At the end of March it is always time at Huawei: With the P series, the Chinese company is presenting its most important smartphones. While the Mate series with technology superlatives should attract the hardcore users, the P models with their focus on design and camera stand for success in the mass market. And in fact, the P40 just presented and its two Pro models are real eye-catchers, which should also set new standards for the cameras. But the lack of Google support hangs like a sword of Damocles over their success.
The hardware is again extremely successful. Huawei is pushing the borderless display trend even further, now bends the display over the edge on all sides, so that there is almost no frame left. The back is also rounded. This is how the chic device actually feels very good when you try it out for the first time. The overall impression, however, is more reminiscent of the Korean competition than its predecessors: the large, raised surface for the cameras, which looks very similar to that of the Samsung Galaxy S20, immediately catches the eye.
Big promise to the camera
The camera is Huawei’s biggest advertising focus again this time, the group calls the P40 “the new photo miracle”. After the trend towards more and more cameras in recent years, Huawei is sticking to its predecessor’s approach this time: The P40 brings a set of three with a conventional, a wide-angle lens and a 3x zoom lens. The P40 Pro has a telephoto lens with a 5x optical zoom instead of the telephoto lens. The biggest innovation is in the new Pro +: For the first time, Huawei has installed not only one but two zoom lenses in its telephoto lens. So it can zoom 3x and 10x optically, up to 100x is possible with the digital zoom. The two Pro models also offer a time-of-flight sensor that records depth information.
Huawei has also drilled the cameras inside out vigorously: the photo sensor is 1 / 1.28 inches significantly larger than usual on smartphones, so the pixels remain quite large despite the 50 megapixel resolution and can therefore absorb more light and image information. In the finished photo, the P40 models then each assemble a macro pixel from four smaller ones, so that the final images resolve to 12 MP. As with the P30, Huawei relies on red-yellow-blue pixels instead of the classic red-green-blue pixels, since according to the company this should enable additional light absorption. So despite the fairly usual f1.9 aperture on the main camera, even better night photos should be possible.
Like its competitors, Huawei also relies heavily on artificial intelligence to rework the images. The AI is supposed to optimize faces, skin color, facial lighting, hair and also the color temperature. In addition, according to Huawei, she was trained to recognize the best moment to record in a whole range of situations.
To do this, the camera records image information before and after triggering and evaluates it with AI support. Huawei wants to automatically recognize the perfect moment for taking pictures in seven sports – including football, skateboarding or ballet – but also in family portraits. In basketball that would be the highest moment of the jump, in the family portrait it would be the one in which everyone looks and smiles. You can also automatically remove people in the background. However, Huawei emphasizes that all of these features can be switched off.
In fact, the first test shots at night and when zooming were quite impressive. Whether the camera can actually keep the full-bodied promises will only be shown in a detailed test.
As usual with the P-series, Huawei is holding back on the other technical innovations. As with the Mate 30 Pro from last autumn, the processor is based on the self-developed and very potent Kirin 990; no details have yet been given on the memory configuration and battery. However, the runtime should be comparable to that of the very long-winded predecessor models, despite the display’s refresh rate increased to 90 Hertz. And: The fingerprint scanner, which is directly installed in the display, should be even faster.
Achilles heel Google apps
The biggest shortcoming of the P40 models is likely to be the still difficult Android situation. For a year now, the group has been banned from installing Google apps by the decision of the US government. Although you have alternatives on board with the Amazon App Store and your own App Gallery, there are by no means all the important apps. Huawei’s idea of installing Google apps such as YouTube or Maps as web links cannot unfortunately completely replace the apps. Even own services such as the Mee Time video telephony service, which is reminiscent of Facetime, cannot hide this fact.
For Android users who are used to the almost seamless switch between devices, the lack of Google apps – and also numerous others that are based on their functions – should become a major hurdle. How many people will really spend 799 euros (P40) or even 999 euros (P40 Pro) for precious devices if they feel like a compromise solution?
But customers still have time to think about it anyway. Because of the corona crisis, Huawei postponed the launch of the devices by several weeks. The P40 and P40 Pro, which will be available in Germany in black, silver and a little later in gold, will not be available until May 2, and the Pro + is not expected to follow until the second half of the year.