I used to work in a phone shop. Literally selling phones. It was a very enjoyable job. I’m sure a lot of that was down to me loving tech and chatting with people. I remember selling a few Huawei P8s and P9s back in the day. They were decent phones. Huawei started bringing some specs from the flagship-class into mid-range price points. It really shook things up a bit. Fast forward a couple of years and Huwaei have become a dominant smartphone maker mainly down to the incredible P20 Pro which launched a few years back.
Today Huawei launched the P40 Series, the latest in their popular series of photography-focused phones. My romantic intro there was triggered by me knowing that the P40 Pro could very well shake up the smartphone market again, just like the P8 did back in the day. While I’ve just started testing the P40 Pro out, here’s what it offers on paper and why it might just rattle a few cages.
Commence The Apple v Google v Huawei Battle
It’s always interesting seeing smartphone manufacturers battle but for years it was just the same cycle.
- Samsung launches
- Huawei launches a slightly higher spec phone than Samsung
- iPhone comes out, nowhere near the two but delivers great ecosystem so people love it
Because Google can no-longer officially support Huawei, the Chinese manufacturer has decided to go it alone with the Huawei AppGallery and Huawei Mobile Services. Right now, this does leave Huawei at a bit of a disadvantage as their AppGallery and app experience in general is remarkable given how quickly it’s been put together, but still leaves quite a bit to be desired for the vast majority of users.
The interesting thing right now is what happens if Huawei gets this right? What happens if they get all the app developers on board? Huawei has the potential to pose a threat to Google and Apple that Microsoft tried to pose with Windows Phone. The fact Windows Phone doesn’t exist any more also tells you the stakes are high here.
so beyond this issue which I feel, I’ve written about a million and one times, what does the P40 Pro look on paper?
What Phones Did Huawei Launch?
Huawei already launched the P40 Lite last month. I feel that was testing the water because they don’t usually split the launch of the P40 Series like this. Anyway, in addition to this phone, Huawei launched three others. Here’s the full P40 Series:
- Huawei P40 Lite
- Huawei P40
- Huawei P40 Pro
- Huawei P40 Pro+
The big one here and the one I’m going to focus on is the P40 Pro. Yep, I’m taking the Goldilocks approach. The P40 is too mid-range and the P40 Pro+ is too high end!
The P40 Pro Camera
The P stands for photography. People often ask me if Huawei can really succeed without the support of Google. My answer is always the same. They can if they improve the HMS experience a bit and keep nailing their smartphone camera hardware. The P40 Pro shows the start of Huawei building out the HMS experience and would also appear to be innovating with their photography hardware.
P40 Pro: Photography Software
I’m going to make an unusual callout here. One of the biggest developments for the Huawei P40 Pro is the Kirin 990 5G chip. The Kirin 990 chip featured in the Mate 30 Pro that I’ve been test-driving for the past while. The Mate Series always focuses on experience, design and build. It makes the odd sacrifice when it comes to the camera. But on the Mate 30 Pro, I noticed that photos were sometimes better than the P30 Pro.
Now, this might now sound like much but I remember that the P20 Pro always took superior photos than the Mate 20 Pro and that made sense. The game-changer for me has to be the Kirin 990 chip.
This chip powers the AI-assisted photography modes in the Mate 30 Pro. Little things like adjusting colours and white balance while also knowing how to differentiate between subjects and backgrounds of a photo for blurring and bokeh effects. I’ve never seen a phone handle this kind of smart assistance as well as the Mate 30 Pro. But why am I harping on about the wrong phone?
Well, the P40 Pro also has the Kirin 990 chip. In fact, it’s got the slightly upgraded Kirin 990 5G. Combined with some incredible photography hardware, I can’t wait to see what the P40 is capable of when I give it the full-on review treatment.
Huawei claims the P40 Pro will be able to take “studio-like” portraits and this will largely come thanks to the Kirin 990 5G chip onboard. This chip also lets you remove pesky passersby from the background of your shots too.
If you like shooting sports, the P40 Pro’s AI has been trained on seven different sports to know what the best shots are taking postition, gestures, emotions and the likes into account.
Finally, the AI does something really nerdy. If you’re like me and enjoy taking photos of old artefacts in museums, the P40 Pro removes reflections form photos when taking pictures of glass cases. It’s pretty niche, but again, it shows the power of that Kirin 990 chip.
Actually, speaking of hardware.
P40 Pro: Photography Hardware
As always, Huawei has once again teamed up with Leica to design their lenses. Leica building lenses is like Germans building cars. You just trust them.
The P40 Pro builds upon the exciting software innovations with some impressive hardware upgrades. On the rear, you’ll have a quad camera with what Huawei is calling their Visionary Super Main Camera (Wide Angle, f/1.9, OIS). Alongside this lens is a Cinematic Camera (Ultra-Wide Angle, f/1.8).
Zooming has become a bit of a trend these days. The zooming capability of the P30 Pro was scary, but sometimes a little useless because of how shakey your hands appear at long-range zooms. Huawei has tackled this with additional stabilisation that should make the long-range telephoto lens (f/3.4, OIS) much more user friendly.
Huawei has opted for the in-screen selfie camera on the P40 Pro which now has two front-facing cameras in the screen. The selfie camera is a 32MP lens combined with a depth camera too. The result should be some cracking selfies but only time will tell.
The in-screen camera is quite cool but I’ll need to wait and see if it ends up being distracting or not. With that thought placed to the side, for now, it’s time we talk about that screen.
P40 Pro Display
I thing the waterfall-style horizon display was one of the things that made me fall in love with the Mate 30 Pro in Munich. While the P40 Pro isn’t quite as dramatic, Huawei really didn’t want to waste any space when it came to their new display. The P40 Pro boasts a 6.58-inch display and a primary focus on killing bezels. You’re left with a really thin forehead and slightly thicket chin on the phone, but the amount of screen on show here is stunning.
The curved corners did take me by surprise a little, but beyond that Huawei has been bold enough in their design of this display.
While the display doesn’t pack enough punch to beat match that of the S20+, S20 Ultra or iPhone 11 Pro Max, it does beat the Huawei Mate 30 Pro from last year. It also brings a 90Hz refresh rate for crisper navigation and mobile gaming.
Other Key Huawei P40 Specs
I’m not going to dwell on these other features too much but they are certainly noteworthy.
There’s one thing that I will forever back Huawei for; battery efficiency. I’ve never seen a phone like it and that’s looking at a range of flagships over the years. By today’s standards, the P40 Pro’s 4200 mAh battery is far from remarkable on paper. However, I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of life I get from this 4200 mAh when paired with the impressive Kirin 990 5G chip and all the other AI-assisted power management on the P40 Pro.
I feel Huawei’s additional time invested in the likes of Huawei Mobile Services will lead to some serious innovation. One of these is AI Measure. What better way to measure social distancing that with your very own AI-powered smart ruler!
Huawei Music and Huawei Cloud
It’s all about the eco-system. The more services Huawei can get you bought into the less of a problem this whole Google-revolt thing becomes. That’s the warts and all side of the business. Make no bones about it, Apple and Google do the same thing while Samsung tries but just aren’t very good at it.
With the P40 Pro also comes added focus on Huawei Music and Huawei Cloud services. I’ll give these their own test in time, but did you know Huawei Cloud is run right out of Ireland? There you have it. Useless fact of the day.
Huawei decided everyone could use a little music in their lives right about now and have decided to make their new Music platform free for all Huawei phone owners for three months. This was a last-minute decision as it was initially only supposed to be for customers buying the new phone. Nice little touch there. Huawei Music will have 1,200,000 albums by 600,000 musicians from over 100 record companies.
5G By Default
This craic is well underway now. Samsung launched its S20 Series with a massive focus on 5G. It’s expected that Apple will do the same later this year. The P40 Pro is 5G by default. The model I’ve been testing out is actually dual-sim too so it’ll be interesting to see if all P40 Pro’s hitting Ireland are dual sim too.
Right now, 5G is offered by Vodafone and Eir while Three, Virgin Media, Tesco Mobile and Lyca have yet to make any move in this space. 5G is growing for sure, but its also not a massive attraction for most consumers right now. Still, it’s always nice to know your phone is future-proofed a little.
The biggest aspect of the Huawei P40 Series launch is knowing this is really the start of Huawei’s journey without Google Mobile Services. I’ve already been testing out the Huawei Mate 30 Pro purely to see what living with a phone without Google Mobile Services is like. If you’re interested in knowing what apps are available (yes Disney+ plus is there and it works) you can read all about it over in that article.
I predict that many will be underwhelmed by the AppGallery at first, but in a few months and certainly by the time we see the P50 Series hit the market, you’ll be impressed with how quickly Huawei got their act together on this. I’ve said myself I’m measuring them by Huawei Pay, a service that Samsung failed to bring their version of to mass market.
Where And When You Can Buy The Huawei P40 Series
The Huawei P40 Series is available to buy from April 7th 2020. I’ll come back and update this section once we know the price and range from Ireland’s smartphone retailers. It is worth noting that phone shops have been declared an essential service under current Covid-19 actions taken by the government. While there are more important things in life than phones, if you’re a nerd like me isn’t it nice to get the little lift of a new gadget!