Every year, Huawei drops a new phone that somehow foregoes the iterative upgrade of most big brands and instead introduces a device which feels like a brand new start. Back in 2018, Huawei’s P20 Pro was a phenomenal piece of technology that upped the ante and rewrote the rulebook on smartphone photography yet again, with the P30 Pro following a year later and adding plenty of unique features to the pot.
Here we are in 2020, and Huawei’s P40 Pro is once again the best piece of hardware that you can get your hands on when it comes to mobile technology. It is drop-dead gorgeous to look at, the internal technology is once again pushing the envelop on what these devices are capable of and every time I take a photo with a professional photographer from the 1990s hangs up their camera because it simply isn’t fair that I can do in seconds what it took them years to learn while out in the field.
The Huawei P40 Pro is a simply amazing piece of technology…that I cannot recommend to anyone in its current state.
Let’s talk about the orange-skinned elephant in the room that’s desperately trying to convince you that it has an amazingly normal-sized trunk, maybe even bigger than the average it’s super you’ll see. Thanks to the United States suddenly popping a hate-boner for China and Huawei in particular, their latest phones have been cut off from Google Services, apps and games.
It’s a devastating blow for the tech giant, one that makes the P40 Pro hard to recommend in this day and age despite it having hardware that puts it at the top of the smartphone food chain. Think of it this way: Imagine you were handed the keys to a Ferrari 488 Pista, but there was a catch: It shipped with its fuel cap welded shut. All the power right there, none of the software with which to truly make use of it.
That means that the P40 Pro has no Twitter, no Instagram. No Facebook and zero other Android apps that you’ve come to know and love over the years. It’s a tragedy as Huawei has been well aware of how its users communicate via photos and video, resulting in phones that produce the best media possible in today’s ever-evolving smartphone age.
Not having access to Google’s library is a killer blow and a stark realisation of just how much we depend on these services for day to day business. Now yes, with a little bit of digital trickery (plenty of tutorials for this exist online already), you can break the digital barrier and get those services running on the P40 Pro, but it’s still a massive hurdle and one that the vast majority of people can’t overcome.
To their credit, Huawei has focused heavily on creating their own app ecosystem, one that is beginning to gather a heavy local presence with the likes of Showmax supporting the shift. It’s still not enough though, at least not in its present state and it’s going to take a solid year of constant updates and additions before Huawei has a product which can rival that of the Google library.
And that’s an absolute shame, because the Huawei P40 Pro is a phenomenal piece of technology to hold in your hand. Carrying on from the days of the P20 series, Huawei’s latest flagship is a sexy beast, available in various colours. The screen itself boasts a ore subtle waterfall curve over the edges, the bezels a few microns thinner and housing a 2640 x 1200 resolution with a 90Hz display.
That translates to a bright display with incredibly vibrant imaes that happen to be sharp enough to block a katana if it was swung at your head, with the rest of the phone having an economic selection of buttons: Power and volume options, with a dual-SIM tray hidden within. On the back, the design has taken an odd turn: An absolutely massive camera bump, although Huawei’s latest partnership with Leica is understandably chunky.
Huawei’s phones have always prioritised their camera tech, knowing full well just how important a visual language is in today’s connected world. The P20 and P30 lines have seen massive upgrades over the years, from Master AI assistance to triple lens photography bumps in quality and the best dang night ode you could hope for in a low light situation.
Every time you think smartphone photography cannot get any better, Huawei is there to raise the benchmark and the P40 Pro is no different as it continues to scrape the ceiling of what’s current possible. On a technical level, there’s some amazing stuff under the hood. What you’ve got is a ginormous 1/1.28-inch 50-megapixel primary camera sensor, a 40-megapixel ultrawide-angle sensor, a 12-megapixel telephoto camera and a 3D depth sensor.
The end result, are photos which are incredibly detailed and can easily be framed in an art gallery even if you’re an absolute layman when it comes to being a shutterbug. The dual phase-detection autofocus also means that pictures are sharp across the board and an unreal bokeh effect. I still think Huawei could stand to put some more effort into how it handles ultra-wide photography as the lens isn’t as uniformly sharp as what I’d want it to be, but that’s more of a technological limit than anything else.
As for the front camera, the dual lens offering may be noticeable when compared to other manufacturers opting for a more covert hole-punch approach, but it takes a damn good portrait and should please anyone looking for some Instagram glory. Here’s a brief gallery of what I captured, while under lockdown:
Other than that, there’s not much more to say about the P40 Pro. Its battery life is once again excellent and will easily last a day before you top it off back to 100% while you make a cup of coffee, it’s single speaker has a punchy output and the Kirin 990 processor can handle just about anything that you throw at it. The Neural Processing Unit is pretty smart stuff, and I wish I could test the 5G modem inside of it properly just so that I could make my 2011 incarnation cry when he had to make do with a 3G modem back in the day.
There has been some criticism on the benchmarks that the P40 Pro can achieve in resource-intensive use, although it’s worth noting that this could also be the case of these apps being installed from outside of official store options and thus compatibility issues raised its ugly head. In any other year, Huawei would be the primary contender for the best smartphone of the year, but the lack of Google options on it (through no fault of their own) only serves to dull the edge of an amazingly sharp phone.
Every year Huawei manages to do something new and never feel boring, but the P40 Pro is hamstrung by its exclusion on the world smartphone stage thanks to jealous American politics.
The Huawei P40 Pro is the bleeding edge in smartphone technology, a bulging flex of hardware muscle with no real outlet with which to show off its impressive tech pecs. As an indicator of the future, Huawei’s got a confident headstart on the competition when it comes to setting a physical benchmark for a smartphone. But on the software side of the story? It’s a reminder that all the technology in the world means nothing if the software inside of it cannot rise to the challenge.
Last Updated: June 10, 2020