HiSilicon’s Kirin processors will remain exclusive to Huawei and Honor devices, according to the company's Senior Product Director, Brody Ji, who recently spoke about the chipsets and how the parent company Huawei views them. According to Mr. Brody, Huawei sees its chipset endeavor “not as a business” but as an in-house product capable of giving its smartphones a competitive edge against their rivals. Having said that, the chipset maker has no plans to supply other smartphone OEMs with its silicon solution at the moment and this is unlikely to change in the near future.
Huawei’s semiconductor arm HiSilicon was founded nearly fourteen years ago, while the first commercially-available chipset, the K3V2, was introduced in 2012 and powered Huawei devices such as the original Huawei MediaPad 10 FHD tablet. Nevertheless, the company’s chipsets became more popular when the Kirin branding was introduced in 2014, along with chipsets such as the Kirin 910 and 910T, both of which were manufactured on a 28nm HPM process. The first Kirin series was aimed at higher-end smartphones, but a year later in 2015 HiSilicon took the wraps off the Kirin 620 chipset which targeted the mid-range market. Several years later and with a handful of Kirin-branded SoCs under its belt, HiSilicon and Huawei are now gearing up for the release of their latest top-tier creation, i.e., the Kirin 980, which was touted by the OEM as the world’s first mobile AI chipset to be manufactured on a 7nm node. The unit is actually manufactured by TSMC using FinFET technology and relies on the ARM Cortex-A55 and Cortex-A76 microarchitecture for its CPU cores, while also implementing four additional cores based on ARM’s more recent DynamiQ architecture meant to replace big.LITTLE. The Kirin 980 is expected to be fully unveiled next month and should become available for sampling before the end of the year. Whether it will be capable of outperforming Apple's A12 Bionic solution, as Huawei previously stated, remains to be seen.
Of course, Huawei is not the only smartphone manufacturer who relies on its own chipsets developed in-house, and in particular regard, the OEM sits right next to other tech giants including Apple and Samsung, both of which also maintain exclusivity over their chipsets. There are quite a few benefits a smartphone maker can have for creating its own SoCs, from having better control over the manufacturing process, to avoiding possible supply shortage issues and minimizing dependency on external sources and suppliers - something that Samsung strived to achieve with its own Exynos SoCs. In contrast, many other smartphone OEMs rely on the same third-party chipset suppliers including Qualcomm and MediaTek, and as a result, their products can’t stand apart too much in regards to the choice of certain internal hardware components. Huawei, on the other hand, seems to want and retain the advantages it has built up through the HiSilicon arm, all the while pushing its own designs forward to become increasingly competitive with each new chipset generation.