HiSilicon: all about developing chipsets for Huawei

Based on materials from androidauthority.com

HiSilicon: all about developing chipsets for Huawei

Huawei is rapidly becoming a company that provides itself with components for its devices. It is very likely that you are now reading these lines from one of her smartphones, since it is now the third manufacturer in the world. If you are using a smartphone Huawei, then the Kirin chipset, developed by HiSilicon, owned Huawei of a semiconductor company based in Shenzhen, may be running your applications.

Like its main rivals Apple and Samsung, Huawei is developing its own processors. This gives the company more control over how its hardware and software interact, resulting in a performance that surpasses what one would expect from a spec sheet. And in this sense, HiSilicon has become an indispensable part of the success of the mobile division Huawei. The HiSilicon processor line has expanded over the years, extending not only to flagship products, but also to the mid-range segment. So let's talk more about HiSilicon, a company that makes chipsets for Huawei.

A brief history of HiSilicon

Huawei is a veteran in the telecom business. The company was founded in 1987 by Ren Zhenfey, a former engineer of the People's Liberation Army of China, which historically influenced the attitude of the US government towards the company, as we could see only recently.

The mobile division Huawei came out in 2003 and the first phone, the C300, came out in 2004. In 2009 Huawei the U8820, also known as the T-Mobile Pulse, became the company's first phone on Android. In 2012 Huawei released its first 4G smartphone Ascend P1. Before diving into smartphones, Huawei provided users around the world with networked telecommunications equipment, and this remains the core of the company's business today.

HiSilicon was founded in 2004 to develop various integrated circuits and microprocessors for consumer and industrial electronics, including chips for routers and modems found in networking equipment. But it was only under Richard Yu, who took over Huawei in 2011 and has held this post to this day, that the company began to look for opportunities to develop chipsets for phones itself. The reason was simple: own chips would allow Huawei to stand out from other Chinese manufacturers. The first significant Kirin mobile chip was the K3 series in 2012, although then Huawei and continued to use chips from other developers in most of their smartphones. It wasn't until 2014 that the current brand of Kirin mobile chipsets emerged. The Kirin 910 was powered by devices such as the P6 S, MediaPad and Ascend P7.

Like other chipset developers, HiSilicon processors are based on the ARM architecture. But, unlike others, HiSilicon does not create custom processors based on the ARM architecture. The company takes off-the-shelf ARM components such as the Cortex-A73 Cpu and Mali GPU s and integrates them into its solutions, as is the case with its other designs, including modems and image processors.

Also Huawei does not sell smartphone chips to third-party companies, but uses them only in their smartphones. Despite this, other big players perceive them as serious competitors.

HiSilicon: all about developing chipsets for Huawei

The standoff between HiSilicon and Qualcomm

In a recent interview with The Information, a HiSilicon manager said the company sees Qualcomm as its 'No. 1 competitor'. However, this rivalry is far from news, the companies gradually moved from friendly partnership to cold-blooded confrontation. Huawei has been a major buyer of Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors and continues to use its chips in some value-for-money smartphones Honor. The problem for Qualcomm is that Huawei has become the world's third largest smartphone market and is increasingly using its HiSilicon chips. Qualcomm didn't just lose a major partner. Growth Huawei squeezes out other brands that use Snapdragon processors from the market.

The situation got complicated already when HiSilicon announced its first mobile processors. Although Huawei was still buying chips from Qualcomm, Qualcomm began to seriously change product information, worrying that Huawei might share it with HiSilicon. And, perhaps, these fears were not unfounded: the work of employees Huawei on the Nexus 6P together with Google taught them a lot in the field of optimizing hardware and software.

In addition to chipsets, the giants are also fighting for patents related to the Internet of Things and other emerging technologies, especially concerning 5G. Qualcomm was the main holder of patents for the CDMA, 3G, and 4G industry standards, which, along with integrated modems in chipsets, quickly propelled Snapdragon processors to the top of the ecosystem Android. And the proliferation of 5G poses a threat to that leadership as Huawei claims patents in consumer and industrial technology 5G, which inevitably leads to clashes between companies.

Qualcomm is still the bigger player. It earned $ 22.3 billion across all market segments last year, far more than HiSilicon's $ 5.6 billion. But let's not forget, Qualcomm sells its chipsets to everyone and only uses HiSilicon chipsets Huawei.

HiSilicon: all about developing chipsets for Huawei

HiSilicon Kirin chipset line

HiSilicon's latest flagship chipset is the Kirin 970 . It is found in several top smartphones Huawei, including the Mate 10, P20 Pro, and the low-cost Honor View 10. And as you would expect from a chip, which runs expensive top-end models, it includes many high-performance components. An octa-core processor with Cortex-A73 and A53 cores is paired with a Mali-G72 MP12 graphics accelerator, making this the most powerful chip in HiSilicon to date. The company has also improved the imaging and video processing components with support for top-end features, and the top-end modem makes the most of the world's fastest LTE networks.

One of the most significant features is the use of a neural processor. HiSilicon's Kirin 970 follows Qualcomm and Apple in using dedicated hardware components to accelerate machine learning, which ranges from speech recognition to image processing. And just how quickly Huawei added this technology to the 'middling' Honor View 10 may suggest that the company wants to quickly incorporate the benefits of machine learning into the merits of its entire smartphone line. And the P20 Pro's new AI-related features should be added to the Mate 10 Pro as well.

The Kirin 970's predecessor, the Kirin 960 , is a similar chip in many respects, but it lacks a new neural processor, as well as a number of updated image processing capabilities and modem features. However, this is a powerful chip, which is found both in the top models Huawei and in more budget representatives of the brand Honor. And while Huawei continues to use Qualcomm chips in a number of mid-range models, the Kirin 659 is aimed at cheaper models that don't need high performance.

Kirin 970 Kirin 960 Kirin 659
CPU 4x Cortex-A73 2.36 GHz
4x Cortex-A53 1.84 GHz
4x Cortex-A73 2.36 GHz
4x Cortex-A53 1.84 GHz
4x Cortex-A53 2.36 GHz
4x Cortex-A53 1.70 GHz
GPU Mali-G72 MP12
850 MHz
Mali-G71 MP8
1037 MHz
Mali-T830 MP2
900 MHz
NPU there is No No
1833 MHz
1800 MHz
933 MHz
LTE Cat 18 Cat 12 Cat 6
Node 10 nm FinFET + 16nm FinFet 16 nm FinFet +

The HiSilicon product line can easily be divided into two broad categories. The Kirin 900 series are flagship chipsets and their best features. The Kirin 600 is a cheaper mid-range option that uses a less powerful processor and graphics and lacks the imaging components that Huawei uses in their top-end camera configurations. Both categories will continue to be announced in ascending order, keeping track of the coolest new releases.

We have yet to see a top-end chip using the latest ARM DynamIQ technology and Cortex-A75 and A55 CPU cores, although HiSilicon quickly switched to the latest video processor technology. Moving to this new technology will require a more significant chipset overhaul than in previous updates, so announcements in these lines could follow in late 2018.

HiSilicon: all about developing chipsets for Huawei


HiSilicon, like Huawei, has grown rapidly over the past five years. It has evolved from a little-known player in the chipset market to a big company competing with big brands. As sales of devices Huawei and Honor grow, so does HiSilicon's influence in the mobile processor market.

The chipsets produced by the company are the force that can take smartphones Huawei to the top. Plus, the company is at the forefront of machine learning. This and the wider adoption of 5G give HiSilicon and Huawei an extremely strong position.

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