Is Huawei’s P40 series good enough to tempt you away from GMS?

Huawei’s just recently unveiled the all-new P40 series, a trio of handsets that would normally be hailed as competitors for best phone of the year, but instead of talking about the phones, many people are talking about the fact that the handsets are being sold sans Google apps and services.

To be clear, these aren’t the first Huawei phones to be sold without Google Mobile Services (GMS), in South Africa the Y7p holds that title, and in other select countries, it’s the Mate 30 series. What makes the P40 series launch unique is that it marks Huawei’s first global release that ships with Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) instead of GMS.

I am one of the lucky ones who’s had some experience with HMS after having moved away from the Huawei P30 Pro as my daily driver and spending 2 weeks with the Mate 30 Pro 5G as my primary phone.

The overwhelming feeling when using HMS is a sense of “not quite”. It’s not impossible to survive on, and it’s not the worst experience but it’s not quite as polished as iOS or Android with GMS. Local banking apps, Waze, Apple Music, Spotify, Outlook, Twitter, Facebook all worked well on the Mate 30 Pro 5G, but other apps like Whatsapp and Netflix, despite working, were not quite as easy to use or fully functional as their Android with GMS and iOS counterparts.

Don’t get me wrong, the HMS experience isn’t awful, but there’s a big learning curve involved.

Wired sums it up perfectly when they outlined the various ways of getting and installing apps onto an HMS phone and the said that your reaction to those options would determine whether or not the P40 series – or really any HMS phone – was right for you.

Ultimately, HMS and all of Huawei’s offerings rely on a fair amount of faith, patience and loyalty that consumers will stick by them as they work on bringing an app store and experience that not only rivals but supersedes that of their American counterparts.

With the P40 series, the company is hoping that impressive hardware is enough to lure you away from Android devices with GMS – like Samsung’s S20 – while they continue to ramp up their AppGallery and overall ecosystem offerings. This alone is interesting because, while the P40 series is relying on hardware more than anything else to move units, Huawei has opted to not put bleeding-edge specs into the new flagship series and is instead focusing on overall usability and boosting the seamless interconnectivity within their massive roster of devices. It’s a middle-ground between what Apple does – never highlighting specs choosing instead to focus usability and what the device can do for you – and what Android manufacturers do – focus more on specs and how those specs make them better than their competitors – which no-one else has ever managed to achieve before.

Huawei’s end goal is to not just recreate the Google Play Store and Google apps and services with HMS but to instead bring about a third offering to the global smartphone market which they believe will balance out the disparities we currently see in the iOS, Android duopoly. And that’s what makes these new phones so interesting.

Hardware, and even features like a new AI Assistant, aren’t enough anymore as alone, they don’t justify the costs of new devices in the eyes of consumers. The question of “what am I getting for my money” now extends to software, services, how future proof a device is and to a lesser degree will there be a decent trade-in offer in a few years.

This decision to focus on finding the middle ground has resulted in many people talking about the fact that Huawei’s newest handsets don’t boast bleeding-edge specs like some of their competitors and have given rise to the question of value and whether Huawei has done enough to justify the cost of the P40 series.