(Pocket-lint) - Well, well, 2020 brings with it not one but three flagship Huawei P series devices: the P40, P40 Pro, and P40 Pro+ (not to be confused with keep-you-awake caffeine supplement).

We had a briefing and sneak peek with Huawei ahead of the official unveil and have been using the P40 Pro for four days in the run-up to the official announcement. Here's everything you need to know about this trio of devices.

Design differences

  • All models: Metal and glass design, Pro+ only has ceramic finish offering
  • P40 Pro & Pro+ only: Curved screen edges, to both sides, top & bottom
  • P40 Pro & Pro+ only: Silver Frost, Blush Gold with matte-touch
  • P40 Pro+ only: Black ceramic, White ceramic
  • All models: Ice White, Black, DeepSea Blue
  • All models: In-display fingerprint scanner
  • All models: No 3.5mm headphone jack

Just a couple of weeks prior to the 26 March reveal, we were able to handle a P40 Pro, albeit in a concealed box. That gave away a number of prominent features, but now we can reveal those details in full.

First thing's first: the three models are composed of two fundamental design footprints. The P40 is the smallest of the three models, on account of its 6.1-inch screen; the P40 Pro and P40 Pro+ are the same in overall design.

All three models show-off a metal and glass design, with three base colours available across the full range: Ice White, Black, DeepSea Blue.

The P40 Pro and Pro+ also add the option of Silver Frost and Blush Gold, both with a more matte-touch and fingerprint-resistant finish - despite still being glass backed.

The P40 Pro+ adds a ceramic finish option, in either black or white. Huawei tells us this "nanotech ceramic back" is comprised of ceramic beads, which are compressed at higher pressure, then kilned at 1500C for five days, creating a sapphire-strength rear with a reflective index "similar to diamond". We look forward to seeing one of those in the real world.

None of the three have a 3.5mm headphone jack (last year's P30 did, but that's now gone), while all include an in-screen fingerprint scanner - which is said to be 30 per cent larger and more responsive than last year's P30 models.

Display: Two size options

  • P40 Pro & Pro+: 90Hz refresh rate OLED 'Overflow Display'
  • P40 Pro & Pro+: 6.58-inch, 2640 x 1200 resolution
  • P40: 6.1-inch, 2340 x 1080 resolution, flat panel
  • All models: Punch-hole twin front camera

As we've said, the P40 is the smaller of the three devices, with a 6.1-inch OLED display. It's flat, whereas the P40 Pro and Pro+ each feature a 6.58-inch OLED display, with curved edges to all sides, in what Huawei calls an Overflow Display.

There's no larger screen size to be found here, so Huawei hasn't taken the true triple form approach, like with Samsung's Galaxy S20 Ultra.

The two Pro models offer a 90Hz refresh rate, a 50 per cent bump over the usual 60Hz, designed for smoother visuals. It's not the 120Hz panel we were expecting, as per the Oppo Find X2, but for the sake of battery life we suspect it's a fair trade-off. The standard P40 is 60Hz only.

Whichever Pro model you choose you'll be getting a so-called 'Overflow Display'. That's Huawei's way of saying Waterfall Display, meaning the edges spill over, much like a waterfall, so the edge bezel is barely visible. This applies to all edges - both sides and the top and the bottom - for a real screen-dominant design that's unlike anything else we've seen to date.

While the P30 series had a notch for the front camera, the P40 series instead opts for a pill-shaped punch-hole to cater for its double front-facing camera setup. It's not pretty, given its large size.

Cameras: Triple, Quad, Penta setups

  • P40: Leica triple camera system
  • P40 Pro: Leica quad camera system
  • P40 Pro+: Leica penta camera system
  • Main camera:
    • All models: 50MP SuperSensing (RYYB) sensor, 1/1.28in size
    • f/1.9 aperture, optical stabilisation (OIS)
    • Focal length (approx): P40 at 26mm, Pro at 25mm, Pro+ at 24mm
  • Ultra-wide camera:
    • P40: 16MP, f/2.2, 17mm equiv.
    • P40 Pro & Pro+: 40MP cine lens, f/1.8, 18mm equiv.
  • Zoom lens #1:
    • P40 & Pro+: 3x optical (70mm equiv.), 8MP, f/2.4, OIS
    • P40 Pro: 5x optical (120mm equiv.) RYYB sensor, 12MP, f/3.4, OIS
  • Zoom lens #2:
    • P40 Pro+: 10x optical (240mm equiv.) periscope zoom, 8MP, f/4.4, OIS
  • P40 Pro & Pro+: Time-of-Flight (ToF) depth sensor
  • All models: Dual selfie camera, 32MP

The really core thing about the P series has always been its camera setup. In the P30 Pro we were blown away by the versatility of the triple camera setup. Things have moved fast since then, with competitors offering all manner of multi-camera setups, so the P40 had to answer that in a big way.

The cameras setup is the biggest difference between the three P40 models: the P40 has a triple system; the P40 Pro a quad system; the P40 Pro+ a penta system.

Whichever of the three you might pick, however, there's a core principle: all models use the same main camera sensor, a custom designed 50-megapixel one. It's custom because it uses Huawei's RYYB (red, yellow, blue) array, said to be better at capturing different light frequencies to the usual RGGB array, meaning better low-light performance.

But that's not all, this main sensor is much larger than a typical offering, with a 1/1.28in size. That's approaching double the size of a normal phone-camera sensor, meaning those 50-megapixels are spread out and much larger, for improved light-capturing possibilities. This is the largest sensor size we've seen in a modern phone (only 2012's Nokia PureView 808 is larger, if memory serves).

That sets the P40 series in good stead to deliver super quality. But it's not just about that main sensor: the ultra-wide and zoom optics are important too.

First, the ultra-wide lens. In the P40 that's the same 16-megapixel, 17mm equivalent as per last year's P30. The P40 Pro and Pro+ use a slightly less wide 18mm offering, but with a much higher 40-megapixel resolution. The higher-resolution offering is described as a 'cine lens' as it's also used to cater for video, at up to 4K.

In terms of zoom, you can think of it in three forms: the P40 offers a 3x optical zoom, as per the P30 last year; the P40 Pro offers a 5x optical zoom, similar to that of the P30 Pro from last year, but now using a RYYB SuperSensing sensor (at 12MP); the Pro Pro+ extends to 10x optical zoom for the first time, but also incorporates the same 3x zoom as the standard handset to aid in step-zoom, rather than jumping from 24mm to 240mm in one giant leap.

The P40 Pro and Pro+ also come with a Time-of-Flight depth sensor, which derives distance information, which the software can utilise in layers to help create background blur (bokeh) in portrait mode.

All three P40 cameras will offer familiar modes, from Artificial Intelligence shooting, to Night Mode. However, these have been advanced, with the AI tech now able to shoot multiple frames before during and after pressing the shutter to select the best of a burst and suggest a top three selection.

The selfie cameras in all three devices comprise a 32-megapixel main, alongside a depth sensor used for background blur effects.

Hardware specifications

In terms of internal processing prowess it's the same across the board for all three P40 devices, with the latest Kirin 990 processor and 8GB RAM  on board. 

All P40 handsets will be 5G capable, too, including the entry model.

It's in battery capacity and charging speed that the biggest differences can be seen: the P40 has a 3,800mAh battery, while both P40 Pro and Pro+ come with a 4,200mAh capacity. Given how well 4,000mAh+ has lasted in the past, we would expect great longevity from these handsets.

On the fast-charging front the P40 offers 22.5W. The P40 Pro and Pro+ take things up a notch, with 40W charging, which should charge the handset from dead to full in little over an hour.

Impressively, however, the Pro+also offer 40W wireless charging, which is the fastest non-cabled solution we've heard about to date. The standard P40 doesn't offer wireless charging.

Software: No Google apps

  • Android 10 operating system with EMUI 10.1 user interface
  • No Google Services, Huawei App Gallery instead

While all three P40 models will come with Google's Android 10 operating system, skinned with Huawei's EMUI 10.1 user interface, none of the three will come with Google Services, which means no access to Google Play Store.

The Google ban, resulting from the US-China trade war, has been in place for some time now. However, Huawei has moved forward with some of its own solutions, with Huawei Mobile Services, or HMS, aiming to rival Google, using companies like TomTom for mapping. There's also Huawei's App Gallery, instead of Google Play, but this currently lacks some of the major apps at present, such as Gmail, WhatsApp, and so on.

That said, Huawei is working to get the big developers on board - we know from conversations with Huawei that it intends to move hundreds of employees to London to work on HMS - with the BBC, Unity, and more are in the works. But until a variety of must-haves appear, we suspect this will be the hold-back for most considering the P40 series as a viable purchase option.

Release date and price

  • P40: €799 / Release date: 7 April
  • P40 Pro: €999 / Release date: 7 April
  • P40 Pro+: €1399 / Release date TBC

With a camera setup as hot as this, plus 5G for every handset, it's no surprise the P series is big bucks - especially the Pro+ which breaks the €1000 barrier and then some.

We expect the P40 devices will launch in China before anywhere else, from 7 April, with other territories to follow, excluding the USA. Given the lack of Google Services, we're unsure what this means for European markets overall though.

P40 series rumours: What happened prior to launch?

There were many rumours surrounding the P40 series launch, which we kept on top of over a number of months. Here's the history in the lead-up to this launch:

23 March 2020: P40 Pro Plus name leaks

A leak via Twitter saw the third device in the series leak, apparently confirming the P40 Pro+ 5G name.

23 March 2020: 50MP main camera, 40W wireless fast-charging

The phones are set to feature 50-megapixel main camera sensor and will have fast 40W wireless charging. That's according to the latest rumours to emerge from the supply chain, with the phones themselves now surely well into production.

17 March 2020: Conference start time confirmation

It was confirmed that the live stream will commence at 13:30 GMT on 26 March. That's 14:30 CET, 05:30 PDT, 08:30 EDT.

16 March 2020: 7 colour finishes leak out

A leak on Twitter shows the P40 Pro in a variety of colour finishes.

10 March 2020: Huawei confirms P40 launch event will be online only

Due to COVID-19 outbreak, Huawei has elected to launch the P40 series in an online-only event, not in Paris as originally planned.

10 March 2020: Huawei lets Pocket-lint go hands-on with the P40 Pro

We literally handled the higher-end P40 handset, but in a concealed box rather than actually seeing it. It did help confirm a number of features though.

24 February 2020: Huawei confirmed P40 launch date of 26 March

Huawei has officially confirmed that it's launching the P40 series on 26 March, saying it was "the world's most powerful 5G flagship smartphone".

19 February 2020: Huawei P40 and P40 Pro 5G certification spotted, launch imminent

The Huawei P40 and P40 Pro has reportedly passed via TENNA, a certification authority in China, and something that confirmed that these devices are close to launch. This also confirms 5G status for these phones.

17 February 2020: Huawei might load P40 series with 52MP camera sensor

The Huawei P40 might come with a custom 52-megapixel sensor, with the aim of 16 pixel combining for an equivalent 4.48µm pixel size.

22 January 2020: P40 Pro appears in the wild

It's not just renders any more, as pictures of a purported P40 Pro in the wild appeared on Chinese social site Weibo. The images seem to confirm all the rumours, such as the dual front cameras, although the case puts the rear cameras under question. We'll have to wait and see what comes true.

Weibo

17 January 2020: Detailed P40 Pro renders complete the next-gen Huawei set

Images reportedly of the Huawei P40 Pro show the difference to the so-called Premium Edition, revealing that Huawei is offering more high-end devices.

Android Headlines

17 January 2020: Huawei P40 Pro Premium Edition leak reveals release date - and five rear cameras!

Leaker supremo Evan Blass has shared high quality images of the Huawei P40 Pro Premium Edition with confirmation of a ceramic model - and the release date.

@evleaks

16 January 2020: Huawei P40 Pro images leak a full range of device colours

Images showing the full line-up of colours for the Huawei P40 Pro leak, revealing a few new details.

91Mobiles

15 January 2020: Huawei P40 design gets leaked, showing triple Leica camera

New renders surface showing off the regular of the two Huawei phones, the P40.

91Mobiles

30 December 2019: Huawei P40 Pro renders indicate another chunky camera bump

Renders reporting to be the P40 Pro appear, bringing with them some claims about what will make up the camera on Huawei's future phone.

9TechEleven

23 December 2019: Could the Huawei P40 Pro come with a 10x zoom?

A report from a frequently-cited analyst suggests that the Huawei P40 Pro will have a 10x zoom with 8-megapixel sensor.

20 December 2019: Huawei P40 Pro camera to have 16-megapixel 10x telephoto

Twitter leaker @UniverseIce has said that the P40 Pro will come with a 10x telephoto lens with a 16-megapixel sensor.

18 December 2019: Huawei's P40 and P40 Pro hop on the rectangular camera bandwagon

Renders from a reliable source give an insight into the overall design, as well as adding some details to the specs.

18 December 2019: Huawei P40 will be unveiled in March in Paris, confirmed

Huawei has confirmed that the P40 series will be unveiled at an event in Paris in March 2020.

11 December 2019: Purported image of Huawei P40 shows significant camera bump

An image claiming to be of a Huawei P40 shows a big area where the cameras might sit - but also that the design isn't changing hugely from the P30 Pro.

08 December 2019: Huawei P40 Pro specs appear, but take with a pinch of salt

A set of comprehensive set of specs for the Huawei P40 Pro have appeared on Twitter, but from a source that's not well established in leaks, so needs to be treated with caution. Many of the assumptions make logical sense, but there's little to corroborate the facts.

14 November 2019: Huawei might launch the P40 and P40 Pro earlier in 2020

A report from The Information suggests that Huawei might look to launch the P40 and P40 Pro earlier in 2020. Previous devices have been launched in March, but the company might bring things forward. This might be to appeal to Chinese buyers.

Writing by Mike Lowe.