Industry sources cited by Reuters have revealed that Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, is slowing down the production of its high-end Mate 60 series smartphone due to surging demand in the AI chip market and production constraints. Instead, the company has decided to prioritize the production of AI chips from its Ascend series, diverging from the Kirin chips used in the Mate 60 series.
According to a report by Reuters on January 5th, Huawei is utilizing a plant to simultaneously produce chips from the Ascend series and the Kirin series. The current plan is to prioritize the production of Ascend chips over Kirin chips, although the exact starting date for this arrangement has not been disclosed.
On the other hand, the production volume of Huawei’s Mate 60 series, launched in August last year, has been hampered by low chip yields. Reportedly, Huawei is actively working to improve chip yields, and it is hoped that the mentioned production adjustment will be a short-term measure.
It’s worth noting that many Huawei products have recently been affected by production bottlenecks. The computation components for Huawei’s assisted driving system have encountered production issues due to shortages of components.
This has led to delays in the delivery of flagship models from Changan Automobile, Chery Automobile, and Seres. Changan Automobile and Chery Automobile have already filed complaints and are currently in negotiations with Huawei.
Reports have indicated that since 2019, the U.S. government has imposed sanctions on Huawei, citing national security concerns, thereby cutting off Huawei’s access to advanced chip manufacturing equipment and technology and weakening its smartphone division. In response, Huawei denies posing any security risks and is actively working to rebuild its business.
In addition, Bloomberg previously reported that the Chinese government has also been directly investing to assist Huawei in building its chip supply chain since 2019, creating an exclusive supply chain for Huawei in response to the tighten restrictions.
“Foldable Phones” have emerged as the new epitome of high-end flagship smartphones. However, whether it’s in the form of vertical or horizontal folding, it may no longer meet the needs of some users.
Recently, industry sources cited by TechNews has suggested that Chinese smartphone brand Huawei is planning to launch a triple-fold foldable phone this year. This move is expected to make smartphones unfolded more akin to the size and functionality of tablet computers.
As for the folding form, it might be in a Z-shaped (or S-shaped) manner. The screen size after folding would be similar to that of a regular smartphone, approximately 6.4 inches. It is rumored that Huawei’s Z-fold phone’s panel supplier could be BOE.
However, the design of the triple-fold phone may not be limited to just the Z-fold type; it could also be designed in a G-fold manner.
What is the G-fold type? It means both hinges fold inward. Nonetheless, such a design would necessitate adding a cover screen, which would increase the overall weight and thickness. Additionally, to cover the folded panel, the folding radius of the other side’s hinge must be enlarged.
As for the Z-fold (or S-fold) design, while it allows for the use of the outer folded panel as a cover screen, thus saving weight, the simultaneous presence of both inward and outward folding poses significant challenges to the panel’s layer stacking design and the mechanism’s design.
However, some people may wonder, “Are foldable phones really selling well?” In fact, according to TrendForce’s data, for the shipment numbers last year, the existing shipment volume of foldable phones still falls short of expectations, reaching only 15.7 million units, failing to surpass the 16 million mark.
The sales performance of the leading brand in foldable phones, Samsung Electronics, was also not as good as expected, remaining at around 10.5 million units. The sales situation of other Chinese brands also did not meet expectations.
While foldable phones have indeed become the new symbol of high-end flagship smartphones, the fact is that the design patterns have become quite fixed. For consumers who are always looking for something new, these phones have lost their novelty and breakthrough points.
Therefore, brands have begun to contemplate the future of foldable phones with new designs and are considering abandoning certain design patterns to achieve better profitability.
For instance, OPPO and vivo are expected to abandon upright foldable phone models within this year, opting to retain only the left-right folding models (Fold).
The main reason behind this decision is that the pricing of upright foldable phones is lower, and although there might be a chance of higher shipment volumes compared to the Fold models, the profit margins are not significant.
Now that the demand for foldable phones has started to plateau, it is anticipated that the demand for foldable phones this year will only reach 17.7 million units, a 12.3% year-on-year increase.
In the face of sluggish end-user demand, why are smartphone brands still considering launching new types of foldable phones? This relates to the notion of “technological showcase.” Huawei’s triple-fold phone design takes into account technological capabilities, yield rates, and other factors.
Initially, the scale may not be too large, but the technological demonstration aspect remains potent. Huawei is anticipated to position itself as a technological leader, exerting pressure on other smartphone brands to a certain extent.
However, brands are not only contemplating “folding” smartphone designs. Some brands have also begun considering rollable and pull-up designs, aiming to inject new vitality into the smartphone market.
NVIDIA has begun accepting pre-orders for its customized artificial intelligence (AI) chips tailored for the Chinese market, as per a report from Reuters. The prices of the chips are said to be comparable to those of its competitor Huawei’s products.
The H20 graphics card, exclusively designed by NVIDIA for the Chinese market, is the most powerful among the three chips developed, although its computing power is lower than its own flagship AI chips, the H100 and H800. The H800, also tailored for China, was banned in October last year.
According to industry sources cited in the report, the specifications of the H20 are inferior to Huawei’s Ascend 910B in some critical areas. Additionally, NVIDIA has priced orders from Chinese H20 distributors between $12,000 and $15,000 per unit in recent weeks.
It is noteworthy that servers provided by distributors with 8 pre-configured AI chips are priced at CNY 1.4 million. In comparison, servers equipped with 8 H800 chips were priced at around CNY 2 million when they were launched a year ago.
Furthermore, it’s added in the report that distributors have informed customers that they will be able to begin small-scale deliveries of H20 products in the first quarter of 2024, with bulk deliveries starting in the second quarter.
In terms of specifications, the H20 appears to lag behind the 910B in FP32 performance, a critical metric that measures the speed at which chips process common tasks, with the H20’s performance being less than half of its competitor’s.
However, according to the source cited in the report, the H20 seems to have an advantage over the 910B in terms of interconnect speed, which measures the speed of data transfer between chips.
The source further indicates that in applications requiring numerous chips to be interconnected and function as a system, the H20 still possesses competitive capabilities compared to the 910B.
NVIDIA reportedly plans to commence mass production of the H20 in the second quarter of this year. Additionally, the company intends to introduce two other chips targeted at the Chinese market, namely the L20 and L2. However, the status of these two chips cannot be confirmed at the moment, as neither the H20, L20, nor L2 are currently listed on NVIDIA’s official website.
At the same time, major Chinese AI firms like Huawei, will continue to develop general-purpose AI chips to provide AI solutions for local businesses. Beyond developing AI chips, these companies aim to establish a domestic AI server ecosystem in China.
TrendForce recognizes that a key factor in achieving success will come from the support of the Chinese government through localized projects, such as those involving Chinese telecom operators, which encourage the adoption of domestic AI chips.
Since the release of the Huawei Mate 60 series smartphones, the Huawei Kirin chipset has been making a comeback with various iterations, including the Kirin 9000s and Kirin 9000E featured in the Mate 60 series. The latest update has revealed the confirmation of a new Kirin chipset named Kirin 9000W, making its debut in the Huawei MatePad Pro 13.2-inch.
In other words, , the Huawei MatePad Pro 13.2-inch employs different processors in different countries, indicating that Huawei’s Kirin chipset family has added new members.
Currently, there are six different versions of the Kirin 9000 chipset available in the market, namely Kirin 9000, Kirin 9000E, Kirin 9000L, Kirin 9000S, Kirin 9000SL, and Kirin 9000W.
However, Huawei’s official websites in the mentioned markets only mention the “Kirin 9000W” without providing further details. Apart from mentioning the model, they only introduce it as an octa-core CPU. Based solely on this information, it’s challenging to determine the performance difference between Kirin 9000W and Kirin 9000S.
As per TechNews citing from sources, it has been suggested that the Kirin 9000W is likely similar to the Kirin 9000S but may offer slightly improved performance. Additionally, due to the larger size of the MatePad Pro, better temperature control might be necessary.
According to recent reports, Huawei is expected to unveil its flagship P70 series later this year, alongside the introduction of the new Kirin 9010 chipset. However, there are indications that the older Kirin 9000S might be utilized in a specific model.
Wccftech suggests that the P70 series will include the P70, P70 Pro, and P70 Art, followed by the Mate 70 series. Notably, not all P70 models will feature the new Kirin 9010.
As per insights from the Weibo account Smart Pikachu, the P70 series will boast a custom curved display that is easy on the eyes and power-efficient but lacks a 2K resolution, and the standard version of the P70 is tested with the Kirin 9000S. This may potentially impact the motivation for users who have already purchased the Mate 60 and might not find sufficient reasons to upgrade to the P70.
Wccftech suggests that the adoption of the 9000S in some models could be attributed to the limited supply of the Kirin 9010. The Kirin 9000S, produced by SMIC using a 7nm process, faces production challenges due to the use of older-generation DUV equipment, resulting in a time-consuming and costly manufacturing process with lower yields.
Despite this, there is a glimmer of hope for Huawei’s pricing competitiveness, as the production cost of the Kirin 9000S is expected to be lower than that of the Kirin 9010. This cost advantage could potentially contribute to Huawei’s goal of reaching an estimated shipment volume of 100 million smartphones in 2024, especially considering the company’s historical strength in offering competitive pricing for its base models.