After Months Testing the Huawei P40 Pro, It’s Still Hard to Say No

Huawei’s newest P40 Pro flagship phone launches in Canada today. It’s designed to push quality mobile photography and videography for serious enthusiasts. After three months and thousands of pictures, I can say it will not disappoint. And it’s easy to use.

The P40 Pro in Silver Frost

The P40 Pro is available at select carriers and retailers including Bell, TELUS, Videotron, SaskTel, Koodo, Virgin Mobile, The Mobile Shop, The Source , Visions and more with an MSRP of $1,499.99 in Black or Silver Frost. Check specific carriers or retailers for pricing and plans. The P40 with an MSRP of $849.99 will also be available in black in a few weeks. Both phones will have a Huawei gift with purchase, a Huawei GT2 watch and 50 GB Huawei Mobile Cloud storage for one year.

Huawei’s close working partnership with German camera and lens giant Leica cements the P40 Pro as the smartphone of choice if photography is high in your mobile phone priorities. Leica and Huawei incorporated more than enough visual improvements and functionality compared to last year’s P30 Pro to earn its “40” series. Huawei has a distinct advantage over other phone makers because of Leica’s optical, sensor and colour system input on the P and Mate series phones.  

The biggest disappointment in the P40 series (the P40 and P40 Pro+ will arrive here later) is the absence of Google Mobile Services cloud storage, Play Store, Google Maps and more due to the US imposed trade ban on Huawei. Huawei has addressed this issue with its own similar services and apps.  See my accompanying take on how that works at the end of this article.

The Leica Advantage

The P40 Pro uses a Quad camera configuration comprised of multiple lenses and sensors for a very seamless end-user experience shooting from super wide to 50X telephoto images. Increasing the size from the P30 Pro’s 10MP to 12MP for the most used shooting range is a huge improvement. This allows for more image enlargement and impressive detail.

The P40 Pro features the largest mobile 50MP Ultra Vision Camera
  • The phone’s main camera workhorse is an industry leading gigantic 1/1.28” sensor 50MP f1.9 Ultra Vision Camera with an uncommonly large 2.4 µm pixel size, twice the size of most phones. It is featured on all three P40 models. My photos had richer colours, more tone levels, and less digital noise in dark scenes, all welcome improvements for anyone. Like previous models, Huawei is sticking with its RYYB sensor colour array, instead of the common RGB, for up to 30% more light gathering.
  • The second 40MP f1.8 Cine Camera looks after the Ultra Wide-Angle camera and video shooting. Interestingly, the Ultra Wide angle in the P40 Pro is not as wide as last years model or competitors like Samsung and iPhone. It’s the equivalent of 18mm in traditional 35mm cameras with two huge advantages: There is less distortion and significantly more edge sharpness than any other phone, period. Read further down for the 4K video functions of this lens and chip.   
  • The third 12MP f3.4 SuperSensing telephoto zoom Camera with Optical Image Stabilization, extends zoom to impressive sharp and motion-free photos. Most folks who don’t carry tripods or monopods when shooting unplanned tele photos will be pleasantly surprised at sharp, motion free telephoto pictures, even though they shake a lot onscreen before shooting.
Impressive Bokeh effects – note the sharpness of hair strands against a fuzzy background
  • The fourth Depth Sensing Camera is responsible for impressive Bokeh portrait effects and such neat tricks like measuring distances around you. Bokeh photography is impressive with the P40 Pro as the photo shows with tack sharp hair follicles against user variable out of focus background.  
  • A fifth colour temperature sensor for even more accurate colour balance in the Pro+ completes the rear camera arrangement.

What Else Can These Cameras Do?

Besides good quality point and shoot photography the P40 Pro is armed with AI and eyepopping features to make photography fun and rewarding.  

  • High-Res Mode produces a 50MP crystal clear 23mm equivalent image, much wider and usable for travel than any competitor. For me, the best feature, at par with prosumer interchangeable lens cameras.
High-Res mode captures professional grade 50MP images
  • Slow-Mo captures video at the highest yet framerate, up to 7680 frames per second resulting in insane slow motion, easily a worldthis category. It has manual and auto functions – the later making it easy to start recording at the right time when a fast moving image enters a movable box in the screen. My video of a burning match started automatically when the camera sensed the approaching flame, consistently in a small fraction of a second. You will have a lot of fun with Slow-Mo.
  • The high quality 32MP selfie is only surpassed by the pricier Samsung S20+ Ultra for considerably less money. To me selfies that capture every background detail are as important as the rear cameras. 4K video Vlogging with picture quality akin to most rear camera phones with effective Bokeh effects and distortion removal are all welcome features.
  • Huawei XD Fusion Engine which takes a page out of Photoshop’s layers enhancing different parts of photos. This leads to more consistent exposure and colour across a complicated scene.
  • I liked the Octa PD Auto-Focus which goes down to individual pixel group sampling. It means a noticeably faster and spot-on focus leaving most competitors behind. You can see how fast and precise it is as you slowly pan the camera (phone) around and see things snap in focus.
  • 2nd gen more light-efficient periscope technology on the Pro and Pro+ offers 12MP up to 10X Optical 20X Hybrid and 100X maximum zoom with dual axis OIS, mentioned above. The P40 Pro zooms to 50X and is 5X optical, a visible picture quality improvement to last year’s P30 Pro.
The Samsung S20+ left, and the Huawei P40 Pro right, share the honours for best night photography
  • Huawei has made significant improvements in Low-light photography with daylight-like detail with up to ISO 409600 in the Pro and Pro+ and ISO 204800 in the P40. It is at par with the Samsung S20+. Sadly, the Google Pixel series that started the Night Sight mode craze has some catching up to do on the next Pixel 5.

Pushing Limits in Mobile Photography

  • AI Golden Snap makes photo moments perfect from action shots to postures. When in AI mode, the P40 Pro continually shots still frames as you and your subject move about. If someone walks in your photo (up to two photo bombers) the P40 Pro Remove Passersby will replace them with the background captured from adjoining frames. I am proficient enough in Photoshop to know how amazing this technology is on a phone. It uses the same technique to replace a reflection from a shiny surface, also from adjoining frames that show no or less reflection. Crazy?
Remove Reflection, right with AI Golden Snap
  1. I shot professional looking videos, even in moody low light, with accurate Bokeh in motion, now that impresses. Smooth video is accompanied by stunning directional audio zoom in the Pro and Pro+ which “zoom” in the sound as you zoom in the image. Not unique to Huawei today but well done.  
Dual Video with a zoomable left pane
  • Dual-View video let’s you shoot two side-by side frames simultaneously with wide and telephoto views. I found it challenging to do right. The right screen is a telephoto view while the left is a zoomable telephoto angle to help coordinate the dual images composition.
  • Time-Lapse video can photograph long or short scenes. Here is a five hour recording of moon rise over Edmonton compressed to half a minute.
  • Huawei MeeTime which works between Huawei devices is a higher quality video experience connecting directly with friends working in low light with more clarity and brightness. You can share screen information during the session too, but is not available in Canada yet.

Other goodies

  • The two unlock modes (besides a standard six digit entry) smartly complement each other. The secure 3D iPhone-like Face Unlock works on sunny days and the darkest of rooms. The alternative onscreen fingerprint sensor works fast with the least amount of finger pressure…something that Samsung still can’t get right. Both unlock technologies are nice to have as a backup to each other. The optional stylish animations that appear around the fingerprint area on the screen when you unlock your phone are re-assuring, but I took that feature out soon after. Too much eye candy!
  • The electromagnetic Sound acoustic display speaker embedded in the screen for remarkably high quality private voice calls only your ears can hear is nice. But not loud enough to create a stereo effect with the second traditional speaker on the bottom of the phone.  
  • I didn’t test the IP68 rated water resistance for up to 1.5 metres up to 30 minutes in fresh water for the Pro and Pro+, and IP53 for the P40, but have not heard negative reports on this feature.
  • I like the Multi-Window with floating side menu, which can accommodate up to three screens accessible from shortcuts, split screen, and one-tap to see the third window, including floating notification boxes. 

The phone feels comfortable in your hand with strategically placed quad-curved rounded edges for protection and is easy to hold from the edges, thankfully with a minimalist edge curved screen. The screen is easy to look at with a new 90Hz refresh rate. The P40 has a 2340×1080 6.1” diagonal display while the Pro and Pro+ has a 2460×1200 6.58” diagonal display.  

The all-in-one Huawei Kirin 990 5G chipset delivers with battery saving power efficiency and off course 2G/ 3G and 4G is supported too. It supports Dual VoLTE and is eSim ready doing away with pesky SIM cards. 

Gaming is upgraded too with16 Core Mali-G76 Graphics support for smoother fps gameplay from casual to MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) and according to Huawei is 39% more powerful and 32% more efficient than last year’s chip with 58 fps performance. Huawei SuperCool Graphene Cooling system noticeably keeps the phone cool to the touch.

Batteries, charging, security and more

Not the largest batteries anymore but size-balanced for the phone’s efficient chip performance, meaning not running out of power on a full day. The P40 Pro has a 3800mAh battery while the P40 Pro and Pro+ have 4200mAh capacity. An assortment of Huawei SuperCharge technology including wireless, typically chargers up from 0% to 70% in 30 minutes without long term damage to the battery. The P40 comes with a 40W USB wired charger. Are you listening Apple?

The P40 Pro is WiFi 6 ready, up to 2.4Gbps, a 150% speed increase, when you are!

A new file-based encryption keeps files safe with a dedicated security chip giving you full control with on-device only, personal data security functions.  

Celia, Huawei’s new voice assistant, for Huawei’s growing Google-less phones, comes in five languages, supported in 8 countries bringing a new dimension for voice command, like asking “Hey Celia – where can I buy these from” showing a picture of an item on your screen. It will be available in Canada shortly.

No Google Play Store? No Worries says Huawei

Cloud storage to share with your Huawei devices and you won’t lose your gmail account

Due to Huawei’s placement on the US entity list banning the Chinese telecommunication giant from doing business with US companies like Google, the earlier Mate 30 Pro and P40 Pro launched in Canada without Google Services.

Both phones run on an open source Android 10, exempt from the US ban with a Huawei designed skin layer called EMUI version 10. It’s actually quite slick at par with the “fat” Android and iPhone userface experience.

Huawei accelerated its own Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) to provide its own cloud storage for storing and sharing files – including pictures, contacts, browser, calendar and notepad settings between Huawei devices. For example, through my Huawei account, I have the P40 Pro and last year’s P30 Pro, a full Android Google services phone, on the same HMS account. I can add a Huawei tablet or Huawei Windows laptop.

So, like full Android and iOS, AppsGallery timely apps-like calendars and emails are intertwined between devices.  

The P40 series use Huawei’s AppGallery instead of Android’s Play Store.  Although a distant third to the Play Store and iPhone App Store (remember, they started small too) AppGallery has made big strides on sourcing a lot more apps than its own core 17,000 apps for Canadians .

Huawei has multi-source app finding technology for more than one million apps with Petal Search

There are four Huawei sanctioned ways to get apps on the Mate 30 Pro and P40 Pro for Canadians:

  • Installing Huawei’s Phone Clone app on your current Android or iPhone before you start up your new phone. Phone Clone transfers most of your current apps to the new P40 or Mate 30 phone, with some exceptions. Of the 220 apps on my Android phone, all transferred except 12 key legacy Android apps like Google Mail, Play Store, Google Maps, banking apps  and third party apps that are intrinsically tied to Google Mobile Service, like PhotoDirector. The Mate 30 and P40 come pre-installed with an excellent all purpose “handle any email account” called Email. It covers Microsoft Exchange, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and other email form factors.
  • AppGallery, Huawei’s official app source carries about 55,000 apps globally, but only about 17,000 are available to Canadians. “The app publishers determine whether each app is published in country, region or globally” said Adam Lipper, Director or Business Development on the Eco System Team. Still, Huawei Canada has concentrated on quality rather than quantity apps, many with a Canadian and global connection. The reputable Here We Go (originally from Nokia) replaces Google Maps with the recent number one pick backing from Counterpoint Research. Besides car mode, it also features walking and voice guided modes. If an app is not available in AppGallery you can “tick” a request for the Canadian AppGallery team to bring in.

Huawei believes the potential of attracting current app publishers to the AppGalley which provides access to Asian mobile users should not be overlooked.  “App publishers would be very interested in a market that’s been closed off to anybody outside of China with a population that is just massive,” said Lipper.  

Here are the most recent “Canadian interest” apps recently added to the AppGallery:

  • TikTok – the leading destination for short-form video
  • Snapchat – the fastest way to share a moment
  • WeChat – connect a billion people with calls, chats, and more
  • 500px – a community of 15 million photographers
  • Indigo – Canada’s largest book, gift, and toy retailer
  • Wattpad – the world’s most-loved storytelling platform
  • Flipp – empowering users to make informed shopping decisions
  • Game of Thrones Beyond the Wall – Adventure game based on the award-winning and hugely popular television series
  • Stingray Music – Curated radio and playlists
  • Petal Search App Finder can find more than one million app from various sources. Easily accessible as an onscreen widget. You can easily update installed apps through this portal.
  • Through Browser, you can add web version bookmarks to your home screen for apps that are not available yet.

Petal Search App Finder can find more than one million app from various sources. Easily accessible as an onscreen widget. It gives you the best download source if there are multiple ones (AppGallery always No 1 source if the App is available there). In the “Me” section in the Petal Search you can see all your Apps you downloaded in one place and you see “UPDATE” button if there is an update available. You can do the update in one click. Check out Huawei’s graphic summary below.

Frankly, my favourite source for just about every app in Google’s Play Store is a reliable independent source like from where you can download the APKPure app for literally millions of safe apps normally found on Android Play Store phones. I have used this site for years. An overwhelming majority will run on the Mate 30 and P40 Android 10 phones. Since they are outside AppGallery’s tighter security service envelope, these APKPure apps will run fine but not necessarily updated as frequently. Petal Search often sources apps from APKPure but also has a wider radar view of available apps.

Bottom line: as the best camera phone on the market, is the P40 Pro worth leaving the comfortable Google or iOS community?

Quick answer:

If you just like your current phone and don’t want to take chances with the new kid on the block, stop reading.

If you want to make an effort to weigh the pros and cons, read on.

Most folks have smartphones for many reasons: phone calls, texting, sharing experiences on social sites, calendaring, map directions, reading online news and features, music listening and games, to name a few.

Oh yes, I forgot photography!

Ask yourself. If you are comfortable switching between iPhone and Android worlds why not look at a third option that might still fill your needs topping it off with the best camera phone around?  As a purist photographer and a still healthy septuagenarian with much to look forward to, I see everything a phone does being swept aside and be long gone as time goes by…except the best quality and hard to get timeless photographs of friends, loved ones and years of travel.  

If you have questions on whether the Huawei AppGallery can fill your needs, you don’t need to make the switch now. Afterall, the P40 Pro is not cheap. You can install AppGallery and its million app Petal Search app on your existing Android phone which can co-exist with the Play Store and check out its app base, including Petal Search.

Here’s how: Download the AppGallery app from the Internet with your phone, not Play Store, as its not there. Install it, ignoring your phone’s warning and allow it to continue installing. You will be prompted to start a Huawei account with your email and new password. Accept Canada as your AppGallery country region and use your existing phone number to receive verifications.

Look for what apps are available on the AppGallery world. APKPure, mentioned above, will show up in Petal Search, basically duplicating what the Play Store has. If you can’t find your “must have” apps in AppGallery and Petal Search then you can keep your existing phone and move on.

But if you you can live with what AppGallery has to offer and like Huawei Mobile Services cloud features, your next step is to make the leap for the P40 Pro and never look back…except at those amazing pictures and videos you took!