The recent speculation by a Huawei executive that the Huawei Mate 40 series is likely to be the last of the company’s phones to use its own Kirin chipset has upset many, but it’s just inevitable. US trade sanctions against the Chinese giant now extend to foreign chip makers. We can say that not everyone, but only those who use or license American technologies, but in reality this is almost everything. As a result, this prevents TSMC or Samsung from producing chips for Huawei. Without a manufacturing partner, Kirin is no more. As simple as that. But will it just be a company that is faced with this?
Where are Kirin processors used?
In addition to the company’s smartphones, this will have a major impact on its routers, switches and other equipment using Kirin chips. Then there is only an endless weighing of the options, pros and cons of different systems and offers from other manufacturers. In addition, you will have to adjust to the proposals and restrictions of the manufacturers themselves.
Huawei may turn to its own Chinese Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) to handle the production of Kirin. However, even SMIC uses American-made equipment, so even in the short term it will still cause problems with Washington. In addition, SMIC lags far behind in advanced chip technology. Not only will it not be able to provide the company with 5nm chips, it hasn’t even made it to 7nm and 10nm. Its level is 14 nanometers. This option is generally not suitable for premium smartphones.
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Alternatively, Huawei is still allowed to purchase chips from competing developers as long as they are not based in the US. This already excludes Qualcomm from the scheme. Samsung has no track record of selling large quantities of Exynos chips to third parties. Remains MediaTek.
Huawei smartphones on MediaTek
Huawei has already started using MediaTek chips for some of its more affordable phones. Industry insiders, meanwhile, predict Huawei’s purchases from MediaTek will rise to 300% this year in light of the current situation. They even talk about ordering 120 million chips in an attempt to close the deficit. It remains to be seen if Huawei considers MediaTek’s Dimensity 1000 series a suitable replacement for premium models, but the company may not have much of a choice if it wants to maintain its sales momentum.
Even if this option works, the company loses the most important thing. Future Huawei phones are at risk of losing almost everything that makes them special. They will lose the zest and the powerful tool that allowed the company to be flexible. This is much worse than losing access to Google Play. The company pulled up its application store, but in China it was not important, and problems with iron can haunt all markets.
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What Huawei will lose without Kirin
As a result, the company will lose the unique miniature 5G chip built into the Kirin 990 and newer versions. And she will not be able to so powerfully use the artificial intelligence module adapted specifically for it and the gaming capabilities of its devices.
Kirin is also at the forefront of machine learning with its custom Da Vinci architecture. This enables ultra high resolution zoom images, low power voice recognition, gesture control, security face recognition, and more. Well, again, 5G. Now another company will decide what the chip will be, and Huawei smartphones will simply become “universal stamping”.
Quite simply, the situation can be compared to the fact that a person has always sewed suits for himself and looked great. Now he will buy ready-made. They will also be comfortable and fit well, but that is still not the case. Without Kirin, Huawei will no longer be itself.
Without Kirin, there is no doubt that Huawei’s ability to adapt and withstand the pressures of the US trade embargo will be further diminished. Kirin penetrates directly into the backbone of Huawei’s smartphone business, and its future seems to be now firmly in the hands of who and how the company can negotiate.
With no signs on the horizon of a full-fledged replacement for TSMC, Huawei may have to find a new close partner at MediaTek. With all due respect to this company, the release of new 5G models for the premium segment is not their strong point. Budget models are suitable for their use, but definitely not the Huawei P50 Pro or Honor 40 Pro.
Not only will this affect the performance of devices and their optimization, it will also affect the cost of smartphones. It is much cheaper to produce large batches of your own processor than to buy someone else’s development. As a result, smartphones will become not only worse, but also more expensive.
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Having just displaced Samsung from the leading position in the mobile industry, Huawei still has a small margin of safety that will not allow the company to fall to the bottom overnight. Nevertheless, the company needs to do something to turn the tide.
We can say that if the situation turns out to be temporary, then the company will then start producing its chips again and everything will fall into place, but this is not so. Having stopped developing its own chips, Huawei will lag behind other manufacturers and will no longer be able to catch up with them.
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Just making them “just in case” is also a bad option, since it is a huge investment. Even Huawei will not be able to spend that kind of money without prospects. Not only must the money invested in development be recouped, but the developments will not be complete unless they are released outside laboratories in the form of hundreds of millions of smartphones.
Summing up, we can say that it is not yet clear what other sanctions will be imposed on Huawei, but the current restriction is much more dire than the ban on working with Google. Even permission to use off-the-shelf chips from other companies does not save the day. The company needs its own processor, which made it one of the leaders in the industry. It’s not just gigahertz under the lid. Without it, everything else can fall apart: camera, artificial intelligence, charging, and so on.