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Honor View 20's 48-megapixel camera phone gets global pricing, availability on Jan. 22

That's when the global launch takes place in Paris.

It's not every phone that gets not one, but three launches. That why it's extra unusual that Huawei is giving the visually stunning, midprice Honor View 20 a trio of launches. We first saw it appear in December in China, then once again at CES 2019 in Las Vegas in early January where we went hands-on with the promising phone (more on that below). Huawei is saving the best for last with a global launch in Paris on Jan. 22. 

It's that final date, in just a few days, when we'll hear how much the Honor View 20 will sell in the UK, Europe and other countries outside of Asia. It's also when we'll find out if the feature-packed handset will come to the US through Amazon or Huawei's direct-to-market Honor site.

The Honor View 20 already stands out for its 6.4-inch display, "hole punch" cutout for the 25-megapixel selfie camera, a 48-megapixel "3D" camera setup and vibrant red, blue and black colors. It was holding the Honor View 20 in my hands that really brought the Honor View 20's assets to life. 

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Up close, the chevron pattern on the back bursts to life as the colors and design shift and ripple in the light. It's mesmerizing. And it's only seeing the View 20 in the flesh that the full impact of its edge-to-edge screen sinks in, simply because it's so natural you'd hardly notice the lack of sensors on the phone face, and the small camera lens. The sensors have, in fact, moved to the phone's top edge. We'll have to see during the review if the placement has any effect on daily use.

Honor phones are often mid-tier, but the View 20 comes out swinging -- see the spec list below. You have a rear camera that can take pictures up to 48 megapixels, using AI technology to make a very detailed shot. Huawei talks about its 3D camera, which uses a time-of-flight sensor (a specific sensor technology) to take a depth map; that means the camera can separate the subject from the background, and manipulate them both. 

Now playing: Watch this: Dazzling Honor View 20 phone will dazzle you
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For example, one camera mode lets you slim down your subject. You can also connect the Honor View 20 to a monitor and play games you control with body movements. And a future update will combine an AI engine that knows what you're eating to a depth map that measures portion size to determine a calorie count.

You can take selfies up to 25 megapixels in size. There's no 3D sensor on the front-facing camera, but you can still make Huawei's version of iPhone Animojis by applying AR filters to your moving face (it's called AR Lens). There are also filters to light your selfies dramatically.

A huge 4,000mAh battery, 128GB of onboard storage and 6GB of RAM round out the specs. You can turn the microSD storage slot into a second SIM slot instead, and yes, the Honor View 20 does have a headphone jack. A Pro version will come in two other colors, including black, and has double the storage, 256GB, and 8GB of RAM.

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I took this 48-megapixel shot of the lion in the MGM Grand's lobby.

James Martin/CNET

As appealing as this phone sounds, the Honor View 20 faces tremendous challenge. A sub-brand of Huawei, the Honor division has long tried to create its own identity. That's never been more significant than now, when Huawei phones are discouraged or outright banned in some countries, including the US. It was exactly a year ago that government pressure caused AT&T and Verizon to pull out of a deal to sell their first flagship Huawei phone, and Best Buy stopped selling them altogether. Washington's growing political tension over trade tariffs could also have an effect on the Honor View 20's price, if it did appear in the US through third-party retailers like Amazon.

We don't have pricing or availability yet, but Honor promises to share that yet a third event, the Honor View 20's global launch set for Jan. 22 in Paris.

Honor View 20 specs

  • 6.4-inch display with 2,310x1,080 pixels (398ppi)
  • 48-megapixel rear camera and time-of-flight (TOF) 3D camera
  • 25-megapixel front-facing camera
  • HiSilicon Kirin 980 chipset (7nm process, octa-core)
  • Android 9.0 Pie
  • 128GB onboard storage (no expandable storage)
  • 8GB RAM
  • 4,000mAh battery, and quick charge
  • Dual-SIM capability
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Headphone jack
  • USB-C charger port

Originally published Jan. 8 and updated most recently Jan. 20, 2019.

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