In March Huawei launched the P40 Pro. It is the company’s latest flagship Android phone.
Going by the reviews, the hardware is as good as it gets for Android.
It could have been a contender for 2020’s best phone.
Yet there is more to a phone than hardware. If anything the software and services are more important. So is the way these two integrate with the phone hardware.
Android, not Google
This is a problem for the Huawei P40 Pro because it is the first major Android phone from a top brand that doesn’t include Google Mobile Services.
Last May the Trump Administration placed heavy sanctions on Huawei. The company is not allowed to licence or otherwise use US-made technology.
Which means Huawei’s new phones can only use the open source version of Android.
Moreover, new Huawei phones can’t offer Gmail, Google Maps or You Tube. Huawei is cut adrift from the Google Play Store. You can’t pay for stuff using Google Pay.
Clever, up to a point
Huawei has found one clever workaround the problem. It has re-released versions of earlier phones that are still allowed to use these services. The Huawei P30 Pro recently appeared complete with everything Android.
That works if customers don’t mind buying what could be thought of as old technology. Not that 99 percent of users would ever know the technology is old, it still feels modern enough. As my P30 Pro review says, you get a lot of camera.
P40 Pro buyers are stuck with Huawei’s own homegrown ecosystem. You get Huawei’s unexciting EMUI 10 operating system wrapped around Android and a handful of substitute apps. The apps might get the job done, but while some buyers may be satisfied others may not warm to them.
Huawei also offers its own App Gallery. The company said it was going to, or maybe that is will, spend a billion US dollars on the gallery. It has 3,000 software engineers working on it.
Whatever the claims, it’s like entering an Eastern Bloc shop in the bad old Cold War days. There are gaps everywhere and many apps are limp, pale copies of the real thing.
Even the included email app is, well, not a patch on Gmail. Huawei really ought to have poured some resources into making that one sing and dance.
If you are hooked on Facebook, there is no app. In fact you won’t find any of the most popular apps.
A brave decision
You’ve got to really want a Huawei P40 Pro to get one. Or you have to be extra keen to stick-it-to-the-man.
For a start, the P40 Pro isn’t listed in the Spark or Vodafone online stores at the time of writing. You could buy it from 2degrees at NZ$1500 a pop or on a plan.1
Then the challenge is making it work the way you’d want an Android phone to work. A lot of geeky folk are attracted to Android precisely because it does offer more scope for tinkering that Apple’s iPhone.
No doubt some of these will enjoy the P40 Pro challenge.
You can use third-party app stores. If you work for a corporation your IT security people will probably have a melt-down at the thought. There are downloadable and published hacks and so on. Android is already a minefield for malware and scams, heading into this territory is not for the faint hearted.
Patching security updates is likely to be troublesome and P40 Pro owners may even be violating the terms and conditions for services like online banking using such risky software.
Huawei has made some great phones over the years. In another world, the P40 Pro would probably be among them. But it isn’t. Whether its handicap is fair or reasonable is one thing, but regardless of those matters, it would not be wise to sink $1500 of your own money into a crippled phone.
- The marketing material at the 2degrees site doesn’t go anywhere near mentioning the phone is not like other Android phones. This could be grounds for getting your money back if you feel duped. ↩︎