Huawei piece by piece: P30 Pro’s most important part relies on US tech
Much of the P30 Pro’s hardware is made in China, but processors are another story
It looks like things aren’t getting better for Huawei. After Google said it would pull access to Google apps from future Huawei smartphones, now it seems Huawei’s own Kirin chipsets are facing an uncertain future -- because they’re based on technology from British chip giant Arm.
It’s all down to the US decision to put Huawei on a blacklist that restricts exports to the Chinese company. To illustrate the scale of the problem facing Huawei, we’ve broken down some of the major components of its latest flagship, the P30 Pro, to show where they’re from.
Display and cover glass
For the P30 phones, Huawei sources displays from both Chinese and South Korean companies. According to research firm IHS Markit, the curved edge display on the P30 Pro uses flexible OLED panels made by Chinese company BOE and South Korea’s LG Display. The standard P30 uses Samsung’s OLED panels.
Outside of the display, it appears that Huawei does not use the popular Corning Gorilla Glass for the screen on either the P30 or P30 Pro -- even though it was used on previous Huawei handsets like the Mate series. Instead, P30 front and back glass covers are made by Lens Technology, a Chinese company that also supplies glass covers to Apple and Samsung.
For a few years now, Huawei has famously partnered with German camera giant Leica, which helps Huawei design and fine tune its camera performance. But the quad camera setup on the rear of the P30 Pro uses Sony sensors, according to IHS Markit. The lenses, including the periscope lens used for the 5x zoom, are made by Chinese and Taiwanese companies, including China’s Sunny Optical and Taiwan’s Himax, IHS data also shows.
While much of the hardware we’ve seen so far in the P30 Pro doesn’t seem to rely heavily on American technology, US companies play a bigger role in Huawei’s chips.
Huawei has long boasted that its Kirin series processors are “self-reliant technology” that can help reduce Huawei’s dependence on American tech. Designed by Huawei-owned HiSilicon, the Kirin chips’ performance measure favorably against top Snapdragon chips.
In reality, though, these chipsets still rely heavily on foreign technology. Kirin chips are based on ARM architecture licensed from British chip giant Arm Holdings. The company also uses “US origin technology,” leading to Arm having to cut ties with Huawei.
ARM-based chips are the backbone of smartphones. Arm competitor Intel never made much of a dent in mobile. If Huawei is unable to license ARM architecture, it’s a huge (possibly fatal) blow to the company’s ability to further develop Kirin processors.
Kirin chips are also manufactured by Taiwan’s TSMC, which relies on US equipment. For now, though, TSMC has said it will keep supplying Huawei.
Processors aren’t the only things affected. US dominance in the semiconductor industry means memory is affected, too, as are modems.
Both suppliers of LTE modems for the P30 Pro, Skyworks and Qorvo, are also American companies.
One feature that’s popular on Chinese smartphones (and recently adopted by the Samsung Galaxy S10 series) is the in-display fingerprint sensor. For the P30 Pro, as with the Xiaomi Mi 9 and OnePlus 6T, the sensors are made by Chinese company Goodix, according to iFixit.
Finally, the P30 Pro’s battery is produced by Chinese company Huizhou Desay Battery, according to IHS Markit and the EE Times’s teardown. Desay also supplies batteries for iPhones.