Huawei Takes a Page From Apple's Playbook
China To Reduce Reliance on Foreign Technology
HANGZHOU, CHINA - Huawei is taking a page out of Apple's playbook by developing its own processors to power its latest smartphone, the Mate 60 Pro. This move will help the Chinese company reduce its reliance on foreign technology as it grapples with U.S. sanctions.
The Mate 60 Pro, which launched at the end of last month and quickly sold out, features a main chip that showcases Huawei's ability to design its own semiconductors. Analysis of the chip reveals that four of the eight central processing units in the phone's "system on a chip" (SoC) rely on Arm's design, the British company that powers 99% of smartphones. The other four CPUs feature Huawei's own designs and adaptations.
Huawei has been facing challenges since 2019 due to US sanctions that restrict its access to advanced chips, equipment, and software for making 5G smartphones. As a result, the company has shifted its focus to selling 4G gadgets and concentrating on the Chinese market.
While Huawei still licenses Arm's basic designs, its own HiSilicon chip design business has made improvements to build its own processor cores on the Mate's Kirin 9000S SoC. This will provide the flexibility needed to produce high-end smartphones despite the constraints of US export controls. The Kirin 9000S also features a graphics processing unit and neural processing unit developed by HiSilicon.
This strategy mirrors Apple's Silicon initiative, where the company has enhanced Arm's basic architecture over the years to give its iPhones and Macs a competitive edge in performance.
Developing one's own semiconductors is a complex and costly endeavor, making it a strategy only a few companies can pursue. Huawei's breakthrough in this area allows it to have "indigenous design and not rely on foreign nations too much," according to Dylan Patel, chief analyst at consulting firm SemiAnalysis.
In addition to reducing patent licensing costs, Huawei's ability to produce its own phone processors allows the company to differentiate its products from competitors that use off-the-shelf chips.
However, Huawei still faces challenges in producing cutting-edge chips due to restrictions from the US, which limit the company's access to suppliers. The Biden administration has also requested details on the Mate 60 Pro's SoC.
Despite these obstacles, Huawei's move towards developing its own chips demonstrates the company's determination to reduce its dependence on imported technology. By tapping into its internal resources and adapting CPU core designs from its data center servers, Huawei has managed to achieve innovation in the mobile phone industry.
The Huawei Mate 60 Pro's main chip represents a significant step forward for the company and showcases its ambition to rival industry leaders like Apple in chip design. As Huawei continues to navigate the challenges of US sanctions, its ability to develop its own processors will likely play a crucial role in maintaining its position in the smartphone market.