The Huawei P40 range is official, with Huawei unveiling the largely-leaked P40, P40 Pro and P40 Pro+ at a livestreamed virtual launch event. Although the P40 Pro and Pro+ have incredible features like the OverFlow display, quad- and penta-camera setups and 40W wireless charging, the standard P40 has a lot going for it too, as I’ve found out after using the unreleased smartphone for the past 24 hours or so.
Here are my first impressions of the Huawei P40 - the good, the great and the disappointing.
It’s a looker
The Huawei P40 is a stunning smartphone, there’s no doubt about it, sporting a combination of glass and aluminium that stands out from the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S20 range. On the front, you’ll find a bright 6.1in display complete with dual-holepunch camera cutouts, and although present, the bezels that surround the display are thinner than what you’ll find on the iPhone 11 range.
But it’s when you flip the phone over that you’re truly dazzled; the Huawei P40 comes in Silver Frosh and Blush Gold, two new finishes that add a soft-looking matte finish to the glass rear. But it’s not simply a matte finish - Huawei has designed the rear to be both matte and reflective simultaneously, so while the rear looks largely frosted, you can just about make out the reflections of your environment too.
Oh, and you’ve got the added bonus of the soft-sheen finish being able to hide fingerprints pretty well too.
It’s hard to put into words, as you might be able to tell, which is why you should watch my Huawei P40 unboxing to get a real idea of what I’m talking about here. Both the P40 and P40 Pro boast the same Silver Frost and Blush Gold finishes, along with standard Ice White, Black and Deep Sea Blue glass finishes if the matte finish doesn’t float your boat.
But while the P40 is a great-looking smartphone, it just doesn’t have the wow factor that the OverFlow display of the P40 Pro and P40 Pro+ provides. I accept that there needs to be something to differentiate between the standard and Pro models, so I can let that slide, but the 60Hz nature of the phone - compared to 90Hz on other models - is a much harder pill to swallow.
A powerful camera setup
Of course, I can’t talk about the P40 without addressing that camera bump. It’s simultaneously great and annoying: the large bump means that the phone doesn’t sit flush on a table, rocking back and forth, but the diamond-cut volcano-esque form factor that widens out as you get to the base of the bump looks oddly gorgeous.
It’s a small detail you’re likely to miss if you don’t know it’s there, but it’s certainly a favourite of mine, and the fact that the landscape camera system is housed in a single piece gives it a more complete finish than some competitors. The good news is that a case should largely remedy the rocking issue, although I haven’t been provided with a case to say for sure.
The bump is there for good reason too; the P40 houses the same main 50Mp RYYB sensor as the P40 Pro and Pro+ that Huawei claims is larger and more advanced than any other smartphone camera sensor on the market right now, providing higher light intake, better dynamic range and lower noise.
From what I’ve seen over the past 24 hours, that is largely true; the shots I’ve taken on the 50Mp rear sensor are amazingly detailed and well-lit, even in challenging environments. The newly-introduced Octa PD AutoFocus offers near-instant focus adjustment, allowing you to take photos of moving subjects like kids and animals without any kind of blur, and there’s no hint of shutter lag either - probably something to do with the inclusion of the flagship Kirin 99- 5G chipset and 8GB of RAM to play with.
The P40 also sports a 16Mp ultra-wide camera and an 8Mp 3x telephoto lens with OIS to improve stability when zooming in, and while they aren’t quite up to the quad- and penta-camera setups found on the Pro variants of the P40, they seem fairly capable so far.
But what about apps?
Huawei has done a lot with AppGallery since May 2019 when it lost access to Google Play Services. The store itself is well-built and app installs are largely instantaneous thanks to Huawei’s expertise in networking tech, and although it’s still lacking the biggest and best Android apps, it is improving. You can now find apps like Amazon Shopping, Microsoft Office, and Snapchat on AppGallery, and it’s possible to use other stores like Amazon’s Appstore or sites like APKMirror to install apps that aren’t currently available on AppGallery.
And, if you’re coming from an Android phone, you can use Huawei’s Phone Clone app to transfer compatible apps to the P40 - even if they aren’t available in AppGallery. It’s not a perfect solution, as you won’t be able to easily update apps transferred via Phone Clone or those downloaded online, but it is a solution for those that really want to use the Huawei P40 with their favourite apps in the west.
I really like the Huawei P40 so far - the design is eye-catching, especially the Silver Frost finish, the cameras (especially the main 50Mp sensor) capture impressively detailed images and it’s blistering fast in operation no matter what you’re doing - but it’s not the perfect high-end flagship, missing key features like wireless charging, the quad- or penta-camera setups of the P40 Pro and Pro+ and the curved display tech Huawei has used in much of the recent Mate and P lines.
It’ll all depend on pricing, but that’s something that Richard Yu likes to keep to himself until the press conference, so I can’t say much about real value for money right now. What I will be doing is using the phone as my daily driver over the next couple of weeks, and I’ll be writing a full review very soon, so keep an eye out for my full thoughts on the Huawei P40.
The P40 will be released on 7 April with a price of £699 (or 799 Euro), getting you 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.