Huawei unveils new P40 smartphone range with high-end P40 Pro+ to take on Samsung

Smartphone cameras are getting bigger and more sophisticated in 2020, if the new releases from Samsung and Huawei are anything to go by.

In a livestream conference today, Huawei unveiled its new smartphone range, the P40 range, as an upgrade on last year’s P30. You might remember the P30 range was the last one the Chinese company released with Google’s Android operating system before US president Trump banned the company from working with US corporations. 

The P30 Pro was a great phone, but the P40 Pro looks even better.  The big question is, will it be able to compete with last year’s Android device when it comes to sales? Here are the specs and information you need to know about the new Huawei P40 range.

Huawei P40: Meet the new smartphones

There are now four phones in Huawei’s P40 range: the P40 Lite, which has already been announced, the P40, the P40 Pro and the P40 Pro+. 

The Pro+ version is new for 2020, and you can think of it as the competitor to Samsung’s S20 Ultra smartphone. Though it’s the same size as the normal P40 Pro, it does feature some improved camera specs which we’ll go into further down the page. 

Huawei P40: Design

Design-wise, the P40 Pro and Pro+ phones are the same size as last year’s P30 Pro, with a 6.58-inch screen, full edge-to-edge display and a slightly curved screen which fits nicely in your hand. The P40 is slightly smaller, with a 6.1-inch screen. 

The new P40 Pro and Pro+ devices feature dual selfie cameras on the front of the devices (Huawei)

Instead of the central selfie camera notch, there are two selfie cameras which have been shunted to the left-hand side of the screen in a punch-hole design, not dissimilar to last year’s Samsung Galaxy S10+ device. Some think this takes up a lot of screen real estate, but we’ll wait to try it in practise before deciding.

The screen features a 90Hz refresh rate, Huawei says it doesn’t need to go any higher than that, so the phone should be fast and smooth when switching between apps or playing games. It hopefully won’t drain the battery too much either. 

The device will come in a few different colour variants: ice white, black, deep sea blue, as well as two matte finishes which will be silver frost and blush gold. There’s no confirmation yet which colours will be coming to the UK, however. 

Huawei P40: Camera

The P range is all about the cameras, and the P40 is no different. Huawei has invested a lot into the sensors on the P40 Pro and Pro+ devices, so they will capture lots of detail and light in the images. 

The front cameras include a 32MP selfie camera, which can also capture 4K video, and a depth camera to create great portrait selfies. 

On the back of the P40 Pro, there’s a 40MP ultra-wide-angle lens, a 50MP ultra-vision wide lens, a 5x optical telephoto lens and a time of flight depth sensing camera. Huawei has gone for a horizontal block to house all these lenses, it’s not dissimilar to the design route Samsung took with its S20 phones, however it is smaller in practise. 

Each phone in the Huawei P40 range will feature 5G tech (Huawei)

The lenses feature enhanced optical stabilisation so you can actually hit 50x zoom in an image and get a stable picture if you really want. The AI algorithms in the camera software have been improved too so the software will recognise if you’re shooting pets, food and the night sky for instance and adjust accordingly. Huawei’s night photography has always been excellent and the company says it should be even better with the P40 Pro cameras. 

The software improvements come in handy in other ways. There’s a new Best Moments feature which allows you to shoot a range of images and then the AI will work out which is the best image depending on the scene, whether that’s trying to take a portrait image or a basketball shot. The AI will also minimise your reflection in an image if you’re trying to photograph something in a museum or through a window, and it can either eliminate a passerby in case someone walks through the background of an image. This is a really interesting feature and should be fun to try out. 

The camera is where the Pro+ model differentiates. It also includes a 3x optical and 10x telephoto zoom lens, which can produce a 100x zoom image like Samsung’s S20 Ultra device. Huawei says these two telephoto lenses will work together to capture detail for zoomed in photos so you won’t miss any detail. 

Huawei P40: Specs and software

The devices will run Huawei’s Kirin 990 chip, which means each phone will be 5G-capable. You can run 4G on it too if you’re not ready to fork out more for an extra contract but the 5G option is available if you need. 

The phones will also sport Huawei’s EMUI 10.1 operating system. Due to the company’s battle with the US government, there will be no access to the Google Play Store or Google apps. Huawei is investing a lot of money to expand its own app store but there are ways to get around this thanks to its PhoneClone app.

If you have an Android phone, during the set up process you can use the PhoneClone app to port over all your apps, including WhatsApp and Instagram, which aren’t yet available on Huawei’s App Store. It doesn’t work for things like Uber and Citymapper, because they depend on Google’s API for their map functions, but in practise it’s successful. 

Huawei P40: price and release date

The Huawei P40 Pro is a gorgeous looking phone and the camera tech is definitely something. But is there enough to convince consumers to step out of their Android/iOS comfort zone? Ben Woods, chief of research at CSS Insight, thinks this will hinder the company’s efforts. 

“Taken at face value, the P40 Series smartphones tick all the boxes on specs and features,” said Woods. “Huawei has raised the bar again with its camera technology and other elements. However, the elephant in the room remains the inability to support Google’s applications and services as a result of being on the US Entity List. This will unquestionably limit Huawei’s ambitions with these new products.”

If you are in the mood for a shiny new phone then prices for the P40 will start at £699 for 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, with prices for the Pro starting at £899 for 8GB RAM and 256GB storage at the Carphone Warehouse. Pre-orders are available between now and April 6, and Huawei will throw in a pair of its FreeBuds 3 wireless earbuds too.

The phones will go on sale officially on April 7, though if it’s the P40 Pro+ you’re interested in, you’ll have to wait for Huawei to announce the pricing and availability for that. 


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