​Hands-on with the Honor Magic 2

The Honor Magic 2's retractable slide is sturdy, smooth, and less gimmicky than expected -- the phone comes in gorgeous colour schemes that will likely successfully woo the millennials that it is aimed at.

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The Honor Magic 2's back cover can slide up to reveal the front cameras

(Image: Cho Mu-Hyun/ZDNet)

The Honor Magic 2 seems practically designed for a hands-on review. It makes a strong first impression, thanks to its retractable slide, full screen, and admittedly gorgeous colour schemes.

It also offers reasonably high specs -- including an in-display fingerprint sensor, 6GB of memory, and 128GB of storage -- for its price of 3,799 RMB (roughly $550). However, it is the Honor series' most expensive device yet, with Huawei seemingly testing the boundaries of its sub-brand.

It isn't magic, but retractable slide is awfully fun

The Honor Magic 2 is not the first smartphone to try the slide-out camera feature. Oppo's Find X also had a slide-out camera, where the camera tray slid up between the front and back covers to reveal the hidden cameras. In that case, the slider popped out and back in when turning on and off the camera app.

The Magic 2's execution is different: The whole rear cover of the phone slides up and down. It's not done by mechanics, but with your fingers. Only the front cameras are hidden, with the rear cameras firmly staying in the back cover.

Feature phones have made me suspicious when any mention of slide is associated with them. But I must admit, the Magic 2's slides are awfully fun. Sliding back and forth is smooth and can be done with one hand. When the slide is retracted, it feels sturdy enough.

President of Honor George Zhao stated that simplicity was a priority in designing the slide, and the company has definitely learned from Oppo's earlier attempt. It is also a testament to Honor's engineering team. Xiong Junmin, general manager of product at Honor, says the phone will also have its own cover accessory that surrounds the sides and top, and leave the bottom open for the slide, so it will definitely be cool to see.

That being said, long-term use is another question, both in utility and durability of the slide feature. There was no mention of the phones being water and dust proof, and they probably aren't.

The true test of the durability of the slides will be with long-term use, especially in the pockets of pants. Zhao showcased a new feature where pushing the slide to unveil the front cameras will automatically load the camera app, thereby compressing the usual steps of unlocking the phone, pressing the camera app, and turning the front camera into one step. It definitely is convenient, and will be welcomed by selfie junkies.

The slide is also there to offer the full, notch-free screen. In the black version, the benefits are apparent. We will have to see how much further hardware can evolve to pack light sensors and front cameras without the need for a notch.

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Sliding back and forth is smooth, sturdy, and fun

(Image: Cho Mu-Hyun/ZDNet)

Gorgeous colours

The Honor Magic 2 has a similar back design to the Huawei P20 Pro, but the colour scheme is much better. The phones come in black, blue, and red, and use a gradation scheme where the colour starts lighter in the top and becomes darker near the bottom. When the slide is pushed up, the revealed and protruding back is even darker in colour, so the gradation effect is still there. The black version grades to grey, the white to blue, and the red to pink. It is likely that Honor will add new colours if the Magic 2 proves to be popular.

The colour scheme goes well with the smooth and glossy design of the back cover. Fingerprints are noticeable, but it isn't smudgy, and transparent covers will likely be offered to offset them. Honor's main audience is, in the company's words, the younger generation, and the colour will definitely woo those who increasingly find smartphones as an expression of who they are, especially in China.

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Honor Magic 2 boasts a gradation colour scheme

(Image: Cho Mu-Hyun/ZDNet)

Solid specs and Yoyo

The Honor Magic 2 boasts reasonably high specs for its price range. It packs two triple cameras: 16 megapixels, 24 megapixels, and 16 megapixels for the rear, and 16 megapixels, 2 megapixels, and 2 megapixels for the front.

It is powered by the 7-nanometer octa-core Kirin 980, and has either 6GB or 8GB of memory, 128GB or 256GB of storage, and a gorgeous 6.39-inch AMOLED display running at a resolution of 2,340x1,080. It has a 3,400mAh battery and an in-display fingerprint sensor. The phone also offers a voice print service, used in sync with FlyPodsPro Bluetooth earphones, where users can unlock and activate their phones using their voice.

The phone also comes with its newly christened artificial intelligence (AI) virtual assistant Yoyo, which, according to the company, can check skin conditions using the front camera, identify objects, call for help in emergencies, and offer navigation. Yoyo, which with deep learning evolves to cater to personalised needs, can be moved when consumers purchase a new smartphone.

This litany of features must be tested on how convenient and effective they are, with similar features being offered by competitors. But the fact that Honor can pack all of this into a mid-range phone is quite impressive.

Global pricing has not been made available, but the Honor Magic 2's relatively higher price than its predecessors -- the phone comes in four variants, and the priciest, which offers 8GB of RAM and 512GB of ROM and a 3D scanner, costs 5,799 RMB, hovering just below the premium end -- such as the Honor Play will test whether the brand can settle at the higher end of the mid-range globally to escape the razor-thin margins that helped propel it to Huawei's most important smartphone brand in Asia.

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Honor Magic 2 packs many features: Its virtual assistant Yoyo can analyse the skin conditions of its users, give them a grade, and recommend treatment

(Image: Cho Mu-Hyun/ZDNet)

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