Huawei Unveils High-End Kirin 950 Smartphone Chip

The newest ARM-based SoC is designed for high performance and low power consumption, and will compete with Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon 820.


Huawei Technologies has steadily grown into a significant player in the worldwide smartphone market, becoming the third-largest vendor in the world behind Samsung and Apple. Now the giant Chinese tech vendor is unveiling its latest smartphone chip that will compete with the newest products from the likes of Qualcomm and Samsung.

At an event in China Nov. 5, Huawei officials outlined details of the Kirin 950 system-on-a-chip (SoC), which comes as Qualcomm gears up for the release of its much-anticipated Snapdragon 820 and weeks before Huawei rolls out its latest device, the Huawei Mate 8. The new smartphone will probably be powered by the Kirin 950.

According to reports out of China, the new processor—developed by Huawei's HiSilicon business—is an ARM-based SoC that is being manufactured through Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp.'s (TSMC) 16-nanometer FinFET Plus process for enhanced performance and efficiency. The eight-core chip leverages ARM's big.Little architecture, running four high-power Cortex-A72 cores that run up to 2.53GHz, and four other lower-power Cortex-A53 cores with speeds up to 1.8GHz.

It also includes a Mali T880 GPU, an i5 "always sensing" co-processor and a Cat 6 LTE modem.

According to a report on the Android Central news site, Huawei officials said during the event that the improvement in processing speed, support for voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) and an increase in voice quality are key factors in the Kirin 950.

Due to such features as FinFET, the new chip offers a 40 percent improvement in performance while reducing power consumption by 60 percent, giving devices a 10-hour improvement in battery life, according to the company officials. The Mali T880 GPU offers a 100 percent performance improvement over the Kirin 930.

Huawei is making a significant push into a global smartphone market that continues to grow. According to IDC analysts, vendors in the third quarter shipped 355.2 million smartphones worldwide, a 6.8 percent increase from the same period in 2014 and the second highest quarter of shipments ever.

During the quarter, Samsung remained in the top spot, shipping 84.5 million devices. It was a 6.1 percent increase over the same period last year, but the company's market share came in at 23.8 percent, a 0.1 percent decrease. Apple, with its newest iPhones, shipped 48 million, a 22 percent increase. Its market share jumped from 11.8 percent to 13.5 percent.

For its part, Huawei shipped 26.5 million smartphones, a 60.9 percent jump year-over-year. The vendor grew its market share from 5 percent to 7.5 percent while focusing primarily on the mid- to high-end smartphone space—almost a third of its shipments were in that price range, according to IDC analysts. They noted that Huawei saw strong growth in both Europe and China, but to continue its expansion, the vendor will need to make inroads in the United States, where its presence is relatively low. However, the introduction of the premium Nexus 6P smartphone may indicate that Huawei will now try to compete in the United States.

Huawei took over the No. 3 spot from Microsoft in the second quarter.