Despite its problems with the US ban affecting its products, Huawei is still going ahead in the flagship realm with its highest-end Huawei P40 Pro+. How does the phone hold up without Google in 2020? Let’s find out!
Build design and display
As always, let’s start with the exterior.
The Huawei P40 Pro+ feels exceptionally durable. While it is only 9mm thick, it feels sturdy and has a weight that induces confidence for anyone. While I personally would still slap a case on it, there’s less fear of it crapping out on me if I were to drop it.
Its display is 6.58 inches and comes at a 1200 x 2640 resolution which is capable of running at an above-average 90Hz refresh rate. If there was one gripe I have with Huawei, it would be the lack of 120Hz refresh rate on the phone. While 90Hz is still better than the regular 60Hz on other phones, it isn’t the same as 120Hz — as they say, once you go to 120Hz, you can’t go back.
Having been daily driving a Samsung S20 plus, I definitely feel a lot of similarities between both phones in terms of weight and overall feel of the phones. The Huawei P40 Pro+ does have a larger camera bump though, more akin to the one on the Samsung S20 Ultra 5G.
Speaking of the camera, the Huawei P40 Pro+ has a total of 7 cameras on the phone — an IR depth camera and a 32mp selfie camera on the front. Following the back which also has a 40mp ultra-wide, 50mp wide, 8mp 3x telephoto, a 10x 8mp telephoto and finally a Time Of Flight (ToF) camera behind.
Having that many cameras shows that Huawei is making photography a key priority on this phone. Of course, it doesn’t mean anything if the images come out horrendously. Well, after testing it all, I can safely say that the whole photography experience is one of the best I have experienced so far — honestly even outperforming the Samsung S20 Ultra 5G. It’s a pretty bold claim but here’s why:
Huawei has combined the use of AI technology together with the amazing Leica’s lenses to create images that are not only sharp but boast an extraordinarily high dynamic range even in dark situations, which you can see in these sets of images.
Now I’m not saying that the images captured on the Samsung S20 Ultra 5G are horrible, but besides its image quality, there was one notable difference that made the Huawei feel better.
The main problem I had with the S20 Ultra’s cameras was its unreliable autofocus. Though I mentioned it wasn’t a huge issue, it still was an issue at the end of the day, and having no issue is better than having a small one. I had close to zero problems autofocusing while shooting with the Huawei and only felt slight hunting when it came to low-light focus.
Of course, how can we forget the headline-grabbing 100x zoom that both the Huawei P40 Pro+ and the Samsung S20 Ultra have?, To be brief, it is usable, but just like the Samsung S20 Ultra 5G, don’t expect too much out of it as it is still not as sharp and clear as you might think it is.
Performance and features
With our phones becoming more and more like laptops these days, how does the Huawei P40 Pro+ hold up in terms of performance? Well, the phone runs on Huawei’s own Kirin 990 5G Chipset which is an octa-core processor and it comes with 8GB of ram and 512GB of storage. Now, technical specifications are one thing, but real-world performance is another. So how does this translate to the phone as a daily driver?
To put things simply, the phone feels great. I experienced zero stutters or frame drops while playing games and I rarely felt compelled to clear my unused apps that are running in the background.
One nitpick would be the RAM. While 8GB is becoming the norm for the amount of RAM a phone has, I certainly wished that Huawei could have provided a 12GB or even 16GB option like its other competitors at the same price point. But all in all, it didn’t affect me negatively to the point where I would complain, and it shouldn’t be an issue for everyday users.
I also really have to commend Huawei on their battery life. Using their very own processor combined with a 4200mAh battery, I could easily get by close to 12 hours on a single charge. That 12 hours usage includes what I would consider moderate use consisting of browsing through social media, playing games like COD Mobile and watching Netflix.
It doesn’t stop there. Shipping alongside the phone is a 40W fast charger that charges the phone’s battery up to 80% in about 30 mins and gets it fully charged within 50 mins to 1 hour.
Now we get to the elephant in the room — how does it hold up without Google apps? I’m going to have to be honest and say that this aspect is the only reason why I can’t recommend the phone to just anyone.
There’s no denying that the Huawei P40 Pro+ is functionally a great phone. But when it comes down to it, most, if not all, of the apps we frequent are heavily integrated with the Google ecosystem.
Trello and Notion are apps that I primarily use to keep track of my work, and because I can’t log in with Google, I can’t access them. You can access your emails, but only through the native Huawei email app. WhatsApp, my everyday messenger app, can be downloaded on the phone through the website, but backups of my chats cannot be ported over, even if I were to use the phone clone app that Huawei recommends.
For Google-specific apps like Google Drive — which I use to store my photos and even drafts for reviews such as this — it is simply unavailable on the Huawei; I have to resort to the browser version which is not as optimised as the native app.
The same goes for YouTube and Google Maps, two apps that many can’t live without. Without YouTube, the only real notable media consumption app is Netflix (brought over through Phone Clone), which not all of us even have a subscription for. There are alternatives available for Google Maps on AppGallery at least, but they can’t compete with the experience it offers.
Despite the damning app situation that Huawei is in, there is still some hope left for them. For one, the company is constantly trying to pull developers to port their apps over to the AppGallery, eventually getting a functional app on its store.
Secondly, there are ways to get the Google apps on Huawei devices which I won’t detail here but are quite easily found. They, of course, aren’t supported on the devices, so do so at your own risk.
Lastly, it is essential to note that Huawei is doing everything it can to listen to its users; finding out what apps they need to bring over to the AppGallery store and it even lists them by priority level.
Now, who would I recommend the Huawei P40 Pro+ to? It’s a tough question. Usually, this would be clear-cut, but this phone is an exception. I love the phone — the way it feels, the way it handles, the almost unyielding battery life — It is a great phone. But it is being held down by its software limitation; I certainly wish that Huawei and the US could kiss and make up.
Until then, I can only recommend this phone to people who daily drive two phones; one for work and another for casual use. The Huawei P40 Pro+ is definitely great for things like your personal emails, news and social media. Still, for more serious applications like work, the phone’s limitations on functionality mean that you’ll have to rely on another phone or laptop for that.
Photos by Darren Chiong of the DANAMIC team.