Huawei to Take On Rivals Using Next-Gen SoC

Andre Parker September 04, 2017
Huawei to Take On Rivals Using Next-Gen SoC

On Saturday, a top executive from Huawei announced the company’s next generation SoC (system on a chip) at IFA in Berlin. The SoC, named Kirin 970, is the “world’s first mobile device with a Neural Processing Unit,” and it is going to give the company advantages “compared with Samsung and Apple,” according to the executive.

The chief executive of Huawei’s consumer business, Richard Yu, said that the multinational telecommunications company is betting on Kirin 970 to give consumers faster processing and lower power consumption.

Yu said that the Neural Processing Unit is an AI inside the chip, making it quite unconventional since most devices rely on their connection to the cloud to interact with AI. Yu also said that it is “20 times” faster than traditional processing units.

According to a report, Kirin 970 has over 5 billion transistors integrated in one square centimeter, roughly the size of a fingernail. The chip brags an octa-core central processing unit, a 12-core graphics processing unit, a dual-image signal processor, a high-speed 1.2Gbps Cat.18 modem, and AI mobile computing architecture. Combined together, Yu said that the system will bless phones with the abilities to translate languages in real time, heed voice commands, or even take advantage of augmented reality in a faster and more efficient way.

“It is a major breakthrough for Huawei. We will enable the first use of AI technology in mobile apps, and provide consumers with a never-before-seen AI experience right in the palm of their hands,” Yu stated.

Yu gave an example to further emphasize the chip’s capabilities, and said, “AI that relies on the cloud can suffer from latency. This delay of milliseconds isn’t a big deal when you’re trying to get your washing machine to start up, but for advanced machinery like self-driving vehicles, it’s the difference between life and death.”

“Beyond the Galaxy”

When it was his turn to take the stage at IFA in Berlin, Yu wasted no time and teased the audience with a glimpse of Mate 10, hinting that the phone will rock a bezel-free full screen display, and although he initially didn’t give a confirmation, the watchers were quite convinced that Mate 10 will sport Kirin 970 in its system.

Yu exhibited “what the Kirin 970 can do” by presenting two sets of a couple of photos laid side-by-side, with one photo in each set supposedly snapped by a Samsung Galaxy S8 phone. The other photo in each set was only marked “Kirin 970.” However, according to a report, Yu confirmed to one attendee that the photo he used against Samsung S8 was taken using Mate 10.

A week ago, Huawei’s Australian HQ took to Twitter a tease for Mate 10, with a caption stating “beyond the Galaxy.”

Meanwhile, Mark Li, who is an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, claimed that while the chips for the new iPhone range may not perform better than the new chip in Huawei’s Mate 10, the Chinese phone maker nevertheless still has to exploit its chip’s power in a killer app in order to secure its success and popularity.

Yu said that Kirin 970 is the first in a series of new advances related to AI features, and stated that the SoC will be an open platform for mobile, which means Huawei is going to let developers tinker with the processing capabilities of the chip to see what other advancements and developments can be done.

According to a report, Huawei aims to overtake Apple and Samsung as the world’s largest smartphone maker by 2021. Presently, Huawei is placed on the third spot, but recent market share data suggests that it is well on its way to the target.

“The NPU can think and actively work to provide you the best user experience, whereas other AI assistance like Google Assistant only works reactively,” Yu said.

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Andre Parker


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