Huawei has announced three new phones – the P40, P40 Pro, and P40 Pro Plus.
However, as with all recent Huawei phones, you won't be able to buy these devices in the US through any carriers or retailers. Nor will the devices themselves be able to access Google's Play Store. Nonetheless, the phones still pack in some impressive features that are worth taking a look at, as Huawei is a brand genuinely pushing the latest in smartphone tech.
Here's everything you need to know about the Huawei P40 series.
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Huawei P40 Pro
The P40 Pro sits in the middle of the newly-announced range and costs €999 ($1,100). It's probably the most interesting model in the series, and it's likely to be the most popular, as well.
Let's start with the screen. It uses a 6.58-inch OLED display with a 1,200×2,640 resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate — so far, so normal from a purely numbers perspective.
The P40 Pro's screen is unlike any phone display we've seen before
However, the P40 Pro's screen is unlike any phone display we've seen before. Most high-end Android phones, such as the Oppo Find X2 Pro, have curved sides. The P40 Pro's screen curves at the top and bottom as well as on the sides. The Chinese company calls it an “Overflow Display,” and claims that you'll hardly see any bezels. Early hands-on images, though, suggest that isn't quite the case.
Huawei, as usual, was keen to talk up its photography prowess at the launch and talked us through the cameras on the front and rear. Round the back, you get a 50Mp wide angle lens, a 40Mp ultra wide lens, a 12Mp telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom, a time-of-flight sensor for improved depth perception, and a color temperature sensor. That's a lot of hardware.
You get a 50Mp wide angle lens, a 40Mp ultra wide lens, plus a 12Mp telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom
Round the front, you get a single front-facing camera, but two extra sensors giving it a Samsung S10 Plus-style pastille-shaped cutout. The camera is a pretty straightforward 32Mp lens with autofocus, while it also gets an infrared depth sensor and an “ambient & proximity sensor,” though there's little detail on quite what that will do for your photography.
The P40 is powered by a 4,200 mAh battery with 27W wireless charging and 40W wireless charging — that should mean very fast charging. It also uses Huawei's latest 5G enabled Kirin 990 processor and 8GB of RAM, so it should have heaps of power.
The P40 Pro should be available on April 7.
Huawei P40 Pro Plus
The P40 Pro Plus, as you'd expect, is like the P40 Pro, but has even more over-the-top hardware.
Never mind claims that Huawei is snooping for the Chinese government – the zoom capabilities of the P40 Pro Plus camera make it a snooper's phone par excellence
Huawei claims that the phone has the world's first “Multi-Reflection Super Periscope Telephoto.” We don't know what that means exactly. But, we do understand that regardless of claims that Huawei is snooping for the Chinese government, the P40 Pro Plus itself a snooper's phone par excellence — it has a 10x optical zoom, a 20x hybrid zoom, and a 100x combined zoom. If the phone were available in the US, we'd expect NASA to start using it to monitor distant stars.
Beyond that remarkable zoom, there isn't actually that much difference between the P40 Pro and Pro Plus. It gets the same front camera setup, the same processor and RAM, and the same screen. It does get 512GB of storage, though, which is twice as much as the P40 Pro.
The other difference is that you'll get 40W wireless charging and 27W reverse wireless charging.
So, what's the price premium? An additional €400. This means the P40 Pro Plus would cost around $1,540 — yikes. Huawei is quoting a June release for the P40 Pro Plus.
The P40, despite costing €799 ($880), is the baby of the range. The 6.1-inch 1080×2340 display is completely flat — not even the sides are curved — which might make it a more appealing option for some. Sadly, it doesn't get a 90Hz refresh rate and has to make do with a standard 60Hz.
It gets the same processor and RAM as the other two phones, although storage is decreased to 128GB.
It has the same 50Mp wide angle main lens as the other two phones and the same color temperature sensor. It has a lesser 16Mp ultra wide camera, compared to the other two phones, and a lesser 8Mp telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom. However, these should be more than enough to get the job done.
Round the front, you get a 32Mp selfie camera without autofocus (boo). There's also no infrared face scanner on the front, so you'll have to make do with an in-display fingerprint reader. The P40 should release on April 7, like the P40 Pro.
Android Open Source and No Google Play
Of course, the biggest question around Huawei's phones is the software.
The P40 series all run Android 10 from the Android Open Source Project. However, this isn't the same Android you'd find on, say, the Google Pixel 4 series. It's a free-to-use version that isn't tied to Google.
This means Huawei can, effectively, make any alterations it wants to the software. But it also means the phones won't be able to access the Google Play Store or use any Google services. As a result, Huawei has had to develop its own app ecosystem called AppGallery.
What's more, the company has already managed to create replacement apps for everything in the Google suite of tools. For example, MeeTime is a voice and video call app with screen-sharing. It has even created a new voice assistant, Celia, which supports English, French, and Spanish. It'll apparently be able to carry out basic tasks such as making calls to more advanced AI stuff such as shopping.
Don't think Huawei is looking for a quick fix though. According to Ben Wood, the chief of research at CCS Insight, the company “has committed to spend $1 billion globally as part of its “Shining-Star Program” to support and incentivise app developers.”
There might not be much point in American or European buyers choosing a new Huawei phone, given the lack of Google services — but it looks like the Chinese company doesn't really care.