The new processor comes from TSMC 7nm and matches what is expected to the process of choice for Apple’s A12 SoC. The big focus for Huawei is to improve in AI and now with Android P being all over the AI features, the ones with faster AIs will stand a chance of winning the war in the next wave of consumer upgrades. It doesn’t really help Huawei that none of the 11 Android P beta devices are using its SoCs.
Huawei obviously didn’t invest the necessary time or money in Project Treble and now lags behind.
Huawei's latest Kirin 980 SoC is expected to use the combination of Cortex A75 and most likely Cortex A55. This would put it in the same performance grade as the Snapdragon 845 and its Kryo 385 gold and silver cores. The Snapdragon 855, expected to launch later this year and ship in early 2019, supports 5G with the help of the Snapdragon X50 modem. Most early 2019 phones including the Galaxy S10/X will be 5G capable and Sony, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo will come up with 5G solutions too.
This makes Kirin a few quarters late compared to Qualcomm’s offering but again it might let Kirin be the first with 7nm SoC for Android. Qualcomm won’t be far behind, but Huawei tries to refresh its phones in Q4 every year while Qualcomm’s partners like Samsung, Xiaomi, LG, Oppo and few other big names always announce the next generation Qualcomm based phones in late Q1 or early Q2 of the year.
The new Kirin 980 is aiming for Mate 20 series and should have an updated NPU (Neural Processing Unit). This is likely to be a block dedicated to the AI performance of the Huawei flagship phones, but it is hard to actually benchmark that it currently makes much of a difference.
Huawei mostly grew in many eastern European markets by offering its phones at very acceptable rates with an extension of the carrier/telecom contract. Again, people mostly go for the Huawei P20 lite that is based on big little 4+4 Cortex A53 based Kirin 659. This is a €300 phone that is easily beaten by many Xiaomi offerings, such as the Xiaomi 6X with Snapdragon 660, costs significantly less and can be more than 30 percent cheaper.
Bear in mind that companies like Xiaomi jumped all the way to the number four supplier and grew an incredible 116 percent year over year and it doesn’t plan to stop. These guys don’t use Kirin, they use Qualcomm and some MediaTek SoCs.
It won’t be easy for Huawei to keep up with the competition from China.