Huawei’s latest smartphone is making waves in the tech world, and it’s not just because of its sleek design or cutting-edge features. According to research firm TechInsights, this high-end device is a symbol of China’s growing prowess in the semiconductor industry. They’ve taken the phone apart and found that it contains more Chinese-made chip components than previous Huawei models.
TechInsights analyst Dan Hutcheson revealed, “It looks like more than half, maybe two-thirds of the silicon is domestically grown capability, where in the phones we were seeing 2-3 years ago, a third was domestic. That’s another really big advance they’ve made.” This shift reflects China’s progress in manufacturing semiconductor components locally.
What’s even more remarkable is that this smartphone is powered by a new advanced chip manufactured by China’s top contract chipmaker, SMIC, using a groundbreaking 7 nanometer (nm) technology. This is significant because it shows China’s ability to keep up with the world’s best chip companies, despite earlier doubts. Hutcheson emphasized, “People thought they would be stopped at 14 nanometers.”
However, there are still questions surrounding the cost of achieving this breakthrough, which was revealed during U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s visit to China. Analysts are also curious about the chip’s production yield, which affects production costs. Some research firms estimate that SMIC’s 7 nm process has a yield rate below 50%, significantly lower than the industry norm of 90% or more. This could limit shipments to just 2-4 million chips, making it challenging for Huawei to regain its former dominance in the smartphone market.
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Nevertheless, Hutcheson remains optimistic, stating that a yield rate “above 50%” is reasonable in his view. He attributes this to the chip’s cleaner manufacturing process and improved performance compared to an earlier 7 nm chip from SMIC.
As for Huawei, its smartphone business suffered a severe blow after the U.S. imposed restrictions on tech exports to the company in 2019. However, this new phone might be the first step in Huawei’s efforts to make a comeback and challenge rivals like Apple.
Interestingly, some early users of the phone have discovered NAND flash memory chips from South Korea’s SK Hynix Inc. This is noteworthy because SK Hynix had voluntarily suspended chip sales to Huawei in response to Washington’s sanctions. The company stated, “SK Hynix no longer does business with Huawei since the introduction of the U.S. restrictions against the company and with regard to the issue, we started an investigation to find out more details.” They emphasized their strict compliance with U.S. government export restrictions.
In the ever-evolving world of technology and geopolitics, Huawei’s latest smartphone stands as a testament to China’s determination to excel in the semiconductor arena, making it a story worth watching closely.