For those who came in late, successive governments, starting with Donald Trump, tried to shut Huawei down by restricting the amount of US tech it could buy. As we warned then, that would only speed up Chinese development of chip technology, and it looks like we were right.
The main chip inside the Mate 60 Pro smartphone, launched at the end of last month and immediately sold out, reveals that Huawei is making semiconductors.
Four of the eight central processing units in the Mate 60 Pro’s “system on a chip” (SoC) rely purely on a design by Arm, the British company whose chip architecture powers 99 per cent of smartphones. The other four CPUs are Arm-based but feature Huawei designs and adaptations.
While Huawei is still licensing Arm’s basic designs, its own HiSilicon chip design business has improved on them to build its processor cores on the Mate’s Kirin 9000S SoC.
The Kirin 9000S also features a graphics processing unit and a neural processing unit developed by HiSilicon. Its predecessor, the Kirin 9000 SoC, had relied entirely on Arm for its CPUs and GPU.
Huawei was able to produce its phone processors by adapting CPU core designs that were designed for its data centre servers, but it looks like it reversed Apple’s trick of repackaging iPhone processors into chips capable of powering its Mac computers.
Huawei’s semiconductor capabilities are still one to two years behind those of chips made by the US’s Qualcomm. They still consume more power than competitors. However, it is a sign that the company is working around US export controls.