As I write this ahead of the Mate 40 Pro’s official launch, there’s still a lot I don’t know about the phone. This is partly because Huawei execs reeled from some serious leaks over the weekend and decided not to share the full specifications with journalists during the usual pre-briefing session.
It’s also partly because Huawei doesn’t reveal the price until the launch itself.
Someone at Amazon Germany accidentally listed the phone (with photos of the Mate 30 Pro) before the embargo with a price of €1199 and a release date of 9 November, but those may or may not be correct.
I’m going to assume it is, because it’s reasonably similar to the €1099 launch price of the Mate 30 Pro.
Usually, given a proper pre-briefing and enough time I would write a detailed review of the phone (which I have in my hands), but that’s impossible this year as there are too many unanswered questions.
I can’t benchmark the new Kirin 9000 chip because I can’t install Geekbench 5 and GFXbench, the two apps we usually use. It’s a problem we’ve faced before with recent Huawei and Honor phones. All I know – by looking at Geekbench 5’s online results – is that a phone with the same part number scored 1020 in single-core mode and 3710 in multicore mode.
Those are great: faster than the Snapdragon 865 in the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, but the 3D capabilities of the new chip remain unknown. Huawei didn’t mention any percentage increases during the pre-brief saying only that it was “faster”.
The situation with App Gallery
I can’t install these and other apps because they’re not available in Huawei’s App Gallery, nor are they installable via Petal Search, the alternative ‘official’ method of installing apps on the Mate 40 Pro.
As you almost certainly know, new Huawei phones don’t have access to Google services which makes using them very frustrating. The Mate 40 Pro runs an open source version of Android 10 – not 11 – but that is pretty much the extent of it’s Google-ness.
You can use the web versions of some Google services such as Gmail (linked to from Petal Search below), YouTube and Maps (the Maps app sort works, too) but anything that relies on Google services doesn’t work.
And without those, you can’t use the Google Play store, which means you can’t install apps which are only available there, such as our benchmarking apps but, more importantly, a whole load of common apps you probably use on a daily basis. Apps such as Netflix, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom: the list is longer than I care to type.
Huawei will tell you that you can ‘clone’ many apps from your existing phone to the Mate 40 Pro but there are still many which cannot be transferred and of those that can, any which rely on Google services still won’t work, or work properly.
A year ago when the Mate 30 Pro launched this workaround of using PhoneClone to get unavailable apps was just about acceptable, but a year on it’s really not.
The company keeps reassuring its users that it’s working hard to ensure there are local apps available in each region, but the truth is that not much has changed in the past 12 months.
Using alternative apps might be acceptable to some people – such as TomTom maps instead of Google – but there aren’t alternatives for smart products such as Amazon Alexa, Philips Hue and many others. You simply won’t be able to set up, control or use those devices with a Mate 40 Pro.
Irritatingly, even some of the pre-installed apps don’t work properly. The default Microsoft SwiftKey keyboard is a good example. Tap on the microphone icon to dictate some text and you’ll be greeted with a message telling you that “To use voice input, you must download and install Google Voice Search”. Tapping the Download button takes you to a screen for downloading the Google app which, of course, won’t work on the Mate 40 Pro.
Does the new hardware matter?
You might wonder why I haven’t mentioned the new design, the signature Mystic Silver finish, the new camera setup, the 66W fast charging, and the 6.76in screen.
But what’s the point? Even though – as ever – the hardware is fantastic, very, very few people will consider spending €1199 on the Mate 40 Pro when they could go and buy any other flagship phone of their choice with that budget.
And, unlike the Huawei, those phones will allow them to install the use the apps they need on a daily basis.
(If you do want the details, read our separate article on the Mate 40 Pro’s specs and features, confirmed price and release date.
Once I’ve been able to properly assess the Mate 40 Pro’s performance and new features I will write a full review. The verdict shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone though because, regardless of hardware prowess, the Mate 40 Pro is hamstrung by the fact it can’t let you do what you need to do with it.