ABI Research Analyst comment: Huawei's Mate 10

Huawei’s latest mash up of high-tech hardware and the world of AI in its Mate 10 flagships signals the creation of a new segment of intelligentphones, taking them an intellectual step beyond smartphones.
 
Huawei today announced upgrades to its flagship Mate series of smartphones with the arrival of the 10 and 10 Pro, as well as a Porsche Design variant. Dubbed by Huawei as “Intelligent Machines”, these smartphones run on the latest Kirin 970 chipset, which are the first from Huawei to also carry the dedicated AI chip to complement the CPU, GPU and DSP. The new on-device neural networking processing unit (NPU) aids speed and power performance while enriching the imaging and linguistics experiences, which is at odds with some of Huawei’s competitors who currently use chipsets that have AI built into them, such as Apple’s A11 bionic chip. To aid with the introduction of the AI chip, Huawei has also announced the arrival of EMUI 8, its latest user interface that has been made for AI. Its introduction will help the devices provide an enhanced screen experience while also boosting productivity.
 
In this AI implementation from Huawei, it appears to have a two-fold responsibility. Firstly, it is used to monitor the handling of the device collecting information based on usage behaviour patterns thereby ensuring that it is running at its most optimum and efficient through smart resource allocation. This helps boost the user experience and productivity.  Additionally, the AI is there to enable certain applications, mainly imaging and linguistics, to acquire knowledge both through on-device use and from being fed a vast array of information to help it gain requisite knowledge. In terms of imaging, and through the use of a new Leica camera setup with 12MP RGB and 20MP monochrome sensors, millions of images have been fed to the Mate 10 smartphone NPU, information that is held on the device not in the cloud, allowing for the instigation of ‘intelligent’ photography. By using the knowledge the NPU has learned from this vast array of images the camera is then able to understand what it is being pointed at and so it can automatically tune itself to take the best photo without the need for the user to make any set-up adjustments.
 
The first use of the AI chip in Huawei’s latest smartphones showcases the immediate benefits of having an on-device NPU. While there are a clear set of advantages to be gained from using the chip, making the most of its cognitive and perceptive powers at both a performance and user experience level, it will be a hard-sell convincing consumers to the benefits of AI in a smartphone. The marketing of such technology must be geared towards it driving enhanced device functionality and usability across a series of applications if it is help create some much needed differentiation in the market. Indeed, implementing AI technology in this manner could spark the emergence of intelligentphones as a new breed of handsets, taking them an intellectual step beyond smartphones.

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