Huawei’s P40 Pro: Incredible photos but few places to share them

27 Mar 2020

The Huawei P40 Pro. Image: Huawei

The P40 Pro may have a game-changing camera, but is that enough to draw in customers who are sceptical about the absence of Google apps?

This week, I got my hands on Huawei’s new P40 Pro. The device’s finish is as attractive as any other major competitor on the market right now, with one of the larger camera modules you will see on a flagship phone.

While the phone is very long, it’s thin enough to make typing and navigating apps a breeze. It’s a very sleek device with a good weight to it, making the handset feel as though the €999 price-tag might be justified. With four cameras between the rear and front, I was first interested in seeing how photographs taken on the P40 Pro looked.

Indeed, the photographs were impressive and I was really taken aback by how well-defined the images were even with the phone’s unrivalled optical zoom. The edge-to-edge display on the 5G-ready device looks really good too.

However, after spending a lunch break stuck at home playing with the phone’s camera, walking around the house enthusiastically showing it off to my family (who probably didn’t find it half as exciting as I did), reality set in.

The Huawei App Gallery

We need to talk about the elephant in the room, which will likely be mentioned in every single review of this device. Last year, Google confirmed that it was cutting off Huawei’s Android hardware and software licence – meaning that this phone does not have the Google Play store.

The phone doesn’t feature any of Google’s apps in the new Huawei App Gallery, including key apps such as Google Maps, Google Chrome, Google Photos, YouTube and so on.

While the Huawei App Gallery is missing many other apps that some may consider indispensable, such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Spotify and Netflix, there are still some big names available including TikTok and Snapchat. This may be great news for teenagers, but not-so-great news for pretty much anybody else, unfortunately.

A bright blue phone screen background with an orange pattern on it and the clock displaying the time.

The Huawei P40 Pro’s display. Image: Huawei

Here’s a longer list of the apps that are missing from Huawei’s App Gallery, including Discord, Duolingo, Twitch, BBC News, Microsoft Outlook, eBay. You can still download Just Eat – but not Uber Eats or Deliveroo.

However, it is worth noting that there are workarounds to get many of these apps onto the device without downloading them from the Huawei App gallery, as it is an Android device after all.

As genuinely brilliant as the camera is, I couldn’t help but wonder what the point of it was if you couldn’t share photos with family and friends as easily as you can on other Android and iOS phones at the same price point. What I will say though, is that it’s a great phone for anybody who wants to step away from Google and Apple.

Huawei does offer alternatives to the well-known Google apps. In the place of Google Maps, Huawei offers its own GPS navigation app. I can’t say I’ve gotten much use out of this while social distancing and working from home, so I’m not the best person to decide how it holds up against Google Maps, or even Apple Maps for that matter.

The P40 Pro’s camera

While largely stuck within the confines of my home, there were only so many ways I could test out the camera. As Huawei’s product announcement on Thursday (26 March) revealed, there’s so much more to the P40 Pro’s camera than I initially realised.

Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group, took to the stage at the global launch event where he outlined some of these features. Huawei described the P40’s technology as its “most powerful Ultra Vision camera”.

The company put a particular emphasis on its Ultra Vision sensor at the reveal, noting that it’s a whole new area of technology for the company. The smartphone’s camera can use AI to help users select the best shot, and can also remove unwanted strangers from the background of photographs.

This is definitely a feature I’m excited to try out on my next trip outside for groceries.

A black mobile phone with a large camera module on the back.

Image: Huawei

The phone also has an audio zoom feature, which enables users to zoom in on sounds and record them at a louder volume. For instance, if you see a busker on a busy street, you can zoom in on them and focus the audio recording on whatever music they are playing. Huawei’s P40 Pro also boasts a 40MP Ultra-Wide Cine Camera, which allows users to film high-quality zoom footage and 4K time-lapse videos.

Besides the camera, the P40 Pro has nearly everything else you could want in terms of hardware, with 5G and Wi-Fi 6 compatibility, and convenient fast charging with the company’s SuperCharge technology. Whether that hardware alone is enough to sway users from other Android and iOS devices is yet to be seen.

The P40 series goes on sale in Ireland from 7 April, with a launch offer that includes a free pair of Huawei’s wireless Freebuds 3, 12 month’s free 50GB Huawei Cloud Service and a free three-month subscription to Huawei’s music streaming service, which serves as an alternative to other well-known streaming services. The phone’s launch deal also includes a €50 Huawei points card, according to the company.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic