Over 200 million. That’s the number of smartphones Chinese electronics giant Huawei sold globally in the past year, 16 million of which were in its high-end P20 series. It’s an impressive metric by any measure, particularly considering that Samsung — the market leader — got about 300 million handsets out the door in the same time frame. But for Huawei, it’s just the start: The company is targeting between 250 million and 260 million devices in 2019. And it’s betting its two new headlining devices will help it achieve that milestone.
At an event in Paris this afternoon, Huawei took the wraps off phones that had leaked ad nauseam in the run-up to this week’s formal announcement: the P30 and P30 Pro. They’re both veritable flagships, packing speedy 7nm processors, in-screen fingerprint sensors, and metal and glass exteriors. And they boast upgrades in key areas, like photography — their camera sensors can shoot up to 5 times optical zoom.
Here’s everything you need to know.
The P30 and P30 Pro adopt the P20 series’ design language, albeit with nips and tucks here and there. They sport a polished aluminum chassis sandwiched between reinforced glass and a 19.5.9 aspect ratio display abutted by narrower-than-ever bezels up top, down below, and on either side. The glass, which is contoured, tapers off toward a thin volume rocker and sleep/wake key to the right and a left-mounted dedicated camera button. In a conspicuous nod to Samsung’s flagship Galaxy handsets, the P30 Pro screen’s corners curve ever-so-slightly around the lips of either edge. (The P30’s screen is flat.) And the top portion vibrates to produce sound, effectively doubling as an earpiece.
The phones are a durable bunch — they’re rated IP68, meaning they can take a 30-minute, five-meter dunk in water without sustaining lasting damage. That’s on a par with the LG G8 ThinQ and Samsung’s Galaxy S10 series and an improvement over the P20 series, which tapped out at IP67. As has been the case historically, the latest-gen Pro features a physically larger footprint than its standard-edition counterpart: Its AMOLED screen measures 6.47 inches diagonally versus the P30’s 6.1 inches.
The phones have the same resolution — 2,340 x 1,080 pixels, a step up from the P20 series’ 2,240 x 1080 — as well as the teardrop-shaped camera cutouts that supplant their progenitors’ rectangular notches. Moreover, in a first for Huawei’s P series, they boast fingerprint sensors embedded beneath the screen glass — specifically, optical sensors as opposed to ultrasonic, in contrast to the pair in Samsung’s Galaxy S10 and S10+. Huawei claims they’re faster and more reliable than the P20’s and P20 Pro’s rear-mounted scanners, and in our brief time with them, that certainly seemed to be the case.
The P30 Pro (but not the P30) dispenses with a 3.5mm headphone jack, a move that’s neither unprecedented (the P20 Pro didn’t have one, either) nor unjustified (Huawei says it made room for a 4×4 MIMO antenna and larger battery). Instead, you’ll find a USB Type-C port, a microphone, and a loudspeaker on the bottoms of the P30 Pro and P30, along with an embedded wireless Bluetooth 5.0 chip that taps Qualcomm’s aptX codec and Dolby’s multichannel Atmos format for enhanced sound.
Flip the phones around and you’ll see an oblong, protruding camera module, a dual-LED flash, a laser phase detection autofocus system, and on the P30 Pro a time of flight (TOF) sensor. Housing them is an ultra-reflective, pearlescent casing that’s a carryover from the P20 series and now comes in five colors: Breathing Crystal, Amber Sunrise, Pearl White, Black, and Aurora. It’s a looker, but a bit slippery in the hand — not to mention a heck of a fingerprint magnet.
Iterative stuff aside, the P30 and P30 Pro boast one showstopper (or four, depending on how you count ’em): the aforementioned cameras. Huawei and longtime lens partner Leica pulled out the stops in the optics department, with the latter supplying a new Vario-Summilux lens design with an f/1.6 – 3.4 aperture and 16 – 125 mm focal length. It shows.
The P20 Pro’s primary sensor weighs in at 40 megapixels — the same as the P20 Pro — and features shot-steadying optical image stabilization, an f/1.6 aperture (f/1.8 on the P30), and a 27mm focal length. It is flanked by a 20-megapixel wide-angle camera with an f/2.2 aperture (improved from the P20 Pro wide-angle camera’s f/1.6 aperture) with 16mm focal length and by an 8-megapixel sensor with a periscopic, optically stabilized f/3.4 aperture and 125mm focal length zoom lens. (The P30 swaps the 20-megapixel wide-angle lens for a 16-megapixel model.) That’s in addition to a 32-megapixel front-facing camera (up from 24 megapixels on the P20 Pro) and the TOF sensor, which resolves distance by measuring the time it takes for photons to pass between it and a subject.
Huawei has given the primary camera a fancy new moniker — SuperSpectrum — that’s meant to spotlight its best quality: dynamic range. Ever heard of a Bayer filter mosaic? It’s the industry-standard technique for arranging red, green, and blue color filters atop the photosensor grids in digital cameras, scanners, phones, and tablets. With SuperSpectrum, Huawei has gone against the grain by replacing green with yellow, effectively making its filter RYB (red, yellow, blue)instead of RGB (red, green, blue). This allows it to take in much more light (about 40 percent more) than conventional sensors, the company says, owing to yellow’s wider wavelength (about 600 nanometers compared with green’s 550), and enabled Huawei’s engineers to bump up the P30 Pro’s maximum ISO — a metric that measures sensor light sensitivity — to a whopping 409,600, nearly quadruple the P20 Pro’s 102,400 ISO.
That, in tandem with an enhanced Night mode that composites the best photos of a burst shot taken at multiple exposures, should result in some pretty spectacular low-light photos.
The P30 Pro’s zoom lens — which the P30 omits — is also substantially improved. A square-shaped design kept it thin while boosting the maximum zoom level to 5 times (3 times on the P30), up from the P20 Pro telephoto sensor’s 3 times optical zoom. Meanwhile, an improved digital zoom algorithm delivers what Huawei is characterizing as “lossless” 10 times zoom on the P30 Pro — in other words, zoom that keeps noise and grain to a minimum.
Additionally, the P30 Pro supports up to 50 times hybrid zoom (the P30 maxes out at 30 times), which predictably isn’t quite as crisp or clear as 5 times optical zoom or 10 times hybrid zoom. Still, we were blown away by the amount of detail the P30 Pro’s telephoto lens managed to resolve. In an impromptu test on the 14th floor of a hotel balcony, we locked focus on street-level signage in front of the New York Public Library in Bryant Park. The text was a bit smudgy, but still perfectly legible — an impressive feat considering the roughly 570-foot distance between it and the phone’s camera.
The P30 Pro’s trio of sensors have a leg up in other areas, thanks to Huawei’s sophisticated image postprocessing tech. The primary 40-megapixel camera supports point-and-shoot long exposure shots almost double the length of the P20 Pro’s max, and the portrait mode squeezes more frames into the composition, bringing out details (like wisps of hair) that would normally be lost — not to mention nuanced bokeh that’s “blurrier” further away from subjects than in the near distance. To accomplish this, the P30 Pro performs skeleton tracking and real-time lightmap generation, supplemented with depth data from the TOF sensor. Huawei says that the improved depth understanding benefits the P30 Pro’s AI-driven high dynamic range (HDR) mode and that the company will release a version of AR Measure (its augmented reality measuring tool) that taps the TOF sensor for volume calibration.
On the video side of the equation, the P30 Pro can shoot up to 4K at 30 frames per second, and a new AI stabilization algorithm works in tandem with the main lens’ and zoom lens’ optical image stabilization to provide a “much more robust” video experience compared with the previous generation. The low-light advantages of RYB extend to video capture, as do the enhanced optical and hybrid zoom — videos on the P30 Pro appear both brighter and sharper compared with the P20 Pro, Huawei says.
Both the video and photo modes take advantage of what Huawei calls AI-assisted stabilization (AIS) and “4D” focus — carryover features from the P20 series that predict where subjects are moving to keep them in focus and that intelligently crop frames to smooth out jerky footage. Meanwhile, Master AI, an “intelligent” scene recognizer akin to Samsung’s Scene Optimizer and LG’s AI Cam, adjusts the camera’s settings automatically depending on ambient lighting, contrast, and other factors. Lastly, a new dual-view video mode shows two of the phone’s four camera feeds at the same time in a split-screen view, letting budding cinematographers frame close-up and wide-angle shots simultaneously.
Under the hood, the P30 Pro and P30 pack a powerful system-on-chip: the Kirin 980. It’s the same inside the P20 and P20 Pro and in Huawei’s upcoming Mate Fold X, and it’s definitely no slouch.
The Kirin 980 is fabricated on a 7nm process and has a whopping 6.9 billion transistors in all, or about 1.6 times what’s on Kirin 970. They’re divvied up among eight cores — two Cortex-A76 2.6GHz “high-performance cores” for demanding tasks, two Cortex-A76 1.92GHz “middle cores” that juggle everyday processes, and four 1.8GHz Cortex-A55 “efficiency cores” that step in for light workloads, like music playback — but rarely are all of them active simultaneously. Instead, a “flexible scheduling mechanism” ramps them up individually, as needed — one efficiency core for music decoding, three middle cores for turn-by-turn navigation, and so on.
Huawei says that this translates to 69 percent improved tap response, up to 52 percent speedier app launches, and 20 percent faster file read performance.
Contributing to the performance uplift is up to 8GB of RAM, plus a new file storage format (EROFS) and a powerful new graphics chip — the Mali-G76 — that’s 46 percent faster and 178 percent more efficient than the Kirin 970’s Mali-G72. Other enhancements come in the form of a dual ISP that processes photos up to 46 percent faster and 23 percent more efficiently than the previous model and which can recognize subjects with 97.4 percent accuracy and track them across a frame.
The Kirin 980’s Neural Processing Unit (NPU) — a coprocessor optimized for the sort of vector math that’s the lifeblood of machine learning frameworks like Facebook’s Caffe2 and Google’s TensorFlow — is also present and accounted for. Two NPU cores (up from one in the Kirin 970) can recognize up to 4,500 images per minute, and Huawei has made the most of the hardware advances, leveraging AI to intelligently ramp up the GPU’s clock speed during intense gaming sessions, minimize system lag, and deliver “smoother outdoor gaming experiences” in areas with weak signals. And third-party developers can tap into the NPU with an open framework and software development kit (SDK) — in China, Huawei says it has worked with partners to build AI-imbued camera apps, automatic photo filters, and custom voice assistants.
The Kirin 980’s flagship components extend to the modem, which Huawei claims is the fastest it has ever produced. The modem can hit speeds up to 1.4Gbps (LTE Cat. 21) and supports carrier aggregation across frequency bands, allowing it to hop between operators with relative ease. Moreover, it has the “world’s fastest Wi-Fi,” according to Huawei, with top downlink speeds reaching 1,732Mbps. (That’s thanks to the company’s in-house Wi-Fi module.) And its GPS receiver taps a new frequency — L5 (1575.42 MHz) — that helps it deliver 10 times better positioning accuracy than the previous generation.
Battery life, memory, and storage
As for the battery at the heart of the P30 Pro, it is 4,200mAh in capacity (up slightly from the P20 Pro’s 4,000mAh) and supports Huawei’s 40-watt SuperCharge technology, which can deliver up to 70 percent power in half an hour and 15-watt wireless charging. That’s in addition to 2.5-watt reverse wireless charging, which lets you charge any Qi-compatible gadget by placing it on the P30 Pro’s rear cover.
The P30, for its part, makes do with a 3650mAh battery — a tad larger than the P20’s 3,400mAh. It is also compatible with SuperCharge and Qi.
Rounding out the P30 Pro’s internals are 8GB of RAM and 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB of storage expandable with Huawei’s proprietary NanoMemory storage cards (up from 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage on the P20). The P30 packs 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
The P30 and P30 Pro ship running Emotion UI (EMUI) 9.1, the latest version of Huawei’s custom skin atop Android 9.0 Pie. Like the latest publicly available version of EMUI (EMUI 9.0), it is chock full of features with varying degrees of usefulness, most of which Android purists can disable, ignore, or replace without an inordinate amount of hassle. One is a custom home screen launcher that lacks an app drawer on the default configuration; another is the use of SwiftKey as the stock keyboard, as opposed to Android’s system keyboard or Google’s Gboard.
There’s a power-saving system-wide dark mode and raise-to-wake function with EMUI 9.1, and a split-screen view with a versatile screenshot-snipping tool. As with the P20 series, the notch’s appearance is customizable through software — to a degree — you’re able to “mask” it by blacking out the notification shade. And face unlock is present and accounted for, as is support for swipe and knuckle gesture shortcuts; Private Space, which lets you create a secondary device profile linked to an alternative fingerprint; and a suite of utilities, including a voice recorder, QR code reader, flashlight, and calculator.
If you’re the proud owner of a newer Audi, you’ll be pleased to hear that the P30 and P30 Pro double as digital car keys — Huawei has teamed up with the automaker to preload an app (Connect Key) on both phones that unlocks your car. The Beijing company also says it’s worked with “major” treadmill brands to streamline fitness data sync, and it’s introducing a new and improved version of Huawei Share that can perform optical character recognition on photos, keep your phone and PC clipboards in sync, and cast up to 60 seconds of recorded PC footage to a target P30 or P30 Pro.
Pricing and availability
The P30 and P30 Pro are available for preorder starting today, March 26. Here’s how the pricing breaks down:
- Huawei P30 (6GB RAM + 128GB storage): €799
- Huawei P30 Pro (8GB RAM + 128GB storage): €999
- Huawei P30 Pro (8GB RAM + 256GB storage): €1,099
- Huawei P30 Pro (8GB RAM + 512GB storage): €1,249