The cheapest Huawei P40 has a great camera, but is it enough?

The cheapest Huawei P40 has a great camera, but is it enough?

The Huawei P40 Lite can be touted to be the entry-level darling of the Shenzhen-based manufacturer this year. Despite the ongoing worldwide health crisis and a trade war between China and the US resulting in an embargo on Huawei, this particular smartphone is meant to be a technical showpiece on how it is possible to move forward without Google. Technically speaking, the Huawei P40 range happens to be the second without Google Mobile Services (GMS) after the Mate 30 Pro, with the P40 Lite playing its role in an experiment. Here is my review of the Huawei smartphone.

Rating

Good

  • An excellent camera
  • A very beautiful design
  • Good quality screen
  • Above-average battery life

Bad

  • No Google Mobile Services
  • The AppGallery catalog is inadequate
  • Phone Clone has its limits

Huawei P40 Lite release date and price

The P40 Lite was released at the end of March 2020. The Huawei Mate 30 Pro's launch was a rather confusing one for some due to the uncertainty of whether there will be GMS thrown into the mix. This time around, Huawei took the bull by its horns. Huawei came clean right from the get-go by taking the risk of releasing the Huawei P40 Lite in the European market without any GMS.

Knowing how essential Google has become in our everyday lives, this is a risk that Huawei took, which could end up with a large inventory sitting in stores. Nevertheless, major e-commerce sites decided to go ahead by offering this device to their customers while offering a clear warning. Priced at £279.99 (around $310) for the 128GB, you can order Huawei P40 Lite in The UK can be placed now. Expect this handset to arrive in three colors: light pink/blue, black, and emerald green. We took the first color option out for a ride.

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The three different colors for the Huawei P40 Lite. / © Huawei

Huawei P40 Lite design and build quality

I was immediately taken in by the design of the P40 Lite, especially its color gradient from top to bottom that changes from light pink to sky blue. Similar to the Huawei device that I reviewed earlier this year, I found this design to be very elegant, and it is evident that Huawei has put in an effort to offer aesthetically pleasing products. With dimensions that measure 159.2 x 76.3 x 8.7 mm, this is a relatively large model with a screen that takes up most of the front space while sporting a very slim bezel. Tipping the scales at 183 grams, this Huawei smartphone features a plastic back and an aluminum frame, albeit having an elegant looking glass front. It does prove to be rather solid when held.

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A view of its ports and buttons. / © NextPit

Make no mistake, Huawei has clearly positioned this device to be an entry-level to mid-range model. You will find all that you require to run it right out of the box: a USB charger, a USB Type-C cable and a USB-C hands-free earphone kit. The volume rocker is located on the right side just above the power button that doubles up as a fingerprint reader. All of these are par for the course where a regular smartphone is concerned, and Huawei has even retained the 3.5 mm headphone jack which will keep many people happy.

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The rear of the device with its quad-camera setup. / © NextPit

Like all P40 models, the matte effect on the back provides a pleasant feel and is not a fingerprint magnet. With a quad-camera sensor housed within a rectangular island at the upper left corner of the handset, placing it flat on its back will certainly cause it to wobble slightly. This is because the rectangular island maintains a degree of discretion due to its design. Overall, I would say that the Huawei P40 Lite is a beautiful device at an extremely reasonable price point.

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The 3.5 mm headphone jack and USB-C charging port at the bottom. / © NextPit

Huawei P40 Lite display

As I mentioned earlier, the 6.4-inch screen is large enough for everyday use that your eyes will appreciate, boasting of Full HD+ resolution at 1080 x 2310 pixels and a pixel density of 398 PPI. The aluminum bezel and curved edges might just fool you into thinking that you are grasping a screen as opposed to a phone. This makes your YouTube viewing experiences more enjoyable, in addition to those photo shooting sessions.

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The 6.4-inch screen looks gorgeous. / © NextPit

Most of the reviews concerning Huawei smartphones released in 2019 are not too flattering on the notch in front that houses the selfie shooter - a trend that took off in 2018. With the Huawei P40 Lite, it seems as though Huawei has gone to great lengths to remedy this design flaw by placing the selfie camera in the top left corner, making it blend in rather nicely with the rest of the screen. In other words, when the screen is turned off, it would require some extra effort to pick out where the notch is.

While a refresh rate of 60 Hz is the norm for entry-level devices, it is starting to show its limitations if you are a hardcore smartphone gamer. Then again, there really isn't much to complain considering which market segment this handset occupies. I found the brightness level of this handset to be perfect, and it works well even under bright light. Due to the lockdown in Berlin, I had very little chance to test the camera outdoors, although I did not face any issues in viewing my photos while at the park and even on my balcony.

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The notch for the selfie camera. / © NextPit

Huawei P40 Lite software

The main point of contention for the P40 Lite would be its software. At the beginning of this review, I pointed to the lack of GMS on this device, including warning from the manufacturer all the way to warnings from e-commerce sites that carry this device. Now, who are we kidding? It is a fundamental question that you must ask yourself honestly if you are considering this handset. It would be prudent to go through the following trio of questions: Do I want a smartphone that has no Google Mobile Services? Can I live without my favorite apps and settle for alternatives? How long can my patience hold out until Huawei's App Gallery, their version of the Play Store, provides equally good or better apps than GMS?

Before jumping into the complexity of the Google Mobile Services issue, the P40 Lite comes with EMUI 10.1.0 and Android 10 right out of the box. Personally, I'm familiar with this operating system and its skin. The experience was enjoyable since the handset had enough muscle to run things smoothly. EMUI 10.1.0 offers a user experience that works well for those who like to customize their home screen, and I have an especially soft spot for the dark mode. However, I do admit that I struggled with gestures at first, where it took me a couple of days at best to become familiar with the entire gesture system.

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Apps on the Huawei P40 Lite. / © NextPit

Before reviewing the P40 Lite, I had an in-depth discussion with my colleagues who had been confronted by the problem of living without Google Mobile Services, and I was quite surprised by their skepticism. My first reaction was to transfer my applications from my Huawei Mate 20 Pro to the Huawei P40 Lite via the Phone Clone application. As a Huawei user, I told myself that I should not be biased because I am experienced enough to get things done properly. Here is the final result of the transfer with Phone Clone.

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Apps on the Huawei P40 Lite. / © NextPit

Look at the disappearance of the Play Store and all other Google products apart from Google Maps.

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Apps on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. / © NextPit

Everybody agrees that there are alternatives to replace Gmail or Google Calendar as they are standard apps that can be substituted by other alternative email or calendar apps. For this, I am willing to close one eye as these are Google services that are not indispensable to me.

However, things become more complicated if you are, like me, a regular YouTube, Google Maps, and other GMS users. Courtesy of Phone Clone, Google Maps managed to make the jump, but it still hit a snag eventually since Google Maps had to run without any Google account logged in, and that meant losing all of my stored data such as history, favorite places, etc. It is certainly a major setback if you have lived with Google helping you out all this while. As I ride around on my bike everywhere, having a half-baked Google Maps was really annoying. As for the Chrome web browser, it really depends on whether you are a heavy user of it prior to this. Personally, I am very dependent on Chrome for professional reasons. Hence, it is impossible for me to consider using the Huawei P40 Lite as my daily driver, where plenty of time was wasted on workaround solutions each time I wanted to work.

In the end, 75 percent of the applications that I use frequently on the Mate 20 Pro ended up on the new P40 Lite. This is something to take note of if you are going to make the leap. I concur with my colleague Antoine who just reviewed the P40 Lite that the AppGallery simply isn't up to scratch. Not everyone is able to make use of APK Pure without running into any troubles, not to mention the obvious question concerning security issues. My colleagues were right: certain GMS-based apps, such as Pokemon Go for example, simply do not work at all. Huawei's effort to forge ahead without the Play Store is commendable, and it will take time to see the masses warm up to such a move.

Huawei P40 Lite performance

The P40 Lite Lite is powered by a Kirin 810 SoC which has proven to be a particularly capable processor. During my tests, I frequently pushed the device simply to see whether "what's under the hood" is able to handle the punishment. Hence, transferring all of my apps and games via Phone Clone and testing the myriad of apps, I mainly focused on arcade games and edutainment apps. As I test applications every single week, I require a processor that can handle long hours of testing, especially when I play with resource-hungry apps. I didn't notice any lag or slowdown in any of the games I tested. Unlike the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and especially the Huawei Y6s, this device does not heat up even after hours of intense workload. The gaming experience was a very enjoyable courtesy of its screen, and the P40 Lite is capable of holding its own against high-end (and far more expensive) phones.

Huawei P40 Lite compared in benchmark tests

  3DMark Sling Extreme 3DMark Sling Shot Vulkan 3DMark Sling Shot Geekbench 5 (Single/Multi) PassMark
Memory
PassMark
Disc
Huawei P40 Lite 3245 639 223 3245 - 12901 7664
Huawei P30 3934 - 3211 3322/9710 30150 45394
Huawei P 40 3908 710 181 3908 753/2999 27998 71760
Realme 3 Pro 1813 - 2647 1494/5912 12456 5478
Honorary 9X 891 - 1151 323/1349 11876 58355

Huawei P40 Lite camera

The Huawei P40 Lite has five camera sensors underneath the hood, comprising of the rectangle island which houses the quad-camera behind, and the selfie shooter in front. Its specifications are as follows:

  • The main camera with a 48-megapixel colour sensor
  • The ultra-wide angle with an 8-megapixel sensor
  • A 2-megapixel depth of field sensor
  • A 2-megapixel macro sensor
  • A wide-angle lens with F/1.8 aperture
  • An ultra-wide angle lens of 120° with F/2.4 aperture
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Wide-angle with very high brightness. / © NextPit

Everybody knows that the best smartphones offer great photos and videos such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, iPhone 11 Pro, etc. The difference in quality between cameras during daytime photo shoots have narrowed in recent years, and Huawei has played an important role in this achievement. The difference is far more pronounced when snapping photos in night mode.

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The ultra-wide-angle with low brightness. / © NextPit

This model surprised me with its photo-taking capabilities. While it is not at the top of the heap, the Huawei P40 Lite still allows you to snap good and sometimes even excellent photos, be they in low light conditions or under very strong sunlight. The large aperture at f/1.8 enables you to capture 50 percent more light compared to the standard aperture at f/2.2. With this smartphone, you are guaranteed of sharp and bright pictures without having to purchase an expensive flagship.

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The low light portrait mode. / © NextPit

The night mode also offers very good value for money. With the four-second exposure time, you can really take your time to get a good grip in order for the camera to capture more light due to a longer shutter speed. The results are remarkable, even for poor photographers like me. This device does indeed offer better results, where the difference is clear as day (pardon the pun) when compared to other handsets in its range, or even from the same brand. Photos are far clearer when night mode is activated. For instance, the contrast between black and strong artificial light such as street lamps is better managed. I agree with my colleagues that this is not groundbreaking in any way, but for a device that costs under €300 that delivers such quality, there simply isn't any competition in the same price bracket.

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The night mode on the Huawei P40 Lite. / © NextPit

Huawei P40 Lite battery

Huawei has always had a strong showing when it came to the battery life of its smartphones. My experience with the Mate 30 Pro and even the Y6s has shown me that Huawei's batteries are very durable. The P40 Lite follows such footsteps with its 4,200 mAh battery. There is no wireless charging capability which is to be expected considering this is not a flagship device. However, it has a 40-watt charging rating which means it takes less than an hour to fully charge a depleted battery. During my review, I tried my very best to push the battery to its limit and it managed to last for more than 15 hours, although the average user will most probably be able to go through an entire day with the P40 Lite without having to charge it. If you use your smartphone less due to the current lockdown, expect the P40 Lite to last up to two days before plugging it to a charger.

Huawei P40 Lite technical specifications

Dimensions: 159.2 x 76.3 x 8.7 mm
Weight: 183 g
Battery size: 4200 mAh
Screen size: 6.4 in
Display technology: LCD
Screen: 2310 x 1080 pixels (398 ppi)
Front camera: 48 megapixels
Flashlight: LED
Android version: 10 - Q
User interface: Huawei EMUI
RAM: 6 GB
Internal storage: 128 GB
Removable storage: NM Card
Connectivity: NFC, Dual-SIM , Bluetooth 5.0

Final verdict

What about the Huawei P40 Lite? Let's put aside the thorny issue of Google's non-presence for the moment. In a world without Gmail, Chrome, or Google Maps, I would gladly rush to pick up this model and settle for its EMUI 10.0.1 skin. No doubt the overall design is laudable, with the screen working as it should while boasting of a really good camera system that makes poor photographers like me capture good photos. The handset fits well in my hand, and I especially appreciate the aluminum contours that boast of both form and function. If you decide to pick it up in emerald green, expect it to be an eye-catching device each time you take it out from your pocket. This is a classy smartphone that costs less than €300, making it perfect for everyday use if you are not dependent on GMS.

I do not want to get into a debate concerning the future direction of Huawei without Google products. I simply think the AppGallery is still in its infancy. The whole point of contention here is whether you are familiar with the various available workarounds to overcome the lack of the Google Play Store. For example, the AppGallery offers an application called TrouvApp. While TrouvApp is not a store by itself, it does list the most popular Android apps and informs you of whether the app is available outside of the Google Play Store. This has proven to be very useful whenever you no longer have access to GMS. It was through TrouvApp that I found my list of 'must-haves': Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter. If you look at my screenshots about apps, you'll see what I'm talking about. There is also Phone Clone which works quickly and efficiently. Finally, APKPure is a lifesaver when it comes to downloading these essential applications.

As you can see, there are alternatives out there. It will certainly take some time before we can envisage a world without GMS. The decision lies in the hand of the consumer: whether you have the patience to live without Google's range of services. During such times when most of us are stuck at home due to the lockdown, we might not be too enthused with having to jump through hoops in order to get up and running with the P40 Lite. In any case, the Huawei P40 Lite is worth exploring if you are patient enough to work around the lack of GMS.

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4 comments

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  • Erudin 3 months ago Link to comment

    Looks good, no Google trace and track app on it.


  • Nice phone, very smart and features are good to use.


  • marco sarli
    • Admin
    5 months ago Link to comment

    In my opinion being rid of Google is a good thing. Not a fan of Huawei but the effort is commendable. I am curious about what the post-covid era will bring. No GMS monopoly would be a good thing, removable batteries and devices built to last , reasonable prices , less novelties and an end to the new devices carousel would be the thing.


  • storm 5 months ago Link to comment

    It looks like two disparate stacked slabs. Odd.

    Huawei has enough other negative baggage besides google support that I'm just not interested.
    Bloat
    Senseless reskinning hides too much. Samsung does this too.
    Update support
    Long term construction quality is poor. The USB port has been a recurring problem on multiple devices.

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