The P40 Pro is Huawei’s latest high-end phone, but it lacks Google certification. What do you notice about this? And is the smartphone worth buying? We find out in this extensive Huawei P40 Pro review.
Huawei P40 Pro
List price € 999, –
Colors Black and silver
OS Android 10
Screen 6.58 inch OLED (2640 x 1200) 90Hz
Processor 2.86 GHz octacore (Huawei Kirin 990)
Storage 256GB (expandable)
Battery 4,200 mAh
Camera 50, 40 + 8 megapixel + depth sensor (rear), 32 megapixel (front)
Connectivity 5G, 4G (LTE), Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi 6+, GPS,
Format 15.8 x 7.3 x 0.9 cm
Weight 209 grams
Other Waterproof and dustproof, wireless charging, 3D face protection, e-sim
Website www.huawei.com/en 6 Score 60
- Good and versatile cameras
- Excellent hardware
- Design and functions
- No Google certification is problematic
- Busy EMUI software shell
- Unclear update policy
Huawei presented the P40 Pro in late March as the successor to the P30 Pro, which caught the eye last year with its excellent camera performance, long battery life and impressive hardware. The P40 Pro needs to perform better in all areas and adds new features like 5G support. Unlike the competition, Huawei does not make its latest top device more expensive than its predecessor. The P40 Pro costs 999 euros, the same as the P30 Pro at the time. The reason is simple; the P40 Pro lacks a Google certification and therefore Google apps, the Play Store app store and Google Mobile Services (GMS). How bad that is, you can read in this review.
No Google certification
The P40 Pro and regular P40 are not certified by Google because Huawei is not allowed to do business with American companies. The U.S. government imposed this trade ban on Huawei in May 2019 for accusing the Chinese tech giant of espionage. No public evidence has been provided to date. The Mate 30 Pro, which was released in the Netherlands in January, was the first Huawei smartphone without Google certification. I tested it at the time and wrote in my Mate 30 Pro review about all the limitations of a Google-less Android smartphone. Since the software of the P40 Pro on paper and in practice is almost identical to the Mate 30 Pro, I will not completely write down my findings again. Below you will find the main points of attention of the software of the P40 Pro.
When installing the device, you cannot log in with your Google account and it is best to use Huawei’s PhoneClone app. However, it is much less complete than Google’s backup and restore function. Above all, create a Huawei ID or log in if you already have one, because this is how you can install apps from Huawei’s AppGallery app store and, for example, find your lost smartphone remotely. That’s not an unnecessary luxury, because Google’s Find My Device app doesn’t work on the P40 Pro. The same goes for apps like Google Photos, Netflix and NPO. These kinds of apps work in the background with GMS, the technical software services that are missing from this Google-less phone.
AppGallery store is still very empty
In any case, you can not officially install and use Google apps at all. There are detours, but Google and Huawei strongly advise against them. The latter hopes to make Google apps available through its AppGallery store, but at the time of writing there is no more to report about this. For now, you can only use Google services through their websites, which is not ideal. You install other apps from the AppGallery, but it is still fearfully empty.
Facebook, Netflix, Instagram, WhatsApp, NS Travel Planner, banking apps and much more are all still missing. Huawei will navigate you to the app’s site if possible to install the apk file, but an app won’t be able to update itself automatically this way. CEO Richard Yu recently announced that Huawei needs one to two years to greatly increase the range of apps in AppGallery.
Update policy and possible post-certification
The lack of a Google certification also raises questions about the update policy of the P40 Pro. Huawei has not yet made any clear statements about this, something that it did when the P30 Pro (with Google certificate) was introduced. The absence of an update policy does not inspire confidence. Normally, Google, the developer of Android, works with a manufacturer to make Android updates compatible with smartphones. Huawei is not allowed to do that because of the trade ban.
Suppose tomorrow that the US government decides to lift the trade ban and that Huawei and Google may work together again; what then? Can Google still certify the P40 Pro and bring Google services to sold devices via an update? Techzle asked Huawei this question weeks ago and is still awaiting a substantive response. This also does not create positive expectations.
Apart from the Google troubles, the P40 Pro’s software isn’t great either. Huawei puts its EMUI shell over the Android 10 software. EMUI differs significantly from the standard Android version and has many additional functions, pre-installed apps and settings. That had been the case for years, but the lack of Google services has been reason for Huawei to focus even more on its own services and those of partners. An understandable choice, but the implementation could have been better.
In my review of the Mate 30 Pro, I wrote: “The incomplete software and the resulting mediocre user experience prevent me from recommending the Huawei Mate 30 Pro and that is a pity. The Mate 30 Pro itself is an excellent smartphone. ” As far as I am concerned, the first part of this conclusion also applies to the P40 Pro, however unfortunate it is. But how good is the P40 Pro as a phone? Of course I tested that too.
The update policy of the P40 Pro is uncertain.
Huawei P40 design
The exterior of the P40 Pro can be seen. The glass device looks luxurious, feels solid and lies comfortably in the hand due to its curved back. The phone is heavy at 209 grams. Huawei sells the P40 Pro in multiple colors, including silver. With its matte finish, it would hardly show fingerprints, but that is not entirely true.
The smartphone is waterproof and dustproof, has an infrared sensor to control suitable equipment and uses a USB-C port to charge and listen to music wired. A 3.5mm headphone jack is missing. The camera module on the back of the smartphone is large and protrudes slightly from the housing. Not ideal with regard to scratches and wobbles when the device is on its back and you touch the screen. A cover is recommended.
The screen of the P40 Pro impresses, but also has quirks. At 6.58-inch, the display cannot be operated with one hand. I personally do not think that is a flaw, but a point of attention. The OLED screen shows beautiful colors, shows a sharp full-HD resolution and uses a 90Hz refresh rate for smoother images.
More and more smartphones have a 90Hz display, although there are also models in this price segment with an even better 120Hz screen. In the past, all phones had a 60Hz screen. A higher refresh rate provides a more pleasant image, but also consumes more power. With 90Hz, Huawei has found a good balance between the viewing experience and battery life in my opinion. Behind the display is also a fast and accurate optical fingerprint scanner.
I am less charmed by the large camera hole in the top left corner of the screen. Two selfie cameras and an infrared sensor hide in this hole. With these cameras, you can take beautiful selfies and you can protect the smartphone with reasonably advanced facial recognition. All fine, but the hole is especially present in width and distracts somewhat. You will also see fewer notification icons in the – much narrower – bar. Another point of attention are the sharply curved vertical screen edges, which can be annoying because a small part of your screen content slopes.
As you would expect from a 999-euro smartphone, the P40 Pro has excellent hardware. The Kirin 990 processor and 8GB RAM make the phone a speed monster. However, devices with a Snapdragon 865 processor are even better suited for heavy gaming.
The storage memory is nice and spacious with 256GB. With a somewhat exotic NM card you can increase the storage memory. The P40 Pro has 5G support, so it will soon be able to use 5G internet.
The 4200 mAh battery lasts a day and a half without problems and charges quickly with the included 40W plug. If you use a different USB-C plug, charging will be slower. The P40 Pro can also charge wirelessly with up to 27W, but only through Huawei’s own charging station. You can also use another wireless charger, but then you need more patience. By placing a product that can charge wirelessly on the back of the P40 Pro, the latter gives its power to the other product. For example, you can charge your AirPods Pro or electric toothbrush. Nice but not a very useful function because you can not use the P40 Pro during this charging process.
Cameras: a comprehensive test
The P30 Pro made a big impression last year with its excellent triple camera. With its primary 40-megapixel camera, the smartphone managed to shoot much better photos in the dark than the competition. The periscopic zoom camera let you zoom five times without loss of quality and ten times with excellent results. A good wide-angle lens was also provided.
With the P40 Pro, Huawei wants to take photography performance to a higher level. The primary camera has been upgraded to 50 megapixel and should allow even better night photography thanks to a bizarre large sensor. The zoom lens has also been addressed and would take sharper photos with the new 12 megapixel camera. The technical operation of the zoom camera has not been tinkered with. The P40 Pro thus offers the same functions as its predecessor: five times optical zoom, ten times hybrid zoom and up to fifty times digital zoom.
Those who hoped for more or better zoom should wait until June, when Huawei releases the 1399 euro P40 Pro + with ten times optical zoom.
The past week I have extensively tested the cameras of the P40 Pro, also compared to its predecessor. And yes: the P40 Pro takes better photos at night than the P30 Pro. The difference is not dizzying, but the pictures look more natural and have more detail. Also compared to other expensive smartphones, the night photography of the P40 Pro is impressive. Below you see two photos taken on automatic mode.
You can also see the special night mode in action below. On the left a photo taken with the automatic mode, on the right one with the night mode. Night mode takes more realistic pictures and takes about five seconds to take such a picture.
Even during the day, the camera of the P40 Pro stands its ground. The photos look sharp, colorful and realistic.
And if you want to get a picture of the wide angle camera; he makes a wide photo. On the left the normal camera, on the right the wide-angle lens.
The zoom functionality of the P40 Pro works – as expected – also excellent and remains a very valuable functionality. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S20 and iPhone 11 Pro, Huawei’s smartphone can zoom much further without sacrificing quality. The quality difference with the P30 Pro is a lot smaller and differs per position. With five and ten times zoom, the P40 Pro usually does a bit better, but zoomed in from the camera app (fifty times) I usually find the photos of the P30 Pro better. Although blurry, they are more realistic than the pictures of the P40 Pro, which more often look like an oil painting.
See below the comparative photo session of a reel with the P40 Pro first, followed by the P30 Pro.
Another example, where I zoomed in on the swimming swans. Above the P40 Pro, below the P30 Pro. Pay special attention to the color of the water. The P40 Pro manages to retain the bluish color better with the zoom, while the water looks fainter on the photos of the P30 Pro.
Finally, a comparison with the focus on a stationary tractor / tractor. Again you see above the P40 Pro and below its predecessor.
Conclusion: Buy Huawei P40 Pro?
The title of this review betrays it already: the P40 Pro is a teased top smartphone. The device has everything to make it difficult for the Samsung Galaxy S20, iPhone 11 Pro and OnePlus 8 Pro, but limps on one leg. The lack of a Google certification makes the P40 Pro so difficult to use and produces such an uncertain update policy that I write with a heavy heart that most people can better ignore the Huawei P40 Pro. If Huawei can eventually have the phone certified by Google, that may change. Whether that will actually happen, however, remains a matter of coffee for the time being.