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October 16, 2017
Having set the scene with the unveiling of its Neural Processing Unit a few weeks ago, Huawei has focused on the AI capabilities it apparently gives its new phones.
Those phones are the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, which we might previously have called phablets due to their 6-inch screen size. Huawei’s latest devices have all the bells and whistles you would expect from a flagship smartphone, but the Chinese giant seems to think it has found a rare point of differentiation with the chip.
The Kirin 970 SoC is Huawei’s own design with a fair bit of help from ARM, which provided the four Cortex A73 and four Cortex A53 CPU cores and the Mali-G72 MP12 GPU that go into every one. Unique to this chip, however is the NPU (neural network processing unit – so technically NNPU), which Huawei says enables the chip to provide 25x better performance and 50x greater energy efficiency for AI-related tasks, compared to one with just four Cortex-A73 cores.
A proper comparison would be between the Kirin 970 and an octacore SoC that also has four Cortex A53 cores. They are the low-power options in ARM’s bigLITTLE architecture, so the effect on energy efficiency is likely to be especially pronounced.
Anyway, Huawei chose not to make that comparison for reasons best known to them. The other elephant in the room is the question of why greater processing power and efficiency is something we need. Are AI-related tasks especially taxing on a chip? And surely most AI-related stuff on a phone, such as smart assistants, is processed in the cloud anyway.
“As we enter the age of intelligence, AI is no longer a virtual concept but something that intertwines with our daily life,” said Richard Yu, CEO, Huawei Consumer Business Group. “AI can enhance the user experience; provide valuable services and improve product performance. The Huawei Mate 10 Series introduces the first mobile AI-specific Neural Network Processing Unit, launching a new era of intelligent smartphones.”
The vanilla Mate 10 will cost €699 and the Pro, which seems to only be a minor upgrade, will cost €799 when they go on sale in a few weeks. If, for some reason, you feel like spending €1395 instead you can get one with Porsche written on it.
As the Editorial Director of Telecoms.com, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Telecoms.com Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Telecoms.com Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno
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