When the Mate 30 Pro launched in 2019, it was a very difficult time for Huawei as it had the dubious honor of being the brand's first major smartphone to be released with no Google apps installed. It soured the otherwise impressive device and announced a line of similarly ailing Huawei phones.

Now the Mate 40 Pro is here, and it's the first Mate series phone to have fully supported Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) and the App Gallery since Huawei. Has this changed the fortunes of the Mate 40 Pro and pushed it back into the mainstream, unlike the Mate 30 Pro, which has been best described as the "phone for the enthusiast" due to its software limitations? Let's find out.

design

One thing that never changes is Huawei's understanding of design and wonderful attention to detail. The Mate 40 Pro is absolutely great to look at and to hold. It avoids the heaviness of the P40 Pro Plus, maintains the 88-degree Horizon screen that cascades, and is perfectly proportioned and weighted. It's also a massive improvement over the Mate 30 Pro where I questioned the build quality and was disappointed with the sharper edges.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Come closer and more will be revealed. The power and volume buttons are a good size and naturally fall on your finger, although they are placed differently from other phones due to the cascading screen. The screen will split opinion as always. I think it looks great, very futuristic and cool. However, sometimes it is a bit awkward to use as Huawei's keyboard runs over the edge and some keys are a bit awkward to press. I haven't had enough time on the phone to evaluate the edge detection.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The phone in our pictures is the color Mystic Silver and alternates between different shades of silver, blue, gold, pink, yellow and much more. It's breathtaking. The texture of the panel itself is soft, warm and smooth, and resists fingerprint stains. Still, it never feels slippery. On the back, Huawei uses the design language of the Mate 30 Pro with another circular camera module that contains four cameras and a flash unit.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The camera system was developed in collaboration with Leica, which is evident from the branding in the middle of the module itself. I mention this because it's an example of Huawei's attention to design detail. The circular plate reflects light differently than the rest of the phone and almost looks like it is shining from some angles. It stands out so much. The Huawei Mate 40 Pro is one of the best looking phones I've seen this year.

Screen and software

The Mate 40 Pro has a 6.76-inch OLED screen with a resolution of 2772 x 1344 pixels and a refresh rate of 90 Hz. It is great for videos. Also, Huawei has made significant improvements to the audio. It has two stereo speakers with improved bass reproduction. WSJN's Happy music video is filled with bright colors and jumps off the Mate 40 Pro's screen, but never gets oversaturated even when Vivid mode is enabled in the phone's display settings. Audio is great too, with excellent stereo separation due to the clever placement of the speakers.

The constantly on screen can be set to react to your gaze. This means that the screen will stay black until you look or tap on the phone. Perhaps now it should be referred to as sometimes on the screen? It's an odd feature, and luckily, an option. Screens that are visible over and over again are my personal preference, as I can always check the time or the notification icons remotely. Knowing when you are looking at the screen and at what point it comes to life is surprisingly effective. However, it depends on the conditions and angles. It can only see you when looking almost directly at the phone, and it gets confused when lights shine on the selfie cameras.

The always-on screen is part of Huawei's built-in EMUI 11 software, which is based on a Google-free version of Android 10. I've already looked at EMUI 11, but how does the App Gallery handle the productivity of the Mate 40 Pro? Focus? It depends what you need. I need Microsoft Outlook and Teams, but neither app is officially available from the app gallery. I also need Asana, Trello, Zoom, and Slack, but none of them are available either. I would prefer to have the Google Docs app as well, but for obvious reasons, that app isn't in the app gallery either – and never will be.

That's seven apps that I consider to be pretty basic smartphone productivity requirements, but they don't exist in the App Gallery. Yes, there are some workarounds. For example, you can install some using an APK file, but this is less than ideal from a security and functional perspective. Some apps require the operation of Google Mobile Services. In this case, it won't work on the Mate 40 Pro.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro Hands On Features Price Photos Release Date Selfie CamsAndy Boxall / Digital Trends

Huawei Mate 40 Pro Hands On Features Price Photos Release Date Lower SpeakerAndy Boxall / Digital Trends

Huawei Mate 40 Pro Hands On Features Price Photos Release Date Top SpeakersAndy Boxall / Digital Trends

This is not new news and I encountered the same situation when I recently revisited the P40 Pro with a beta version of EMUI 11. With the Mate series, Huawei is targeting people other than the P series. As a result, Microsoft teams may be more important than Snapchat or TikTok to anyone looking at the Mate 40 Pro, and unless you're willing to invest some time finding and installing these apps, with a concern that some may not work properly, the Mate 40 Pro will likely not meet your needs.

camera

The camera has always been Huawei's strong point, and the Mate 40 Pro is no exception. It uses essentially the same camera setup as the P40 Pro but is powered by new silicon. Despite Huawei's ongoing problems with U.S. government restrictions, the company built the Kirin 9000, the world's first 5-nanometer mobile chipset with integrated 5G, which it claims is the most powerful mobile system on a chip.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

If you're waiting for full specs, Huawei wasn't very open-minded at the time of writing, but I was able to take some photos with the phone and arguably the results are far more convincing than a series of numbers. The following pictures were all taken in the early evening as the sun set. For the most part, I think they're excellent.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro hands on features price photos release date wide pondMate 40 Pro wide angle Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Huawei Mate 40 Pro Hands On Features Price Photos Release Date Standard PondMate 40 Pro Standard Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

huawei mate 40 pro hands-on features price photos release date 5x zoom pondMate 40 Pro 5x zoom Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Huawei Mate 40 Pro Hands On Features Price Photos Release Date 10x ZoomMate 40 Pro 10x zoom Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Huawei and Leica manage to give the recordings of the Mate 40 Pro a lot of atmosphere and emotion. For example, take a look at the 5x zoom photo of the tree and see how it captures the light of the golden sunset, the darkening clouds, and the autumn colors on the trees and foliage.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

When you shoot in wide angle, the standard camera results are reproduced very accurately, retaining the same eye-catching colors, details and dynamic range without noticeable distortion. It is rare for both cameras to produce such strikingly similar images. The wide-angle shots aren't as dramatic as some other phones, however. Like the P40 Pro, the Mate 40 Pro still has dynamic range issues in some lighting situations. It doesn't show as much detail as I'd like in the shade, but that doesn't always happen.

The dual camera selfie setup on the front has really evolved. Two wide angle cameras will fit more of your friends in the shot. It even has an automatic switchover if more than one person is recognized in the frame. The app's user interface hasn't changed and is still easy to use. There are also numerous modes and filters to try out. The overall performance of the camera and the breadth of functions make the Mate 40 Pro a truly impressive, incredibly versatile and extremely powerful photographic companion.

Price, models and availability

The Mate 40 Pro costs 1,199 euros, which equates to 1,418 US dollars. For reference, the Mate 30 Pro was priced at a relatively reasonable £ 900, or around $ 1,180 when it was released in 2019. Huawei will also release a standard Mate 40 Pro Plus from 899 euros / 1,060 US dollars and a Mate 40 Pro Plus from 1,399 euros / 1,655 US dollars and continues the collaboration with Porsche Design leads to the luxury version Porsche Design Mate 40 RS, which costs a staggering 2,295 euros or 2,715 US dollars.

While there won't be an official US release, the Mate 40 Pro will likely be sold in the UK and across Europe as well as China. No release date for the Mate 40 Pro was announced during the launch event.

Conclusion

As I write this, it is raining outside which means the Mate 40 Pro will no longer allow me to take photos and that is exactly what I want to do. The camera system offers a lot of potential, and I'm more excited about it than the P40 Pro because of these early results.

While EMUI 11 is quick and easy, the app gallery isn't well equipped enough to deliver what I need to live and work. Over time, this only becomes more of a problem for Huawei. It also means that I cannot take advantage of the true power of the new Kirin 9000 processor. How do I feel after a day or so with the Mate 40 Pro? In awe of the really great hardware and immense technical capabilities of the camera, but frustrated, the software lacks the right tools to keep the phone using all the time.

A year after the Mate 30 Pro, unfortunately, history hasn't changed dramatically for you and me. Advances in the Huawei ecosystem – of which there have been many – are still not enough to see the Mate 40 Pro take over the power of other big flagships like the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra or the upcoming iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Editor's recommendations




LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here