Huawei P40 Pro: I went hands-on (but not eyes-on)

Usually, when I get the chance to go hands-on with a new phone, it’s a given that I go eyes-on with it, too. That wasn’t the case with the Huawei P40 Pro. I certainly did go hands-on, but the phone was inside a sealed box. To hold it, I had to put my hands through gloved holes. The Huawei P40 Pro has been in my hands, yet I’ve never laid eyes on it.

While blindly fondling the P40 Pro, several Huawei product experts dropped hints about the new phone without giving away much and talked about what Huawei has planned for the App Gallery app store.

Huawei P40 Pro in my hands

What makes me certain it was the P40 Pro? I’ve already tested the Huawei P40, and the device in Huawei’s mystery box had a larger camera bump on the back, which felt more in-line with recent P40 Pro leaks. The camera bump was wider than the P40’s bump, but approximately the same length. It was smooth to the touch, so I couldn’t tell how many camera lenses were inside it. The rest of the phone felt identical to the P40 I held, with physical buttons, softer edges making it comfortable to hold, and the same intriguing curved base as the P40, too.

There’s a Huawei P40 Pro in there, somewhere Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends.com

Yes, the Huawei P40 Pro’s camera bump is going to be large. But because it’s an oblong and not square, it will at least look different than the camera bump that defines the iPhone 11 Pro and the Google Pixel 4. It did not feel as prominent and comically giant as the one on the back of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. However, because the rest of the design feels close to the P30 Pro, the P40 Pro’s camera bump may be what separates the two generations at a glance.

That isn’t a bad thing. After all, the Huawei P-Series smartphones have always focused on professional-grade photography for people who aren’t photographers, and the P40 isn’t going to change that.

Huawei P40 camera bump. The P40 Pro’s will be wider. Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends.com

“Photography is the core DNA of the P-Series,” a Huawei product expert told me at the briefing. What will the P40 series bring new to the table? Huawei isn’t saying much at this stage, but it wasn’t shy about its ambition and did drop some hints.

Huawei’s “Eagle Eye” camera

The Huawei P40 Pro, and perhaps the P40 too, will use the second generation of Huawei’s periscope zoom tech. That could mean an even better optical zoom length than the 5x offered by the P30 Pro. During a short presentation, Huawei drew comparisons between its camera and the eye of an eagle, emphasizing resolution, clarity, and the ability to see far away things up close. Maybe we’ll even see the P40’s camera referred to as the Eagle Eye?

I was assured the P40 Pro’s camera wasn’t just going to be the zoom, and that we can expect the overall experience to be improved using Huawei’s established and always-improving artificial intelligence, and the power of its Kirin 990 processor.

Additionally, given the time, effort, and investment it put into the RYYB sensor technology on the P30 Pro and Mate 30 Pro, I expect this to make a return on the P40 Series.

New materials and the App Gallery

What about the rest of the phone? It seems the P40 Series will introduce a new material used in its construction, and further hints were dropped that it has no intention of letting those which have leaped aboard the “phones in a pretty color” that Huawei started get away with such cheek. The Mate 30 Pro had an attractive vegan leather option, the Mate 20 Pro came with the cool textured finish, and the P30 Pro’s burning amber and breathing crystal colors are some of the most stunning we’ve seen. The P40 series will look to improve upon this.

Finally, we come to the software. The P40 won’t come with Google Play, or any of Google’s services, and instead relies on Huawei’s growing App Gallery store. Another Huawei product expert laid out its intentions with the App Gallery clearly, saying it wants to create an alternative app ecosystem that sits alongside Google Play and the iOS App Store. The App Gallery is already the third most popular app ecosystem globally anyway, with 400 million monthly active users. But can it really take the next step and be a true competitor?

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends.com

The product expert said it has the marketing and regional knowledge to ensure the, “best choice of local apps,” are available, and that it’s working closely with developers to “build a usable app store for Huawei phone owners.” Huawei is not a newcomer to making a successful app store, but taking on the might of Apple and Google internationally will be a challenge.

One interesting new feature is Huawei Quick Apps, which seem to operate like Google’s Instant Apps. This means you don’t install an app, but still get an app-like experience from a compact web-based program. These may be a short-term solution to convincing big-name brands to invest time and effort into putting popular apps inside the App Gallery.

When is the Huawei P40 coming?

Huawei will announce the P40 Series on March 26. We are expecting the P40 and the P40 Pro, and there are rumors about both a P40 Lite and a P40 Pro Premium Edition too. The recipe for the P-Series does not seem to be drastically changing — a sleek, colorful design with an emphasis on a highly capable camera — and based on how good the last three generations of P Series phones have been, this doesn’t matter. This is a phone to look forward to despite its software challenges.

Editors' Recommendations