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This is just how bad Huawei’s phone situation apparently is now

Huawei has reportedly slashed its smartphone production targets for 2021, stung by US sanctions that show no sign of alleviating even with the change in American President. The Chinese behemoth had been on a rising trajectory, both with flagship handsets in the Mate and Pro series and much more affordable fare for the budget market, but the US entity list put a stop to that.

Initiated by the Trump administration, Huawei’s inclusion on the trade block register meant it was prevented from doing businesses with US companies. It left the firm’s smartphones unable to include Google apps and services like Gmail, YouTube, and Google Play store access, as well as cutting off Huawei’s access to chips, modems, memory, and more.

Expectation from some quarters had indicated the rules might soften somewhat with the change in the White House. However President Biden’s administration has shown no sign of pulling back on the trade embargo. That’s forced Huawei to take some strong measures, including spinning out Honor into a standalone business so it could make its own independent deals.

Even so, according to the Nikkei, expectations for Huawei phone production in 2021 have dropped hugely. The company is said to have informed its suppliers that orders for smartphone components will drop by more than 60-percent this year, insiders have leaked. Compared to the 189 million smartphones shipped in 2020, it now expects to produce 70-80 million handsets this year.

It’s not just the scale of the orders which have been impacted, but the types of phone they’re for. Component demand is limited to those required for 4G phones, it’s said, since 5G modems still can’t be imported. Huawei was given permission in November of last year to import 4G modems from Qualcomm, but not the American chip-maker’s 5G versions.

Huawei has declined to comment on the leaks, which also suggest orders could end up falling to around 50 million units. However, it’s not the first time we’ve heard of ominous forecasts for the company’s phone business. In early January 2021, for example, independent research predicted the Chinese firm may only be able to build around 45 million devices.

While protesting the sanctions, and its innocence amid accusations of close involvement with Chinese government security services, Huawei has also been trying to figure out workarounds. Rumors have suggested it’s considering selling off its flagship phone brands – something Huawei has strongly denied – on the assumption that the combination of blacklisting and broader global shortages for electronics components will pinch its handset business even further.

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Huawei’s P30 Pro goes toe-to-toe with the Samsung Galaxy S10+ on power, price, and photography

After a short run alone at the top of the Android heap, Samsung’s Galaxy S10 has some serious competition. Huawei unveiled its latest flagship P30 and P30 Pro today, and they’re packed with some of the best specs we’ve ever seen in an Android phone.

Just like the P20, Huawei is making a big deal out of the phones’ picture-taking skills. The Leica-branded triple-camera array that was introduced with the Mate 20 makes its way to the P30, while the P30 Pro gains a fourth time-of-flight (TOF) camera for better portraits and depth sensing:

P30

  • 40MP wide angle, f/1.8
  • 16MP ultra wide angle, f/2.2
  • 8MP telephoto, 3x zoom, f/2.4

P30 Pro

  • 40MP wide angle, f/1.6
  • 20MP ultra wide angle, f/2.2
  • 8MP telephoto, 5x zoom, f/3.4
  • Huawei TOF camera

Aside from the lenses, however, Huawei has fine-tuned the processing behind the P30 cameras to provide even greater abilities, particularly with the P30 Pro. The new periscope telephoto camera offers 10x hybrid zoom and up to 50x digital zoom. A new RYYB color sensing rule allows more light for better nighttime shots. And the TOF camera allows for fine-tuning of portrait shots and professional long-exposure pictures at the touch of a button.

huawei p30 pro camerasHuawei

The Huawei P30 Pro has a quad camera system with a time-of-flight sensor.

Even with the addition of extra cameras, the P30 retains the sleek look of the P20, with an iPhone X-like vertical camera array in the top-left corner. The glass back comes in an array of gradient colors inspired by “the miraculous sky,” giving the handset a unique look that changes depending on the light you’re in. Particularly striking are the new “Amber Sunrise” that mimics a fiery daybreak, and “Aurora,” which conjures images of the Northern Lights.

Flagship performance

Aside from its photo skills, the P30 and P30 Pro are more than capable of zipping though a full day’s worth of apps and notifications:

P30

  • Dimensions: 149.1 x 71.4 x 7.6 mm
  • Display: 6.1-inch Full HD, 2340 x 1080
  • Processor: Kirin 980
  • RAM: 6GB/8GB
  • Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB
  • Battery: 3,650mAh

P30 Pro

  • Dimensions: 158 x 73.4 x 8.4 mm 
  • Display: 6.47-inch Full HD 2340 x 1080 Curved OLED
  • Processor: Kirin 980
  • RAM: 6GB/8GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
  • Battery: 4,200mAh

While the P30 Pro’s curved edges are easier on the eyes than the P30’s visible bezels, both displays are the same resolution this time. That means the P30 Pro gets a downgrade from the Quad HD 1440p screen on the P20. That’s not likely to make much of a difference to most eyes, but pixel purists will surely notice the change.

Both phones also have a tiny notch for the 32MB front camera, meaning you won’t get Huawei’s 3D Face unlock here. Like the S10, both phones have an in-display fingerprint sensor, though Huawei opted for an optical scanner rather than the ultrasonic one on Samsung’s phones. We’ve had our issues with in-display scanners, but it’s a nice visual upgrade over the stale front-facing sensors on the P20 at any rate.

huawei p30 fingerprintHuawei

The P30 finally dispenses with the front-facing fingerprint scanner for an in-display sensor.

Elsewhere, you get IP68 water resistance on the P30 Pro, while the P30 only has IP53 ingress protection, so you can’t dunk it. The P30 is also missing wireless charging, while the P30 Pro supports 15W fast wireless charging as well as 40W wired charging. However, one advantage the P30 does have over the P30 Pro is a 3.5mm headphone jack.

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Leaked ARM memo suggests Huawei’s losing access to yet more essential technology

The hits keep coming for Huawei. Following the revocation of its license to use Google apps and the Play Store on its Android phones and a ban by several major chipmakers, including Intel, Broadcom, and Qualcomm, a leaked memo obtained by the BBC has revealed that ARM has ordered its employees to cease “all active contracts, support entitlements, and any pending engagements” with the beleaguered China-based tech giant.

While ARM is a UK-based company, its chip designs contain technology that originated in the U.S. and subsequently are believed to be subject to the Commerce Department’s blanket ban. The memo says ARM employees are no longer able to “provide support, delivery technology (whether software, code, or other updates), engage in technical discussions, or otherwise discuss technical matters.”

While Google’s revocation of Huawei’s Android license might seem like a bigger story, losing ARM could be just as devastating to the company. Huawei is one of the few phone makers that doesn’t use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips in its phones. Its homegrown Kirin processors have made the P30 and Mate 20 handsets among the fastest around. The Kirin chips also include didactic image signal processors that aid in things like low-light and portrait photography. 

huawei p30 pro camerasHuawei

The ARM-based Kirin processors are part of what makes Huawei’s cameras so great.

However, those chips are built using the ARM foundation, which could put future releases in jeopardy. What’s more, it means Huawei may have lost access to the only two chipset architectures supported by Android: ARM and x86. So even if it were able to design a completely new chip devoid of ARM’s intellectual property, there’s no guarantee that it would work with the Android Open Source Project code. While this year’s crop of processors are likely already designed, losing ARM would mean Huawei would have to design a completely new chip architecture and OS within the next year, which seems like an impossible task.

The move would also affect Honor phones, which is an affordable product line made by Huawei. Just this week, Honor launched the 20 Pro powered by Huawei’s top-of-the-line Kirin processor.

In a statement, Huawei expressed optimism over the issue and took a shot at the U.S.-led campaign: “We value our close relationships with our partners, but recognize the pressure some of them are under, as a result of politically motivated decisions. We are confident this regrettable situation can be resolved, and our priority remains to continue to deliver world-class technology and products to our customers around the world.”

Based on the memo, ARM seems unsure whether it falls under the U.S. ban, so it’s possible Huawei could be granted a reprieve. Plus, the U.S. government has signaled it may be willing to bend in the interest of consumer safety. Following the Android license revocation, it granted a 90-day temporary general license so Huawei could continue to ensure existing handsets receive security updates.

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How Huawei’s flagship P40 Pro could still impact premium Android phones in the U.S.

In case you missed it, Huawei unveiled a few new flagship phones in late March. The newest members of its high-end P series, the P40, P40 Pro, and P40 Pro+, are unlikely to make much of a splash outside of China due to the lack of Google apps, Google Assistant, and the Play Store, but they’ll still have a major impact on the global Android smartphone landscape. Here’s how Huawei’s latest flagships will influence the phones you’ll actually buy.

Curves everywhere

Samsung phones have long had Infinity displays with curved edges that slightly wrap the screen on the right and left sides of the phone, but the I quad-curve overflow display on the P40 Pro and P40 Pro+ takes it to a whole new level. Here’s how Huawei describes it: “Inspired by the art of motion, the display takes on a curved edge on all four sides, creating a shape that is reminiscent of water on the cusp of overflowing from the rim of a filled cup.” In other words, the top and bottom of the glass are curved like the sides, with extremely skinny bezels and a near-all-screen aesthetic.

huawei p40 pro quad curve Huawei

The P40 Pro’s corners curve up, giving it a fully bezel-less illusion.

Where it gets really funky is at the corners. The P40 Pro’s aluminum sides rise at the corners to give the illusion that the display is dipping. It’s a cool look, but even more than that, Huawei has put some thought into the ergonomics. Where phones like the Galaxy S20 Ultra are blowing past the limits of what’s comfortable with bigger and bigger screens, the P40 Pro is designed to feel as good as it looks. I fully expect phone makers to take notice. Don’t be surprised if quad-curved displays become the new hotness in 2021.

Supercharged wireless charging

We’ve seen some serious advancements in both wired and wireless charging over the past few years, with reverse wireless charging, super-fast 45W charging, and 15W wireless charging. The P40 Pro brings a whopping 40W wireless when using Huawei’s proprietary SuperCharge Wireless Charger Stand. Those kinds of speeds could eliminate the need for cables and lead to the launch of a completely port-less phone. While I wouldn’t expect that anytime soon, it’s likely that next year’s phones will see a huge boost in wireless charging capabilities—meaning you’ll need to swap out all of those stands you have.

huawei p40 pro supercharge Huawei

The Huawei P40 Pro+ supports 40W wireless charging, which is faster than most phone’s wired charging.

Microns over megapixels

Samsung went big with the megapixel in the Galaxy S20 Ultra, opting for a massive 108MP camera to deliver incredibly detailed images. While the main cameras on the multi-camera P40 Pros are “only” 50MP, they pack incredibly large 1/1.28-inch sensors, the biggest Huawei (or anyone, for that matter) has ever put in a phone. It also supports pixel binning to achieve a pixel size of 2.44μm (microns), a massive uptick over the S20 Ultra’s 0.8µm. That should deliver on Huawei’s claim of “massive light, high dynamic range, and low noise” in any lighting and rocket it to the top of the smartphone camera leaderboard.

huawei p40 pro camera Huawei

The camera on the P40 Pro has a massive sensor.

Huawei’s phones were already among the best in the business, and its new sensors should make the P40 even better at night shots without needing to rely as heavily on AI-powered algorithms. If smartphone makers start to put a heavier emphasis on sensor pixels rather than megapixels, it could bring a massive leap in low-light photography akin to Google’s Night Sight mode on the Pixel 3.

Unlocking options

As bezels have shrunk, we’ve slowly lost the biometric convenience and security on our phones. The P40 Pro fixes that by offering 3D face unlock as well as an in-display fingerprint sensor that’s 30 percent faster than in previous generations. That makes the P40 Pro one of the few 2020 phones that offer multiple biometric unlocking options, which will hopefully start a trend among Android phones. The in-display fingerprint sensors on the S20 still aren’t great, and the face unlock on the Pixel 4, while awesome at unlocking, doesn’t have widespread app support. Combined, however, they would work incredibly well. Here’s hoping the S30 and Pixel 5 bring it.

huawei p40 pro face id Huawei

The Huawei P40 Pro includes 3D face unlock and an in-display fingerprint sensor.

Speed to spare

From 5G to Wi-Fi 6, wireless speeds are about to explode. As expected, the P40 Pro supports both next-generation connectivity standards. Along with broad 5G band support (outside of the United States, anyway), it also brings something that the S20 and iPhone 11 and other modern phones don’t have, at least not yet. Huawei calls it Wi-Fi 6, and it uses dynamic narrow bandwidth, which “seamlessly adjusts the bandwidth in environments with poor Wi-Fi signals, and delivers more stable connections,” as well as greater ability to pass through walls and obstructions. Granted, you’ll need the GigaHome 650 Wi-Fi 6+ router and Huawei’s W650 chip to take advantage of it all, but it demonstrates the potential that these next-gen networks can bring to future Android phones.

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