Huawei P50 Pro and Pocket in test: The photo wonder and the foldable one

Two years ago, Huawei was on the verge of beating Samsung and Apple to the top spot. But since the US sanctions, the Chinese have been losing ground. Will the turnaround come with the two new smartphones?

Huawei is represented by two new, unusual smartphones on the market. At the end of January, the Chinese company unveiled its new flagship Huawei P50 Pro with two large camera units as well as a new foldable smartphone called Huawei P50 Pocket. The latter appears in the look of Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3. Thus, they already stand out from the competition in terms of looks.

One thing cannot be denied with regard to the new launches: The word “give up” seems to be a foreign word in Huawei’s management. Despite massive obstacles due to sanctions by the USA, the company from China is trying to find buyers in Europe as well with high-quality smartphones. But can that work?

Huawei P50 Pro as the new camera wonder

Huawei relies on a frame made of polished aluminum with slightly curved Gorilla Glass on the front and back of the P50 Pro’s casing. This trick makes the device feel extremely thin. Although the Huawei P50 Pro does not offer much volume, the stereo speakers sound comparatively rich. The 6.6-inch OLED screen with a refresh rate of up to 120 hertz is also convincing.

Huawei P50 Pro camera
Huawei’s P50 Pro has four cameras for various shooting modes. Photo: Zacharie Scheurer/dpa-tmn

Huawei’s P-series smartphones have always been known for their exceptional cameras, which regularly receive top scores in camera tests. The company collaborates with the camera professional Leica for this. In the latest representative of the series, the Huawei P50 Pro, the quad camera system from Leica with its two round black units on the back is an eye-catcher. Huawei accommodates a total of four cameras in the two striking circles.

Photo enthusiasts can look forward to a camera system that convinces with low color noise and a large dynamic range. It still delivers excellent pictures in the dark when other smartphones only offer a dark pixel mush. In video mode, the Huawei P50 Pro ensures good white balance transitions and a stable autofocus. The detail fidelity in videos indoors was also positive in the practical test, also because Huawei has managed an effective image stabilization.

Huawei might have to improve the camera software in one area: In portrait mode, a very shallow depth of field caused too large areas to be blurred in some situations.

Read also: Huawei sells its budget brand Honor in order to survive!

Without Google – sanctions slow down Huawei

The main chip of the P50 Pro has to make significant concessions. Huawei is not allowed to install the best chipsets due to US sanctions. A Snapdragon 888 runs inside – fast enough, but without the fifth mobile generation 5G. Currently, 5G does not play a huge role for many prospective buyers. But the perspective of not being allowed to enter the 5G club for the entire life of the device is not rosy.

EMUI instead of Android
Looks similar, but is different: Huawei users get EMUI instead of Android 12 as the user interface. Photo: Zacharie Scheurer/dpa-tmn

Lazy compromises also have to be made in the software. As with all current Huawei models, the Huawei P50 Pro has to do without Google’s Play services. That means: no Play Store, no Google Maps, no other Google applications. Third-party apps that use Google services, such as Maps, are also excluded.

Instead of Android 12 from Google, Huawei relies on EMUI 12, which is again based on the open-source version of Android 11 without Google services. Instead of Google Search and Maps, there is “Petal Search” and “Petal Maps”. The Play Store is replaced by the AppGallery. You can also install alternative stores for Android apps like F-Droid. The result: Some familiar apps are there, others are not.

In China itself, the lack of Google services is virtually irrelevant. Here, Huawei uses its own Android variant HarmonyOS, for which all relevant apps are available. In the West, however, we often miss enough features and apps that are only made available via Google’s infrastructure.

Huawei P50 Pocket – a smartphone that folds up.

The major restrictions – no 5G and no Google services – basically also apply to the P50 Pocket. However, they might not play such a big role for this pretty foldable smartphone. Above all, the device cuts a good figure. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in your pocket or on the table in a cafĂ© or bar – just like the Motorola Razr or the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 of the competitors.

Huawei P50 Pocket
A new one to fold – the Huawei P50 Pocket Photo: Huawei

Huawei has picked up the design idea of the two round black elements on the back in the P50 Pocket. However, one of the circles serves as a small display. You can start the camera and control the music on it. You have to take good care of the beautiful P50 Pocket in everyday use, because the case surface is extremely smooth.

The device closes perfectly flat, better than the flip phones of the competitors. A long-term test will have to prove how robust the hinge is over a longer period.

The foldable display of the Pocket model is even slightly larger than the screen of the P50 Pro with 6.8 inches when unfolded. You quickly miss the telephoto lens of the P50 Pro in the cameras. Unfortunately, the optical image stabilizer is missing.

Those who wait might save

As with the P50 Pro, Huawei does not want to market its foldable phone as a bargain. The gold-colored premium version with 12 gigabytes (GB) of RAM and 512 GB of internal storage costs 1599 euros in Germany. In white with 8 GB RAM as well as 256 GB internal storage, it is still 1299 Euros. The Huawei P50 Pro is offered in the 8/256 GB storage variant for 1199 Euros.

With Google services and 5G support, the two new Huawei devices would have had what it takes to shake up the smartphone market at the top again. Without these features, they are appealing camera phones, but unfortunately not anymore.