Huawei has fast risen to become one of the world's biggest mobile players, ousting Apple for the number two spot in global smartphone sales in 2019. Just as it was getting going, however, the US-imposed ban took hold and has since hindered the company's otherwise unrelenting march towards the top.
The ban directly relates to the relationship between the US and China. Huawei was placed on the USA’s ‘entity list’ back in 2019, effectively banning trade between Huawei and any American company. This caused Google to cease trade with Huawei, and although the Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro run open-source Android, they were the first of the company's handsets that didn't come with Google Mobile Services (or GMS) preinstalled.
Sadly, we don't see this changing anytime soon, and that's bad news for the foldable Huawei Mate Xs and the new Huawei P40 range. They're all clearly capable phones and the company's Kirin 990 5G processor is no slouch either, but the lack of Google Play is a dealbreaker for many in the Western market. Huawei does offer its own alternative store, dubbed the App Gallery, but it pales in comparison to Google's offerings.
The good news is that all Huawei phones that originally shipped with Google Play Services will continue to get access to security updates, Google apps and services. That includes essentially everything up to the Mate 30 range, which arrived at the tail end of 2019.
Android drama aside, here's a selection of what we consider to be the best Huawei phones available to buy in 2020 - we'll add the P40 Pro+ once we've completed our full review.
Best Huawei phones 2020
1. Huawei P30 Pro
We love the P30 Pro. The design is top-drawer stuff, the display is outstanding and the cameras are truly some of the best ever seen on a phone, even one year on.
Prices have dropped since it launched early in 2019 and it’s great value compared to many rival flagships.
If you want to spend less (and get a little less), there's the Huawei P30 to consider too.
Do note that the P30 was announced before Huawei was put on the US trade blocklist and Google announced its decision to pull support; therefore, it continues to have full access to Google apps, services and security updates.
Read our full Huawei P30 Pro review
2. Huawei Mate 20 Pro
The Mate 20 Pro is a very good phone, and it's even better at the current discounted prices. The cameras will be the highlight for many people, but it really is a fantastic all-rounder with a top-quality screen, super-fast charging, wireless charging and excellent battery life.
The P30 Pro has even better (and more versatile) cameras but does cost a fair bit more.
Read our full Huawei Mate 20 Pro review
3. Huawei P30
Huawei's pitch for the P30 is all about its camera, and it's fair to say that the company has delivered. The Pro model may be one step ahead, but this version is still a match for plenty of high-end phones out there.
Low light and long-distance shots are where Huawei has really thrown down the gauntlet, with a combination of three great lenses and some software tricks that even Google's Pixel phones struggle to match.
The P30 also looks stunning, with a big display (and small notch), some lovely colourful finishes, and a seriously slim body. Plus, there's even a headphone jack.
If you want a phone with a phenomenal camera but can't justify dropping close to a grand in one go, the Huawei P30 is seriously worth a look.
Do note that the P30 was announced before Huawei was put on the US trade blocklist and Google announced its decision to pull support, and as such, continues to have full access to Google apps, services and security updates.
Read our full Huawei P30 review
4. Huawei P20 Pro
Although two generations old at this point, the P20 Pro is still a stunning phone. There are some niggles, such as a lack of stabilisation when shooting 4K video, no headphone jack and no wireless charging but if your priority is photography then the P20 Pro does not disappoint.
Add in the long battery life, dual SIM slots and great screen and you've got the complete package: this was one of the best phones of 2018 and is still a smart discount buy today.
Read our full Huawei P20 Pro review
5. Huawei Mate 20 X
The largest Huawei phone you can buy is every bit as good as the Mate 20 Pro, with practically the same specs.
You miss out on the same fidelity of display, water-resistance and wireless charging, but gain a headphone jack, physical fingerprint sensor and has a much larger battery.
If you watch a lot of videos or game on-the-go, then the X is a premium media dream. At 7.2in, it's too big for most people (and many pockets) but don't dismiss this Mate because of its size - we ended up loving it.
Read our full Huawei Mate 20 X review
6. Huawei P40 Pro
A superb follow-up to one of 2019's best smartphones. The Huawei P40 Pro excels in every area, offering top-tier performance with the latest 5G and WiFi 6 networking technologies, superb battery life and fast charging, a stupendous camera setup on both the front and back, plus an eye-catching 90Hz 'Overflow' display.
For everything the P40 Pro brings to the table, though, the experience is tarnished by the absence of Google Mobile Services and the workarounds needed to make the phone as easy or as enjoyable to use without GMS aren't all that accessible to the average user.
Read our full Huawei P40 Pro review
7. Huawei Mate 30 Pro
The Huawei Mate 30 Pro is a promising phone that offers everything you'd want in a next-gen flagship, but without the say-so from the US government, asking people outside of China to spend close to £1000 on a phone that lacks what is considered a fundamental part of the Android experience in most other markets, renders the Mate 30 Pro a tainted product that will likely perform far worse than it deserves.
Read our full Huawei Mate 30 Pro review
8. Huawei P40
The P40 is a great bit of the kit that, although missing out on some of the high-end features of the Pro and Pro+ variants, can still take on most 2020 flagships in terms of photography and raw performance, beating the likes of the Galaxy S20 Ultra in most benchmark tests. It's also a good-looking smartphone with a unique matte glass finish on the rear that leaves a soft-touch sheen, and the bright 6.1in OLED display looks crisp too.
Of course, the real issue is the lack of Google Play services. Huawei has undercut its rivals, offering a significant saving on flagship-level hardware, but you won't be able to access apps like Google Maps and YouTube. Huawei's alternative store, AppGallery, has come a long way in the past year, but it still doesn't have all the apps that Westerners use most.
If you're a confident techie that doesn't mind side-loading apps and working around a Google-less ecosystem, the P40 is a phenomenal phone at a great price, but if you just want something that works out of the box, we'd suggest going for another option.
Read our full Huawei P40 review
9. Huawei Mate 20
The Huawei Mate 20 may not have the headline features of the Mate 20 Pro, but it's an amazing smartphone in its own right. The 7nm Kirin 980 chipset beat most 2018 flagships in our benchmarks, the triple-camera setup on the rear takes crisp, detailed photos and the Dewdrop display provides an amazing screen-to-body ratio.
The only real issue is that the Huawei Mate 20 isn't officially available in the UK or US, so you'll have to get it shipped in from overseas if you want to get your hands on it.
Read our full Huawei Mate 20 review
10. Huawei Nova 5T
While some manufacturers are looking for a headline feature to stand out from the crowd, the 5T quietly prioritises everyday usage by mastering the fundamentals of a solid smartphone. The design is superb, cameras great and battery life better than expected.
We are missing some premium features here - wireless charging, expandable storage, OLED display - but it’s remarkable how quickly you can look beyond these when you use the phone regularly.
As a complete package, it has to be considered among the very best mid-range phones you can buy.
Read our full Huawei Nova 5T review
What should I look for from a Huawei phone?
The company has flagship devices in its P and Mate lines that are among the best smartphones out there. The P series is slightly more mainstream in its thinking, while the Mates are often photo-minded phablets with an undertone in business and productivity. That said, the lines are beginning to blur. Luckily, you're left with excellent phones either way.
Note that the Huawei P40 series is now official, with the regular and Pro models launching on 7 April. The Pro+, with its ceramic finish and five cameras, will arrive later in June.
We also love the four versions of the Mate 20 series - each with different price, design and features. The Mate 30 series is a great progression, with improved cameras, an incredible waterfall display and improved internals, but the lack of Google Play Services will put many Western users off.
The P Smart family is a cheaper way into the Huawei world and you may even want to look at an older P-series phone to save a lot of money. So long as you're comfortable with Huawei’s EMUI Android skin, as it changes the stock Android experience quite dramatically.
We are fans though - lack of Google Play aside - and Huawei has come from being a network equipment provider to a coveted consumer electronics brand in a matter of years. Mind you, it’s not short on cash.