Huawei’s foldable device raises concerns about Chinese chips

Huawei's foldable device raises concerns about Chinese chips

Huawei Unveils Two More 5G Smartphones: Mate 60 Pro+ and Mate X5 Foldable

In a surprising move, Huawei recently launched the Mate 60 and Mate 60 Pro smartphones, both seemingly equipped with 5G capabilities. Today, the Chinese company has unveiled two more devices: the Mate 60 Pro+ and the Mate X5 foldable. This marks a significant step forward for Huawei, which has been limited to 4G connectivity on its handsets due to US sanctions. However, the company has been tight-lipped about its choice of radio for these new devices.

Chinese blogger Vincent Zhong conducted a speed test on the new foldable smartphone, and the results reached a download speed of over 1Gbps, indicating 5G capability. Interestingly, there is no 5G indicator displayed on the screen. Sources have confirmed that both phones are indeed 5G devices, but Huawei has not commented on the specifics of the phones’ specifications or the chip used.

There have been concerns about the source of the chip, specifically the HiSilicon Kirin 9000S, powering these new devices. The chip manufacturer, SMIC (Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation), may have violated US sanctions to access foreign chip-making technology. A teardown conducted by TechInsights for Bloomberg confirmed that SMIC used a 7nm process node for the Kirin 9000S, which was thought to be impossible due to the import ban on key manufacturing equipment. Before the ban, Huawei relied on TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) for its 5nm process, enabled by ASML’s lithography machines.

The possibility of SMIC procuring advanced machinery from ASML without raising alarms seems unlikely. However, ASML’s CEO, Peter Wennink, suggests that the US restrictions have forced Huawei to double down on innovation. It is plausible that SMIC may have developed its own high-end lithography machine, allowing them to manufacture the Kirin 9000S.

Benchmarks conducted by Chinese tech blog Geekerwan indicate that the performance of the Kirin 9000S is comparable to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888, although it is considered two generations behind. The Kirin 9000S features one big core and three middle cores based on Huawei’s “TaiShan” architecture, along with four little cores based on Arm’s efficient Cortex-A510. Additionally, it is the first mobile processor to support multi-threading, running eight cores with 12 threads. However, further optimization is required for apps to fully utilize this feature. The GPU, named Maleoon 910, is said to be on par with the Snapdragon 888.

The Mate 60 Pro+ shares many similarities with the Mate 60 Pro, including support for satellite call service by China Telecom and satellite messaging using BeiDou. The notable differences include a different “nanotech metallic double dye process” and improved rear cameras. On the other hand, the Mate X5 foldable is almost identical to the slim Mate X3, but it features Huawei’s Kunlun Glass on the external screen and a slightly modified appearance for the rear camera island. Huawei has not disclosed the prices of these models yet, but pre-orders will begin today at 6:08 PM local time.

If all four of Huawei’s latest smartphones are indeed powered by the Kirin 9000S, it suggests that Huawei has confidence in the chip’s yield, which could further undermine the US sanctions. There are rumors that we can expect more information about these devices towards the end of September, conveniently avoiding the frenzy surrounding the release of the iPhone 15.

Overall, Huawei’s unveiling of the Mate 60 Pro+ and Mate X5 foldable smartphones demonstrates its commitment to innovation, overcoming the limitations imposed by US sanctions. With their 5G capabilities and advanced features, these devices offer users a cutting-edge mobile experience. As competition in the smartphone market intensifies, Huawei’s offerings continue to impress and challenge its rivals.