2019 was a bit of a rollercoaster for Huawei. From the highs of the P30 Pro, which was universally well received, to the lows of the unfair US trade ban, which prevents the company from doing business with crucial companies such as Google.
The ban is still in force, which basically means Huawei can't ship phones with Google services and that is a major problem for most of the western world which won't accept paying top whack for a flagship Android phone without YouTube, Gmail, Play Store and the rest of it. After all, it's the available apps which make a phone useful to you... or not.
And this leaves us with rather mixed feelings about the upcoming Huawei P40 - or P400 if Huawei decides to change things around with the naming strategy.
It's sure to be a great handset with innovative features and better-than-ever cameras (we'll get to the spec rumours - see below) but if you're stuck with Huawei's app store and no Google services, then the handset itself is rather a moot point.
In any case, Huawei will launch the successor to its P30 flagship in March 2020. At least that's the word from Richard Yu in an interview with French media. There's a small chance it will be unveiled at MWC, though, as Huawei has already sent out a save-the-date email for a product briefing on 23 February in Barcelona.
We expect the P40 to be joined by Pro and Lite models, and probably also a 5G variant.
Here's the current state of the rumours at a glance:
- P40 Pro will have a five-camera rear array with a 10x optical zoom PLUS two front selfie cameras
- P40 Pro could have 6.5in screen with 120Hz refresh rate
- Standard P40 model will have the three cameras of the P30 Pro
- Graphene battery tech will not make an appearance
- Will use Kirin 990 processor
When is the Huawei P40 coming out?
Huawei typically opts to launch its flagship after MWC when its news won't be lost in all the hype of the Galaxy S11, Xiaomi Mi 10, LG G9 and so forth. In 2019 we saw the company unveil the P30 on 26 March, and it went on sale on 5 April. Expect something similar in 2020, not least because that's what Huawei's CEO has said will happen.
Following the P40, we expect Huawei to launch the Mate 40 series in September or October 2020.
How much will the Huawei P40 cost?
Pricing for the P30 family at launch began at £699/€799/US$599 for the standard model and £899/€999/$899 for the Pro. This was a £100 jump over their predecessors, which could mean we'll see a £100 hike in 2020. Certainly expect to pay more for a 5G version.
No Google services for P40
Huawei has revealed its Harmony (Hongmeng in China) OS, and it's possible that Huawei's 2020 flagship will run this rather than Android. The company has also recently shown off its alternative to the Google Play Store, Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) 4.0, at a London event in an effort to persuade developers to write apps for its platform.
That may only be true in China, though: the Mate 30 runs an open source version of Android 10 but without Google services preinstalled. Given that the company seems set for a global release of the P40, we expect it to go for this approach in a European / American model, albeit with more polished Huawei services.
In theory, Huawei could persuade developers to make their apps available through its own app store, but that is a long shot the company is unlikely to pull off - and certainly not by the time the P40 launches.
It might not be called the P40!
We're less sure on the fact that the P30 successor will be the P40, however. Huawei likes to keep us on our toes with the naming of its flagship phone family.
After the P7 it dropped the 'Ascend' moniker, but continued in numerical order with the P8 and P9. When the P-series hit double-digits it jumped straight from P10 to P20, and then in 2019 to the P30. In 2020 it follows that we'll see a P40, though the company has reportedly trademarked the names P300, P400 and P500, right up to P1000, so the next Huawei flagship could instead be a P400.
At IFA 2019 Huawei unveiled the Kirin 990, which is the chip that will surely power the P40.
Appearing first in the 19 September launch of the Huawei Mate 30, the Kirin 990 SoC builds in a 5G modem. It also comprises an eight-core CPU and a 16-core GPU, plus a triple-core NPU that's used for AI. The latter is improved over that of the Kirin 980 with two big cores and one new tiny core that uses hardly any power.
In design, things will stay mostly the same, but the screen notch may well be ditched in favour of a punch-hole cutout or pop-up camera, and the edges are reportedly more squared.
The renders below appeared towards the end of December (via 91mobiles) and show a bigger, rectangular camera bump on the P40 and P40 Pro.
This design was backed up again in January 2019, with similar renders appearing to do the rounds on Twitter.
The P40 Pro's display may also be increased to a Quad- rather than Full-HD+ resolution, though we find Full-HD+ screens are not uncommon among Chinese phone makers who hope to keep down the price and promote long battery life. Plus, according to an Indian leaker on Twitter (reported by WinFuture), it will stick with that familiar 2K resolution but bump up the refresh rate to 120Hz.
That's twice the 60Hz which most phones run at, and is a feature also expected to arrive with the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S20 and OnePlus 8.
The current P30 Pro features four cameras, but in the P40 Pro we're told there could be a fifth sensor, making this the second penta-lens camera phone behind the Nokia 9. It's not all that out there, either, given that Huawei's P-series is known for its excellent photography capabilities.
Recent reports suggest the Pro's main camera will use a 52Mp custom Sony sensor, which for very low-light shots will be able to use 'Quad Quad Bayer' pixel binning to combine two 4-in-1 pixel conversions to create 16-in-1. Standard daylight shots will adopt 4-in-1 conversion.
The standard P40 is unlikely to get this upgrade, though, and may stick to the triple-lens array of the P30, potentially with enhanced dual-selfie cameras.
Reliable analyst Ming-chi Kuo reckons the P40 Pro will have the first 10x optical zoom in a phone, as reported by Macrumours. Oppo's Reno 10x Zoom actually uses the same hybrid tech as the P30 Pro to achieve that zoom level, so isn't a true 10x optical zoom - in case you're wondering.
The renders above appear to suggest that Huawei will be sticking with the Leica technology for its cameras, and that the lenses will be arranged vertically. It also looks like we'll be getting a dual front-facing camera, in the form of a hole-punch into the screen. However, this design looks remarkably similar to the Samsung Galaxy S20, so we'd take it with a pinch of salt.
Again, here's the current state of rumours for the P40 Pro rear cameras:
- 52Mp main camera
- 20Mp ultra-wide-angle camera
- 12Mp 10x periscope zoom camera
- Macro camera
- ToF camera (for depth sensing)
There were rumours that the P40 might move to the much-vaunted graphene battery technology. This would allow capacity (and therefore runtime) to increase while at the same time taking up less space inside the phone and facilitating a super-fast charge time of well under an hour.
However, Huawei has stated that this isn't happening as the tech simply isn't ready.
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