Last year, Huawei released their first smartphone without Google's Mobile Services (GMS), but that phone, the Mate 30 Pro, never made it to these shores.
I attended its launch in Munich in September 2019. While we were told at the time that there would be a pre-Christmas launch in Ireland, it simply never happened.
Fast forward to this week and the launch of the new Huawei P40, P40 Pro and P40 Pro Plus, again without GMS. However, the big difference between now and when the Mate 30 was launched is that Huawei now has a serious alternative to GMS - Huawei Mobile Services or HMS.
It’s still early days for HMS and it will take time for all our favourite apps to reach the Huawei App Gallery. Only time will tell how successful it will be in a world without Google for those who choose new Huawei devices.
A usable, working version of an alternative to GMS is a good thing for both us the consumer and the industry at large because the competition is what drives innovation and competitive pricing.
We need brands pushing each other to keep them honest, creative in developing new technologies, designs and alternative solutions.
Without it, companies become complacent and can charge whatever they want. We absolutely need companies like Huawei to keep pushing the boundaries of mobile photography, videography, 5G, and innovative features that we have come to expect from each new smartphone they launch.
The P40 marks the return of the photography centric range from Huawei since the P series has always complemented traditional camera design.
This is why they use a horizontal design for the cameras on the rear - to stay in keeping with what we’d expect from a normal compact camera.
The new overflow display provides a full edge-to-edge screen that is easy to hold without fears of accidental touches. Screen sizes range from 6.1-inch (2340x1080) on the standard P40, 6.58-inch (2640x1200) on the P40 Pro and P40 Pro+.
Although not the 120Hz of phones like the new Samsung S20 line, all three models of the P40 will have 90Hz refresh rates for smoother app and gaming performance.
There’s a new in-screen fingerprint sensor with an increased area up by 30%. Also, the unlocking speed has been increased by 30% too! This is a welcome improvement. I generally use fingerprint and face-unlock as a backup method of unlocking my phone.
Huawei has been a trendsetter in its colour options but this year’s flagships are more muted. Colour options include Ice White, Black, Deep Sea Blue and also Silver Frost and Blush Gold in a matt glass finish, which won’t be as fingerprint-prone as the other colours.
The P40 Pro+ will come in an option of Black and White ceramic, which Huawei says takes up to five days to produce the finish.
The P40 only gets an IP53 rating while the P40 Pro and Pro+ gets the full IP58 waterproof and dust rating.
Huawei said at the virtual prelaunch that if the camera lens is like our eyes, then the camera’s sensor is its retina.
This was the precursor to them saying that the sensor in the P40 is the most advanced and largest ultra vision sensor on any smartphone to date.
The new sensor is a 1/1.28-inch type boasting 50MP RYYB. This means it’s a big sensor by normal smartphone camera sensor standards. It boasts the highest light intake, higher dynamic range and lower noise.
In general, this should be true as the bigger the sensor the larger the photocells and the more each cell can absorb light.
A new Octa phase-detect autofocus means much faster focusing acquire times, even in low light.
There’s a new third-generation AI image engine, the Huawei XD Fusion Engine, which improves things like hand-held Super Night mode and Super Resolution. It also assists other AI-based computation tasks for improved results.
The P40 has a 3x optical telephoto lens 8MP (80mm in 35mm equivalent) with up to 30x digital zoom. The P40 Pro has a SuperSensing lens at 12MP with 5x optical, 10x hybrid and 50x digital.
The P40 series has an all-new Huawei AIS + OIS for improved telephoto image stabilisation. Long-range will now be easier thanks to advanced object tracking capabilities too.
P40 Pro+ has the most complete and professional smartphone camera system in the P40 lineup. It boasts a 3 Superzoom array with a 3x optical telephoto plus a 10 X optical telephoto super periscope lens design. This has a whopping 100x digital zoom that is capable of rivalling or perhaps being even better than the Samsung S20 Ultra.
Next gen AI photography
With the Ultra vision Camera system + Powerful Kirin 990 SoC advanced NPU AI capability, Huawei claims Studio like portrait shots and features such as AI Best Moment, One Shot 4K live photo, Real-time AI processing, and an option to Share as GIF/JPG/ MOV.
Capture the best moments works by capturing before and after you press the button.
It can detect if there’s a passerby in the background of a say a group shot and automatically, take them out of the frame. It will also remove annoyances like reflections on windows or glass.
There are dual selfie cameras on the front, which can record 4K video at 60fps.
The rear cameras feature Audio Zoom, Steady Telephoto, ISO 51200, 7680fps super-slow motion, HDR, 4K timelapse and video capture up to 4K at 60fps.
The P40 series will be powered by the latest Huawei Kirin 990 5G G5 Soc, powered by 7nm + EUV. The CPU and 5G are all on a single chip, which is designed to keep power consumption down and save on battery life. Huawei claims the Kirin 990 5G has the world’s first 5G NSA and SA SoC with 16-Core Mali-G76 SoC.
The 5G network in Ireland will continue to expand and reach more areas and as more phones like the P40 get released with 5G we will see the potential and greater need for it. The P40 will support more 5G bands and come with a standard nanoSIM and e-SIM support. It also supports WiFi 6 Plus with speeds up to 2,400Mbps possible.
Huawei is introducing Huawei Music with more than 50 million high-quality soundtracks. That’s 1,200,000 top albums, 600,000+ top musicians and 100+ best record companies according to Huawei. Huawei Music will be available for free to Huawei smartphone users for the first three months.
Pricing and availability
P40 Series will be available to purchase from 7th April across multiple Irish retailers. Launch offer includes; Free Freebuds 3 (value €179), €50 Huawei Points card, 12 month’s free 50 GB Huawei Cloud Service, 3 month’s Free Huawei Music streaming service in addition to Huawei’s VIP Service.
The P40 is €799 with 8GB+128GB, the P40 Pro €999 8GB+256GB. The P40 Pro+ will be €1,399 and available from June. These prices may vary when launched here in Ireland.