The Huawei Mate 40 Pro finds itself with the same problem as other recent Huawei handsets: top-notch hardware but issues on the software front since the US stopped it from dealing with Google. That means you might not be able to run all the apps you need.
While some can be cloned and sideloaded, and more are appearing in Huawei's own app store, apps that rely on Google's mobile software framework aren't going to work – that includes several key Google apps such as Google Photos, Google Maps and Gmail.
There are workarounds – you can get at your Gmail email through a different client, for example – it continues to be a challenge for Huawei and its phones, even though the company is making progress in improving the app experience on its newest handsets.
What we can say is that the fit and finish of the phone is absolutely first class, as usual. With fantastic camera and battery performance, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro might just have enough in the positives column for you to be able to live with a few app inconveniences.
Huawei Mate 40 Pro review: price and availability
The Huawei Mate 40 Pro is available to buy now in the UK, with a recommended retail price of £1,099 SIM-free and unlocked (although check the widgets on this page for the latest online deals). You can pick up the phone direct from Huawei, or from various third-party retailers, including Carphone Warehouse and EE.
Huawei Mate 40 Pro review: design and screen
There's no doubt that the Huawei Mate 40 Pro is a gorgeous-looking smartphone – you'll struggle to find a phone with a more premium appearance this year, including anything made by Apple or Samsung. The circular camera design on the back is slightly unusual, but we think it looks good, and the silver backing that our review model came with shimmers brilliantly in the light.
The screen plays a big role in the overall aesthetics: the large 6.76-inch OLED display runs at a resolution of 1344 x 2772 pixels and with a 90Hz refresh rate, with curved edges at the side and minimal bezels at the top and bottom. It's sharp and bright and crisp, with HDR10 support that helps give an extra punch to streaming video apps. No matter what you're reading or watching, the display is hugely impressive.
While it's not the thinnest or lightest phone that you're going to come across, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro feels comfortable in the hand, with a finish that makes the phone feel as expensive as it actually is. The dual 13MP+13MP selfie camera feels a bit excessive, especially as it cuts significantly into the top left hand corner of the display – the sooner phone makers work out how to put the selfie camera under the display, the better.
The phone is fully protected against water and dust with an IP68 rating, and there's a USB-C port for data transfer and charging. You don't get a 3.5mm headphone jack, but there are built-in stereo speakers. The power and volume buttons are both on the right of the handset as you look at it, with a fingerprint sensor embedded under the screen. Besides the silver version we've reviewed here, white, black, green and yellow colours are available, depending on your region.
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Huawei Mate 40 Pro review: camera and battery
Huawei handsets are well known for the quality of their cameras, and the rear camera attached to the Mate 40 Pro is another impressive offering from the company: there's a triple lens 50MP wide + 12MP telephoto (with 5x optical zoom) + 20MP ultrawide camera on the back and you'll be able to get some very good results indeed from it. The front-facing camera isn't bad either, a 13MP ultrawide lens coupled with a 3D time-of-flight depth sensor.
As we've come to expect from Huawei, images taken with the rear camera are first class. Colours are bright and well balanced, details are sharp and clear (even in the darkest and lightest spots of a scene), and the ultrawide lens gives you plenty of flexibility when it comes to fitting more into a particular shot. The 5x telephoto zoom is very handy to have as well, and can't be beaten by anything else on the market at the moment.
Low light performance is outstanding as well, with the Huawei Mate 40 Pro able to pick out details in the dark that other phone cameras can't get near to finding. The specialised night mode asks you to keep the handset still for several seconds, but if you can manage that you get really great results – it's a rear camera that can actually see in the dark. This makes some low light shots look unnatural, but it's impressive nonetheless. It's one of the most capable night modes we've seen on a phone camera to date.
Battery life on the Huawei Mate 40 Pro is impressive: two hours of video streaming at a low volume and maximum brightness only knocked the 4,400 mAh battery down from 100 percent to 90 percent, a really impressive result. In general use, you can get well over a day's use between charges – sometimes closer to two – and the super-speedy 66W wired and 50W wireless charging mean you can get the handset juiced up in no time at all.
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Huawei Mate 40 Pro review: other specs and features
The Huawei Mate 40 Pro is a smartphone packed with power, thanks to the Kirin 9000 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB or 512GB of internal storage (you can expand that further if you want, via Huawei's own memory card format). 5G connectivity is supported too, as you would expect from a top-tier smartphone in 2020. During our time with the handset, it absolutely zipped along through every app we tested it with.
As you're probably aware, for some time now Huawei phones have been unable to use the Google Play Store. This is a real annoyance but Huawei is working hard to limit the damage: while the Huawei AppGallery lacks a lot of big names, the phone makes it easy to sideload apps from unofficial sources on the web. We got apps such as Spotify, Instagram and Dropbox working this way, though core Google apps like Gmail still won't work.
This sideloading approach is a bit more fiddly than using an app store – it's also less secure in terms of avoiding malware and means you have to check for app updates manually too. In other words, while you can get most of the major apps up and running on a Huawei phone now, it's still not ideal. We've always found Huawei's EMUI software rather bloated and busy too, which doesn't help.
The app situation is improving, but it's still a drawback of buying a phone from Huawei at the moment. We can at least report that the hardware is more than capable of running the most demanding apps and games, if you can actually get them installed somehow. This is a phone where you won't have to worry about lag or sluggishness for a good couple of years at least.
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Huawei Mate 40 Pro review: price and verdict
The Mate 40 Pro is more of the same from Huawei: top-tier hardware design, with an excellent camera and impressive performance, and continuing software struggles in terms of official app support. If you're heavily reliant on Google apps and want the most seamless app experience possible, it's hard to recommend this phone, especially considering the price you pay for it.
If you can live with a few app inconveniences – like having to run YouTube inside a mobile browser rather than as a native app – in return for some flagship-level specs, design and performance, then the Huawei Mate 40 Pro might well be worth shortlisting for your next phone upgrade. If you take the software side out of it, this is undoubtedly one of the phones of the year, albeit on the expensive side.
Considering apps are such a fundamental part of the software experience though, it's worth double-checking that you'll be able to run your favourites on this phone. It's also fair to say that the appeal of top-level flagships – whether from Huawei, Apple, Samsung or anyone else – isn't quite as strong as it was considering there are now so many very capable mid-range phones on the market.
When it comes to choosing a smartphone, camera and battery performance are two of the key considerations for just about everyone, and it's in these areas that the Huawei Mate 40 Pro excels – and the screen and the design is rather impressive as well. After spending several days with the phone, it's those strong points rather than any weaknesses that will last longer in the memory.
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