The Huawei P40 Pro was destined to be, like its predecessor, one of the most interesting phones of 2020. The incessant advance that Huawei has made in recent years in fields such as photography or design aspired to culminate in this new model, which It would once again rival Samsung and Apple in the highest segment of the market.
But in mid-2019, the United States arrived, the imposition of the veto and the impossibility of using Google services (including the Google Play Store) on the phones that the brand launched on the market from that moment. The story is widely known: The United States accuses Huawei of having ties to Chinese intelligence services, of spying on American citizens and corporations, and therefore of putting the country’s security at risk. Huawei has repeatedly denied these facts, but the United States remains firm in its position. The arguments that the North American country has publicly exposed on this matter, yes, have been quite limited for the moment.
In any case, the situation derived from this conflict is that the commercial relations between the American companies and Huawei do not flow as might be expected in 2020. And that also affects, as I said previously, commercial transactions with Google, the main driving force behind the platform. Android and owner of Google Mobile Services.
In the European market, lacking Google services is a major obstacle. The Mountain View company’s products are, in many cases, the standard in European society.
In the European market, lacking Google services is a major obstacle. The Mountain View company’s products are, in many cases, the standard in European society. When you want to watch a video, you go to YouTube. When you need directions to a place, check Google Maps. And when you want to download an application, you go to Google Play Store. There are alternatives, but probably none are as solvent, effective, and popular as Google’s.
Huawei, despite this situation, is confident that it can overcome this great obstacle. For this reason, the company has put the Huawei P40 Pro up for sale and, in parallel, it has started to promote Huawei Mobile Services, including its own application store known as the App Gallery. The idea is simple, but, in turn, it is complex to execute successfully. And it will also be complex to convince a person to pay around 1,000 euros for a product in which, as it comes out of the box today, they will not be able to enjoy many of the applications to which the owner is used.
Despite this, Huawei wants to try their luck. And for this, it has built a very solid product that, as in previous generations, seeks to open a gap between the most respected teams in the sector, such as the Galaxy S20 family or Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro.
Aesthetically, the Huawei P40 Pro is a product that draws attention. The curved glass in four directions –which dominates the front– gives it a different look than its competitors, although it is not necessarily a better design in itself. The back, on the other hand, itself is an indisputable success. The matte finish glass is very pleasant to the touch; the rear photographic module layout is well resolved; and the new range of colors transmits greater security, elegance and timelessness than the strident gradients of the previous generation.
The Huawei P40 Pro features a curved OLED screen on the sides, like many other high-end smartphones. Aesthetically it can be striking, but there are scenarios in which, functionally, it subtracts. For example: some elements of the interface go into the curvature (such as keyboard keys), making it difficult to press. For future versions, it would be positive to reduce the radius of curvature or simply do without it.
Another characteristic feature of the screen is the double perforation through which the front cameras emerge. This solution is successful, as it allows the screen to be extended a little more towards the edges. The only problem in this case is the size of the perforation, which is somewhat visually intrusive. That said, its large size is not a matter of chance: inside it, multiple sensors live, not only with a front camera – as it happens in the Galaxy S20.
Regarding the quality of the panel itself, the 6.58-inch OLED of the Huawei P40 Pro offers a good image quality, although it remains one step behind other products such as the Galaxy S20 Ultra or the iPhone 11 Pro, whose screens OLEDs have been recognized as the most advanced in the industry in terms of color accuracy, brightness levels, etc.
The screen has a 90 Hz refresh rate, which greatly enriches the experience of using the product. Everything feels much more fluid.
As far as color representation is concerned, the Huawei P40 Pro activates by default an image mode that supersaturates colors to attract consumer attention. This practice, also visible in other competing models, turns out to be an error, since it leads the user to make incorrect photographic edits, ends certain nuances in the reproduction of multimedia content, etc. The setting can easily be changed in the device settings, but it would be nice if, by default, the Huawei P40 Pro displayed neutral and lifelike colors, rather than loud and unnecessarily flashy tones.
The screen, in addition to the aforementioned, has a refresh rate of 90 Hz, which greatly enriches the experience of using the product. Any movement or transition that takes place on the interface is much smoother, more continuous and fluid. The rate, however, is not as high as the 120 Hz of the OnePlus 8 Pro or the Galaxy S20 Ultra, which set the tone in this regard.
The aforementioned feeling of fluidity is also contributed by Huawei’s Kirin 990 SoC, the most advanced to date in its catalog. This chipset does not outperform other SoCs such as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 or Apple’s A13 Bionic, but in practice, this difference is barely noticeable. Whoever uses the Huawei P40 Pro will probably be pleasantly satisfied in this regard.
A notable performance-related change is the inclusion of UFS 3.0 memory, which makes all write / read tasks on device storage run faster. In 2019, some models began to incorporate this component, and now Huawei also gets on that train.
The Kirin 990 SoC also enables the 5G connectivity that many operators are deploying during this 2020. In the case of Huawei, the modem is integrated within the SoC, unlike the Qualcomm proposal, which represents a notable step in terms of miniaturization and energy consumption. The Huawei P40 Pro, in addition, are compatible with the standalone standard, with the non-standalone standard and with technologies such as DSS, so you can connect to both current and future networks. The only absence in this regard is the compatibility with mmWave bands, although the majority of European operators are not deploying this type of network at the moment, so it should not be a problem in the short term.
As far as autonomy is concerned, the behavior of the Huawei P40 Pro is quite solid. It will not lead the absolute rankings, but it does remain in the same range as other teams such as the iPhone 11 Pro or the Huawei P30 Pro, both recognized for their great autonomy.
When necessary, in addition, the user can recharge the battery of the Huawei P40 Pro using the USB-C cable (up to a maximum of 40 W) or through a Qi wireless charger (up to 27 W). This means, therefore, that the Huawei phone is able to recharge extremely quickly regardless of the method the customer wishes to use. The only thing you will need, however, is a charger capable of supplying a high level of power.
If there is one aspect in which Huawei intends to attract attention, that is the photography. The photographic proposal that the Huawei P40 Pro brings with it is extremely effective and versatile, rivaling the best in the sector in the vast majority of situations.
The backbone of it all is the 50-megapixel sensor, which not only has higher resolution, but is also larger. This is the most organic and natural way to improve a camera and get better results, making it a very wise decision.
In very dark environments, the P40 Pro captures much more light than its direct rivals. The difference is surprising.
The strengths of this sensor, the RYYB matrix, and the various systems involved in the photographic process are especially noticeable when shooting photos in very dark environments. In those situations, the P40 Pro captures much more light than its direct rivals. The difference becomes surprising.
In those situations, the Huawei P40 Pro also offers the popular night mode, which allows you to extract a little more light from the scene. However, there are situations in which the main sensor, with the night mode inactive, produces photographs with more detail, better lighting and more balanced than those captured with the night mode active.
In daytime photography, Huawei has made a breakthrough when it comes to color treatment. The new processing algorithms generate more neutral, true-to-life, and pleasing images, which is a very positive step. Still, I think the iPhone 11 Pro algorithms are still a step above when it comes to handling certain details related to lighting, color, textures, etc.
In addition to the new main sensor, the P40 Pro has a five-magnification telephoto lens that offers lots of gameplay to the user, not only because of the ability to get close to very distant objects, but also because of the way it alters perspective. The results are also good, especially in favorable light conditions.
This zoom can be combined, as in previous models, with digital cropping up to 50x. Up to 10x magnification, quality is quite good if light is abundant.
Huawei has made a breakthrough when it comes to color treatment. The new processing algorithms generate more neutral, true-to-life, and pleasing images, which is a very positive step.
Regarding the wide angle, it offers very good results both in detail and in interpretation of the scene. Of course: its focal length is greater than the wide angle of the Galaxy S20 or iPhone 11 Pro, so the “fish-eye” effect is less pronounced.
All this, in addition, is complemented by a ToF sensor that helps to cut subjects accurately when taking photographs in portrait mode. The treatment of skin tones, in this mode, has improved, although models such as the iPhone 11 Pro follow a small step forward.
Life without Google
As a product, the Huawei P40 Pro is very solvent. It may not be the most avant-garde in each and every aspect, but, in a parallel universe in which the conflict between the United States, Huawei and China did not exist, this smartphone would be one of the most interesting phones this year. It would have, yes, more competition than ever at your side: the usual products of Samsung and Apple and, in addition, the new proposals of Oppo and OnePlus, which have started 2020 with great force.
However, that is not the reality that we live. The P40 Pro lacks Google’s services, and although Huawei’s efforts are having an effect – there are more and more popular applications in the App Gallery – the way to go is still long. And yes, there are alternative methods that allow you to install applications that are not available in the Huawei store, but all carry some commitment, either on the security side, on the update side or at the sacrifice of some functions of the application.
In a parallel universe in which the conflict between the United States, Huawei and China did not exist, this smartphone would be one of the most interesting phones this year.
Unless you are a fan of the brand, have the necessary will and know how to install all the applications you need while minimizing the risks, the Huawei P40 Pro is not a recommended purchase. It doesn’t matter how good your camera is, how long the battery lasts, or how well the SoC performs if there are no easily accessible, secure, and properly optimized apps to squeeze those capabilities out.
Differentiating yourself in price would have been a way of slightly tilting the balance in your favor, but that’s not the case either. The Huawei P40 Pro is marketed for around 1,000 euros, a window similar to that of products such as the Galaxy S20 +, the OnePlus 8 Pro or the iPhone 11 Pro, which do not suffer this setback and, therefore, constitute a better purchase option.