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72 hours with the Huawei P40 Pro: We’re seriously impressed so far

Huawei unveiled the P40 series in March, and we’ve spent the last few days putting the new flagship through its paces – all while in lockdown. Here are five of our thought so far.

1. The autofocus here puts the Samsung Galaxy S20 series to shame

While I’ll get onto the general camera capabilities in the next point, the first thing I noticed was how ridiculously fast the autofocus was. Something even more apparent after coming the from the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra – a phone that struggles to consistently lock on to targets.

I can quickly move my hand in and out of view, and the camera will almost immediately focus; the same goes if someone is running quickly. This is impressive stuff.

2. This could be the best camera around

Even though I have been stuck in a tiny South London flat for the past what-seems-like-years, it’s immediately apparent just how good this camera is. Forget DXOmark ratings or any of that benchmarking, the true test of any mobile camera is how it captures the variety of pictures we take every day (even when locked down).

You can read all about the specs of the camera in our hands-on Huawei P40 Pro review, so here I’ll stick purely to impressions. Everything about this camera seems great so far: zooming is unmatched at 5x, the detail is superior to the competing Android flagships, and the camera app is fully-featured without feeling daunting. There are some nice updates to video this time around too – an area Huawei often has disappointed in.

It’s also quite obvious the AI backend of the camera is quite strong, which might be a positive or a negative depending on how you like your pictures. It’s great when it automatically switches you to portrait or to night mode, though I am less appreciative of the overly saturated images I often captured.

Huawei P40 Pro Plus

3. No Google isn’t as much of a problem as anticipated, and might even be a benefit to some

A lot of the talk about this phone is its lack of Google’s services, and if you’re deeply entrenched in the search engine giant’s services, then the P40 probably isn’t for you – especially if you’re not willing on making any changes.

For everyone else though I think they’ll be fine. Moving apps – even those that aren’t on Huawei’s App Gallery – from an old Android phone to the P40 is very easy and works for most downloads. App Gallery (the brand’s Play Store alternative) has a poor offering currently, especially for users in the UK. Still, Huawei is putting a lot into this service, and hopefully, apps will become more common in the future.

For the last few straggling apps, you’ve got APK downloads, which work quite well too. I managed to get Google Maps working this way – which is handy as there is no mapping solution built into the P40 yet.

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There are a few issues though: Huawei needs to get a mobile payment service up and running and ensure banking apps work as expected here. While I could install the Natwest app, it didn’t work correctly. There’s also no official support for Netflix and Uber. While I managed to get the streaming service working, it wouldn’t stream in anything other than particularly low-quality SD.

Huawei has the chance here to offer a real alternative to Google, and it has made a very good start. If you want to avoid the big G at all costs – but still need access to Android apps – you’ll find a lot to like here.

Related: This is the easiest way to get apps on Huawei P40

Huawei P40

4. It’s a gorgeous piece of hardware

There’s no doubting the Huawei P40 Pro is a lovely-looking phone. The way the screen slopes at the top and bottom make swiping feel smoother and even though I would prefer the sides not to curve, the smaller nature of the phone (when compared to the S20 Ultra, for example) means it’s easy enough to hold on to.

My blue review unit sparkles in the sun, and if you’re fingerprint-averse, there are a few matte colour options available too. A leather option, like the one found on the Oppo X2 Pro, would have been nice as an extra-luxurious but there’s still far more choice here than with most Android phones.

The regular slew of flagship extras are included too: IP68, expandable memory (limited to Huawei’s proprietary storage, though), dual SIM support and 5G across all models.

5. The right sacrifices seem to have been made for strong battery life

Huawei knows how to make sure its phones last without constantly needing recharging and the Huawei P40 Pro is no different. I haven’t used it long enough to come to a conclusion on battery life, but throughout my weekend with the phone, it managed around six hours of screen time (with a lot of heavy use – apps installs, photos, video chats).

Huawei P40 Pro

Even though the 4200mAh battery size is far from biggest around, Huawei has made the right call in limiting things like resolution and refresh rate. The 2640 x 1200 resolution might not be the sharpest around. The quality OLED display is excellent nevertheless. The same goes for the refresh rate: 90Hz isn’t as fast as 120Hz, but I doubt many would notice the difference anyway.

Whereas Samsung went all-out for specs and suffered from less-than-impressive endurance (notably on the Exynos Ultra model), Huawei’s more restrained approach has lead to the opposite outcome.

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