7-nm new chip assists Huawei in expanding smartphone market
According to analysts, Huawei, which has been overtaken Apple to become the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in the second quarter of this year, is expected to further increase its market share with the introduction of a new flagship chip.
Huawei released its next-generation flagship SoC, the Kirin 980, at the IFA 2018 trade show in Berlin earlier this month. The company claims a number of world’s firsts, saying that the Kirin 980 is the only 7-nm chip to be announced so far and the only SoC with two neural processing units (NPU), leading the trend toward artificial intelligence (AI) in smartphones.
The Kirin 980 is manufactured by using TSMC's 7-nm process technology which is also used to produce the Apple A12 application processor. It is expected that Apple will release the latest line of iPhones with the new chips on September 12.
Apple did not say when its processor was put into production, instead focusing on the introduction of its latest smartphone. Andrew Lu, the head of technology in Sinolink Securities, believed the Kirin 980 is a major advancement in technology for Huawei, which is likely to help the company gain more market share against some companies that lag behind in 7-nm development.
Lu said: "The new Kirin 980 chip will help Huawei increase its market share in the smartphone business compared with Samsung, Xiaomi and Oppo. This will be beneficial to both Huawei and TSMC and detrimental to Samsung."
TSMC's likely 7-nm customer mix in 2018 (Source: Bernstein)
Other companies is likely to be affected include Qualcomm and MediaTek, the top two suppliers of global smartphone SoC.
“Qualcomm doesn’t launch competitive chips until the fourth quarter this year or early next year, while MediaTek will be even later,” Lu said ,” The Kirin 980 chip has no significant effect on Apple.”
He added that Apple A12 probably has approximately 6.8 billion transistors compared with 6.9 billion for Kirin 980 chip, thus the Kirin 980 will not exceed the A12 in terms of power or performance.
On the contrary of Huawei's early products, the 7-nm process used for the Kirin 980 increased about 60% die space, allowing it to add more neural processor units.
Inside Apple's current iPhone X, the A11 has a neural processor that can perform up to 600 billion operations per second and is used for AI functions such as Face ID, Animoji and other machine learning tasks. According to Huawei, the Kirin 980 has the power of its dual-core NPU, satisfying the needs of AI applications including face recognition, object recognition, object detection, image segmentation and intelligent translation.
According to market research firm Counterpoint in a September 5 report, Huawei, the largest smartphone manufacturer in China, has led Apple in global sales during June and July this year, mainly thanks to strong consumer demand in its home market. Data provider Statista revealed that China has the worldwide largest smartphone market, accounting for one-third of the world's 1.9 billion users.
The Kirin 980 was designed by Huawei subsidiary HiSilicon. According to Bernstein's estimates, Hisilicon accounts for about 10% of TSMC's 7-nm demand while Apple accounts for about 75%.