"Oh my god."
"Is that real?"
"How are they not edited!?"
These exclamations, often peppered with jovial swear words, have been a common thread, woven throughout my personal interactions over the past three weeks.
They have been in reaction to the photographs I have taken on Huawei's P30 Pro.
The camera that has been injected into this phone is a marvel of engineering and its photos are truly something to behold.
A couple of weeks back Huawei's P30 series launched in Paris. Packed with a stunning camera, as well as an epic two day battery life, the Pro in particular has already set itself up to be a contender for the best smart phone of the year. It didn't take long for the telcos to start dropping their plans for Huawei's new flagship, and we have them all right here. We have them all right here.
But before we take a deep dive into the photographic genius of this device, and speculate on just how many souls were sacrificed to the devil for it, let's take a peek at the cold, hard specs.
Huawei P30/P30 Pro Specs
While there isn't anything inherently bad about the specs in the latest P30 series, they're also incremental compared to its predecessor.
Sure, the Kirin 980 processor is a step up, but it's also the same as what we saw in the Mate 20 Pro in the latter half of 2018. But to be fair, this is par for the course and we probably won't see the Kirin 990 until the Mate 30 later this year.
As for RAM and storage, we're looking at 8GB and 256GB, which are only small steps up from the 6GB/128GB situation under the hood of the P20 Pro.
Again, this is all fine and the overall performance of the device has been great. But it's nothing for me to get overly jazzed about.
|Huawei P30||Huawei P30 Pro|
|Operating System||Android 9 (Pie)||Android 9 (Pie)|
|Display||6.1-inch Huawei FullView OLED Display||6.47-inch Huawei FullView Curved OLED Display|
|Body||8.41mm thick, 165g||7.57mm thick, 192g|
|Camera||Rear: Leica Triple Camera (40 MP HUAWEI SuperSpectrum Sensor (Wide angle, f/1.8) + 16 MP Ultra-wide angle (f/2.2) + 8 MP Tele lens) Front: 32MP (f/2.0)||Rear: Leica Quad Camera (40 MP SuperSpectrum Sensor (Wide angle, f/1.6) + 20 MP Ultra-wide angle (f/2.2) + 8 MP Tele lens (f/3.4) + HUAWEI Time-of-Flight (TOF) Camera) Front: 32MP (f/2.0)|
|Processor||Kirin 980||Kirin 980|
|Memory/Storage||6GB RAM/128GB storage||8GB RAM/256GB storage|
|Sim Card||Single SIM/Dual SIM options||Single SIM/Dual SIM options|
|Battery||3,650mAH battery||4200mAh battery, 40W SuperCharge, 15W Wireless Supercharge 2.0, Reverse Wireless Charging|
|Network||Enhanced 4X4 MIMO / CA, LAA, LTE Cat.18||Enhanced 4X4 MIMO / CA, LAA, LTE Cat.18|
|Payment||NFC, MST||NFC, MST|
|Sensors||In-screen fingerprint sensor, Face Unlock||In-screen fingerprint sensor, Face Unlock|
|Audio||Acoustic display technology|
But what about the specifics? What is it that makes the Huawei P30 Pro special? And where is it found wanting?
Let's begin with what we're frothing over the most.
Behold, gratuitous breakfast shots
Ever since Leica came to Huawei's party with the P9, the brand has been virtually unrivalled when it comes to camera phones. And yet despite the high expectations that I had for this device, the P30 Pro still managed to surpass them.
And this isn't surprising when there's so much going on at the rear of this thing. It's rolling with a Triple Camera Setup which involves a 40 MP SuperSpectrum sensor wide angle camera, a 16MP ultra-wide camera, a 8MP telephoto lens and a Time of Flight camera to top it all off.
On the front we're looking at a 32MP lens that takes the kind of selfies that result in unrealistic confidence regarding my looks. Thank you, Huawei!
Part of what makes Huawei's new photo capabilities so special is the aforementioned SuperSpectrum sensor. It uses Red, Yellow, Yellow, Blue (RYYB) instead of Red, Green, Blue (RGB), which gives it a 40 per cent boost when it comes to capturing light. This is important when it comes to low light photography, and we have certainly seen evidence of that.
Not only does the P30 Pro take beautiful shots, it has thrown in some intense zoom options and a night mode that is so good that I suspect that it is Not Of The Lord.
I was able to put both of these features to the test at a casual Childish Gambino concert in Paris.
And this is what happened when I zoomed with with both the 5x and 10x zoom.
It was admittedly difficult to get a decent shot with the 10x zoom, mostly because Donald Glover sure does move a lot. But I was genuinely impressed with the quality of the 5x - especially considering that we were also dealing with a lot of low and mixed lighting.
Back in Australia, I was able to really give the 50x zoom a workout on one of the shiny things that hang in the sky.
While the 50x shot is getting quite muddy and is impossible to get without stabilising the device on something, I'm still damn impressed that a phone has the ability to snap this at all. Besides, this isn't a problem that is exclusive to the P30. Zooming in at this rate is a pain even on DSLRs.
Honestly, I don't think that the quality is good enough to warrant the 50x zoom being on the phone right now (20 - 30 would have been more than enough), but I appreciate the effort and can't wait to see the quality we're going to get with 50x zoom on phones over the next few years.
Plus, that 50x shot will still probably look fine on the likes of Instagram.
Auto vs 5x at Versailles
When it comes to shooting in low light, the P30 Pro actually does quite a good job in auto.
But the Night Mode really takes it to the next level, enabling you to see in the dark.
These were taken in a completely dark room. Left: The P30 Pro in Auto Mode. Right: The P30 Pro in Night Mode.
Unfortunately, it can take between 4 and 8 seconds to actually get the shot thanks to the long exposure time on Night Mode. This leaves a lot of room for stabilisation error, and I have had plenty of shots come out blurry as a result. On the flip side, the P30s in-built stabilisation capabilities do aid in making this less of a problem.
But where stabilisation becomes a real issue is when it comes to the zoom; especially when you start going above 20x. While both myself and industry colleagues have taken some truly spectacular photos when going to town on the zoom, it's not easy to keep the phone stable.
You can't just hold the device in your hand. At a bare minimum you need something to rest on; such as a balcony, which is what I did for the moon shots. Ideally you're going to want a tripod and I just don't think the technology or the resulting shots (for the 50x, anyway) is worth that much hassle at this point.
If you're someone who is into food and plant photography, it's also worth taking a look at Super Macro mode - which can trigger during Auto Mode which is handy.
While the shots that actually turn out look superb, I found that I was shooting a lot more misses than hits. Like its predecessor, consistency continues to be an issue for the P30 Pro, and the effort and messing about that it takes to get the mode to actually trigger and then take a good shot is vexing.
When Super Macro works vs when it doesn't.
And when it looks real pretty
The P30 Pro has one of the bigger flagship batteries on the market right now, coming in at 4,200mAh and the ability to fast charge to 70 per cent in about half an hour.
From a personal usage perspective it's rare for me to end the day with less than 30 per cent battery - and I am on this thing all the time for photography, hotspotting, using my bluetooth headphones, social media, emails, web browsing, calls and even editing the website.
I also ran a test where I ran YouTube on loop at 50 per cent brightness and it took over 12 hours for it to drop below 50 per cent.
Compared to the iPhone XS Max and Samsung S10 Plus, the strength of the P30 battery is noticeable and a huge draw card.
That being said, it's worth noting that the impressive battery life is also due to the battery management system, which is likely to annoy some people.
The P30 thinks it's cute to terminate apps you're not actively using in order to conserve battery. While this might sound positive, it can be frustrating when you want to pick up where you left off in an app or when it stops you from receiving important notifications right away. As someone who uses the one phone for work, side projects and social life, I need my notifications to be reliable and speedy.
The good news here is that you can customise the apps you don't want to be shut off by locking them in the multitask menu.
You can also do a deep dive into your battery settings to choose your performance mode of choice and individually manage how each of your apps is treated. I highly recommend doing this if you want as much control as possible.
Like the Mate 20 Pro before it, the P30 Pro also has reverse wireless charging, which I have been known to have strong opinions about. And continue to do so.
Huawei has backflipped on its messaging from last year, which pushed the idea of using this functionality to juice up another phone. Now, it is primarily marketing reverse wireless for charging smaller Qi-supported devices such as its own wireless earbuds.
And this is probably for the best. While I can see the logic behind charging up your AirPods overnight by resting it on top of your charging phone (thus negating the need for an extra cable), this isn't quite good enough for me yet.
Testing the reverse wireless capabilities between the P30 Pro and a Samsung S10+, the functionality continues to be less than ideal.
With the P30 Pro at 100 per cent and the S10+ at 10 per cent, the former reported that it would take 3 hours and 34 minutes to reach full charge. Within 45 minutes the S10+ had only gained 2 per cent charge but 10 per cent had been sucked out of the P30 Pro.
After an hour, 4 per cent total had been gained but it took 14 per cent battery to do it.
When the biggest selling point of this feature continues to be cable management for overnight charging of headphones, I will in turn continue to question the point of it.
One of the biggest disappointments I've had with the P30 Pro is the screen.
After a mere 48-hours with the P30 Pro it was already suffering a significant scratch, not to mention numerous micro-abrasions. These came from simply being stored in my back pocked or on a table.
After three weeks, the scratch has gotten longer and there are some extra abrasions that I'm not happy about. Considering that the P30 is also an extremely slippery boi, I can see this happening even more often if you have a penchant for resting your phone on a bed, lounge, etc.
I have also found that the beautiful reflective exterior of my 'breathing crystal' variant is also quick to be marred by grubby fingerprints. It's not pretty.
In short, I highly recommend that you throw a screen protector and a case on one of these immediately, even if it means covering up the pretty colour.
I noticed within the first few days that the facial recognition technology wasn't as accurate as I would like.
While it's lightning fast when it does work, that certainly isn't all the time.
I have found it to consistently struggle in low-light situations, and complete darkness (which you may be accustomed to if you having an iPhone XS Max) is completely out of the question.
It also had trouble recognising me when I had to be camera-ready. Fortunately, it had no issues with my glasses.
Left: The face unlock really struggles in low light, like when one patrons dive bars in Redfern. Right: I was also dejected to discover that it didn't believe that it was me when I was copping a face full of professional makeup for a Weekend Today segment. Ouch.
One of the reasons I'm so annoyed by this is that one of my daily drivers over the past 6 months has been the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. It contains 3D facial recognition that worked consistently and accurately. However, the P30 has only been given 2D technology, and the downgrade is both disappointing and painfully noticeable.
One possible solution to this problem could be to use the in-display fingerprint reader, instead. But while it's fun to use this tech outside of a flagship Samsung device, it's still in its fledgling stages and you have to hit a particular sweet spot on the screen for it to register your fingerprint and that makes it a little fiddly.
I honestly don't bother with it. Instead, I opt to hope for the best with the not-perfect facial recognition and have resigned myself to punching in my pass code when it's somewhat dark.
No Headphone Jack
Yes, I do plan on dying on this hill so long as wireless earbuds remain pricey units.
This is a personal beef and I'm comfortable with it.
That being said, the P30 does work incredibly well with both the second generation Apple AirPods and Sony's MH-1000XM3 headphones.
Should You Buy It?
While the specs may not be the fanciest and there are definite issues surrounding the exterior and biometrics, the camera and battery life alone make it worth it for me. These are the two most important factors I look for in a phone, and when it comes with guts that has it running perfectly fine when it comes to everyday tasks - it's difficult to look elsewhere.
While $1,600 is a lot to spend on a phone, it's a whole lot cheaper than some of the other flagships on the market that are pushing well beyond $2000 at the upper end. And frankly, some of of the P30 Pro's features are far superior.
The Huawei P30 Pro is available now and will set you back $1,599 in Australia, with the P30 coming in at $1,099. Both are available now in Breathing Crystal and Aurora.
The author traveled to Paris as a guest of Huawei