Last year, Huawei stunned the smartphone world with the P30 Pro, which had the best camera you could find on a smartphone, alongside other strong specs. A lot has changed since then; most importantly, Huawei lost the privilege of shipping new phones with Google services, due to a U.S. trade ban.
On Thursday, the company launched the Huawei P40, the P40 Pro and the P40 Plus, but these phones also come without Google services, which, unfortunately, is the most important thing you need to know about them.
It’s a pity because Huawei’s new smartphones are beautiful and very powerful. The Huawei P40 Pro has a 6.58 OLED display with a “quad curve” design, meaning the display “spills” over all four sides of the phone’s rectangular shape. This makes the phone near bezel-less, though it is interrupted by a dual, 32-megapixel selfie camera, coupled with a depth sensor that gives the phone face unlock capabilities.
The display has a 2,640×1,200 pixel resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate, which Huawei claims is an ideal compromise (Samsung’s Galaxy S20 has a 120Hz refresh rate, but it only works at lower-than-default resolutions).
On the back, the P40 Pro has a quad camera with a 50-megapixel main sensor, a 40-megapixel ultra-wide sensor, a 12-megapixel telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom, and a depth sensor. The cameras are located on a massive bump, but it’s hard to complain about that given that nearly all modern flagships of today have a similar size abomination on the back.
The company claims the phone takes very good shots in low-light scenarios, and in less time than the camera on the iPhone 11. The hybrid zoom goes to 50x, which isn’t as far as Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra takes it, but is still plenty for most normal uses.
The phone is powered by Huawei’s Kirin 990 5G chip, and it comes with 8GB of RAM, and 128/256/512GB of storage. The 4,200mAh battery supports 40W wired charging and 27W wireless charging.
It’s worth pointing out that the P40 Pro fixes most of the pain points of the P30 Pro: It has a higher resolution screen and improved face unlocking capabilities. It lacks a headphone jack, though, but that ship has sailed for most smartphone manufacturers.
On the software side, the UI is Huawei’s EMUI 10.1, and — in place of Google Play — the phone comes with Huawei’s App Gallery app store. Huawei has been frantically populating its store with apps throughout the last year, but it’s still a far cry from Google Play.
The Huawei P40 Pro is just part of the story. The company also launched the Huawei P40, which has the same chip but a smaller, 6.1-inch screen, no front depth sensor, and one less rear camera. It’s got 6/8GB of RAM and 128/256GB of storage memory.
There’s also the Huawei P40 Pro Plus, which has a similarly curved, 6.7-inch screen, a Penta camera with a 50-megapixel main sensor, a periscope camera with 10x optical zoom, an 8-megapixel telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, and a 40-megapixel ultra-wide sensor. It has a larger, 5,500mAh battery, 8GB of RAM, and 256/512GB of storage memory.
All in all, the Huawei P40, the P40 Pro and the P40 Pro Plus appear to be very powerful smartphones, and I have no doubt Huawei’s cameras will be one of the best around. But without Google services —that means no Google Play, no Maps, no Gmail, etc. — none of this will matter to most customers in the U.S. and Europe.
Huawei’s new phones will be available April 7 in “selected” markets. The P40 starts at 799 euros ($877), the P40 Pro starts at 999 euros ($1,096), and the P40 Pro Plus starts at 1399 euros ($1,535).