Watch out Qualcomm, Huawei's new Kirin 950 smartphone chip looks beastly

The smartphone chip battle moves to China where Huawei's latest processor boasts a 40 percent boost in speed while providing a 60 percent power savings
Written by Kevin Tofel, Contributor

When you think of the chip brand powering your smartphone or tablet, Qualcomm's Snapdragon surely has to come to mind.

Sure there, are others, such as Apple's own processors as well as Samsung's Exynos line but don't count out Huawei: The company says its silicon powers more than half of the 4G or faster phones in China. And based on the newest Huawei chip, that number may rise even higher.

On Wednesday in Beijing, the company introduced its Kirin 950 chipset with more power and improved energy efficiency. Android Central's Phil Nickinson was at the unveiling and came away very impressed:

"Expected in Huawei's upcoming flagships, the Kirin 950 boosts performance and lowers power consumption even further -- and that's ballgame for those of us using the phones."

The Kirin 950 is comprised of four ARM Cortex A72 processors capable of up to 2.53 GHz clock speeds and four 1.8 Ghz lower-power Cortex A53 processors. It wasn't that long ago when a 1.8 GHz dual-core chip powered a flagship phone by itself.

Huawei's 16nm process chip is also using a speedy Mali T880 graphics chip as well as a Category 6 LTE modem -- good for theoretical 301.5 Mbps downloads and 51.0 Mbps uploads -- as well as sensor package that Huawei calls the i5.

Nickinson notes that the Kirin 950 is built with flip transistors and FinFET technology to reduce power; Huawei says the chip boost performance by 40 percent over its prior silicon while dropping energy consumption by 60 percent. In a bold claim, that equates to 10 more hours of normal use with a 3500 mAh battery the company says.

While all ARM Holdings licensees generally work from the same chip architecture -- there are also license options to modify the chip design -- this can't be good news for Qualcomm; particularly in China if Huawei's market share claims are accurate.

Indeed, the number of devices shipping worldwide with Qualcomm chips inside peaked in December 2014 and have fallen each quarter since then. Qualcomm hopes to get back on track with its upcoming Snapdragon 820 as we'll see devices using the chip in the first half of 2016.

How many of them will come from China where there's far more room for sales opportunity?

Not likely that many based on how Huawei is quietly starting to corner the chip market in the world's most populous nation.

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