Huawei P40 Pro+ 5G Review – Is It Still A Flagship Without GMS?

Huawei’s growth was stifled last year when the whole US-China debacle ensued, resulting in the Chinese tech giant losing their ability to use Google Mobile Services (GMS) within their devices. Huawei battled on and created their own Huawei Mobile Services to use in their devices and the Huawei P40 Pro+ 5G is the first device I have had hands-on time with to experience Android without Google services.

Huawei P40 Pro+ 5G
+ FOR
  • Camera Performance
  • Display
  • Battery
- AGAINST
  • Speakers
  • Application Support

Buy on Amazon – £1199

Disclaimer

Huawei provided the P40 Pro Plus for the purpose of a review however they have not seen this review before being published.

The P40 Pro+ 5G is the first Huawei device I have tested at all; I have had extensive experience and hands-on time with the Honor View 20 which Dom has covered previously, which inherits a lot of technology from its previous parent company including MagicUI which is a variation of EMUI. The P30 Pro was shown plenty of love by both Dom and Craig and I think they would both agree it is still a fantastic device.

Specifications

  • 58-inch 90Hz OLED 2640 x 1200 display
  • IP68 Water Resistance
  • Kirin 990 5G SOC
  • EMUI 10.1 based on Android 10 with HMS
  • 8GB RAM & 512GB Storage
  • Expandable memory up to 256GB via Nano Memory SD Card
  • Cameras:
    • 50MP Wide Angle Ultra Vision Primary camera with f/1.9 Aperture
    • 40MP Ultra-Wide Cine Camera with f/1.8 Aperture
    • 8MP SuperZoom Camera with 10x Optical Zoom and f/4.4 Aperture
    • 8MP Telephoto with 3x Optical Zoom and f/2.4 Aperture
    • 3D Depth Sensing Camera
    • 32MP Front Facing camera with f2.2 Aperture + depth camera
  • 4200mAh Battery
  • Huawei SuperCharge 40W Fast Charging (Wired & Wireless)
  • Dual SIM with 5G Capability (Primary SIM Only)
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ax / Wi-Fi 6 Support, Bluetooth 5.1, USB C 3.1 Gen 1, Ceramic Back, In-Screen Fingerprint scanner
  • 6mm (w) x 158.2mm (h) x 9.0mm (d)
  • 226g Weight

The spec sheet is definitely impressive with everything that would be expected for a premium flagship smartphone in late 2020 but the RRP of £1299.99 does mean that smartphone buyers expect a super high-end device.

The unboxing experience was one which was enjoyable, the rose gold print on the white box with hints of red splashed on the box definitely denotes a premium device. Inside the box you will find the P40 Pro+ 5G on top, an insert for Petal Search, Phone Clone and AppGallery that will help smooth your transition from either an iOS or Android device with GMS. A quick start guide, warranty card, SIM card ejector tool, USB type A to C cable, Huawei Supercharge 40W mains plug and USB C earphones are all also included. The device I was sent comes with a European plug however the UK retail units will come with a corresponding UK plug.

One thing I did feel was missing was a basic case of some sort, it does seem like Huawei accounted for it in terms of space inside the documentation holder inside the box but later chose to omit its inclusion. Whilst it wouldn’t have added anything to the price and the likes of Samsung and Apple have never done this, I feel like we are used to the inclusion of a case from brands like Huawei, Honor, Realme and Oppo so it just feels odd.

The phone is wrapped in a plastic sleeve which outlines the location of things such as the SIM card & memory card slots, wireless charging zone, NFC zone and fingerprint scanner.

Taking a look around the phone, the base of the phone has the dual SIM card slot/nano memory (NM) card slot, a microphone, USB C port and speaker. On the right-hand side, you have the power button with a red stripe across it alongside the volume rocker. The top houses an IR emitter which is a rare sight nowadays alongside a further microphone. The left side is completely bare. The back of the phone has the 5 cameras alongside the flash and microphone and the Huawei and branding and legal markings. The front of the phone has the display, dual cameras, and in-screen fingerprint scanner.

The setup procedure of the phone is very similar to Android devices of past with Huawei’s own lick of paint, with the major omission being the Google login page. Huawei’s own Huawei ID page is still present.

Display

The display is one that is stunning right and its noticeable right from the moment you turn the phone on. The Huawei P40 Pro+ 5G supports a variable refresh rate so for content that can support 90Hz such as flicking between pages the phone will up the refresh rate, but for still images and articles it will drop down to 60Hz. This gives you both the benefit of a high refresh rate display but without as significant a loss to battery life.

I did find some weird distortion on the left- and right-hand side of the display when looking at the phone straight on with the same distorted effect visible on the flat area of the display when looking at the phone side on. The panel and angle of curvature is likely the culprit for this as I have used other displays which don’t suffer from this distortion.

Another weird quirk of the display and this is more down to software optimisation is the fact that the native Microsoft SwiftKey keyboard actually spills over the side of the phone so you end up missing half of some of the keys. Huawei has done a pretty good job of optimising the rest of the OS to ensure the content fits on the flat area of the screen with ample spacing around the edges so as to avoid any spacing issues.

The display does come with a plastic screen protector preinstalled however just keeping it in my pocket alongside my phone and headphones has resulted in the protector becoming scratched and bubbled in multiple locations which takes away from the illusion of the edgeless display especially when the display is switched off as its pretty noticeable. If it was my personal device, I would have replaced the plastic one with a tempered glass screen protector as it would hold up to minor scuffs much better. The curved edges probably would interfere with the fit of the glass protector so you may have some issues with the adhesiveness or if you go for a protector with less than complete display coverage then you may end up scratching the sides of the display so it’s a tough weigh up.

The Honor View 20 was one of the first devices with an in-display camera module and due to the relative newness of the technology, there was a halo effect around the module. This issue has been resolved on the much more modern hole-punch display on the P40 Pro+. The software has been optimised well in areas such as the notification panel but apps such as the calendar, it almost feels like the UI team gave up. Those apps have a huge gap between the top of the content and the notification bar and hole punch.

In-Hand Feel

The P40 Pro+ ’s tall and narrow display means that I can wrap my hand completely around the phone with ease. The phones have a curved back and front without any sharp edges but the gap between the display and the chrome frame is almost effortless with a larger gap found on the boundary between the ceramic back and the frame.  The aspect ratio of 20:9 means the majority of content which is still 16:9 suffers from quite severe letterboxing. One surprising benefit of this letterboxing is that you can avoid blocking the single downwards firing speaker as you can use the letterboxed area to hold onto the phone.

The ceramic and glass sandwich is fairly slippery and a definite fingerprint magnet so you will definitely be wiping down the front and back of the phone pretty frequently especially if you opt to use your phone without a case or skin. It is a tad on the chunky side compared to some other flagships but honestly, I would be sticking a case on the phone anyway so it wouldn’t make that much of a difference to me.

Benchmarks

Colour

Last year’s P30 Pro was available in a much wider range of colours with 5 stunning shades available at launch. The P40 Pro+ 5G, unfortunately, doesn’t see the same level of love with a much more modest 2 colours available at launch; Ceramic White and Ceramic Black, of which I prefer the white variant. The other devices in the P40 line-up are all available in 3 colour variants but Huawei has taken a much more conservative approach to this launch compared to the colourful variations they usually release.

Unfortunately, I somehow ended up getting 2 silver marks on the ceramic back of the phone near the gigantic camera module and after scrubbing for a while, the phone still had these scars from battle. I believe the blame can be pointed towards my metal phone desk stand which I often place my phone on. This is strange considering ceramic is level 8 on Mohs scale, but I think it also suffers a similar fate to plastic in terms of colour transfer occurring easily.

Speakers

I am not really a fan of the speakers on the P40 Pro+. The single downwards firing speaker gets plenty loud with a 110-decibel max but its tinny nature and the fact that it is singular makes the media consumption experience pretty lacking. The audio echoes through the back of the phone quite a lot resulting in the phone vibrating a lot. This is primarily due to the fact that the edge-to-edge display doesn’t have a standard earpiece, rather its integrated into the display and probably the technology just isn’t there to support loudspeaker functionality from it.

I for one end up consuming a lot of content on my phone especially whilst at my desk and I tend to use the integrated speakers rather than headphones so anything over 80% volume is almost a no go. This almost seems counter-intuitive since the cameras capture such good video, you almost have to rely on another device to get the full experience.

Cameras

The Penta camera setup on this phone is one to be marvelled at. The P line-up by Huawei is always photography focused and that’s why the writing on the back of the phone and the camera sensor is orientated in landscape orientation. If you recently saw the video on the CLCKR Saffiano Blue case review, that was filmed on the P40 Pro+ 5G. But that was just a small snippet of the prowess of the camera.

I found the viewfinder did a pretty poor job of representing the end result of the cameras. It almost felt like I was taking a photo on a phone worth a quarter of this price. Once the phone carries out the post-processing then you are able to judge the real quality of the image. The P40 Pro+ 5G’s penta ear cameras and dual front cameras did a pretty decent job.

The camera app did automatically switch between different cameras which can be a little frustrating as the focusing length differs between lenses and so you end up with having to refocus the shot by tapping or moving the phone further or closer to the subject.

The low light photography skills on this phone are excellent. There is very little distortion and noise in the photos in darker situations which is likely down to the f/1.9 aperture and a fairly large sensor behind that primary 50MP camera.

I didn’t find the standard telephoto lens all that beneficial as you could crop into the 40MP image from the main sensor whereas the SuperZoom lens with a 10X optical zoom does have some genuine advantages. The 100x zoom is still more of a marketing gimmick than anything especially since the promotional photos are in highly optimised environments or using tripods to get enough stability alongside a long aperture for a usable shot.

Honestly, this is probably one of the best rear camera setups that you can get, more doesn’t always mean its good but Huawei really has spent a lot of time working on the camera prowess on this and I have very few words to describe the capabilities so I will let the test shots talk for themselves.

The front-facing camera is one that I have been super impressed with. With more of us using video conferencing to communicate with friends, family and colleagues the quality is super important. You can also use the cameras on your phone to act as the webcam for your laptop or desktop if you don’t have one or the quality is pretty poor using applications such as Droidcam and iVCam.

The colours on it are very close to life potentially a tad undersaturated but it’s not something which can’t easily be fixed by spending a couple of minutes in a photo editing app/ social media app or using the built-in editing tools on the phone. Autofocus was quick and accurate and it used my eye as a point of focus. The usual beauty modes and integrated filters are present but I never pay much attention to them anyway.

Front Facing Camera:

Gallery

Battery

Battery life is a standout point of the phone. The 4200mAh cell is pretty large and is almost required to power the 90Hz variable refresh rate display which due to its nature is a bit greedier with its power consumption. But this doesn’t mean the phone dies quickly by any means.

The standby time was quite average for this level of battery size with the P40 Pro+ 5G lasting 4 days connected via Wi-Fi. I would have liked to eek out an extra day from the phone. Overnight I found the battery drained between 5-7% so you are unlikely to end up with a flat battery overnight. The phone automatically regulates its charging speed so if you charge the phone overnight, the Huawei Smart Charging tech will kick in and after charging the phone to nearly full, the phone will stop accepting power and then just before you wake up, it’ll be topped up to 100%.

Obviously, that’s great if you are somebody who has a very regimented schedule with the same sleeping pattern day in day out as the phone will be able to adapt to your schedule quickly. But if you are somebody who’s schedule changes on a day-to-day basis then you will be able to turn off the ‘Smart Charge’ feature in the additional battery settings so that the phone just charges as fast as it can. I would personally end up using a 2A charger so it may take a little longer to charge but the heat damage to the battery is much lower resulting in better battery health in the long term.

You can use the phone to reverse wireless charge another device such as your wireless headphones or even another smartphone with up to 27W speeds which is pretty nifty. I could only get my iPhone 12 Pro Max to charge without a case on which means if both devices are wearing cases then it’s likely near enough impossible. Even if you are able to get it working you will likely have to have both devices sitting pretty still on a flat surface for it to work efficiently. I also tested this out with a pair of wirelessly charging earbuds but I was unable to get them to charge at all so it may be hit and miss. Android does automatically turn reverse wireless charging off after about a minute of no power draw which helps to preserve the battery as there is no shortcut present in the phone’s quick settings in the notification bar.

You can also use a USB C to Lighting/USB C/Micro USB cable to use the phone as a portable power bank. When you plug the other device into the phone, you will see an option appear in the navigation bar to enable the charging option. This is a much more reliable option for consistent charging compared to wireless charging

The P40 Pro+ 5G offers 40W charging in both wired and wireless flavours which is insane compared to the 15W wireless and 20W wired charging that my iPhone 12 Pro Max is capable of.

You can theoretically charge the 4200mAh battery of the P40 Pro+ up to 100% in 70 minutes and throughout my own testing, I measured the battery charge percentage using the included charger connected via a 2 pin European plug to 3 Pin UK plug adapter and the included USB A to C cable to get the following results. The phone’s battery was fully drained before running the charging test to ensure that Huawei’s claim could be validated properly in as ideal conditions as possible.

Charging Speed Test

The phone immediately turns on as soon as you plug the charger in so you can get to using it straight away even if the battery is completely drained.

  • 0:00 – 1%
  • 0:02 – 3%
  • 0:04 – 11%
  • 0:07 – 19%
  • 0:09 – 23%
  • 0:12 – 30%
  • 0:18 – 45%
  • 0:22 – 54%
  • 0:32 – 73%
  • 0:39 – 83%
  • 0:41 – 86%
  • 1:01 – 99%
  • 1:03 – 100%

These results show that you can get a 70% charge in just half an hour which is essentially a whole day’s usage for most people. But I would recommend using the supercharger with sparsity as it will likely result in the battery suffering degradation faster due to the higher temperatures the battery will experience.

Software – EMUI

This was my first encounter with EMUI, although I had used MagicUI on the Honor View 20. EMUI keeps all of the apps directly on the home screens by default similar to iOS but gives you the ability to change this within the settings app under the home screen style options. I am not a huge fan of the way that the icons look and they give me the same vibe that the MacOS Big Sur icons do. The Huawei AppGallery, Support, Optimiser and Phone are a few of the apps whose designs I prefer and hopefully, Huawei’s design language will shift towards this soon.

The launcher doesn’t feel as bloated as I expected it to feel. Even though this phone features the latest and greatest specs from Huawei such as the Kirin 990 5G and 8GB of RAM without being overkill. I never once found the phone to stutter or lag and honestly for a phone of this calibre I wouldn’t expect it to either. There are a few added features in the OS such as the lock screen shortcuts which include the voice memos, torch, calculator, clock and AI lens alongside the floating apps/split view apps which can be evoked from pulling in from the left or right side of the screen and then holding for a couple seconds until the side app drawer opens. But nothing is heavy or obtrusive as I would expect it to be.

There are quite a lot of prompts from applications to allow permissions which I believe would traditionally be combined within the download page on the Google Play Store as the AppGallery just lets you download the app with a single tap and leaves the permission on a app by app basis. This does get quite frustrating as you end up spending a good chunk of time accepting permissions before you can get into the app. Quirks such as Knuckle screenshot was more miss than hit so I would just prefer to stick to the shortcut of the power and volume down button and then manually cropping the image.

Fingerprint & Face Unlock

You have the ability to unlock the phone using face unlock which is made possible using the combination of the depth camera on the front and the front facing camera. I found this to be super accurate and reliable with near perfect unlocking every time. It seems to have a higher unlock rate than Face ID which could be down to a lower accuracy or potentially better sensors. The optical in screen fingerprint scanner also shares that same accuracy level and it has worked 99% of the times I have used it so Huawei have really nailed the tech in the P40 Pro+ 5G.

I often ended up unlocking the phone via the facial authentication without even wanting to due to how fast and easy the facial unlocking is. For a world where the vast majority have some sort of facial covering, the ability to be able to unlock the phone via your face and your fingerprint is perfect as you have biometric authentication available to you either way. The fingerprint scanner also allows you to unlock the phone if it resting on a table which is handy.

Application Support

EMUI without GMS was an interesting experience. I got to experience how Petal Search worked to its full extent following its launch earlier this year. The premise of the application is that it amalgamates various sources such as the AppGallery, third party application APK stores such as Aptoide, APK Pure, APKCneter and the official app websites to provide you with a wider range of choices to get access to your favourite apps to try and compensate for the Google Play Store which is almost a one stop shop for nearly any app you could imagine.

For example, I was attempting to transfer a video file between the Huawei P40 Pro+ 5G and my MacBook Pro and it took a fair bit of time and some googling before I was able to get the files transferred. I usually rely on Google Drive for data transfer but as I wasn’t able to get the app and the desktop and mobile variants of the website referred me back to the Android app on the Google Play Store as it recognised that the browser is from and Android phone. Then I attempted to use a Wi-Fi based sharing site (www.filedropme.com) but that also failed as it requires the Android application to work.

Next was VLC which on the iOS variant has support for Wi-Fi file sharing but as it turns out, the Android version does not support this feature whatsoever. This is obviously an issue on VLC’s side rather than anything to do with Huawei. Following that I tried out the good old fashioned plugging the phone into your computer method, the phone contained the .exe Windows file for the official HiSuite app and as I was using a Mac I would have to download the app from the HiSuite website.

My final attempt was to try and share the file over Bluetooth, and after enabling my Mac to accept incoming file downloads via Bluetooth and pairing the P40 Pro+ 5G up, I was finally able to get the file transferred. But it was not fast by any means, the slow data transfer speed felt like I had travelled back about 15 years. It was actually slower than my Wi-Fi connection which is saying something because that in itself is painfully slow.

Honestly, I now appreciate the simplicity of Airdrop between my Apple devices so much more for the ease of transfer. I know Huawei has their own Huawei Share support for their own laptops which uses NFC to pair the devices and then share the file over Wi-Fi direct but for the vast majority of users who will be using other Windows, MacOS or Linux devices it’s a lot of faff for normal data transferring and Bluetooth seemed so antiquated for this transfer.

The Huawei AppGallery is growing on a daily basis and I was able to easily find applications such as TikTok, Snapchat, Trainline, Telegram, Speedtest by Ookla, Just Eat and Amazon. The App Ranking section makes it easy to find top apps alongside categories allowing you to sort through the available applications.

Other applications that I used on a day-to-day basis such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Spotify, WhatsApp and Twitter were all available through APK sites through Petal Search. Petal Search is probably a better way to find and subsequently download the apps as they will vet the APK sites to some extent reducing the chance that the sites will host versions of the application with malicious data. The experience isn’t going to be as straightforward or simple as the Google Play Store or Apple App Store but its significantly better than not having anything.

Network

The Kirin 990 natively supports 5G however I get 2 bars of 5G at home at best and since we were in lockdown till very recently and travel is still restricted to essential trips only, I wasn’t able to head into London to do some full coverage and speed testing where 5G is much more prevalent. However, I did try and measure the speed and compare it directly against the 5G coverage I got on my iPhone.

The Huawei P40 Pro+ supports 5G on both of the nano SIM slots which is handy but only 1 SIM card slot can support 5G at a time with the other limited to 4G.

In a semi-controlled test, I was able to get around 15Mbps upload and download speeds but I did find the phone constantly jumping between 5G and 4G+ network bands. This was likely down to the imperfect indoor coverage in my area so the phone was attempting to connect to the best speed. In the UK we only have support for sub 6Ghz 5G, which is the slower but more reliable 5G network and this phone as a result doesn’t support the faster mmWave 5G which is primarily in the USA at the moment.

I did rerun the test after disabling the 5G within the settings but I found that the speeds were identical. These tests were carried out using the web version of the Ookla Speedtest tool.

I then downloaded the Ookla Speedtest app via Petal Search by downloading the APK. I got a significantly faster result at 22.0Mbps download and an upload of 3.0Mbps. I compared this to the result I received on my Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max which also has 5G support but uses Qualcomm’s 5G modem rather than the Huawei one built into the Kirin 990. The iPhone got a download speed of 32.3Mbps and an upload speed of 3.01Mbs. This almost 50% increase in download speed may be down to the fact that the Huawei P40 Pro+ 5G is a European model so the bands supported may be different.

Huawei has integrated the earpiece underneath the display and this is the first device I have used with support for that technology and I would say the quality of the earpiece is really good. It is placed slightly further down on the display than you would expect but Huawei has integrated a circular ring into the call screens to ensure you know where to place your ear for the best audio passthrough.

It was a little muffled in comparison to a traditional earpiece but in all honesty it didn’t impact the overall experience much at all. One thing Huawei has omitted which we have come to expect is stereo audio especially from a high-end device such as this. Potentially they could have integrated it but as the technology is fairly new it may not have been the best idea. I do feel like there is enough space on the top of the phone to include a traditional earpiece similar to the Oppo Reno 2 which only took up 1mm of space and also was able to provide stereo audio.

Conclusion

To conclude, the Huawei P40 Pro+ 5G has been a great phone. The phones unique material choices, effortless in-hand feel, flagship power and performance, class leading camera and superfast charging create the perfect flagship. Almost. The lack of Google services can’t be ignored as that’s what makes Android so powerful. Huawei is trying their best to get developers over to the Huawei AppGallery but without native support for some major applications including the Google suite of applications makes it a difficult sell for somebody who wants a seamless flagship experience.

For entry level devices you can maybe forgive this as you know you get much better value for money compared to some other brands for price to performance. Similarly, for the niche group of people who are happy to tinker about with APK’s and completely customise the phone manually then I can wholeheartedly recommend this phone. But for the vast majority of flagship device owners the device has some critical limitations at this point in time which means it is difficult to say rush out and by this phone today with the P40 Pro priced at £200-£400 less with only the ceramic back and the 10x optical zoom differentiating the two models, that might end up being the better buy.

About Siddu Munjal

Reviewer & Partner Outreach for MobileTechTalk - Tech is a key part of my everyday life and I would probably be extremely lost without it.

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