Nintendo's New OLED Switch Using Apple Pay Later iOS 16.4: What to Know Awaiting Apple's VR Headset 14 Hidden iPhone Features Signing Up for Google Bard VR Is Revolutionizing Therapy Clean These 9 Household Items Now
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you
This is paid content. It was written and produced by RV Studios in collaboration with the sponsor.

How Huawei smartphones have evolved

Over eight years, Huawei has taken its smartphones from unknown mid-range challengers to the leading edge of smartphone and mobile camera design, winning fans around the world.

Feeling nostalgic? We're looking back on the impressive eight years of Huawei smartphones. It takes more than a little bravery to move from making phones for other companies to hoisting your own mast and building your own name in a wildly competitive market. But over the past eight years, Huawei has done just that.

Across its two key lines, the P series and the Mate series, let's look back at how Huawei got to where we are today.


The first five years (2012-2017)

During the early days, all Huawei flagship smartphones carried the 'Huawei Ascend' name alongside their P series or Mate series names. This was the era where Huawei was exploring what would set its hardware apart.

This era carried through the various single digital model numbers, from the P1 to P9 and Mate to Mate 9. This was the era where Huawei emerged as a challenger brand that had a lot of flagship features to offer at prices below the biggest names on the market.

Cameras played a big role along the way in setting Huawei smartphones apart, with an emphasis on great selfie performance being one of the standout features. A partnership with famed camera company Leica arrived with the P9 which has been in place ever since.

As the phone lines hit their '10' era in 2017, Huawei began to really develop a rhythm across the two lines. P series would push the limits on mobile photography and hardware design, while the Mate series would live at the leading edge of processing and performance.

P10 (2017)

With the 5.1-inch P10, Huawei delivered another styling overhaul on the outside of the device and its chip upgrade brought 4K video to the flagship series for the first time. The core dual camera upgraded to a 12MP+20MP pairing, with the 20MP on the monochrome side plus optical image stabilisation. It also included a fingerprint scanner on the front of the device after the first scanners were placed on the rear.

Mate 10 (2017)

With the Mate 10, Huawei delivered its first AI-focused processor, the 64-bit octacore Kirin 970. Along with a 5.9-inch 1440x2560 display, the Mate 10 became the place to go if you wanted the absolute latest features Huawei had to offer.

P20 (2018)

The P20 was a true flagship in every modern sense of the term. With the P20 and the P20 Pro models, Huawei gave itself the space to still deliver that high-end affordability on the P20 while really pushing past its rivals at the premium end with the P20 Pro. We also saw wireless charging in a P series phone here for the first time.

Where the P20 saw a 3,400mAh battery, the P20 Pro got 4,000mAh. Where the P20 featured a 12MP+20MP dual camera, the P20 Pro got a 40MP+20MP+8MP triple lens array, with that 8MP lens at a 3x telephoto length. It also began to offer smarter digital zoom options that used the qualities of the combined lenses to deliver hybrid zoom at 5x distances.

The colour styling also demanded attention like never before, with clever gradients making this feel like it wanted to be a fashion icon as much as the camera that captured the action.

Mate 20 (2018)

With excellent front facing speakers, a massive 6.58-inch screen and support for Dolby Atmos, the Mate 20 stood out as an entertainment performer. With the triple camera array at the rear and 3D face unlock, reviewers praised the device for offering so many of the features smartphone fans had been asking for on so many different fronts. Amongst its variants, the Mate 20 X was notable for pushing all the way out to a remarkable 7.2-inch screen for those who couldn't get enough screen in their lives.

P30 (2019)

The P30 and P30 Pro offered the most striking body designs seen in a long time, solidifying Huawei's push to place its flagship phones as fashion accessories as much as the perfect smartphone to snap the world with.

The camera got a periscopic zoom for the first time in any smartphone, and a triple camera array that offered ultrawide, wide, and that periscopic zoom potential, as well as a digital zoom with an incredible 100x range. Its Night Mode also set it far ahead of its competition, finding light in environments where other cameras could see nothing at all. Notable was a shift to a new colour system in the camera filter – from the traditional RGB to RYYB – that helped to elevate low-light performance to a place where its competitors struggled to follow.

The fingerprint sensor now disappeared into the screen itself, and the cameras offered a 40MP main lens, a 20MP ultrawide, and a front-facing camera that now delivered 32MP of resolution.

Later in the same year, the P30 Lite also launched, which still retained the triple camera (just at lower resolutions) and 32MP selfie camera.

Mate 30 (2019)

Always exploring new ideas, the Mate 30 this time featured a rolled edge OLED display, making it one of the slickest screens on the market. Plus, the Mate 30 got the camera modes from the P30 Pro to deliver excellent night shooting, great 4K time-lapses, and ultraslow-motion performance. Rounding out the device, Qi charging, Huawei M-pen support, and ongoing support for a headphone jack all made the Mate 30 a standout piece of smartphone hardware in the marketplace.

P40 (2020)

And this brings us up to date! It's 2020 and we're looking at the crown jewel in Huawei's P series journey. With the P40, P40 Pro and P40 Lite, along with 5G models and a Pro+, there's never been a wider range of models to suit different needs within the flagship Huawei experience.

The P40 Pro and Pro+ provide a 6.58-inch screen size and have nicely styled bodies, with the P40 and P40 Pro getting Gorilla Glass style and strength. At the absolute pinnacle is the P40 Pro+, which features a new ceramic casing that is the strongest yet, along with a new glossy sheen and double optical zoom cameras that have 10x optical range.

You can, of course, find all the details in the full P40 reviews here on CNET. It's been quite the journey over the past eight years for the Huawei P series, and one that has taken the brand from being an unknown in the middle of the pack to placing itself at the absolute leading edge of smartphone and mobile camera design, winning fans around the world.