back to article Huawei's latest flagship smartphone contains no world-shaking silicon surprises

When Huawei debuted its Mate 60 smartphone in mid-2023, it turned heads around the world after teardown artists found it contained a system-on-chip manufactured by Chinese chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) using a 7nm process. SMIC was thought not to be able to build that sort of thing. So …

  1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Shooting ourselves in the foot

    I've never really understood why Huawei was singled out for sanctions. There are other far more effective ways to deal with the potential political and commercial risks but it was simply wrong to blame Huawei for being successful for anything other than its own track record on innovation. As it is, we've given homegrown Chinese silicon an unexpected boost and this, in turn, means that China will be able to supply chips to other countries that are sanctioned.

    For consumers, I don't see much difference between Huawei and Xiaomi and any of the other Chinese manufacturers, or of any consumer electronics made or assembled in China.

    1. Avon B7

      Re: Shooting ourselves in the foot

      Shooting themselves in the head. Truth be told.

      If all Chinese companies are supposedly puppets for the CCP, it never made any sense to single out Huawei's handset business in the US. That was protection ism pure and simple.

      Tim Cook had a few visits to the White House and 'private' conversations with Trump. I wonder what went down there. Huawei taking an everincreasing chunk out of the world's handset pie will definitely have cropped up.

      Then there was China as a technological rival, fast approaching and potentially knocking a hole in US hegemony. And there again Huawei was a national champion.

      To top things off the US was caught short on ICT advances and the promise of 5G. Again, Huawei was leading that charge.

      The collective intelligence of US powers (perhaps the equivalent of half a peanut) then sprang into action with literally no thought for the future.

      Unable to keep a mental record of his thought process, Trump began tweeting his every move to the world. William Barr basically stood in front of the US administration and Huawei should be destroyed and the rest is history.

      They opened up the 'national security' umbrella and quite literally put everything they could under it.

      It would take them decades to move forward on chip manufacturing. The opposite has been true. They took just two years to hit 7nm and what really spooked the US was that it had no 7nm capacity of its own. Worse was that if China were to shift ALL of its production capacity to 7mm, it would produce more than Samsung and TSMC - combined. Now the rumours are for China to hit 5nm, this year.

      Well done Trump! (and Biden).

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Shooting ourselves in the foot

        "Chinese companies" is an euphemism for Chinese state departments.

        But you can't realistically treat all departments the same - for instance, there would be difference how you would approach Council's Leisure services and something like MI6.

        They have different capabilities and objectives.

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Shooting ourselves in the foot

        If it had only been handsets in the US then I think things might have been different. But the US then insisted in leaning on "allies" (the word used for countries who might agree with the US) to remove Huawei's networking kit, despite it being acknowledged as often by far the best kit (small, lower power requirements, etc.) for the job. Not only did this force the hand on chip development but also on things like software. Until then Chinese manufacturers were largely content to write skins and install bloatware, now Huawei has its own team for developing an OS…

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: Shooting ourselves in the foot

          I don't see it as a bad thing. It should create more skilled jobs in the West, no?

          Creating all the barriers here and then letting businesses bypass them by moving production to Asia where anything goes and then import it back to the West and sell at higher profit was a daft policy.

          It only served the rich, widened the wealth gap and facilitated brain drain.

          Now we can see the beginning of competitive market forming, but China and other countries have a head start as we in the West no longer know how to make advanced tech.

          1. Avon B7

            Re: Shooting ourselves in the foot

            98% of the world's chip needs are on older, more mature nodes. It's important to remember that.

            For 'local' chip production in the EU and the US, non-EU/US companies are key.

            Competition is great but it is very unlikely to lead to lower prices if the players involved each have a smaller market to sell to.

            Unable to compete on a world stage, the US (Trump) decided to try and destroy the playing field.

            The UK was 'ordered' to stop using Huawei gear by the US. When it pushed back (economic and technological reasons) the US decided to try and cripple Huawei through other means (extraterritorial sanctions), forcing the UK to conclude that Huawei would be incapable of satisfying its hardware requirements going forward.

            The Dutch were pressured to apply export restrictions on ASML.

            Now an entirely new industry is being built out to quite literally replace each and every US element in the chip design and fabrication process.

            That will mean a power shift of epic proportions as China moves to using local producers. China is one of the world's top chip consumer markets.

            That's competition that the US clearly won't like but China already has the Digital Silk Road and BRICS+ to play to, plus its gigantic internal market.

            If I were a sovereign state company suffering from unilaterally imposed extraterritorial sanctions I would be redesigning my products to eradicate all technologies that make them susceptible to foreign influence.

            Huawei is well on the way to doing that, along with hundreds of Chinese companies.

            At some point they will have the means to offer companies like ASML technological solutions which enable it to replace US technologies which currently have no alternatives.

            That would mean more competition.

            US companies need revenues to invest in R&D. Cutting them off from China reduces those revenues.

            Not allowing certain US scientists and engineers to work for Chinese companies (sanctions again) puts top US talent in China out of a job while providing solutions for local and non-US talent to push through. They are also receiving far higher saleries.

            Making chips in the US makes them more expensive which isn't good for competition.

            South Korea is also pushing back against the notion of sanctions as a solution. Just as have Wennink (ASML), Huang (Nvidia) and many others (ironically including representatives of over a 1,000 US companies). Japan is probably not happy either.

            The Pentagon actually stepped in to temporarily halt one of Trump's executive orders against Huawei under 'national security' issues as they saw it as damaging to US interests. It was temporary but just goes to show how high the risks are.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Undertone

    I read that the article is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but let's compare the Kirin 9010 SoC to the latest British SoC. Have we even made any? It seems the last fab capable of producing MCUs closed in 2001.

    1. Tom Chiverton 1

      Re: Undertone

      Aren't Pi's made in Wales ?

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Undertone

        I have a Raspberry Pi, but instead of the core being Arm v8, it's Arm inline4.

      2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Undertone

        They are assembled there (not all of them I understand). The chips are not made in the UK.

    2. StargateSg7

      Re: Undertone

      NCA (North Canadian Aerospace) has got LOTS of chipmaking capacity! Since we produce using Borosilicate wafers in arrays of 1000 by 1000 UV BEAM Etchers, we can produce a million 128-bits wide 2 THz clock speed combined-CPU/GPU/DSP/Vector super-chips every 8 minutes.

      At MAX CAPACITY, we could produce 180 million processors PER DAY using fully automated production, QA and final testing! In one year we can do 65 BILLION CPUs!

      We Win!!!

      Yay Canada !!!

      V

    3. Bebu Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Undertone

      《British SoC. Have we even made any? It seems the last fab capable of producing MCUs closed in 2001.》

      The Empire version of the intel 4004? Or was it a ECL bit slice Turing machine? :)

      (Can't really laugh, AU didn't fare any better. Apart from Advanced Technology's Microbee there was nothing comparable with the BBC Micro or Archimedes.)

  3. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    Cunning Plan...

    Huawei, having been caught with the previous flagship phone exposing a (more) advanced fabrication technology, have purposely only used existing commodity technology (even if lots of it) in their new flagship, to conceal their actual capabilities.

    Not that using older tech would matter inside the PRC once it becomes unpatriotic to be seen using Apple kit. (If we recall the days of "better dead than red" we don't really hold the moral high ground either.)

    Five years ago just mentioning Sax Rohmer's character Dr Fu Manchu* would automatically lead to cancellation by the wokery and anti-imperialist historical revisionistas fellow travellers but now I recently read that someone is (re)making one of the movies.

    The ever capricious winds of geopolitics have probably forced a fair amount of revision of previously immutable positions. Due to unforeseen circumstances today's cancellations have been cancelled.

    * If you read the stories the Dr is a really clever bugger but unlucky, and his pommy adversaries totally gormless, winning only through unaccountable, and undeserved, good fortune.

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