Honor fuels IC design speculations with new Shanghai R&D center

Amanda Liang, Taipei; Misha Lu, DIGITIMES Asia 0

The in-house chip development programs of leading Chinese smartphone makers has been under spotlight. On May 31st, Huawei-spinoff smartphone brand Honor set up a wholly-owned subsidiary Shanghai Honor Smart Technology Development Co. (temporary translation), fueling speculation if Honor will strengthen its in-house chip design deployment. In the aftermath of Oppo's recent disbandment of its in-house chip design team, there has been speculation if Honor will establish a chip design subsidiary and absorb talents from Oppo's disbanded IC design team.

According to data on QCC, a China-based online database, the business scope of Honor's newly established subsidiary includes IC design, IC design service and AI algorithm and software development. However, in response to Chinese media speculations, Honor stated that its newly established Shanghai subsidiary serves as a research center, and counts among one of Honor's five research centers in China. The newly set research center focuses on graph algorithm development, telecommunication, photography and other software.

Honor's official response echoes what Honor CEO George Zhao mentioned in a previous press conference regarding the company's chip strategy. Zhao previously stated that Honor would not be fixated on whether or not a chip is in-house, and the company will make a move when the times comes. Honor will choose to self-develop or procure chips depending on product specifications, whether it pertains to an ISP chip or a RF chip, according to the Honor CEO.

Zhao previously emphasized that it would take at least 1 to 1.5 years of lead time to develop in-house ICs, and it would need to plan two years ahead to self-develop SoC. In light of this, Zhao emphasized that Honor's product philosophy is very pragmatic. When the company cannot find a solution within the industry, it will develop in-house solutions. If Honor cannot solve it on its own, they will collaborate with the supply chain to innovate together.

Based on this observation, although the aforementioned wholly-owned subsidiary in Shanghai is officially described as a research center, it does not rule out the possibility that its R&D efforts may transition to in-house chip design capability when it fits Honor's product design needs.