Huawei has taken a similar approach to Samsung in its flagship phone series for 2020. That means three models. You get the regular and plus-sized phones as usual, but then another super ultra model. For this comparison we're taking a look at the middle one: the P40 Pro, which is to Huawei's P40 series what the Galaxy S20+ is to Samsung's latest family of premium smartphones.
- Both IP68 water/dust resistant
- Glass and aluminium build
- Huawei: double camera cutout on front
- Samsung: single camera cutout
Samsung and Huawei take very similar approaches to design and build when it comes to smartphones, so it's no surprise here that the two are similar again. In short: it's glass and metal sandwiches all round.
While there are subtle differences, the approach to the phone appearance is much the same. That's to say that the glass on the front and the back curves towards the edges slightly, helping the front and back surface blend into the edges, making them more ergonomic than if they were just flat edges.
There's a subtle difference in size and dimensions, but not a huge amount. At least, not enough to make it a key buying decision maker. Both devices are tested and certified to the same levels of water and dust resistance too, complying with IP68 certification. In real every day use, that essentially means it'll survive most of the usual contacts with water: rain, spills, accidental drops. Just don't go and try taking them scuba diving.
When it comes to finishes or colours, there's yet again a similar approach. You'll get differing shades and finishes of white, black, blue and pink from both manufacturers, with Huawei offering frosted glass finishes in a couple of variants too.
On the front, both phones have skinny bezels and hole-punch cutouts for selfie cameras, but the approach is subtly different. Huawei's bezel appears to be slimmer, but the hole punch camera is more of an obstruction in the top corner than the slinky single cutout on Samsung's phone.
- S20+: 6.7-inch AMOLED panel
- P40 Pro: 6.58-inch OLED panel
- S20+: QuadHD+ 1440 x 3200 resolution
- P40 Pro: 1200 x 2640 resolution
- S20+: 120Hz refresh rate (at 1080p)
- P40 Pro: 90Hz refresh rate
There are similarites between the two phones when it comes to display size and resolution, which isn't surprising given the similarities in phone size. Samsung has a screen measuring 6.7-inches diagonally, where Huawei has gone with a 6.58-inch panel. That means, realistically there's not a lot of difference in screen real estate.
There is some difference in maximum resolution from the displays, but in daily life it's unlikely you'll be able to tell much of a difference. Samsung went with the standard QuadHD+, which means 1440 pixels across and - due to its length - 3200 pixels vertically. Huawei has 1200 x 2640, but that still means it's very sharp. It's over 400 pixels per inch in terms of density.
Another thing to consider is that Samsung - at time of writing - makes you choose betwen having this full resolution or having its 120Hz refresh rate. If you want faster, smoother animations, you have to choose the fullHD resolution which is obviously less than Huawei's standard resolution, which can display at 90Hz.
Again, for the average user, we don't think you'd notice a tonne of difference between 120Hz and 90Hz refresh, not unless your a gamer with a keen eye for smoothness.
- S20+: 12MP primary, 64MP 3x telephoto, 12MP ultra-wide
- P40 Pro: 50MP primary, 40MP 5x telephoto, 12MP ultra-wide
As is seemingly customary for 2020, the two phones both have three main cameras, each offering a different focal length. There's a regular wide camera, ultra wide and telephoto, but there are significant differences in sensor makeup and capability. From the looks of things, there's one winner here: Huawei.
A big plus for Huawei is its primary sensor which is a 50-megapixels. The important thing here is the size, it's much larger than Samsung's. At 1/1.28 inches it's one of the largest sensors ever put in a smartphone, and dwarfs the 1/1.76-inch sensor on the Samsung. The size means it's got the capability to bring in more light, offer better colour reproduction and dynamic range.
By default it uses pixel pinding to combine four pixels into one and create a 12.5-megapixel image, which is similar to the 12-megapixel size of the Samsung image.
The telephoto camera also appears to be more impressive than Samsung's, and can apparently offer 5x optical zoom effect, compared to the 3x optical offered by Samsung. Both will zoom further digitally. Ultra-wide cameras are pretty much the same on both.
Hardware and performance
- S20+: Exynos 990 or Snapdragon 865
- P40 Pro: Kirin 990
- Both 5G as standard
- S20+: 4,500mAh battery
- P40 Pro: 4,200mAh battery
- S20+: 12GB RAM
- P40 Pro: 8GB RAM
It's safe to say that both of these phones offer top performance when it comes to every day speed and power. Huawei, as always, has its own custom processor which has eight cores and 5G modem incorporated.
It's similar in the most essential ways to the Samsung processor, whether you get the Exynos or Snapdragon powered version. Where you'll see difference is in RAM and storage availability.
As for battery power, we're looking at a 4,500mAh battery on the Samsung versus a 4,200mAh battery on the Huawei. So again, not tonnes of difference in the numbers here. At least not enough to make a radical difference.
Samsung also puts more RAM into its phones, offering 12GB on the S20+, versus the 8GB on Huawei's.
What tends to make a big difference to battery and performance is usually software and optimisations done there, and Huawei has long been the champion of efficiency. We suspect it'll be a similar case here.
When they run flat, there's only one winner in terms of refilling speeds: Huawei. It has both 40W wired and 40W wireless charging, which will likely fill the entire battery within around an hour. Samsung ships the phone with a 25W adapter, which is obviously slower than the Huawei, and the wireless charging maxes out at 15W.
- P40 Pro: £899
- S20+: £999
While the two phones are similar in a lot of departments, the Galaxy S20+ is the more expensive of the two. In truth, both are pretty pricey. Samsung's is available with prices starting from £999, which gets you the 128GB model.
Huawei has opted to charge £899 for its P40 Pro, which is £100 less than the S20+. It's available from 7 April.
When it comes to pure hardware and performance each phone has its plusses here. Samsung has the sharper display, and bigger battery, but Huawei has much faster charging and more impressive camera capabilities. Samsung has the higher resolution screen, and it also has arguably the ultimate trump card: proper Android.
Huawei is still in a position where it has to develop software that doesn't include Play Services like the Play Store, Google Maps and Google Pay. However, it's been working hard on its own alternatives, and is starting to turn things around. It has TomTom for maps, apps being added to the AppGallery every day and strong partners like BBC and Unity for its media and games services.
In the end, until there are more key apps in Huawei's app store, it's hard to recommend buying one unless you're happy to sideload APKs manually, but give it a few months and we could be in a very different position.