The Huawei P40 Pro is one of the best phones on the market I can’t recommend. Huawei however are one-upping themselves with the launch this week of the P40 Pro+.
The phone will sell in Australia for $2,099 and gets a new ceramic White rear. There’s an additional 2GB of RAM and a bump up to 512GB of storage, but the main feature is the new Ultra Vision Leica Penta Camera.
The US trade ban has of course coloured the launch of all recent Huawei phones, with no recent phones launching with Google apps or services including the Google Play Store. Huawei has done some good work replacing these apps with their Huawei Mobile Services and App Gallery, though as I found in the P40 Pro review there’s still a lot of rough edges.
So, rather than re-hash a lot of the review you can check out the P40 Pro review from last month.
All up though, the Huawei P40 Pro is still one of the best phones I’ve used this year, though the lack of apps makes it hard to recommend for most people. Huawei are ready to knock our collective socks off again though with the improved P40 Pro+, and after a bit over a week using the phone, here’s my thoughts.
The big difference in hardware design between the two phones is the rear of the P40 Pro+ which uses ceramic instead of glass. The move to ceramic is aimed at improving strength, as well as making the phone a little more scratch resistant – and while I like the P40 Pro and it’s matte feel, the ceramic on the rear of this phone feels amazing.
The ‘waterfall’ display which overflows all four sides of the phone is again on board, and the curvature makes it feel nice to hold. The buttons are lined down the right hand side of the phone and have an excellent clicky feel to them as you press them.
There’s nothing changed from the P40 Pro in terms of design.Overall, the phone feels and looks great.
Internally the additional 2GB of RAM helps make the phone a little punchier though the P40 Pro wasn’t lacking at all. The additional storage is always welcome especially with the high resolution cameras in the Ultra Vision Leica Penta Camera now on board.
P40 Pro+ Camera
The P40 Pro+ includes the same 50MP main sensor and 40MP Ultra-Wide cameras as the P40 Pro, but instead of the single 12MP sensor with 5x Optical zoom from the P40 Pro you get two 8MP sensors, one with 10x optical zoom utilising the periscope telephoto system, as well as a more traditional 3x optical zoom on the other. The fifth camera of the Penta camera array is a Time-of-Flight (ToF) sensor for depth information.
A big plus for Huawei is the inclusion of the RYYB sensor on the phone, which replaces the green sub-pixels with yellow, this allows the sensors to collect more light, and the results in low light speak for themselves.
The camera app uses Huawei’s Artificial Intelligence inclusions, which recognises and offers tuned settings for up to 1,500 different scenes. You’ll see an ‘AI’ toggle in the UI of the camera app at the top which let’s you turn it on or off. I’ve enabled it for the most part, but definitely take note of the shot, and you can turn it off and try it without if you want. I’m actually pretty impressed with it, though it can punch up some colours that make the shots look a little artificial.
The quality of the low-light images for the P40 Pro+ is the same as that on the P40 Pro in that you have a night mode, but the quality difference between the two is negligible with the conclusion that Huawei is doing a brilliant job on their low-light images. You can see the quality easily.
For all other photos, the P40 Pro+ just takes great shots. There’s no real discussion needed, it’s just fantastic.
Where the fun begins is on the zoom included in the P40 Pro+ which goes all the way up to a 100x hybrid zoom. The zoom options are presented on a slider in the app with 1x as the default upon opening the camera app – the 3x and 10x zoom options on the slider are easily accessible with your thumb making it easy to frame your shots. You can though choose to bump it up with a pinch gesture on the display which is a little difficult when using the phone one-handed.
The 100x zoom is fun and you don’t need to have the phone on a tripod, though you will find it easier to control that massive zoom, ensure the framing of your shot is where you want it to be, and of course use the tap to ‘focus’ on your shot when it’s mounted on a tripod.
The 100x zoom isn’t the best though, with shots mostly looking blurred. The shots capture a surprising amount of details, though really pushes the point of ‘usable’ when talking about ultra-zoom.
1x 3x 10x 50x 100x
The Selfie Cam on the P40 Pro+ hasn’t changed, so you’ll find the same components – a 32MP sensor with IR/ToF Camera for Face Mapping which enables more secure face unlock. The quality is again great, even if the subject needs a heavy assist ;).
Overall, the Huawei Camera experience is class leading. The camera makes it easy to take shots fast, and in focus. The software is easy to navigate, with sliders intuitively making it easy to find the mode you need.
The ‘more’ section of any camera app is always fascinating to me, and the Huawei camera app is no different. There’s the usual options there, but you’ll also note you get some more ‘fun’ options with light painting and underwater mode which takes advantage of the IP68 dust/water resistance of the phone – though you need a case apparently. The shots add to your quiver of shots you can take, and make the camera that much more well rounded.
I couldn’t quite get a great subject for the 7680fps Ultra Slow-Motion video mode, but I want to. Instead I had some fun with the P40 Pro+ Timelapse mode, which utilises the full 50MP sensor.
By the numbers the P40 Pro+ runs Android 10 just like the P40 Pro and has EMUI 10.1 overlaid on top. The phone runs the June 1st 2020 security patch, and Huawei has been very good about delivering the security updates to their flagships, so this bodes well.
The big problem with any new Huawei phone launched these days is software. The ongoing US/China Trade War has resulted in US companies unable to do business with Huawei. There’s a lot more intricacy to the stoush, but at it’s core Huawei is unable to get Google apps and Services – including Google Play on their phone.
I laid out the various ways to install apps in the P40 Pro review, which amounts to either using the Phone Clone tool to copy whichever apps it can, and then using Huawei App Gallery (their Google Play replacement) to install apps from the pool included there.
The Huawei App Gallery is far from cohesive, with my wishlist I made on the P40 Pro still present, but unfortunately no apps have appeared in the App Gallery since I reviewed that phone.
Huawei has made some headway locally with more local entities set to make their debut soon on the Huawei App Gallery.
Huawei has also managed to link the App Gallery with some apps – like Facebook and Messenger – which make their APKs available on their website.
You can also use APK download sites – at your own risk, these are hugely risky sites to grab an app from, or you can try out other app stores like Amazon app store, though you find both these options can leave you with out of date apps, with obviously no mechanism to update them. You can also run into an error requiring Google Play Services, which unfortunately is not present on Huawei phones, which now use Huawei Mobile Services. HMS has a lot of function, but it doesn’t mirror Google Play Services, so some apps just will not work.
Huawei have streamlined this whole process between the release of the P40 Pro and P40 Pro+ with something called ‘Petal Search’. It’s a widget that searches through all the APK sites for you, and makes the process easier.
Again, you can install the apps you find through Petal Search, but if they require Google Play Services you’re going to find the apps just don’t work.
Should you buy this phone?
After using the P40 Pro+ for a fortnight, it’s the same story as I found with the P40 Pro, it’s a fantastic phone but hampered by the lack of apps.
There’s ways to get some apps, and alternatives to the apps you usually use if they’re not found through Huwaei App Gallery, or Petal Search, but the problem is we’re creatures of habit and learning to use a new app just isn’t appealing to most people, nor is finding apps a new way.
The story of smartphones is more than the apps they use though and Huawei have knocked it out of the park with features, hardware and design on the P40 Pro+. The phone is great to look at, and has a fantastic camera that’s class leading for smartphones.
At $2,099 the P40 Pro+ won’t appeal to mainstream users, though it makes the $1,599 P40 Pro look a little better – though it still has the same issue with apps. There’s a lot that can be done to get apps on the phone, but it’s still a mostly frustrating experience.
Huawei is doing a stellar job of replacing Google Play and their various apps and services, but we’re at a mid-way point in their transition, and while Huawei App Gallery and Huawei Mobile Services are good, they’re not quite ready to seamlessly replace the Google alternatives.
There’s a market for the P40 Pro+, mainly people interested in mobile photography or videography, because the P40 Pro+ is class leading on that front, but before you buy just think about how much you rely on apps on your phone and whether they’re available outside of Google Play.