Rumors debunked: who made the SoC within Huawei Mate 60 Pro?

Jay Liu, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Credit: AFP

Recently, Huawei launched its latest flagship smartphone, the Mate 60 Pro. It is rumored that the internal chipset used is a completely Chinese-made SoC, successfully circumventing the technological sanctions imposed by the United States in recent years. However, the market rumors remain very chaotic to date.

In response to this, DIGITIMES conducted in-depth interviews and investigations in the hope of clarifying various exaggerated and untrue statements for all readers.

Rumor 1: Is Huawei's new product using a 5nm process from SMIC to bypass U.S. sanctions?

There are different opinions regarding how SMIC has built Huawei's new SoC. However, based on the current understanding of SMIC's technological capabilities, the mainstream view is that SMIC is using a 7nm process with DUV lithography to manufacture Huawei's new product. The performance is close to that of 5nm as a result of design enhancements and advanced packaging processes.

Additionally, some industry insiders speculate that SMIC may have acquired an EUV lithography machine previously used by YMTC, and this machine could have been used to produce the 7nm SoC product. However, this information has not been officially confirmed.

Regardless of how Huawei and SMIC managed to produce this SoC, with the news now widely circulating, it is bound to attract the attention of the United States again. This is why Huawei has taken a very low-key approach to the release of its new smartphone, with no official information disclosed about the technical details of the SoC, aiming to avoid scrutiny.

Most semiconductor industry experts believe that the United States may soon initiate a new round of investigations. The most direct approach could involve putting further pressure on SMIC, requiring major equipment manufacturers to further restrict equipment exports, or expanding restrictions on equipment-related services.

Rumor 2: Is Huawei's new smartphone SoC a rebranded product from TSMC?

The origin of this rumor primarily stems from many review websites comparing the markings on the chip behind Huawei's new phone to products previously handled by TSMC. They noticed that the "TW" marking from before had changed to "CN" now. Some people mistakenly believe that Huawei's current SoC is the same as the previous Kirin 9000, just rebranded to avoid inspection.

In fact, Huawei had nearly exhausted all of its smartphone SoC inventory between 2021 and 2022, as evidenced by the significant decline in smartphone production. There was no need to stockpile and rebrand products for sale in 2023.

Rumor 3: Did Huawei buy and rebrand Qualcomm or MediaTek products?

This rumor is similar to the previous one, with the difference being that Huawei allegedly purchased a batch of Qualcomm or MediaTek SoCs through third parties, rebranded them, and used them as their own. Most semiconductor experts consider this approach unreasonable. If Huawei were to buy chips, it wouldn't make sense to acquire outdated SoCs with performance levels from 2020. Instead, it could purchase more recent mid-range platforms with better performance.

Furthermore, Qualcomm and MediaTek are closely monitoring whether their chips are ending up in Huawei devices. Under the intense scrutiny in the United States, both companies are not likely to take such risks and are concerned about being inadvertently involved as suppliers for Huawei's SoC.