The Huawei P40 Pro - an amazing phone with a hair in its soup

There are times in my life that you just like something so much... that you often overlook just about anything.  A really good cafe (god, you remember going to a cafe?) that has super long lines or wait times.  An awesome person who works at a place you can hang out with, but it's in a bad neighbourhood.  We often have tradeoffs or some sacrifice we make for something we want.  Often it is without even thought or for us to measure.

The P40 Pro... this is something that carries with it a huge sacrifice in order to get at such an amazing phone that it really ... REALLY caused me to pause to consider that sacrifice.  And then I had to consider whether this is a sacrifice others would see or notice... that was actually pretty tough to find a way to consider that.

What a set up for a review... having to really think about it, and think about how I was going to relay this in an article... and not have it be a crazy lengthy essay.  You know essays aren't my style.  But I don't want to make this too flippin' short either.

Let's get to it.

The TL;DR ... it is an amazing phone.  So amazing ... but without Google it's frustrating.

So the Huawei P40 Pro .. if you remember my review of the P30 Pro you'll recall that I was absolutely in love with it.  It's still on my desk and is the device I pull up and use to play a few games or take the occasional video for reviews etc...

That said I expected to love this P40 Pro.  They upped the camera game with an extra lens and yeah... new.

But, there's a catch, which we'll get to.

First up, what's the cost, and for that cost, what do you get in terms of hardware:

There's no official pricing yet in Canada that I've seen, but it's expected to be around $1400CDN

For that you'll get:
  • 6.58" 2640x1200 @ 90Hz (with punch-outs for camera in top left)
  • Kirin 990 (2.86GHz x2 + 2.36GHz x2 + 1.95GHz x4)
  • 8GB RAM
  • 256GB storage + nanoSD card
  • Rear Cameras
  •  - 50MP (main, 23mm, f/1.9, 1/1.28", 2.44um)
  •  - 12MP (telephoto, 125mm, f/3.4)
  •  - 40MP (ultrawide, 18mm, f/1.8, 1/1.54")
  • Front Camera
  •  - 32MP (26mm, f/2.2, 1/2.8", 0.8um)
  • 4200mAh + Qi + reverse Qi
  • IP68
  • 5G
  • IR blaster
That's a lot  of good stuff there.. hella chonky battery, dem cameras.  You can check up on the database page to see the flagship comparison against other flagships and its predecessor if you like.

The price point can be pretty high, but we are waiting official price.  This won't be cheap.  But you are getting a ton of spec out of it.

Now, that's the internals, let's get into the physical handling.

It's thin, yet perceptibly a little thicker than last year's, and it's hefty, noticeably hefty, moreso than my Pixel... but not uncomfortable.

All the controls (power and volume are on the right hand side).  The power button is still 'slower' than I like, in that I find to long press and get the power to turn on or off does take that split second longer than you'd expect.

I love that they'd kept the IR blaster.  I love being able to turn on the TV or select inputs before I can use my Roku (or just continue to use the Roku app to continue navigation).

The display is GORGEOUS.  Despite not being QuadHD, you almost couldn't tell.  Colour is well done and with the device it's so near almost completely screen, it's pretty nice to view on its own.

The fingerprint sensor is a definite improvement over last time, yet still in just slightly too high a position that you feel like it intuitively should be.  The facial recognition is still insanely fast; as good as the Pixel with all it's Soli chip.

It's interesting that there is no earpiece speaker, as they have that nifty piece of tech as seen in the previous P30 that the display to have it be the audio piece for phone calls when you put your ear to it.  It won't be loud enough to act as a real speaker, for that you only have one... so no stereo (thankfully PUBG has the indicator for which directions the shots were fired, or people are approaching).  It's something you don't really notice, only when it's pointed out.  But, that's compensated by the fact the speaker it does have, well, it's quite loud.

Now it's on, let's get to seeing this operate.

I'll get to the initial set up in a bit ... but navigating around the device is ... well, a dream.  It's fluid, it's seamless and no lag as well.  It's not just that it's fast, it just feels 'natural' in its use.  Maybe it's the 90Hz display with the beefy Kirin 990.  The navigation gesture controls are very easy to use; however, you still can opt for the original 3 button navigation and/or the app tray or the 'continuous home screen' where all app icons are just there.  I'm torn which I prefer.

Performance of the system and apps you can use are awesome.

The next jewel in this crown is its camera.  A personal favourite of mine, with the Leica lenses and well, just that neat tech of folding a periscope into the camera lens to give it a 5x zoom.

Taking it for one of my walks around when we had a nice sunny day and gave it a bit of a test.  I was not left wanting.

The colour reproduction in shadow and sunlight.  The ultra wide was neat, but not super necessary in the wide open where I was.  Inside it was more helpful.

Using the telephoto was neat, but beyond the 5x when it would begin the digital zoom it was apparent, and not really useful at that 50x they suggested.

Even better that the way in which you switch between the lenses, the fact it's pretty easy to tap in the 'scale' and jump to the appropriate lens and not find yourself somewhere in the middle between 2 zoom lenses with digital mixed in compromising the photo.

There are a lot of features in the camera, the AR lens for their 'Qmoji' or the Bokeh, lots of cool features to play with.

The next plus in the device is its battery.  It just lasts and lasts and lasts.  4200mAh is going to last you a long time.  I found that it was about a week of ... albeit, no LTE, and just LTE, and that week was pretty light use.  Still, damned impressive.

So... great display, snappy, snaps a great photo and can do all of that for a long time with a great battery... sure, it's expensive, but is that the only trade off?

Yeah, there is another biggie here... and it's not just a bigge, to be honest, it is the one that has me ready to put it down and honestly ignore the other pluses.

There is no Google within this phone.  Sure, you might just say I'm just a fandroid... I'm blind to the ability to operate without... to a point you're right.  I've tightly knit myself to Google... so not being able to have them readily at hand 'hurts'.

But let's back up, let's talk about this first.

A while back, the US government got mad at the Huawei company and ... well, it's a whole story unto itself, and I won't profess I know all of it, but it lead to the US government saying that companies weren't allowed to work with them.  What that meant was that even Google couldn't, and the extension was that Huawei couldn't use Android.  So when they shipped out the Mate 30 it was without Android.  Well, it used Android Open Source, but not the Google Play Services.

The interface, as we've seen, looks similar, but there's an emptiness to it.

There's no GMail, there's no Google Search, there's no Facebook, there's no ... lots of stuff I normally use.

Sure, there's the option for you to 'clone' from your older phone, to bring over not just photos and files, but apps from your phone.  It worked pretty well for me, with only a couple not making the transition.

So I saw Gmail and Youtube... but the problem, is that as soon as you load them up, they warn you that they don't have Google Play Services to be able to run.

Even apps like Tim Hortons gives you the warning.  Funny tho', Facebook doesn't.  You can use that.  It's an odd crapshoot of what works and what doesn't without Google Play Services.

There are other ways to get your apps.  Sites like APKMirror, there's even one in the AppGallery (their Play Store) called MoreApps, which helps you source the apps you want.

For the ones that don't give you that message, it'll ask you to log in... and if you're like me, I don't have a lot of memory work for login information, so I just either rely on Google Chrome's password sync to do it for me, or I have it log in via Google authentication.  

Then that runs into a problem.  Sometimes it wouldn't let me load the authentication for my login (a la Untappd), and sometimes it worked.  No rhyme or reason.

The alternative is that we just load up the site, and then bookmark it, and you only use the browser for some of my apps.  Like Photos, or Keep, or ...

Except, that's not ideal either.  

I was frustrated.  And I'm the tech savvy one.  I can only imagine someone like my dad using it and asking "well, how about this app my friend uses..." oh, you'll just have to do it by th eweb and ... oh, there's no website?  Well, he's snookered.  He's not going to fiddle about with the workarounds if there is one.

I can feel that techs at the store, or guys like me saying to others that "oh there's a workaround" is just offering some false hope and inviting a bit of frustration.

As it even actually worked, like for PUBG, trying to get some way to log into my mobile account was just an absolute pain, that I just gave up.

So, I have to say I just don't recommend this phone as I can see optimistically people buying it thinking they canwork with it, but finding out quickly that it isn't as simple as they thought and just get frustrated as they go along.

Which is tough to say as I love this phone ... as a piece of tech.  I wanted to love it as a full device, but it's hard to overlook the fly in the ointment

This is an amazing phone.  Awesome screen, good handfeel (a little on the slippery side, but you get a free case with it), stellar performance, fluid interaction that's intuitive, and one helluva battery.

Even the special Huawei features I love - like their knuckle gestures (built in screen recording!!), the quick app tray if you long hold the swipe in from the side.  Cool stuff.

Everything you SHOULD love in a phone, but we can't lose the forest for the trees.  As an overall device there's enough of a glaring issue to make me halt.  

Now, we have to take into account that this is a pre-release, non-commercial version. Maybe later on it'll get better. However, until the US-Huawei fight is over, we can't see that getting full access to Android is going to happen.  And that's what kills it for me.  Just thinking of the annoyance of not integrating or having to manually upload photos to Google Photos just is irking me.

And it's for that reason, I also noticed some odd 'glitches' ... some apps saying that I can't use for some odd reason.  The Browser was saying I was in the wrong country, or just didn't even work... pre-release glitches, right?

I guess, if you NEVER used Google, then you'd never notice this situation.  But, I am really just stressing my brain to see that someone, somewhere hasn't used a Google product and would not at all be affected by this.   Because even if it isn't Google they're going to miss, it's going to be access to the apps.

So, fingers crossed for the AppGallery end of Huawei to start snaring more and more developers to include their app on there.

Outside of that ... amazing phone.  I'm sad that it will go back to Huawei after this, even tho', I just would love to see the evoluation of this phone over time.