SMIC’s 7nm Processor to Power Mate 60 Pro Smartphone from Huawei

Technology giant Huawei Technologies has partnered with China’s premier chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International (SMIC) to use an advanced 7-nanometer processor for its latest flagship smartphone, the Mate 60 Pro. The revelation comes from a teardown report conducted by the analysis firm TechInsights, underscoring China’s progress in developing a domestic chip ecosystem.
SMIC at a trade eventThe Mate 60 Pro is powered by the newly unveiled Kirin 9000s chip, proudly manufactured in China by SMIC, as reported by TechInsights in a document shared with Reuters. This groundbreaking processor represents a significant milestone as the first to harness SMIC’s cutting-edge 7nm technology.

Notably, the smartphone’s initial specifications touted its ability to make satellite calls, but remained silent on the prowess of the chipset residing within.

Early users of the Mate 60 Pro in China have enthusiastically shared tear-down videos and speed tests on social media platforms, indicating impressive download speeds that surpass those of top-tier 5G smartphones.

The launch of the Mate 60 Pro triggered a social media frenzy in China, coinciding with the visit of U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. This development underscores the ongoing rivalry and competition between the two tech giants.

In recent years, Huawei faced severe restrictions imposed by the United States on its access to essential chipmaking tools required for producing advanced handset models. Consequently, the company could only release limited batches of 5G-enabled models using stockpiled chips.

However, according to research firms cited by Reuters in July, Huawei appeared to be plotting a comeback in the 5G smartphone industry by year-end, leveraging its advancements in semiconductor design tools alongside chip production from SMIC.

Dan Hutcheson, an analyst with TechInsights, characterized this development as a bold statement to the U.S., suggesting that it signifies Huawei’s self-reliance in chip manufacturing. “Raimondo comes seeking to cool things down, and this chip is [saying] ‘look what we can do, we don’t need you,’” he remarked.

The Mate 60 Pro features the Kirin 9000s processor, hailing from Huawei’s HiSilicon chip division, which appears to incorporate cutting-edge technology from SMIC, according to Hutcheson. The use of 7+nm or 5nm processes would likely entail a costly production process.

Interestingly, several Huawei staff members have revealed that the phone’s launch took them by surprise, as its official release was initially scheduled for September 12.

Nicole Peng, Senior VP of Mobility at Canalys, emphasized the importance of Huawei providing clarification on its technology, given the high levels of market interest generated by the Mate 60 Pro’s unveiling. The smartphone’s release marks a significant step forward for Huawei and China’s ambitions in the semiconductor industry, solidifying its position on the global tech stage.

SMIC has reported revenue of $1,560.4 million in 2Q23, compared to $1,462.3 million in 1Q23, and $1,903.2 million in 2Q22.