Huawei Mate 40 Pro – First Impressions

Normally I would do an unboxing on a newly received phone, however this time around I am going to skip the unboxing as most reviewers have done that for me. What I am going to do is give you a bit of a rundown of my experience over the first few days of using the device.

Now for long term readers, you will no doubt be aware that I have had a bit of a love-in with Huawei and in turn Honor over the past few years. However, I have become more and more embedded in Google’s Ecosystem. I use a Chromebook as my daily driver and I use a Google Wear watch too. I also have all my photos backed up on Google Photos. My personal email accounts are on Google and I use it in my car via Android Auto. Using Google services is a big part of my life, so I was a little apprehensive of using a phone that had no way of utilising these services.

Huawei and Honor, for those who may not know, have been blocked from using Google Services in their newest phones. The sale of Honor may mean that that will change but, right now, the Mate 40 Pro has no Google Play, no YouTube, no Google Mail and so on.

I actually changed back to a Google-made device and then after a few more switches, I ended up with a Note 10 Plus from Samsung. My last Huawei Phone was the P30 Pro which was also the last Huawei flagship that had Google Services on board.

That’s some of the background out of the way. Now onto the present day. I have in my hand the Huawei Mate 40 Pro which, I have to say, feels and looks awesome. Especially in this shade – which changes the colour depending on the available light. It has a nice shimmer to it and it feels lovely in the hand, offering just the right level of grip.

The edges of the screen bend around to the back of the phone in what Huawei refer to as the “waterfall screen” which is remarkably good at palm rejection when being held. I do find it interesting that Samsung who innovated the “edge” concept in their phones such as the Galaxy S6 Edge and then took it further in the S7 Edge has now started to move away from the concept of “edge” interaction. It is almost as though they have inadvertently passed the torch to Huawei for them to see if they can make it useful.  I don’t think it adds anything in term of practicality and useability but then I am only one person and I never used it in the Samsung either so maybe I am not the target market!

An area where I am a little bit torn is the camera module. It is reminiscent of the massive ring-like camera from the Nokia 1020 of yore which I did really like back in the day.

However, I think this design has had its time as camera modules have become slimmer and sleeker. There are, of course, some exceptions where the camera module has an optical zoom in it, but I think the ring is a bit too much when compared with my Note 10 Plus. I would like to have seen this be a little bit more compact and sleeker. Don’t get me wrong though, I am very glad to see the multi-lens array that this ring hides and the fact that Lecia is still assisting with the camera development.

Apart from these things the design is pretty much a par for the course for a flagship Android phone in late 2020. So, with that covered off, for now, I will move onto the real matter at hand – the UI.

I am quite particular about how my UI feels and behaves and I had some genuine trepidation about using the Mate 40 Pro as my daily driver. I like Android and keeping it as near as stock as it can be on an OEM device such as Samsung, OnePlus Sony, etc.

When I started using the AOSP version of Android that Huawei has built their UI on I was hesitant. However, it turns out that I should not have been – things feel very comfortable. There’s one big negative though, and that’s the bloatware. Step into the Huwaei App Gallery and you open the flood gates for crapware. It is a bit of an unorganised mess as it pulls all the apps from the worldwide store into view. I would like to have seen this been more locale-aware so that I only see apps for my country. That said, it was still easy enough to find the main apps that I use to charge my Electric Car.

However, some apps rely on Google Services and, although you can get around these using a webpage, the experience is not quite the same.

As mentioned earlier, my personal email accounts are all Gmail accounts and this is an area where my phone plays a big part in my day. I found that the Huawei Mail app was not great as I couldn’t easily identify my unread emails when using the dark mode view. Now, I know that I could use an alternate email app but I want to test the Huawei core services and this was a bit of a fail for me when compared to the Google equivalent (which is by no means perfect either).

Another thing I missed is Google Photos – I use this all the time and it has become my primary backup facility for photos and videos. I have been using Google Photos for many years now and have got thousands of photos stored in my Google Cloud. This is not directly accessible from a Huawei device anymore and it is a big turn off as it would require workarounds to get my easy backups working as they should.

After a few days, what are my thoughts on the Mate 40 Pro? Is it still sporting my main SIM and how long will it be onboard?

I’ll be honest, no – it’s not got my SIM in it and I’ve switched back to my Note 10 Plus because I have got that all set up for work. It will remain there for the time being. However, I am using the Mate 40 for all my non-work related tasks at the moment. Pictures, videos, gaming, music, personal emails etc. I am going to give it a try as my main phone for the rest of this week to see how it copes and maybe I will be impressed, maybe I won’t.

In the meantime I have got some pictures of the phone to share for you, so you can admire the design excellence that this phone is.

Please do keep an eye on the site for the full review of this phone that will be coming to you after some extensive testing over the next week or so. If you are wanting to get hold of the Huawei Mate 40 Pro you can do so from their website or your normal network providers.