Huawei P40 Pro Plus review: a top-tier flagship phone with an app problem

The Huawei P40 Pro Plus has a fantastic camera but no Google apps

Huawei P40 Pro Plus
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The Huawei P40 Pro Plus gets top marks in a number of areas – design, battery life, and especially the camera – but these phones are still held back by a poor app selection. The phone will cost you a lot too, so you might prefer the standard Huawei P40 Pro instead.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    The best camera around

  • +

    Superb build quality

  • +

    Top-tier performance

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No Google Play Store

  • -

    Large camera bump

  • -

    On the expensive side

The Huawei P40 Pro Plus is a lot like the Huawei P40 Pro: they're similar in size, they have the same screen, they have mostly the same components inside, and the same battery capacity. There is one key difference though: the P40 Pro Plus rear camera is even better.

Considering we've already been drooling over the photos captured by the P40 Pro, we had high expectations for the Plus model, and it definitely didn't disappoint – this is the best smartphone camera we've ever seen, and it sets a new level of quality for others to hit.

However, as you'll know if you've been following the Huawei story over the last few years, there's a big caveat: no Google apps or Google services, thanks to a trade ban slapped down by the US. This remains a big problem for Huawei, which we'll cover in more detail below.

It'll cost you in the region of £1,299 to buy in the UK from 25 June, but (as you would expect) there's no US launch. That's an awful lot of money for a Google-free phone, so is it worth your time? Read through the rest of our Huawei P40 Pro Plus review to find out.

Huawei P40 Pro Plus review: camera and battery

Huawei P40 Pro Plus

(Image credit: Huawei)

Huawei has always been at the cutting-edge of mobile photography hardware, even while its software has sometimes been hit and miss – it helped drive the jump to dual-lens cameras (remember those?), and the P40 Pro Plus packs in five cameras around the back. You get a 50MP f/1.9 wide lens, an 8MP f/4.4 periscope telephoto lens, an 8MP f/2.4 telephoto lens, a 40 MP f/1.8 ultrawide lens and a time-of-flight 3D depth sensor lens, offering 10x optical zoom for your photos. The pictures it takes are stunning, and it's just about the best camera on a phone we've ever tested.

From the fast focus and the snappy shutter speed, to the rich colours and excellent HDR balancing, it's almost impossible to take a bad photo with the Huawei P40 Pro Plus. It isn't perturbed by close-ups, or low light, or fast-moving objects, or zoom shots – it handles everything confidently, from white balance to exposure, and you can see some of the photos we captured below, mainly using the automatic point-and-shoot default mode.

The night time shots are unbelievable – they make night look like day and even outdo Night Sight on the Pixel phones. In fact, they're almost too good, making low light shows look eerily unnatural. Perhaps the night mode is best saved for indoor shots where you need to brighten up something that's really gloomy, but we're very impressed by what Huawei has managed to do here.

We're pleased to report battery life is fantastic too – the phone dropped just five percent from a full charge when we tested it with an hour of video streaming, which is a great result, and we regularly made it through two days on a single charge. Whatever Huawei is doing with the 4,200mAh battery, it's working, and it makes a refreshing change to have that safety net if you forget to put your phone on charge one night.

Huawei P40 Pro Plus review: design and screen

Huawei P40 Pro Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Huawei has always impressed us in terms of the design and build quality of its handsets, and the P40 Pro Plus is no different. It feels solid but not heavy in the hand, with perfectly judged lines and curves, and a refined finish that lives up to its premium price. We're not huge fans of either the rear camera bump or the punch-hole notch that hides a dual-lens selfie camera, but we can live with them.

You've got two colours to pick from – white and black – and the polished, ceramic finish really adds to the quality feel of the phone, which also has the superb build quality that we've come to expect from Huawei. Just pick up the P40 Pro Plus and you know you've got a top-class smartphone in your hands, with its gently curved screen edges and minimal bezels. It's a little thicker and heavier than a lot of phones available today, but that only adds to the premium feel.

Huawei has once again excelled itself with the 6.58-inch, 1200 x 2640 pixel, OLED display. It's bold and bright, and the 90Hz refresh rate ensures that games, webpages, and social media feeds scroll past your eyes very smoothly indeed. Huawei also includes a number of colour mode and temperature settings, which we appreciate, as well as a blue light filter for reducing the strain on your eyes in the evening.

As you would expect at this price, the phone comes with full IP68 waterproofing and dustproofing – it can last for up to 30 minutes when submerged at a depth of 1.5 metres (nearly five feet). Wireless charging and reverse wireless charging (so you can charge up other smaller gadgets) is included here as well, and an in-screen fingerprint sensor. It's a comprehensive all-round package, and it really looks the part.

Huawei P40 Pro Plus review: other specs and features

Huawei P40 Pro Plus

(Image credit: Future)

As well as an excellent screen and superior build quality, the Huawei P40 Pro Plus also offers super-speedy performance, thanks to Huawei's own top-tier Kirin 990 processor. That's coupled with 5G connectivity, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of internal storage (which you can expand with a memory card) – those are flagship specs in anyone's book. It translates to ultra-smooth performance too, and the P40 Pro Plus was easily capable of handling everything we threw at it.

As we mentioned at the top though, it's the software that's the major problem with the Huawei P40 Pro Plus. The EMUI OS developed on top of Android by Huawei is fine, but there's no Google Play Store, no Google apps, and no apps that rely on Google services. The likes of Snapchat, VLC, TikTok and Tidal have made their way over to Huawei's app store, but apps such as Spotify, Instagram, Strava and Uber can't be got directly.

Huawei of course knows this is a big problem. It has a Phone Clone tool which is relatively successful at just copying the apps off your old phone and on to your P40 Pro Plus – it works for the likes of Spotify, Netflix and Dropbox, for example, but you're then stuck when it comes to getting updates, and you can't keep your old phone around just in case you ever want a new app or game.

Huawei P40 Pro Plus screenshot

There are a lot of app gaps – but AutoTrader is here, so you can shop for cars.

(Image credit: Future)

Apps can also be sideloaded from the web, which is basically obtaining them from unofficial sources. These sources are usually safe enough (sideloading has been going on for years on devices such as Amazon tablets), but there's a greater risk to security and safety once you venture outside the Google Play Store. Any app that relies on Google's services – like Uber, say – will still refuse to work.

With these workarounds and hacks (see also our Huawei P40 Pro review) you can get something approaching normality on the app front, but they are just that – workarounds and hacks. Updates are still a problem, some apps just won't work at all, and while you can get at several Google apps through a browser, it's not ideal (you can't carry on controlling your smart home with Google Assistant, for example).

Quick fixes like Phone Clone and APK installs are a pain for the most tech-savvy, let alone for anyone else. We can only hope the alternative app store is able to attract more of the bigger names as time goes on – Huawei itself has committed to working hard on this, so we'll see what happens.

Huawei P40 Pro Plus review: price and verdict

Huawei P40 Pro Plus

(Image credit: Huawei)

At a starting price of £1,299, this is not a cheap phone – you can pick up decent enough handsets for a quarter of that price, and spend the savings on a couple of holidays (depending on where you want to go and how many people are in your family). In a lot of ways though, the Huawei P40 Pro Plus justifies its high asking price.

The design, screen and build quality are superb, and right from the moment that you get the P40 Pro Plus out of the box you know you're in for a treat. It has all the power and performance you need, plus a bunch of key extras like expandable storage and wireless charging, and it's hard to think of many ways that Huawei could improve on this handset (software aside) when it comes time for the P50.

We should mention the camera again, which is capable of producing some stunning results – from the wide angle mode to the 10x optical zoom, it's just about the best smartphone camera we've come across, and the night mode has to be seen to be believed (even if it almost goes too far in some situations). While the top-tier Galaxy, iPhone and Pixel phones are all close to the Huawei P40 Pro Plus, we reckon this has set a new bar for mobile photography.

The only issue then – and it's a major one – is the lack of Google apps and services. Huawei is probably sick of hearing it, but when your smartphone can't run the apps that you rely on every day, then that seriously impacts how useful it can be. If you can get by with Huawei's own apps and the sparse pickings in its app store, and if you can afford it, you can't do much better than the Huawei P40 Pro Plus.