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Five things you need to know about the Huawei P40

Huawei’s new phone has a “monster camera” but still no Google apps

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

Huawei’s P40 is here. In a mostly empty venue, with a few scarce claps audible in the background, Huawei’s CEO of consumer business Richard Yu introduced the “monster camera” available on the latest device from the company’s photography-focused series of phones. 

But besides just taking better photos and having 5G (thanks to the company’s Kirin 990 chip), what else can you expect from Huawei’s newest phones? Here are five things to know about the P40, P40 Pro and P40 Pro+.

Three, four, five cameras

The back of Huawei’s newest flagship phone has a certain 1980s Kodak camera flair, perhaps a deliberate attempt to highlight how important photography is for this series. And it’s not all looks. Huawei is delivering some impressive hardware here aided by its ongoing partnership with Leica.

While all P40 models feature a 50-megapixel main camera, the number of cameras and zoom capabilities vary. You get three cameras on the P40, four on the P40 Pro and five on the P40 Pro+. 

Huawei’s CEO of consumer business Richard Yu introducing the “monster camera” on the P40 Pro+. (Picture: Huawei)
On the Pro+ you’ll find what Huawei is calling the “monster camera.” It offers a 40-megapixel ultrawide lens alongside the main camera, a time-of-flight sensor and two 8-megapixel telephoto cameras with 10x and 3x optical zoom. 

But if 1,399 euros (US$1,540) is too much for you to pay for a phone, you can go with the 799 euro (US$880) P40 that has three cameras. It includes a 16-megapixel ultra-wide camera and an 8-megapixel telephoto camera with a 3x optical zoom. An upgrade to the 999 euro (US$1,100) P40 Pro gets you a 12-megapixel telephoto camera with a 5x zoom and a ToF sensor.

More camera tricks

Samsung was the first to offer 100x zoom in a phone, but Huawei thinks it can do it better. The feature combines optical and digital zoom, but it’s only available on the P40 Pro+.

Huawei’s Richard Yu looking smug while comparing P40 Pro+ SuperZoom Array with the zoom on the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

But all P40 models will let users try out AI tricks that Huawei calls  Golden Snap. Similar to the Google Pixel’s Top Shot, Golden Snap picks out the best photo from a batch of similar shots. It also includes some other neat tricks, like removing pesky photobombers from your images and erasing reflections.

The phones have a 32-megapixel front-facing camera, too, allowing for 4K selfie videos and some other useful features seen in previous Huawei phones. These include the well-known bokeh effect and some features from the Mate 30 like gesture controls and AI private view, which hides private messages if the camera sees a face that isn’t you.

A new AI assistant

Joining the likes of Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Bixby and Google Assistant is Huawei’s own Celia. Does the world need another digital assistant? Huawei did after losing access to Google’s. 

Celia currently recognizes English and some other languages for the European markets it will be hitting. It’s also integrated with AI image recognition, so you can do things like ask her to count the calories in your meal by pointing your camera at it.

Celia must be disappointed I’m eating cake again. (Picture: Huawei)

Curves and other design goodies

Huawei put a lot of attention on the P40’s curved edges and overflow display. But designs still differ among the three models. While all of them have extra thin bezels, the P40’s are slightly bigger than the other two.

The screen uses a 90Hz OLED display and includes an in-display fingerprint sensor that Huawei says unlocks the phone 30% faster. The silver and blush gold editions also use a new shiny, fingerprint-resistant finish on the back.

Blush gold just looks like amber, but at least it’s a change from the iPhone’s champagne gold. (Picture: Huawei)

Huawei’s new emphasis on design is also spreading into fashion. The company introduced the Huawei Watch 2 GT with a battery it claims lasts for two weeks and new models of its smart eyewear designed by Korean glasses brand Gentle Monster.

Still no Google apps

Even if you’re as impressed with the P40’s photo capabilities as Huawei hopes, you still have to deal with the complete absence of Google apps and services.

To replace Google, the company has been working on its own Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) and slowly populating its AppGallery store. But users outside of China might still find it hard to get the apps they want and make them work.

Huawei is continuing to push ahead with device launches anyway. It even recently opened its first flagship store in France. To try to solve its app dilemma, Huawei has been courting local app makers and searching for replacements.
Huawei might already have a replacement for Google Maps: In January, it reached a deal with TomTom, the Dutch digital mapping company.

But is replacing Google apps enough? Analysts think it’s unlikely. Despite some impressive features, P40 buyers could wind up using the phones just to capture their Kodak moments.

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