When the Mate 40 comes out later this year, it will be the last Huawei phone to feature one of its own high-end Kirin processors. Richard Yu, the CEO of Huawei's consumer business, shared the news during a speech he made at the 2020 Summit of the China Information Technology Association. After September 15th, Yu said Huawei won't have access to the manufacturing it needs to continue making the Mate 40's Kirin 9000 processor.
September 15th is when US suppliers can no longer sell components to Huawei without approval from the federal government due to the Trump administration's decision in May to place the company on the Department of Commerce's Entity List. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the firm that had up to this point produced most of Huawei's Kirin chips, sources some of its equipment from the US. It needed approval from the government to continue making chips for Huawei. Shortly after the Trump administration announced the ban on Hauwei, TSMC said it would no longer supply the company moving forward but that it would still complete any outstanding orders.
Yu went on to say that Chinese chip manufacturers such as SMIC currently don't have the capabilities to make up for the shortfall. He also warned supplies of the Mate 40 would be limited.
"Huawei spent over a decade exploring chipsets, going from 'severely behind' to 'very behind' to 'slightly behind' to 'finally caught up' to 'leading' to now being banned," said Yu. "We made huge R&D investments and went through a difficult journey. Unfortunately, when it came to semiconductor production, Huawei didn't participate in investing in heavy assets in this field; we only did chip design but skipped chip production."
The Trump administration’s Entity List ban has already had a significant effect on Huawei. The company already faces an uphill battle trying to make its phones appealing without access to the Google Play Store. However, the fact it can’t make its own high-end chips probably stings worse. If there’s a silver lining for Huawei, it’s that its Kirin line isn’t completely going away. Earlier this year, SMIC, China’s largest chip foundry, started producing a 14nm Kirin chip for Huawei, and it could one day have the process node capabilities to go toe to toe with TSMC and Samsung. But that will likely take time since the company is two chip generations behind Huawei’s former supplier.