Huawei's P50 series is finally, officially available internationally. Here's all you need to know about the P50, P50 Pro and more
By Alex Walker-Todd
In what could be described as ‘the slowest flagship phone launch ever’, Huawei has gradually been rolling the P50 series out internationally, following a Chinese launch in late July 2021 – itself delayed from March that same year.
After a mountain of rumours and leaks, chip shortages, limitations imposed upon the company by US sanctions and successive delays, the P50 series was finally able to make its debut; showcasing a new design, new software and new technologies.
Huawei P40 and
Mate 40 series were unquestionably impressive, but now it’s up to the P50 series to carry the torch for the brand, in spite of everything it’s faced throughout its development.
When was the Huawei P50 released?
Huawei unveiled the P50 and
P50 Pro in China on 29 July 2021 and the phones went on sale there the following month (12 August). Signs of the phones’ international launch didn’t manifest until much later, while signs of the rumoured P50 Pro+ have yet to amount to anything in any market.
In October 2021, the company finally teased release plans for the rest of the world, but only to say that the P50 series would be launching internationally “early next year”.
It wasn’t until Huawei Malaysia’s Twitter account casually dropped a date of 12 January 2022 (in a tweet posted on 5 January) that we had any indication of when within the quarter we should expect the P50 line to arrive on foreign shores.
The tweet in question only referenced the P50 Pro, however, with no explicit time frame mentioned for the standard P50’s arrival.
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Following the P50 Pro’s initial release in international markets (namely Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, where the phone hit pre-order on 12 January), Huawei Germany’s Twitter account then revealed that both the P50 Pro and
P50 Pocket (the company’s latest foldable) would both be making their way to Europe on 26 January.
It turns out that 26 January launch date wasn’t explicit to Europe though, with Huawei stating that “phase one” of the P50 series’ rollout includes “key markets across Asia Pacific, The Middle East & Africa, Europe and Latin America.”
The UK is taken to be part of phase two, with the P50 Pro finally arriving in the region on 22 March, available direct from
Huawei’s UK website and from third-party retails on platforms like
Before the initial mid-January date emerged, many wondered if Huawei was planning on
adjusting the P50’s hardware spec for its global launch to include a 4G variant of the newest
Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset. But it would seem that the P50 Pros arriving internationally all run on the same Snapdragon 888 4G SoC (with no mention of the company’s own Kirin 9000 silicon).
In terms of why the P50 series has seen such extensive delays getting to market, in a statement given to Tech Advisor, Huawei blamed “challenges to its supply chain” which “impacted go-to-market plans for this flagship device overseas,” coyly noting that these are “for reasons that are known to everyone.”
We also discussed the P50 series’ delay to 2022 in episode 88 of our weekly podcast,
How much does the Huawei P50 cost?
With limitations on 5G connectivity and delays that could be seen as impacting on the P50 series’ relevance, it’ll be interesting to see the reception to these phones’ arrival, now that they’re more widely available.
Original Chinese pricing breaks down as follows (pricing in brackets is directly converted, not indicative of actual retail prices in other regions).
As our first taste of international pricing, Malaysian pre-orders clocked in at RM 4,199 (for the 8GB RAM, 256GB storage SKU – the only configuration launching in most international markets), which tallied surprisingly closely with Chinese pricing. However, European pricing turned out to be, as expected, notably higher.
The same SKU arrived in Europe at €1,199 – over €350 more than the 8GB RAM, 256GB model costs in China. UK launch pricing clocks in at £1,099.99, £200 more than
its direct predecessor‘s starting price.
For reference, pricing of previous P series phones has been reasonably consistent for the last few years, as you can see from this breakdown of the previous models (i.e. not the Pros):
P20 – £599/€699
P30 – £699/€799
P40 – £699/€799
What features does the Huawei P50 offer?
While we knew Huawei had had to deal with chip shortages during the P50 series’ development, it was only once the phones launched that we were able to see just how that had affected production.
The most prominent side effect of the shortage was an apparent split between Huawei’s own Kirin 9000 chips and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 chips – both of which can be found in certain Chinese SKUs of the P50 Pro.
At launch, Huawei made a point of stating that – in China at least – units with Kirin 9000 chips would ship first, with Snapdragon 888-powered models finding their way to market towards the year’s end.
As with Samsung’s split chip strategy – between its Qualcomm and Exynos-powered Galaxy S phones – it’d be interesting to know whether any sort of performance disparity is present between the Kirin 9000 and Snapdragon 888-powered builds of the same phone.
Another unusual trait of the P50 series at present is a complete lack of 5G. Why the remaining Kirin 9000 chips in reserve didn’t come paired to a 5G modem is unclear, although there may be reasons why the Mate 40 Series – which also uses the chip – was able to feature this latest echelon of cellular connectivity, while the P50 series is not. As a result, the P50 series also heralds the launch of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 4G.
There are still many markets where 5G infrastructure hasn’t yet established itself, so while fans in parts of China and beyond may lament the absence of 5G connectivity on the P50 series, the phones don’t lose any appeal in that regard in regions where 4G still reigns supreme.
One ray of hope – with regards to the phone(s) sporting the latest and greatest in mobile connectivity – is a report from
AnTuTu’s Chinese-language news site suggesting that the company might be cooking up a specialised phone case that adds 5G functionality to existing members of the P50 series.
There was a brief moment where the accessory was expected to debut at the company’s 16 March event in China, but the keynote instead played host to announcements including three new P50 Pro colourways and the introduction of the
Huawei P50E and
Nova 9 SE.
The P50E offers an identical design, dimensions and spec sheet compared to the standard P50, save for a slightly different selection of colourways and the use of a more affordable Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G 4G chipset.
Here’s the standard P50’s spec sheet:
6.5in 2400 x 1224 flat OLED
300Hz touch sampling rate
90Hz refresh rate
1440Hz high frame rate PWM dimming (reduces eye strain)
Colours: Cocoa Gold, Pearl White, Charm Pink, Golden Black, Dynamic Sky Blue (varies by market)
Both devices showcase the company’s XD Fusion Pro engine, which aims to deliver better light and colour reproduction, paired with support for a wider colour space. HarmonyOS, meanwhile, supports enhanced collaboration features with the company’s wider ecosystem of products.
GizChina subsequently revealed that global versions of the P50 series weren’t likely to run HarmonyOS but instead EMUI 12 – similarly to the
Huawei Nova 9, which we also recently reviewed – resulting in very little difference, in terms of real-world use.
When talking about the EMUI-based user experience in his review of the Nova 9, Dom Preston wrote “regardless of what this is at a technical level, in practical terms, this is an extremely similar software experience to HarmonyOS.”
Having since got an international version of the P50 Pro in hand, we can confirm that it does indeed run EMUI 12 out the box, atop Android 11.
The P50 Pro’s 3.5x optical zoom lens – combined with a notably higher resolution sensor than we’ve seen from previous P series’ telephoto snappers – is how the phone is able to achieve a maximum 200x zoom range.
Prior to their July 2021 launch, Huawei released a camera sample from the P50 series, showcasing an impressive result from a challenging photographic scenario.
While the shot of the fencers was compressed when uploaded to
Weibo, it still offered early insight into the P50’s photographic capabilities. The scene is high contrast, while the subjects themselves are fast-moving; providing an additional challenge for the camera.
The P50 proves equipped to handle all of these hurdles, demonstrating realistic colours and contrast and a promisingly broad dynamic range, not to mention crisp details, despite the fast-paced action of the lunge in the scene.
To add credence to the phone’s ability alluded to by the above shot, independent testing organisation
DxO Mark separately put the P50 Pro through its photographic paces and – as Huawei fans no doubt hoped – the handset excelled across stills and video; testing across the phone’s various rear sensors and in its ability to snap
selfies, achieving the highest average score to date.
The P50 Pro landed a chart-topping rear camera score of 144 when DxO Mark’s findings were published in late July 2021, trumping then-recent heavyweights like the
Xiaomi MI 11 Ultra and the
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, while its selfie camera’s abilities also surpassed the competition, with a total score of 106.
As expected, details like colour accuracy, a wide dynamic range and excellent fine detail – even when shooting in low light and via the phone’s telephoto snapper – came across, along with excellent skin colour preservation in low light.
Fast forward to Huawei’s 16 March event in China and the company didn’t simply introduce three new colourways of P50 Pro (the leather-backed
Yunjin White and
Danxia Orange, alongside the fingerprint-resistant-glass-backed
Galaxy Blue), these new models also boast a nano-glass ceramic screen that promises five times greater drop resistance, compared to the original P50 Pro.
What about the P50 Pro+?
Huawei’s 90-minute July 2021 presentation focused on the Huawei P50 and P50 Pro, but the long-rumoured P50 Pro+ didn’t receive a single acknowledgement.
Assuming Huawei hasn’t simply axed the Pro+ model (due to the tumultuous journey of bringing the P50, P50 Pro, P50 Pocket and P50E to market) here’s everything we’re expecting will feature on this elusive fifth member of the lineup, based on outstanding leaks and rumours.
With photography being a focus of the P Series, there was extensive talk of Huawei’s use of a ‘liquid lens’, according to numerous Chinese sources; something rival Xiaomi had already introduced on its first foldable, the
Mi Mix Fold.
As spotted by
GSMArena, established Chinese tipster
Digital Chat Station made mention of the technology, likely to be paired to Sony’s rumoured IMX782 image sensor. Meanwhile, a post on
AnTuTu’s website, stated that numerous sources suggested Huawei would be implementing the technology in its devices “for the first time next year” (the post was published in 2020).
As for what a liquid lens actually does, it allows for significantly faster autofocus speeds – down to a matter of milliseconds – akin to the human eye. They’re also said to be able to deliver superior image stabilisation and better yet, should prove more durable than existing equivalent camera systems.
Due to these strengths, it’s thought that this technology could potentially feature on the Pro+’s telephoto sensor, as opposed to its primary camera.
Speaking of the main camera on the Pro+, it could be the first Huawei device to feature an IMX800 sensor; a rare 1in smartphone image sensor (i.e. the largest sensor you’ll find in any phone right now), granting a huge advantage in image quality, especially in low light.
A ToF (time of flight) sensor has also been predicted for the Pro+; likely the 5Mp camera mentioned in multiple reports; intended to aid with depth perception and focusing when capturing portrait and night shots.
Following on from the above tweet, come April 2021 additional details were shared concerning the rumoured camera hardware across the range; with continued usage of an RYYB sensor in numerous cases, as well as a snapshot of the potential layout of the camera setup on one member of the P50 series.
Renders of the Huawei P50 Pro+ subsequently emerged, courtesy of HoilNDI (embedded in the Tweet below), which display three cameras and a ToF sensor within the lower element, while a periscopic zoom camera resides within the top element, all on its own.