(Pocket-lint) - Picture the scene: we've been invited to spend a couple of hours with Huawei to talk the new forthcoming P40 series. Only the P40 Pro isn't on display, it's hidden in a concealed box. So we're able to feel - literally - the new device, but not actually see it.
So what can you expect from the company's new flagship? Well, Huawei is being fairly tight-lipped now that we're just a matter of weeks from the launch event. But we did managed to deduce a few things from our meeting. Here's the lowdown.
P40 Pro: There's a new periscope zoom camera
Huawei product experts confirmed that "the P40 will advance Huawei's ground-breaking periscope technology", suggesting that the zoom lens capability will be greater than the previous device.
That corroborates with the rumour that the P40 Pro will house a 10x optical zoom - double that of the P30 Pro - to reach even farther-away subjects as if they're close-up in the frame.
Leaked images of the device show 18-240 on the rear, which would suggest an 18mm equivalent ultra-wide lens, a 24mm main lens, and a 240mm 10x optical zoom lens.
All we know is that it's not the same periscope in the P40 Pro as found in the P30 Pro: "this is our second-generation mass-produced periscope zoom", was the answer when quizzed.
P40 Pro: Camera unit is bigger than P30 Pro's
What we know for certain is the rear camera unit is far larger this time around - about double the width of the P30; about thumb-width - because we've felt it (literally in our own left hand while comparing against our personal P30 Pro in the right hand).
That's likely down to the addition of more cameras. What exactly these will be isn't 100 per cent sure, but the strong suggestion is that the main sensor will be a larger-than-average Sony IMX686, at 64-megapixels in resolution.
Huawei was only speaking in riddles about that though. While presenting an image of an eagle on screen - "eagled-eyed" to suggest super-fast focus?, "large-eyed" to suggest the physical sensor size? - the product expert would only confirm that the P40 will "build on market-leading sensor technology".
That, to us, suggests the use of ultra-high-resolution SuperSpectrum sensor (you can read more about that tech in our P30 Pro review). The company will "set new records", it claims, which could refer to the P40 Pro's potential handling of low-light conditions.
How many cameras there are isn't yet clear. Is it three, four, five to cater for in-between zoom levels? We'll just have to wait and see later down the line.
P40 Pro: Artifical Intelligence is central
Huawei has long talked up its Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Neural Processing Unit (NPU) technologies. We've had a mixed experience in the past, finding the automatic scene recognition to be a little overzealous with its saturation and colour palette.
But things are going to be even smarter in the P40 Pro, with the camera designed to "deliver things that have never been seen before when it comes to AI capabilities".
Perhaps that means even prior to shooting. If the eagle analogy above is anything to go by, perhaps this camera will be swift enough to locate and auto-recognise subjects and typical scene compositions, automatically zoom and compose in the blink of an eye before taking the shot. We think Huawei will be moving towards greater simplicity of use in the P40 Pro.
P40 Pro: There's no Google Services
Throughout 2019 and into 2020 Huawei had a bit of a rough ride from the US administration, causing a ban which forced Huawei to cease delivering its phones with Google Services. That means, from the Mate 30 series onwards, there's no Google Play Store.
There is, however, Huawei's AppGallery, a sort-of equivalent app store. It's not quite the same, however, as there aren't as many apps or services just yet, but the company wants to continue to grow that.
"We [Huawei] need to work with global developers to create a more mature, easier-to-use and more convenient AppGallery. It's basically the same thing as Google Play, just built on open-source and Huawei HMS Core (Huawei Mobile Services)".
Give it time and, if the developers get on board, Huawei could, theoretically, make an alternative source. Right now, however, the lack of Google Services on the P40 series will be its biggest obstacle to enticing a western audience.
P40 Pro: New material finishes
The fifth thing we know is that Huawei will "potentially [use] new materials" to break out of the usual glass, metal and plastic routine.
The company has previously explored various avenues, from the pearlescent P20 Pro, to the vegan leather orange Mate 30 Pro, and all manner of gradient colour blends.
What those new materials will be, we'll have to wait and see. Carbon? Bamboo? The handset we felt didn't have anything unusual about its feeling: a smooth glass back and curved screen edges felt prominent. Again, we'll just have to wait and see later down the line.