Huawei hopes for edge over Apple Inc

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A new artificial-intelligence-powered chipset is set to help Huawei Technologies Co compete more effectively with Apple Inc in the autumn smartphone battle, when the two are scheduled to release new flagship models, analysts said on Monday.

Roger Sheng, a senior analyst at research company Gartner Inc, said "the Kirin 970 chipset marks a big improvement from its predecessor, giving Huawei a major edge when competing head-to-head with Apple".

The new processor, unveiled by the Shenzhen-based company on Saturday in Berlin, allows super-fast computation capabilities, a strong image-recognition ability and other features. It will power Huawei's upcoming Mate 10 smartphone, set to launch in October to compete with Apple's 10th-anniversary iPhone, which will be unveiled next week.

The chip is part of Huawei's broad push to better integrate AI into its hardware, as smartphones are increasingly intertwined with the cutting-edge technology to better recognize users' voice and image, as well as understand their demand.

Yu Chengdong, CEO of Huawei's consumer business group, said although AI work will be done in the cloud, on-device AI computation will continue to grow, with the need for sensors to operate without waiting to send any information back and forth over wireless connections.

"Mobile AI must be driven by both on-device AI and cloud AI. That is the focus of Huawei's AI strategy in consumer business," Yu said.

He added that consumers who attach high importance to privacy and security are also driving up demand for smartphones with built-in AI capabilities.

Huawei, which started as a telecom equipment maker, has emerged as the world's third-largest smartphone maker in recent years, following closely behind Apple and Samsung Electronics Corp.

The new Kirin 970 processor is produced using an improved 10 nanometer process instead of the old 12 nanometer process. It can process data faster while using less power, Huawei said in a statement.

Jia Mo, an analyst at global consultancy Canalys, said Apple is highly likely to be working on similar AI chips.

"AI has been a buzzword in the smartphone sector since last year. But innovative products only started to pop up earlier this year," Jia said.

Huawei has been steadily expanding its presence beyond China after it grabbed the top spot at home. In the second quarter, Huawei outcompeted Apple as the second largest smartphone vendor in central and eastern Europe, with a market share of 12 percent, data from Canalys show.

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