Huawei Japan has announced that the P40 series is coming to Japan. The P40 series consists of the unlabeled P40, the P40 Pro and its higher-end P40 Pro+ variation, the low-priced P40 lite, and other models. In Japan, however, only three models will be released: the P40 Pro 5G, P40 lite 5G, and P40 lite E. Unfortunately there’s no carrier model (perhaps a reflection of recent circumstances), but on the other hand, the P40 Pro 5G will be launched as a SIM-free model.
The mid-range P40 lite 5G model has made a particularly big impact. It’s priced in pretty much the same range as the previous lite models in the P series, but with the addition of a quad camera on the back. The main camera has a high pixel count of 64 million pixels, and this model also incorporates a wide-angle camera, macro camera, and depth measurement camera. The chipset is a high performance Kirin 820, too. There’s really nothing “lite” about this phone’s specs.
The market price is likely to be 39,800 yen, and considering that the P30 lite sold for 32,880 yen when it was launched in Japan a year ago, this is an extraordinarily moderate price hike for a phone that now supports 5G. It feels like an even greater bargain when you take into account the chipset’s processing power and the vastly improved camera performance. Looking at the supported 5G bands, it can be used with Japan’s sub-6 on the typical n77, n78, and n79 bands. Just like the Mate 30 Pro 5G that was released ahead of it, it seems likely that the P40 lite 5G can be used without selecting a carrier.
Japan’s 5G service was only launched in March, but in China 5G services have been operating since November of last year, and the number of subscribers there has been increasing at a good rate. Huawei has taken an early lead in the race for this market by introducing mid-range models with 5G support. Huawei even manufactures its own modems, which has which has likely made it easier for Huawei to produce low-price mid-range models than it is for other companies that are adopting Qualcomm chips.
Having said that, the P40 is priced higher than the previous-generation P30 lite: including tax, the price now exceeds the 30-40,000 yen volume sales zone for SIM-free mid-range smartphones. Of course, Huawei itself must understand this. With the P40 series, rather than establish variations of the high-end P40 model, Huawei has decided to roll out two models of the P40 lite. The other P40 lite is the P40 lite E mentioned earlier.
The P40 lite E is a 4G model like the conventional P lite, and the chipset and camera specs are not quite up there with the P40 lite 5G. While the P40 lite 5G has a Kirin 820 chipset, the P40 lite E adopts the Kirin 710F. The P40 lite E’s main camera offers 48 million pixels, and it has a triple camera (one less than the P40 lite 5G’s quad camera setup). Memory (RAM), storage (ROM) and Wi-Fi support, etc. are lower spec than the P40 lite 5G, and there are signs of cost-cutting throughout its design.
The result of this cost-cutting in the P40 lite E is a much lower estimated retail price of 24,800 yen. This makes it more economical than the P30 lite was, and pitches it firmly in the volume sales zone at a very reasonable price lower than the average. It’s fair to say that this year’s P lite lineup is typical of Huawei’s strategy, with more variations, extension at both the top and bottom ends, and strong mid-range models.
However, there is one big difference compared with everything up to last year: neither of these models features GMS (Google Mobile Service). We don’t really need to go over this again, but Huawei, under US sanctions, has been unable to use Android phones with GMS and instead has constructed its own HMS (Huawei Mobile Services) ecosystem. Both of these models adopt HMS, with apps available to download from the Huawei-operated AppGallery.
The first HMS phone in Japan was the Mate 30 Pro 5G, which launched in April, so this is the second such device. The P40 lite 5G, P40 lite E, and the flagship P40 Pro 5G model are all loaded with HMS. But it’s interesting that HMS has been included in the mid-range models as well. In one sense, Huawei was targeting the small number of experienced users who would buy the high-end model fully aware that it’s a HMS phone, but that’s not the same audience as the mid-range models.
Huawei’s P lite series has become popular with all kinds of people thanks to its excellent cost performance. So the fact that this series is based on HMS will surely have a huge impact. The more units sold, the more app users will be out there, so the mid-range models are essential for strengthening the HMS ecosystem. The P40 lite 5G and P40 lite E are both designed to expand the coverage of HMS.
On the other hand, it’s also possible that users will stay away from devices without GMS. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. There are only three MVNOs handling the P40 series (IIJmio, Aeon Mobile, and excite Mobile), which is some way short of the backing the P30 series received from major carriers and sub-brands. Excluding these MVNOs, companies are being cautious about supporting HMS, so this could be a difficult road for Huawei to take. Maybe the company will adopt new ways of promoting sales, such as generating demand for second phones or targeting people who don’t use many apps.
This article was originally written in Japanese. All images and content are directly from the Japanese version at the time of publication.