both the companies were operating under the same roof till date. A simple look at the Huawei Mate 40 Pro and Honor Magic 4 Pro, or the Huawei P50 series and Honor 70 series, will let you know that the similarities that the two brands shared over their existence are still there, and they are slightly different. Runs more than the skin – deep.

But things are changing behind the scenes. It’s being asked to take the stage under the thousands of spotlights, then struggle between carrying on the legacy of its predecessor and reaffirming its identity.

We sat down with Honor Europe President Tony Rann to learn more about the company’s future plans. In short, Honor hopes to soon bring the fruits of its lone labor over the past two years to market – give or take – and begin showing the world a new and improved version of itself. Software will be the first step, but hardware will come after that. That’s the promise, at least for now.

a tough break-up with a lot of baggage

Huawei Mate 40 Pro Honor Magic 4 Pro 3

Rita L. Khouri / Android Authority

As you can imagine, breaking out of Huawei’s shadow was not an easy experience. Tony explained that the difference was immediately felt internally as Honor had to switch from a smaller sub-unit that didn’t need to worry about so many aspects of running a business, to suddenly handle everything. Not only the business and legal aspects, but also the technical side: “The platform was there, we didn’t need to think much about the OS, now we have to.”

But breaking up goes beyond a simple change of the owner’s name on the door. Honor spent seven years under the tutelage of Huawei. It shares a similar DNA and culture with Huawei. Many of its pre-split and post-split employees were at some point Huawei’s employees.

Honor spent seven years under the tutelage of Huawei. It has a similar DNA, culture, and many of its current employees were previously with Huawei.

This partly explains why everything we see Honor doing today is familiar with what Huawei was doing before. Whether it is from a product (hardware and software) design perspective or even from a logistics point of view. Anything from launch event presentation style to carrier partnership deals still accompanies Huawei’s signature DNA.

The second reason for these similarities is a simple matter of timing. The lifecycle of a product from design to market takes two to three years, as Tony reiterated. What we’re seeing today are products that started their life as a Huawei sub-brand product, so they share clear similarities in the exterior design language and user interface.

create a new, distinct identity

Honor Magic 4 Pro back in hand

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Respect is changing, but, as Tony put it, “not as fast as we had hoped.” The new standalone company is first and foremost focused on making great products.

By removing Huawei’s shackles, it may finally start competing in the premium segment and market flagships for both its Chinese and European audiences. The goal is to release two high-end smartphones per year – one traditional and one foldable.

Honor is focusing its efforts on R&D, carrier partnerships in Europe and trying to conquer the premium market.

Additionally, the “online-only” guiding principle is no longer there. Honor’s online retail presence, which accounts for 35-40% of its sales in some markets, is still important, but is no longer the only focus. The company is also building relationships with major carriers in the European Union to give potential customers more opportunities to see and test their products in retail stores.

Behind the scenes, the company has grown from about 8,000 employees at the time of the merger to 13,000 now. 8,000 of them are involved in R&D (research and development), a field that Tony called “the roots that will help us grow in the future”. And it’s understandable. Honor has to quickly fill the gap left by the division as it suddenly found itself without Huawei’s extensive knowledge of everything from content to photography to computing and more.

Solid first steps: MagicOS 7.0 and a foldable for Europe

Honor 50 vs Huawei Settings Menu

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

The fruits of Honor’s labor since Partition will soon be felt. While it’s difficult to change hardware plans overnight, software is easier, we’re told. Tony promises that the coming switch from Magic UI to MagicOS 7.0 will be a “huge leap” and help establish roots for Honor’s future software strategy.

What this means, we don’t know, as details about Magicos are scant right now. Tony seemed very convinced, however, that the new interface is a departure from the skin that was created under Huawei’s supervision. So maybe we’ll see some new icons and fonts, or maybe we’ll get a whole new experience.

Honor is banking on MagicOS 7.0 to make its devices feel a little less like phones from Huawei.

Honor is also promising to bring its next foldable to European markets. There has been a lot of talk about innovation and being different from the rest, but the gist is that the follow-up to the Honor Magic V should launch outside China. This is already a small victory in our book as Samsung is the only player in town in the western markets, and it is already on its foldable line-up. Some healthy competition should give the category the kick in the pants it needs.

our healthy dose of doubt

Honor 70 back on the shelf

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

It’s easy to make promises, so we’ll keep an eye on how Honor delivers – or fails to deliver on – them.

Business matters take time and seismic change in leadership is not easy, we know this. However, the tech world is moving at a reckless pace, and we are getting eager to see Honor move away from the shadow of Huawei. It’s been twenty months since the split, so the company is slowly starting to run the clock of our good faith and patience.

Promises are promises. We need to see some tangible changes in hardware and software.

So our first look will be on MagicOS 7.0. Will it be a surface-level visual identity change or a more complex change in user experience? We only know that it will provide a more seamless experience between your phone, tablet and laptop, but we’re not clear on how Honor plans to differentiate itself. Or if, at least, it plans to match what other Android makers offer. A proper software update commitment will go a long way beyond your customary two years; Three is the minimum these days, but four years of major updates and five security patches would be better.

We’re also curious to see how Honor really plans to innovate with its next foldable. A simple change to the aspect ratio to make the external screen more useful as a primary device won’t cut it. Instead, we’d like to see some new features from the external and internal displays, more software improvements to make use of the larger screen and folded or unfolded form factor, and more innovation around cameras, battery longevity, and weight/ Shape.

Are you looking forward to seeing Honor’s new software or a foldable?

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Many more long-standing questions remain about the company’s financial viability, its ability to innovate and sell without Huawei’s pre-established R&D or ties, and its ability to grow outside the Chinese market. But in the short term, we look forward to seeing the true identity of Honor soon.

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