Huawei P20 preview: Everything we know so far

UPDATED: Our first look at the P20, P20 Plus, and P20 Lite?

07 February 2018
by Stuff Staff

Last year’s Huawei P10 handsets landed much like the Google Pixel ones before them: a pretty good, but unflashy standard model paired with an excellent plus-sized edition.

Given how well the brilliant Pixel 2 XL turned out, we can only hope that Huawei continues the same kind of upward trajectory with its purported P20… or P11. The actual name is still up in the air, according to the rumour mill, but we already have an idea of what to expect.

How do three back cameras strike you for starters? Interested? If so, keep reading – here’s a look at everything we’ve heard so far about Huawei’s next flagship belters.

WHEN WILL THE HUAWEI P20 BE OUT?

Huawei announced the P10 (shown) at last year’s Mobile World Congress in February, and it’s highly likely that we’ll see the same thing again. In fact, a Huawei VP promised it would happen.

Granted, that promise came in March 2017, so it’s hardly a surprise Huawei’s plans have now changed. Instead of sticking with an annual MWC announcement going forward for the P series phones, the P20 will arrive later in the year, with an event pencilled in for the 27th of March.

By skipping its MWC plan, it looks like Huawei will have complete control of the news during the reveal week – instead of fighting for coverage next to Samsung, which is set to reveal the Galaxy S9 at the Barcelona trade show.

FACT OR FICTION?

Now that Huawei has sent out invites, we think it’s a safe bet that the P20 won’t show up at MWC. It’s probably not a bad idea for Huawei to avoid all the buzz around the confirmed Galaxy S9 showing, and a March launch gives plenty of space between the two.

HOW MUCH WILL THE HUAWEI P20 COST?

The Huawei P10 and P10 Plus were fairly well priced in the Middle East and we’re hoping to see more of the same for the P20.

We haven’t heard any pricing rumours for the P20 just yet, but the trend for flagship phones has been upward over the last year, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see slightly higher prices this time around.

FACT OR FICTION?

All we can do is speculate, but we think the best case scenario is that Huawei keeps the same price points as last year. Still, it’s entirely possible that they’ll nudge up a little bit.

WHAT WILL THE HUAWEI P20 LOOK LIKE?

With an expected launch coming within weeks, there are certainly some rumours around. And they mention a notch.

Yes, the same kind of divisive notch seen on the Apple iPhone X, which houses the phone’s camera array. Instead of putting a bunch of bezel on the top of the phone, Apple decided to wrap the screen around the camera module. Love it or hate it, it’s certainly a distinctive look.

Or it was a distinctive look, and now it’s one that may be copied. XDA claims that firmware hints suggest a similarly bezel-lite design for the P20 that has a notch of its own up top.

If there’s a fingerprint scanner, then, it would likely be moved to the back – or maybe Huawei will go full-Apple with the P20 and use a camera-based system for security instead. They already showed something like that late last year, claiming more detailed facial tracking than Apple’s offering.

But here’s a fresh leak to potentially complicate matters. An early February leak shows case renders and purported prototype images for three different phones: a Huawei P20 (shown), a P20 Plus (below), and a P20 Lite (bottom).

What’s the difference? Well, the standard P20 seems to keep bezel at the top and bottom of an 18:9 screen, complete with a vertically-oriented triple-camera array on the back. The P20 Plus, meanwhile, has the iPhone X-esque notch at the top and just a dual-camera setup on the back. And the supposed P20 Lite model has two cameras on the back along with a fingerprint sensor not seen on the others.

FACT OR FICTION?

Until we get some more clarity, it’s hard to know exactly how this will all shake out – but it does seem like Huawei is considering an iPhone X-like design for one of the P20 models while keeping a more standard 18:9 screen on at least one of the others. Phone makers tend to follow Apple’s lead, whether they’ll openly admit it or not, and along with the leaked Moto X5, we may see an iPhone X-like design for one of these handsets.

WHAT ABOUT THE HUAWEI P20’S SCREEN?

Given the idea of an all-screen, almost bezel-free front – not to mention the fact that nearly every phone maker is following this trend – it’s almost assured that we’ll see an extra tall display with something around an 18:9 aspect ratio.

In fact, XDA’s firmware examination found that the notch-bearing device boasted a screen with a 6in, Samsung-built LCD display at 2160×1080, which would probably be the screen we’d see on the standard P20.

Presumably, a P20 Plus would offer a larger 18:9 screen at Quad HD resolution, rather than dip back down into 1080p territory for a pricier, more premium handset.

As the February leak shows, there’s some question over which versions of the P20 will have notched or traditional 18:9 displays, and it’s unclear whether the supposed P20 Lite even has the taller screen.

FACT OR FICTION?

Every major phone on the horizon uses a taller screen, so it’s no shock to hear that the Huawei P20 may do the very same thing. No surprises here.

HOW MUCH POWER WILL THE HUAWEI P20 PACK?

Quite a bit, it sounds like – but it may be with familiar tech. Rumours suggest that the P20 will use the same Kirin 970 chip seen in the Huawei Mate 10 Pro.

It’s “blindingly fast,” as we found out with the Mate 10 Pro, and that may be due in part to the included Neural Processing Unit (NPU), which boosts its A.I. capabilities that allow the phone to automate and anticipate tasks.

But for the most part, it’s just a really, really fast bit of silicon that’s about on par with the best that Android has to offer right now… although given that it’s on the level with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835, the incoming Snapdragon 845 will probably beat it. But Android flagships are so fast now that you honestly might not be able to tell a difference during everyday usage.

FACT OR FICTION?

Given that Huawei’s Kirin 970 has only been in use for a few months now, we fully expect it to power the P20 as well – and it ought to handle any need you can throw at it.

WHAT KIND OF CAMERAS WILL THE HUAWEI P20 HAVE?

What kind? You’ll probably be more stunned to hear how many: three main sensors on the back, supposedly. Forget that dual-camera nonsense!

Where does this rumour come from? Well, noted leaker Evan Blass uncovered some marketing materials from an agency that works with Huawei, and they were quickly pulled offline once he started spreading the news.

The marketing ads suggest “pro triple-lens Leica rear cameras” at 40 megapixels with “5x Hybrid Zooming Performance.” That 40MP figure seems astronomical for a single sensor, but maybe Huawei is just adding up all the numbers for a combined tally. In any case, we don’t have any indication of which components we’ll see in the array.

They also mention a “Pro Night Mode” and A.I. assistance for framing and scene recognition, plus a massive 24MP selfie shooter is mentioned for the front. (Just one camera on the front? Talk about lopsided, Huawei!)

On the other hand, maybe there’s been some mix-up between the models specs. The February leak suggests that the main P20 will have three camera sensors on the back and two on the front, while the notch-screened P20 Plus shows two back sensors and one on the front.

FACT OR FICTION?

It sounds kind of crazy, but Huawei helped make dual-camera sensors a trend – can they do the same with three? Should they? Does anyone really need three back cameras? We may find out very soon.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE HUAWEI P20?

Just a couple of things. The P20 will no doubt launch with Android Oreo, along with Huawei’s EMUI skin on top. XDA found EMUI 8.0.1 running on the speculated device in the firmware.

Also, given Huawei’s fondness of Apple, you shouldn’t be surprised to see the company’s own take on Animoji with the P20, assuming it does have the facial tracking sensors on the front. Huawei already showed some off in November, claiming theirs were better because they can track your tongue too. The future truly is amazing.

There’s every chance three models will make their debut at Huawei’s March event, rather than two. The P20 Lite is rumoured to appear alongside the P20 and P20 Plus, giving Huawei fans a more affordable alternative to the two flagships, and February’s leak purportedly shows off the Lite (see above).

FACT OR FICTION?

Huawei aping Apple? Say it isn’t so! Actually, it’s probably true – but we’ll see whether Huawei really can improve upon what Cupertino has created.

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