Apple, Huawei both using 7nm TSMC processors, beating out Qualcomm and Samsung

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2
Huawei may be the second smartphone producer to use processors made using a 7-nanometer process, following Apple's use of the A12 chip in the iPhone XS, with the designed-in-house Kirin 980 processor thought to be using the same production process as Apple.




In an investor note received by AppleInsider anticipating the launch of four new models by Huawei later this month, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo writes some of the arrivals will adopt the Kirin 980, a processor designed by Huawei. According to Kuo, the processor will be produced by TSMC, the same chip company that manufactures Apple's A-series processors and other chips, and will take advantage of the firm's existing 7-nanometer process.

This effectively makes Huawei the second company to include a 7nm-based processor into their smartphones, behind Apple. The use of the processors also applies pressure to the rest of the industry, which employs processors produced by older 10-nanometer methods, or larger, and it may take some time for other producers to catch up.

The Kirin 980 uses the Cortex-A76 architecture and the Mali-G76 GPU, with both boasting performance and power efficiency improvements compared to their predecessors. The processor uses two super cores, two large cores, and four small efficiency cores, switching between different configurations depending on the required usage. The chip also includes a dual-core NPU that is intended for use with machine learning-based tasks, including face and object recognition, and image segmentation for photography.

Qualcomm and MediaTek, two major chip producers, were reported in September to have postponed their own 7-nanometer chip launches until 2019, while UMC is thought to have shifted its investment into "mature" and speciality process nodes, and Globalfoundries has put its own 7-nanometer FinFET technology development on indefinite hold.

Samsung is believed to be working on its own 7-nanometer process, in an attempt to win back orders from Apple that had transitioned away to TSMC over the last few years. Intel is several years behind in its own effort for 10nm, but promises that they will arrive in volume in 2019.

While a move to a 7-nanometer process offers speed boosts and power efficiency savings, two elements that are extremely attractive for mobile device vendors, the capital expenditures needed to shift below the 10-nanometer barrier are quite prohibitive. In one report, HiSilicon advised it was planning to spend a minimum of $300 million on a system-on-chip design using 7-nanometer technology, illustrating the potentially high costs involved in working at that level.

Kuo writes the move to the 7-nanometer Kirin 980 helps Huawei narrow the gap between itself and Apple "in terms of user experience," as well as differentiating its products from other Android-based smartphone vendors.

The Mate 20 Porsche and Mate 20 Pro, both using the Kirin 980, will boast a tri-camera implementation on the rear using 40-megapixel, 20-megapixel, and 8-megapixel sensors, and will feature an optical-based fingerprint recognition system that works through the display glass, rather than relying on a separate designated area. The Mate 20, also using the Kirin 980 and having a tri-camera setup, will use a rear-based fingerprint reader.

The fourth device, the Mate Max, will instead use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636, have a fingerprint reader on the back, and a more typical dual camera system.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 81
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,563member
    Intel's 10nm and TSMC's 7nm is similar so soon as Intel releases 10nm in mass production middle of next year, and Qualcomm moves to 7nm than all same unless TSMC moves to 5nm end of 2019. Moreover, Intel and Qualcomm have more than one processor variations for different markets vs Apple,Huawei has one/two processor for phones/tablets.
    edited October 2
  • Reply 2 of 81
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,056member
    The Kirin SoCs use standard ARM technology and cores. The performance is nothing to write home about, as the expression goes.
    jbdragonGeorgeBMacericthehalfbeejony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 81
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 2,704member
    melgross said:
    The Kirin SoCs use standard ARM technology and cores. The performance is nothing to write home about, as the expression goes.
    They also use designed in-house WiFi, modem, ISP and DSP etc. There is more to a SoC than cores.
    edited October 2 JWSCgatorguy
  • Reply 4 of 81
    tjwolftjwolf Posts: 213member
    "HiSilicon advised it was planning to spend a minimum of $300 million on a system-on-chip design using 7-nanometer technology, illustrating the potentially high costs involved in working at that level."  I have no idea what the author is talking about here.  Why would it cost any more to *design* at 7nm than at 10nm?  I'm pretty sure the high costs/complexity is mostly on the manufacturing side.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 81
    tjwolf said:
    "HiSilicon advised it was planning to spend a minimum of $300 million on a system-on-chip design using 7-nanometer technology, illustrating the potentially high costs involved in working at that level."  I have no idea what the author is talking about here.  Why would it cost any more to *design* at 7nm than at 10nm?  I'm pretty sure the high costs/complexity is mostly on the manufacturing side.
    What do you mean? He said it has a high cost, doesn’t say that 10nm or larger weren’t also expensive to develop. I think he’s trying to make a point that shrinking your designs costs a massive amount of money.
    edited October 2 coolfactorwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 81
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,056member
    avon b7 said:
    melgross said:
    The Kirin SoCs use standard ARM technology and cores. The performance is nothing to write home about, as the expression goes.
    They also use designed in-house WiFi, modem, ISP and DSP etc. There is more to a SoC than cores.
    Meh, their chips don’t have a great reputation. The 970 is behind the i35, much less the contemporary 845. The 980 will be behind Apple, Qualcomm and Samsung, as usual. Their AI section is a couple of years behind too. Not impressed.

    its good that they try though. Someday they’ll get it right.
    edited October 2 StrangeDaysjbdragonericthehalfbeemuthuk_vanalingamjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 81
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,283member
    "Mate Max"... just when I was starting to have some respect for the company for plowing its own path...
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 81
    thttht Posts: 2,852member
    chipped said:
    tjwolf said:
    "HiSilicon advised it was planning to spend a minimum of $300 million on a system-on-chip design using 7-nanometer technology, illustrating the potentially high costs involved in working at that level."  I have no idea what the author is talking about here.  Why would it cost any more to *design* at 7nm than at 10nm?  I'm pretty sure the high costs/complexity is mostly on the manufacturing side.
    What do you mean? He said it has a high cost, doesn’t say that 10nm or larger weren’t also expensive to develop. I think he’s trying to make a point that shrinking your designs costs a massive amount of money.

    Don’t understand the questions. You can think of the cost of design for a single transistor as a constant cost per transistor. The higher density chip plants enable more transistors per chip, thereby costing more to design the chip.

    Those bigger NPU, GPU, CPU, ISP, SE, power management units don’t come for free. Every additional transistor will have some cost to it during design time. There are 50% more transistors in the A12 versus the A11 or something like that. And, I would bet those 50% more transistors cost more to put into a design than the prior increase in transistors from the A10 to the A11.


    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 81
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 208member
    tjwolf said:
    "HiSilicon advised it was planning to spend a minimum of $300 million on a system-on-chip design using 7-nanometer technology, illustrating the potentially high costs involved in working at that level."  I have no idea what the author is talking about here.  Why would it cost any more to *design* at 7nm than at 10nm?  I'm pretty sure the high costs/complexity is mostly on the manufacturing side.
    Since wafer manufacturers are approaching the limits of fundamental physics with regard to circuit density, I will posit that wafer manufacturability is 100% contingent on the physical design of the integrated circuit.  They’re probably having to experiment with a variety of design approaches using width, thickness, layering, different material properties and doping to achieve any kind of performance and reliability.  It’s always been hard to miniaturize.  But it’s harder than ever now and takes more resources to accomplish.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 81
    Kuo writes the move to the 7-nanometer Kirin 980 helps Huawei narrow the gap between itself and Apple "in terms of user experience," as well as differentiating its products from other Android-based smartphone vendors. 

    How can it help them "narrow the gap" when they're still relying on an inferior operating system and App ecosystem?
    tmayradarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 81
    avon b7 said:
    melgross said:
    The Kirin SoCs use standard ARM technology and cores. The performance is nothing to write home about, as the expression goes.
    They also use designed in-house WiFi, modem, ISP and DSP etc. There is more to a SoC than cores.

    So they designed all the easy stuff. When they design their own CPU or GPU cores then I'll be impressed.

    Cores are, by far, the most important and difficult portion of an SoC to design. By comparison, a NPU is simple to create compared to a CPU.
    radarthekatStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 81
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,563member
    JWSC said:
    tjwolf said:
    "HiSilicon advised it was planning to spend a minimum of $300 million on a system-on-chip design using 7-nanometer technology, illustrating the potentially high costs involved in working at that level."  I have no idea what the author is talking about here.  Why would it cost any more to *design* at 7nm than at 10nm?  I'm pretty sure the high costs/complexity is mostly on the manufacturing side.
    Since wafer manufacturers are approaching the limits of fundamental physics with regard to circuit density, I will posit that wafer manufacturability is 100% contingent on the physical design of the integrated circuit.  They’re probably having to experiment with a variety of design approaches using width, thickness, layering, different material properties and doping to achieve any kind of performance and reliability.  It’s always been hard to miniaturize.  But it’s harder than ever now and takes more resources to accomplish.
    With high capital intensive to miniaturize circuit against approaching the limits of physics; those who can move to 5nm, 2nm faster will create problems for few others still in chip Fab to give up(like Global foundries) and than only 2-3 horses race. Not a good scenarios for many fabless companies who simply design chips.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 81
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,140member
    Kuo writes the move to the 7-nanometer Kirin 980 helps Huawei narrow the gap between itself and Apple "in terms of user experience," as well as differentiating its products from other Android-based smartphone vendors. 

    How can it help them "narrow the gap" when they're still relying on an inferior operating system and App ecosystem?
    In essence, Apple hardware engineers see the same roadmap as Apple OS and Application Engineers. Funny how all that seems so aligned on delivery. 

    In theory, Google will have the same advantage, given time, but I'm not sure they can exploit it and keep Android OS nominally "open".

    I expect that Huawei will be forking Android OS for the Chinese market, but they are still dependent on Google services for most of the rest of the world.

    I am interested in how Samsung does with the Exynos 9820, with it's m cores, more so than Qualcomm's 855 with its A76 cores.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 81
    tmay said:
    Kuo writes the move to the 7-nanometer Kirin 980 helps Huawei narrow the gap between itself and Apple "in terms of user experience," as well as differentiating its products from other Android-based smartphone vendors. 

    How can it help them "narrow the gap" when they're still relying on an inferior operating system and App ecosystem?
    In theory, Google will have the same advantage, given time, but I'm not sure they can exploit it and keep Android OS nominally "open".
    From its inception, Android was only a response to an already existing iOS and iPhone. Google got it wrong from the start (and had to quickly and hectically correct mistake after that first Jobs presentation) and they continue getting it wrong every time and still need Apple’s “inspiration” to stay on the path. And that is for one simple reason - they do not have a coherent vision/plan....just like good old Sammy,
    edited October 2 SpamSandwichwatto_cobradragan0405
  • Reply 15 of 81
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,056member
    tht said:
    chipped said:
    tjwolf said:
    "HiSilicon advised it was planning to spend a minimum of $300 million on a system-on-chip design using 7-nanometer technology, illustrating the potentially high costs involved in working at that level."  I have no idea what the author is talking about here.  Why would it cost any more to *design* at 7nm than at 10nm?  I'm pretty sure the high costs/complexity is mostly on the manufacturing side.
    What do you mean? He said it has a high cost, doesn’t say that 10nm or larger weren’t also expensive to develop. I think he’s trying to make a point that shrinking your designs costs a massive amount of money.

    Don’t understand the questions. You can think of the cost of design for a single transistor as a constant cost per transistor. The higher density chip plants enable more transistors per chip, thereby costing more to design the chip.

    Those bigger NPU, GPU, CPU, ISP, SE, power management units don’t come for free. Every additional transistor will have some cost to it during design time. There are 50% more transistors in the A12 versus the A11 or something like that. And, I would bet those 50% more transistors cost more to put into a design than the prior increase in transistors from the A10 to the A11.


    A number of years ago AMD said that the cost of a transistor on 14nm was more than on 22nm, and that it would just get worse as size went down. That’s true. Chip plant costs have doubled from 22nm to 10nm, and keep rising. It’s the major reason why Global Foundries dropped out.

    a big problem is that computer sales have flattened. Previously, higher costs were mediated by higher sales, but that’s ending. A big question is whether the many more, smaller chips produced on a wafer, offset the lack of increased sales of much larger, much more expensive chips. The wafer size remains at 300 mm. The industry was preparing to move to 450 mm wafers years ago because of the supposed lowered costs per square mm, but it never happened, because those savings couldn’t be proven, as a result of the equipment costs for such were so much higher.

    so we’re stuck. 
    viclauyycmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 81
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,288member
    Aren't we still 2 weeks from their presentation and then probably a couple more weeks from they sell some volume to at least one country?

    avon b7 said:
    melgross said:
    The Kirin SoCs use standard ARM technology and cores. The performance is nothing to write home about, as the expression goes.
    They also use designed in-house WiFi, modem, ISP and DSP etc. There is more to a SoC than cores.
    Alan Kay famously said, "People who are really serious about SoCs should make their own cores." :neutral: 
    ericthehalfbeeSpamSandwichStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 81
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,056member
    tmay said:
    Kuo writes the move to the 7-nanometer Kirin 980 helps Huawei narrow the gap between itself and Apple "in terms of user experience," as well as differentiating its products from other Android-based smartphone vendors. 

    How can it help them "narrow the gap" when they're still relying on an inferior operating system and App ecosystem?
    In essence, Apple hardware engineers see the same roadmap as Apple OS and Application Engineers. Funny how all that seems so aligned on delivery. 

    In theory, Google will have the same advantage, given time, but I'm not sure they can exploit it and keep Android OS nominally "open".

    I expect that Huawei will be forking Android OS for the Chinese market, but they are still dependent on Google services for most of the rest of the world.

    I am interested in how Samsung does with the Exynos 9820, with it's m cores, more so than Qualcomm's 855 with its A76 cores.
    Android is really two versions of an OS. True “Android” is licensed from Google as Android, and can use the name Android, and the apps and services Google provides, some of which are paying licenses. But there is also AOSP. AOSP was intended, by Google, to be used in third world countries where cheaper phones would be produced, and bought. It can’t be called Android by the manufacturers who use it (not officially, at least) and doesn’t have access to the Google Play Store, the Google browser (as an onboard app) or Google Maps, and other software and services. A company using ASOP can’t also use “Android”, and visa Versa. The idea was that as times went on, these companies would migrate to true Android as their customers went up the economic ladder. But it never happened.

    google’s problem is that Android is bifurcated. 65% of “Android” phones around the world are actually AOSP. This is mostly in most of Asia, but is also true in much of mid and South America, as well as in much of Africa. In fact, AOSP continues to gobble up marketshare at the expense of true Android.

    it will be interesting to see what happens over the next five to ten years with this. If the two continue to move further apart, we may see them become two separate OSs.

    samsung has always been behind Qualcomm in performance. But since they finally picked up an architectural license a couple of years ago, they stand a chance of catching up. The problem they have is that their process is simply not as good as that of the much larger TSMC foundry.
    edited October 2 watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 81
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,276member
    tmay said:
    Kuo writes the move to the 7-nanometer Kirin 980 helps Huawei narrow the gap between itself and Apple "in terms of user experience," as well as differentiating its products from other Android-based smartphone vendors. 

    How can it help them "narrow the gap" when they're still relying on an inferior operating system and App ecosystem?
    In theory, Google will have the same advantage, given time, but I'm not sure they can exploit it and keep Android OS nominally "open".
    From its inception, Android was only a response to an already existing iOS and iPhone. Google got it wrong from the start (and had to quickly and hectically correct mistake after that first Jobs presentation) and they continue getting it wrong every time and still need Apple’s “inspiration” to stay on the path. And that is for one simple reason - they do not have a coherent vision/plan....just like good old Sammy,
    iOS wasn't even a rumor much less "a thing" when Google began developing Android as a smartphone OS. Google might do a lot of things you don't like but doing Android because Apple was doing iOS isn't one of them.

    The whole reason for Android development as a mobile OS was as a buttress against Microsoft which even DED will tell you. And has. He ridiculed the idea that Google had any intent of Android hurting Apple, and if even he came to that conclusion back when development was still in its early stages it should tell you something. His change of heart and tone came well after the G1 was intro'd in 2008, but that doesn't change how it started out. 

    if you want to claim that Google is getting inspiration from Apple today and has for a number of years you won't get a single argument from me. Of course they do. In fairness Apple gets some ideas from the Android side too, and both will continue driving each other to be better...

    ... But when Google decided to pursue Android in late 2004/ very early 2005 (depending on whose memory you'e going by) following an investment in them in February of that year there weren't even rumors of an iPhone, much less the OS to drive it. It was all about Microsoft and the danger they represented to Google. THAT'S why Google committed itself to Android OS development.
    edited October 2 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 19 of 81
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,140member
    Soli said:
    Aren't we still 2 weeks from their presentation and then probably a couple more weeks from they sell some volume to at least one country?

    avon b7 said:
    melgross said:
    The Kirin SoCs use standard ARM technology and cores. The performance is nothing to write home about, as the expression goes.
    They also use designed in-house WiFi, modem, ISP and DSP etc. There is more to a SoC than cores.
    Alan Kay famously said, "People who are really serious about SoCs should make their own cores." :neutral: 
    commentary on the Apple / TSMC connection'

    https://seekingalpha.com/article/4208375-apple-iphone-gone?app=1

    "The iPhone X for the rest of us

    Apple did something new with the iPhone XR, and this completely escaped the attention of the tech media covering the September launch event. iPhone XR represents the first iPhone engineered from the ground up to offer better value while retaining key features of its more expensive siblings. Apple has never done that before. Even the iPhone 5c and SE were just rehashes of the iPhone 5. Making affordable iPhones was something of an afterthought.

    Up until now, Apple's approach to offering more affordable iPhones was based on selling previous generation iPhones, or previous generations with minor changes. Each new iPhone represented the “best” that Apple could achieve in a particular year.

    I've always objected to this approach. I have argued that Apple needed to offer a selection of new iPhones that address a range of price points. For instance, automakers don't just make a single high-end model car, and then rely on previous generations of that model to address lower price points."

    A good testament to Apple's engineering and logistics evolution; more and better products.

    "The only key capability that Apple lacks is in wireless, which it is rapidly acquiring. Apple already designs its own WiFi and Bluetooth chips (for AirPods), and it's only a matter of time before it acquires similar capability in cellular LTE and 5G.

    The current legal war with Qualcomm (QCOM) was really undertaken with this in mind, and once again shows Apple's long-range thinking. Apple has realized that it would have no choice but to license technology from Qualcomm, and is simply angling for the best possible terms."


    edited October 2 ericthehalfbeeSoliwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 81
    gatorguy said:
    tmay said:
    Kuo writes the move to the 7-nanometer Kirin 980 helps Huawei narrow the gap between itself and Apple "in terms of user experience," as well as differentiating its products from other Android-based smartphone vendors. 

    How can it help them "narrow the gap" when they're still relying on an inferior operating system and App ecosystem?
    In theory, Google will have the same advantage, given time, but I'm not sure they can exploit it and keep Android OS nominally "open".
    From its inception, Android was only a response to an already existing iOS and iPhone. Google got it wrong from the start (and had to quickly and hectically correct mistake after that first Jobs presentation) and they continue getting it wrong every time and still need Apple’s “inspiration” to stay on the path. And that is for one simple reason - they do not have a coherent vision/plan....just like good old Sammy,
    iOS wasn't even a rumor much less "a thing" when Google began developing Android as a smartphone OS. 
    Is that why Google completely missed the mark and had to start from scratch after Apple presented the  iPhone 1?
    My bet is Google got someone at Apple to leak a bit of info on what Apple was doing. It wasnt a lot of info, as Apple was very secretive (for a good reason), so Google eng team had to invent a lot of things and they did....and missed the boat.
    edited October 2 watto_cobra
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