Huawei powers up with Kirin 980 and smart speaker - Mobile World Live

Huawei powers up with Kirin 980 and smart speaker

31 AUG 2018

LIVE FROM IFA 2018, BERLIN: Huawei took the wraps off its new Kirin 980 processor at this afternoon’s keynote, but the biggest surprise was reserved for the launch of the Chinese vendor’s smart speaker, AI Cube.

As expected, Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Group, unveiled the Kirin 980 processor, and the device boss was in no mood to be modest. Calling it “the most powerful chipset ever,” Yu showcased examples of how it outperforms Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 (see image left, click to enlarge).

It is manufactured using a seven-nanometer process, the next step for smartphone chips: current silicon uses 10 a nanometer process. The smaller size allows for chips to take up less space in devices.

The move is a big deal for Huawei as it aims to strengthen its position as the world’s number two smartphone vendor by not relying on processors from rival companies. Qualcomm and Samsung are unlikely to launch seven-nanometer processors until next year (although Qualcomm has already said its next flagship chip will be 7nm).

Apple could also use a 7nm chip in its new iPhones, due to be unveiled 12 September.

Kirin 980 is also the first with a Cat.21 smartphone modem supporting speeds up to 1.4Gb/s.

Yu also talked up the AI capabilities of the Kirin 980, with the company adding a dual NPU (neural processor unit) to the Kirin 980, which performs AI-assisted image recognition tasks at a rate of 4,500 images per minute (compared to 2,371 for the Snapdragon 845 and 1,458 for Apple’s A11).

The executive noted that the company’s next flagship smartphone, Mate 20, will be the first to feature the 980 processor, with a grand launch event planned for 16 October in London.

AI Cube
But what really turned heads was the surprise launch of a smart speaker. Huawei’s AI Cube is an Alexa-powered smart speaker that bears a striking resemblance to Google’s own smart speaker, Google Home.

Where the AI Cube differentiates itself is its ability to double as a 4G router. There’s an LTE Cat 6 modem and a 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter inside.

Reports suggest the Cube will hit Europe by Christmas, although launches in other regions have not been suggested.

Mate 20 Lite
At IFA 2018, Huawei also took the rather unconventional decision to unveil the Lite version of its Mate 20 device before the ‘full version”, which is due to be released on 16 October.

The company reportedly explained that the decision to unveil the lower spec version of the device before the full version was to generate excitement in the market.

The Mate 20 Lite has a 6.3 inch screen, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage that can be expanded to 256GB with a micro SD card, is powered by the 710 Kirin processor and packs a 24 megapixel front facing camera.

It is already available in the UK for £379.

IoT Locator
Finally, Huawei launched Locator, a small device you can clip onto a pet, child or any other valuable object and receive information on where it is.

It supports GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and Beidou, offering near real-time location reporting. Pricing and availability wasn’t disclosed.

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Justin Springham

Justin manages the editorial content for the Mobile World Live portal and award-winning Mobile World Live TV service. In the last few years Justin has launched and grown a portfolio of premier media products, which include the Mobile World Congress...

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