The new Huawei Mate 40 Pro has been unveiled and goes on sale shortly. I’ve been trying it out since minutes after it was announced and first impressions are strong.
I’ll be reviewing it fully in the coming days but here’s a bullet-point glance at its design.
No Google Mobile Services
There’s one element that’s no surprise: the continuing issues between Huawei and the U.S. government mean there’s no Google Mobile Services on this phone, which means no Google app, Gmail, Google Maps or Play Store.
But Petal Maps is here
I’ve been testing Petal Maps, Huawei’s own navigation app which is aimed to fill the gap caused by the absence of Google Maps. This works tremendously, backed by solid mapping from TomTom which looks great. It’s in beta right now and not available for all countries but it’s a great start. There’s also Petal Search, a powerful system for hunting down many missing apps, safely and effectively. Petal Search is now transforming itself into a fully-featured search engine, which may reduce the need for the Google app, as well.
Huawei’s use of color is better than ever
The new phone looks sensational in Mystic Silver (What is it with the Mystic? It’s the adjective Samsung used in its latest colors, too.), a matte finish which catches the light that falls on it so that it never looks the same and is sometimes quite the rainbow.
The ring of cameras is refined
The Mate Series have had a distinctive circle housing the cameras for several iterations but this time, it’s called a Space Ring and instead of the lenses being inside the middle of the donut, now they’re in the ring itself. Four circles sit equidistant in the ring. Look closely and you’ll see that one of the circles has a square lens inside – that’s the 12MP periscope telephoto. The square shape is a mirror that reflects light along inside the phone and makes a greater focal length possible in a slim design
The other cameras, by the way, are a 50MP wide lens, 20MP ultrawide and there’s also a laser sensor for fast autofocus and subject tracking.
Dual front-facing cameras
There are twin cameras peeping out of an actually-quite-big cut-out lozenge on the display. That’s a 13MP sensor and a Time of Flight sensor which plays a part in facial recognition to unlock the phone (which is pretty quick, by the way).
Kirin 9000 is speedy
I’m still putting it through its paces but initial thoughts are that this phone is plenty fast. It’s a 5nm processor, like the iPhone 12, but Huawei is keen to point out that this chip has more transistors on board and has 5G support integrated, which the Apple A14 Bionic chip does not.
Always-on display is cuter than ever
You can now choose an always-on display which begins with an elegant animation or a deer in a moonlit forest, a bit like the Patronus animal guardians in Harry Potter.
Virtual volume buttons are still there
The Mate 30, thanks to its steeply sloped screen, introduced virtual volume controls – tap twice and an online volume slider appeared. Because it was virtual, you could access it from both left and right edges, which was highly convenient.
This time around there is a physical volume rocker but Huawei has left the option to use the virtual controls again, which is cool.
So is the waterfall display
The way the screen cascades down the edge of the phone is back on this phone, too and it remains as eye-catching as ever. The only downside is that if you’re typing the letters or numbers at the extremes of the keyboard, they fall very close to the edge so your fingers can slip if you’re not careful.
This phone looks gorgeous and is the most stylish handset yet from Huawei, holding its own against the best designed phones from any brand. The cameras are potentially ground-breaking and performance looks set to be slick.
The absence of Google Mobile Services remains the only significant barrier to widespread adoption, but the triumphant arrival of Petal Maps, and the app-searching capabilities of Petal Search may overcome this for many.
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