After a few years of devices that felt more like prototypes, the foldable phone market is starting to heat up, with numerous companies entering the fray.
Samsung released the first prominent foldable device – the Galaxy Z Fold – in 2019 to a decidedly mixed reception marred by concerns over its longevity and an inbuilt screen protector that wasn’t clearly marked as non-removable.
This year, the foldable market has attracted the likes of Oppo, Motorola, Xiaomi and Honor, who are all looking to dethrone Samsung.
The Magic Vs is Honor’s second stab at such a device, featuring a slimmer frame than its predecessor and a lighter weight.
During its reveal at MWC, Honor was keen point out how the two sides of the device’s inner screen meet seamlessly when closed, unlike the Galaxy Fold 4.
Indeed, the Magic Vs feels solidly-built and you almost forget it is a foldable when using the outer display for a more traditional smartphone experience.
But at nearly 13mm thick, it is notably more hefty than non-foldables and feels more cumbersome to hold in one hand.
While Honor has managed to shave a couple of millimetres off the device when compared to last year’s Magic V, it could still do with a bit of belt-tightening.
Realistically though, a fatter phone is a necessary trade-off with foldable devices, and when used in its tablet mode, it feels very thin – any thinner and it could be in danger of feeling too delicate and prone to breakage.
The inner display looks gorgeous straight-on, although the crease becomes apparent when viewed from an angle. Nevertheless, it’s ignorable when watching videos and in most apps as long as they are not uniformly white. Many apps also expand into a two-pane set-up when using the larger display which further helps to hide the crease.
App support is flaky, and with only around 1 per cent of smartphones globally using the technology, this is no surprise.
Most of Google’s native apps run well, with the UI expanding out to efficiently fill the larger screen real estate as needed. The best optimised apps run on the front screen as per a normal smartphone, and then adapt to the larger screen when opened, displaying the same content but in a different layout.
Other apps however, are less well optimised, with some expanding horizontally only up to a point, with ugly sidebars flanking either side to fill the rest of the display area. Until foldables truly hit the mainstream, one can assume that app compatibility will remain patchy for now as developers will be reluctant to devote too much time to such a niche product sector.
It must be noted that the device was running pre-release software, so it’s possible that app compatibility will improve once final retail units are available.
Honor has also implemented a handy windowed feature for apps that allows two or more to be run side-by-side when using the larger display. This could be a boon to people looking to maximise their productivity when doing a bit of work on their smartphone.
While very similar to a typical Android tablet experience, the inner display is easier to type on than most – its comparatively small width and bezels allow for a relatively comfortable typing experience using both thumbs. Its relative light weight also makes it easier to hold.
The screen itself feels good except for the aforementioned dimple in the middle. Glass that is flexible enough to be used on foldables has not been developed yet, although Corning, which develops Gorilla Glass, has said it is attempting to make it happen.
While not quite as smooth as a typical glass display, the inner plastic display stills feels nice to touch. However, with only a few weeks to try the unit, it’s unclear how durable the material will prove to be after several years of usage as plastic is much more scratchable than glass.
At 5000mAh, the battery life on the Magic Vs is acceptable and should get you through just over a day’s full usage. How much mileage you can get depends on the amount the inner display is used, as its large size is a big battery drain.
Honor has developed its own Android variant, known as Magic UI, which is based on Android 13. The firm has opted to stick to the older button style quick settings in its notification drawer, rather than go for the longer, elongated style now used in Google’s stock variant of Android. While not the prettiest implementation of Android, Magic gets the job done without rocking the Android boat.
The Magic Vs comes with an IR blaster that can be used to control your TV, HiFi or any devices with an infrared remote. This feature is a rare sight these days, and although it is unlikely to sway anyone either way, it’s a nice add-on to have.
While hardly its unique selling point, the Vs has a respectable triple lens camera set-up featuring a 54MP sensor for its main snapper, an 8MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom and a 50 MP ultrawide lens.
Unfortunately, the camera bump adds even more heft to a device that certainly doesn’t need it, but the photos are good enough if not class-leading.
The primary sensor produces decent shots that maintain an acceptable balance on detail and colour. The shot below may look somewhat washed out, but that’s largely due to lousy March weather in London.
The camera compensates for pictures taken in low light and achieves relatively detailed shots without too much noise.
The ultrawide also maintains a high level of detail in shots, although it seems to suffer in lower light scenarios when compared to the primary sensor.
The Vs represents a nice addition to the foldable phone category with a solid, but relatively slender build when compared to its major competitor – Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold4.
Smartphone innovation has noticeably slowed down in recent years, with most new flagships feeling like minor iterations of last year’s model rather than anything groundbreaking.
Foldables are the one exception to this and are showing noticeable improvement year-on-year. For enthusiasts keen to jump in early with a flashy device to show off to their friends, the Magic Vs definitely checks those boxes. However, at €1599 (UK pricing not yet announced), this comes at a significant cost which may deter many from jumping in, especially with further refinement on the horizon as competition heats up.
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.
Leave a Reply