With enviable hardware, Huawei’s smartphones really hit the spot. We’ve rounded up all the best options to suit your budget and needs
Huawei was riding wave after wave of success in the late 2010s, becoming the UK’s third favourite smartphone manufacturer, sitting just behind Apple and Samsung with its range of top-quality, competitively priced handsets.
However, the 2019 US trade ban on Huawei continues to make its smartphones incompatible with Google apps, including Gmail, Google Maps and the Play Store. This move basically forced Huawei to launch its phones without key apps and services, so if you’ve previously owned a Huawei handset, the user experience may differ slightly from how you remember it.
Still, that doesn’t mean you should ignore Huawei altogether. With top-end hardware and componentry, it continues to offer some top-notch alternatives – especially if you want a camera that will be the envy of all your friends. Huawei’s handsets sometimes retail at a cheaper price compared to their Apple and Samsung equivalents, too.
If all this talk of different operating systems and trade bans is getting to your head, then have a read through our buying guide and we’ll walk you through the recent happenings with Huawei. Following that, you’ll find a list of our top picks made by the Chinese brand; from the excellent P-series flagships and the high-end Mate line to new folding flagships, Huawei has it all.
How to choose the best Huawei for you
What does the US trade ban mean for Huawei smartphones?
Since May 2019, Huawei has been banned from doing business with any organisation operating in the United States, meaning it had to revamp how it did business – including how it produced smartphones. Since Google is an American company, this meant a lot of core features, including Gmail, YouTube and, crucially, the Google Play store, were no longer available to Huawei on new products.
Luckily for Huawei, Android software itself – while heavily affiliated and commercially sponsored by Google – is open source, meaning any person or company can do what they want with it. This means that Huawei could continue to use it on its smartphones, albeit without core Google features.
All this means that since May 2019, any phone launched by Huawei has been without Google-owned services and products in its devices. Instead of the Google Play store, new Huawei phones have an ever-growing Huawei AppGallery, as well as alternative apps that play similar roles to Google’s versions. In addition, Huawei has now created its own operating system to replace Android on its smartphones: Harmony OS. As this software is heavily based on Android, it’s a pretty similar experience overall. While customers in China will find Harmony OS 2.0 pre-installed on new handsets, the rest of the world and UK buyers will get EMUI 12.
Without limitless Android software, there is no guarantee of regular OS upgrades or security updates on Huawei devices, which is something to be mindful of before purchasing. However, the company has promised that there will be continuous software improvements, and we found that within a week of receiving the P50 Pro for review, for instance, there were a couple of OTA updates available.
Many older handsets won’t miss out on these software changes either, after Huawei announced a list of 100 different Huawei Android phone models that would be compatible with a Harmony OS upgrade in the first part of 2022 with EMUI 12. A full list of eligible smartphones can be found in the image below.
What if I want Google apps on my smartphone?
For many, this Google-free life is a little impractical if all your emails, files and calendar dates are synced with the corporation’s services, so forgoing the full-fat Android experience simply isn’t an option.
But for those who miss the old Huawei, there’s some good news. All Huawei phones that originally shipped with Google Play Services – those released before the end of 2019 – can still access Google apps, services and security updates. So, you can still get a quality Huawei phone that uses your favourite apps, such as the 2019 flagship P30 Pro, and in all likelihood for a lot less money than it originally sold for.
Purchasing an older model phone might not be palatable to the biggest of tech enthusiasts, though, so buying a different manufacturer’s Android-ready phone might be a better option. If that sounds like you, don’t worry, as we’ve got you covered: read through our favourite Android smartphones to find a handset that will suit you a little better.
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How much do I need to spend?
The good news is that, with such a vast array of Huawei handsets, you can get a decent model without completely going overboard on your spending, especially if you’re after a pre-May 2019 release model. Some of the cheapest Huawei models are currently selling for around £100.
However, if you want to future-proof your investment for as long as you can by purchasing the crème de la crème of Huawei smartphones, you should expect to spend a little extra. The newest and best Huawei phones can cost over £1,000, so prepare your finances accordingly.
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The best Huawei smartphones to buy
1. Huawei Mate 20 Pro: Best affordable Huawei
Price: £430 | Buy now from Amazon
For a great price on a previous flagship Huawei, the Mate 20 Pro is right up there in terms of value. It improved on its predecessor by a wide margin, with a bigger screen, more processing oomph and better battery life. It was Huawei’s first venture into using curved displays for its smartphones, too, and it still looks rather brilliant with its subtly patterned glass rear.
With the Mate 30 Pro currently retailing at over £1,000, this is the best option if you want an affordable Mate with Google apps. In fact, the Mate 20 Pro originally retailed for £900, so you’re getting a bit of a steal here, even if it is getting a little long in the tooth.
Read our full Huawei Mate 20 Pro review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Kirin 980; Display: 6.5in, 2,400 x 1,224; Storage: 128 or 256GB; Cameras: 50MP, 13MP (ultrawide), 12MP (telephoto), 13MP (selfie); Operating system: EMUI 9; Weight: 181g
2. Huawei P30 Pro: Best Huawei with Google apps
Price: £699 | Buy now from Amazon
Released in March 2019, the Huawei P30 Pro is the best Huawei smartphone if you want full-fat Android software. Like so many other Huawei devices, the cameras still hold up today, shooting night-time and low-light pictures in great detail.
However, the cameras were simply the “icing on the cake of perhaps the most well-rounded flagship to date”, according to senior editor Nathan Spendelow at the time of his review. The P30 Pro has an excellent battery – lasting over 22hrs in our tests – with speedy processing power, all encased in 6.47 inches of stunning, curvaceous glassware. It was the last Huawei flagship to get the Google treatment, too, which is another big bonus.
Read our full Huawei P30 Pro review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Kirin 980; Display: 6.47in, 2,340 x 1,080; Storage: 64GB; Cameras: 40MP, 32MP (ToF front), 20MP (ultrawide), 8MP (telephoto); Operating system: Android 9; Weight: 192g
3. Huawei P30: Best Huawei under £400
Price: £381 | Buy now from Amazon
Despite a smaller, flatter display than the one found on the Pro model, the sleek Huawei P30 still packs a punch. Internally, the pair are mostly alike, using the same 2.6GHz octa-core Kirin 980 chipset with only the RAM (6GB) and storage (128GB) differing slightly. Admittedly, we found battery life to be lower than the P30 Pro, but the regular model still managed an admirable day and a half of moderate usage.
For a phone that isn’t too different from the Pro, you might be expecting a relatively similar price. However, the P30 is currently selling for half of what the Pro version is currently going for, making it another great pick.
Read our full Huawei P30 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Kirin 980; Display: 6.1in, 2,340 x 1,080; Storage: 64, 128 or 256GB; Cameras: 40MP, 16MP (ultrawide), 8MP (telephoto), 32MP (selfie); Operating system: Android 9; Weight: 165g
4. Huawei P50 Pro: Best flagship Huawei smartphone
Price: £1,000 | Read more at Huawei
It probably comes as little surprise that Huawei’s latest and greatest Pro model is built with quality hardware. Like the P20, P30 and P40 Pros before it, the P50 Pro is the best of the best when it comes to Huawei’s flagship series, offering all the outstanding features we’ve come to love Huawei for.
There are improved internals and expert-level photographic capabilities, including a 50MP and 64MP lens (with 3.5x zoom), all packaged in a beautiful bezel-less display. Masses of storage, up to 512GB, means you won’t need to worry about running out of room to store any media, either.
The only sticking point is the lack of 5G connectivity. However, if you’re happy with 4G, then the P50 Pro really gives its competitors a proper run for their money, including the Samsung S22. If you’re not tied to Google, there’s really no reason not to buy it.
Read our full Huawei P50 Pro review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888; Display: 6.6in, 2,400 x 1,224; Storage: 128, 256 or 512GB; Cameras: 50MP, 40MP (monochrome), 64MP (periscopic telephoto), 13MP (ultrawide), 13MP (selfie); Operating system: EMUI 12; Weight: 195g
5. Huawei P50 Pocket: Best Huawei flip-phone
Price: £1,100 | Read more at Huawei
Folding phones are all the rage right now, with every smartphone firm under the sun creating their own. If you’re after a fresh alternative, then Huawei might have just the answer. The P50 Pocket is a top pick, assuming you’re not locked into a Google app lifestyle.
As is expected of Huawei, the camera array is exceptional, with rich details, well-judged auto exposure and pleasingly accurate colours. Even the selfie camera is rather good, but we found that portrait mode on the main camera should be your people-shooting lens of choice. Add in a wonderful flexible screen and you’re on to a winner here.
Like the P50 Pro above, the lack of 5G is a sticking point, and the middling battery life might push you towards Samsung’s Z Flip 3 5G instead, but this is still a great buy if you’re in the market for a foldable.
Read our full Huawei P50 Pocket review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888; Display: Folding 6.9in, 2,790 x 1,188; Storage: 256 or 512GB; Cameras: 40MP, 13MP (ultrawide), 32MP (Ultra Spectrum), 10.7MP (selfie); Operating system: EMUI 12; Weight: 190g
6. Huawei P40 5G: Best Huawei with 5G
Price: £795 | Buy now from Amazon
The latest P50 flagships don’t offer 5G connectivity in the UK. As such, the best option for those always plugged into the web is 2021’s Huawei P40 5G, which also offers Wi-Fi 6 connectivity for increased bandwidth and increased maximum speeds (if you have a compatible router).
Outside of its connectivity, the P40 is a solid smartphone with a great design and superb set of cameras. Internally, there’s not a jot of difference between the P40 and P40 Pro, since both are powered by the Kirin 990 5G, so if you can live without a wraparound screen and forgo an extra camera you’ll save a bit more. Yes, this smartphone is hamstrung by the lack of Google apps and services, but still, the P40 is a phone that broke new ground in terms of hardware upon release in 2020 and continues to provide excellent value today.
Read our full Huawei P40 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Kirin 990 5G; Display: 6.1in, 2,340 x 1,080; Storage: 128 or 256GB; Cameras: 50MP, 32MP (selfie), 16MP (ultrawide), 8MP (telephoto); Operating system: EMUI 10; Weight: 175g
7. Huawei P30 Lite: Best Huawei under £300
Price: From £272 | Buy now from Amazon
If you want a phone that looks just as good as the P30 Pro, but at a vastly reduced cost, then the P30 Lite is an admirable budget pick. As the Lite name implies, this phone is a little lighter on powerful internals, with a modest Kirin 710 chipset as well as only 4GB of RAM.
The battery life is a little below the other P-series handsets, but even still it clobbers together to produce a decent enough phone with (again) great cameras for the price. And crucially, the P30 Lite sells at a cutthroat price.
Read our full Huawei P30 Lite review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Kirin 710; Display: 6.15in, 2,312 x 1,080; Storage: 64, 128 or 256GB; Cameras: 40MP, 2MP (depth), 8MP (ultrawide), 32MP (selfie); Operating system: Android 9; Weight: 159g