You may have seen less of Huawei phones in the last year. Up until 2019, it was fast becoming one of the best phone brands.
In 2020 it was sanctioned by the US government, and Google cut ties with the company. This is a big issue because Huawei phones run Google software. So should you still buy a Huawei phone?
After the brilliant Huawei P30 Pro from 2019, almost all Huawei phones do not have apps like Google Mail, Maps, Play Store or Photos. And that alone is enough to make them tough to recommend to the average phone buyer.
The more tech-savvy may want to try a newer phone with Huawei’s software, like the Huawei Mate 40 Pro. They have the same core benefits as mobiles from the golden age of the company. These include fantastic cameras, striking designs and solid battery life, at the very least. But it takes some effort and patience.
Fans of the Chinese brand may also want to check out our Huawei Watch Fit review and Huawei GT2 Pro reviews.
Choosing a Huawei phone
Huawei problems and workarounds
If Huawei phones don’t have Google apps, what do they have? They still run Android, but a version stripped of the stuff many of us use each day: Maps, Mail, the Play Store, Google Pay and so on.
Huawei alternatives sit in their place. You download apps using Huawei AppGallery, which has been around in its phones for years. Newer Huawei phones also have Petal Search.
This is a search bar you can use to search the web or find apps not available on AppGallery, by sifting through other unofficial app stores. You’ll probably be able to find most things you want, eventually, but probably not everything. And even if you dig out Google’s apps, they won’t run properly because Huawei phones don’t have access to some important behind-the-scenes Google software.
So, yes, some of you will find Huawei phones too much of a headache. We avoid recommending them to friends because of this very issue.
However, you can still buy a few Huawei phones from before these troubles started, and they still have Google apps. The Huawei P30 Pro is the best of these.
Here are the best Huawei phones, including ones with and without Google services.
Best Huawei phones to buy at a glance
Best for Google apps: Huawei P30 Pro (New Edition), £699
Best for high-end hardware at a hot price: Huawei P40 Pro, £699.99
Best for cutting-edge tech: Huawei Mate 40 Pro, £1,099.99
Best budget buy: Huawei P40 Lite, £199.99
Big-screen budget buy: Huawei P Smart 2021, £179.99
The folding masterpiece: Huawei Mate X2 (approx.) £2,000
Best Huawei phones to buy in 2021
Huawei P30 Pro (New Edition)
Best for Google apps
Price: £449 for the original, from £699 for the “New Edition”
Has Google apps
It’s an older phone
The P30 Pro was Huawei’s top phone for the first half of 2019. It’s kind of old, but that means it still has the Google apps and software you are used to. Huawei also tweaked the phone in 2020 with a “New Edition”. It altered the finish and added more RAM in the entry-level model. However, right now, the original Huawei P30 Pro is the better deal at £449. It has a brilliant camera array that includes a 5x zoom and can take great low-light photos. The design is more high-end than almost anything else you might buy for that kind of money too. It doesn’t have 5G, though, which is all but a standard feature at £450 from other Android brands these days.
The “New Edition” is available from:
Vodafone | from £47 a month and £29 upfront
The original Huawei P30 Pro is available from:
O2 | from £32.63 a month and £30 upfront
Huawei P40 Pro
Best for high-end hardware at a hot price
Good value, in hardware terms
It has 5G
No Google apps
This was Huawei’s top phone for the first half of 2020, but it has just about everything it needs to stay relevant in 2021 and beyond, including 5G mobile internet. Its cameras are superb, the glass and metal design is completely free of compromise. And it’s a super-powered phone that isn’t actually that big. For £699.99, the price direct from Huawei at the time of writing, the Huawei P40 Pro seems quite the deal. However, it does not have Google apps. You need to weigh that void up against the fab amount of tech you get per pound.
The Huawei P40 Pro is available from:
Carphone Warehouse | from £35.99 a month and £29.99 upfront
EE | from £54 a month and £10 upfront (unlimited data)
Vodafone | from £47 a month and £49 upfront
Huawei Mate 40 Pro
Best for cutting-edge tech
No Google apps
The Huawei Mate 40 Pro is a tech powerhouse. It has a huge, ultra-sharp screen, three excellent cameras, including a top-quality 5x zoom and a great ultra-wide lens. You get 5G and raw power in line with the most expensive Android rivals you can get in 2021. It charges from flat in 45 minutes, and camera arrays don’t get much more striking than the circular ring of the Mate 40 Pro. However, we don’t find this phone all that easy to recommend. Its price is consistent with the mass of tech toys packed in, but when it is also close to that of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, we would pick the Samsung instead. It has Google apps. The Mate 40 Pro doesn’t.
The Huawei Mate 40 Pro is available from:
Three | from £45 a month and £79 upfront
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For the latest news and expert tips on getting the best deals this year, take a look at our Black Friday 2021 and Cyber Monday 2021 guides.
Huawei P40 Lite
Best budget buy
Good primary camera
Fairly punchy processor
No Google apps
The Huawei P40 Lite would be a bit of a smash if it had access to Google apps. For £200, it offers a lot. That includes a Full HD screen, a main camera with hardware that has been used in phones double the price (or more) in previous years, and enough power to handle complex 3D games. Still, we are not entirely sure this makes up for the lack of Google apps unless you’re a techie who doesn’t mind tinkering to get the right apps installed. Xiaomi and Realme also offer good hardware around this price.
The Huawei P40 Lite is available from:
Carphone Warehouse | from £16.99 a month
Three | from £14 a month and £0 upfront
Vodafone | from £34 a month and £19 upfront
Compare with our Realme 8 Pro review or our Redmi Note 10 Pro review.
Huawei P Smart 2021
Big-screen budget buy
High screen resolution
Lots of storage
No Google apps
Camera is not as good as P40 Lite’s
The P Smart has proved to be one of Huawei’s most popular lines for years. The first P Smart arrived way back in 2017. This 2021 version’s aims are the same as ever: to offer a lot for little money. The highlights are a large, sharp 1080p 6.67-inch screen, generous 128GB storage and long battery life. However, considering the lack of Google apps, we are inclined to suggest the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 instead.
The Huawei P Smart 2021 is available from:
Carphone Warehouse | from £14.99 a month
EE | from £25 a month and £0 upfront (4GB of data)
O2 | from £21.98 a month and £10 upfront
Huawei Mate X2
The folding masterpiece
Price: £2,000 (approx.)
Relatively tough design (for a foldable phone)
No Google apps
Very high price
Fragile inner screen
Folding phones: will they catch on? This area of tech may seem brand new, but the Mate X2 is Huawei’s third generation foldable. It’s tougher than almost any other, which you’d hope for, given it costs around £2000 in a direct currency conversion from the Chinese price. There’s a 6.45-inch screen on the outside, an additional 8-inch one on the inside. It’s a phone and a tablet and costs more than the two combined. We can’t picture seriously recommending the Huawei Mate X2 to anyone who is not obsessed with the foldable phone concept, but this might be the best around in pure hardware terms.
The Mate X2 launched in February in China, but we’re still waiting for the global release.
Wondering which other new models we can expect this year? Head to our new phones 2021 round-up to find out.