Huawei's latest blow could signal the end of its smartphone business

Huawei's latest blow could signal the end of its smartphone business
Google, Microsoft, Intel, Qualcomm, and many other companies have already cut ties with Huawei over the course of the past few days. But today the Chinese brand’s week just got a whole lot worse as British chip developer Arm Holdings has also ceased all cooperation with Huawei. 

Huawei no longer has access to the ARM chip architecture


Citing an internal memo, the BBC reports that the company behind the ARM architecture has told employees that its designs contain “US original technology.” As a consequence, it believes that it’s affected by Trump’s latest ban and has ordered that all “active contracts, support entitlements, and any pending engagements” with Huawei be halted immediately. 

It’s reported that the company also instructed employees to notify Huawei that, due to the “unfortunate situation,” it could no longer “provide support, deliver technology (whether software, code, or other updates), engage in technical discussions, or otherwise discuss technical matters with Huawei, HiSilicon or any of the other named entities.”

As another blow for Huawei, the ban also appears to apply to the chip vendor’s ARM China subsidiary which was set up just last year as a joint venture with the objective of developing, selling, and supporting products in the region, thus leaving Huawei without any access to the ARM architecture.

The information provided by the BBC reveals Arm Holdings informed some staff on May 16th and subsequently sent out the aforementioned memo on May 18th. Despite the US government issuing a 90-day reprieve on May 20th, though, sources within the company revealed that work with Huawei hasn’t yet restarted and an intention to do so hasn’t been communicated either.

If nothing changes, Huawei won't be able to create Kirin processors


Despite the fact that Huawei designs its own processors through subsidiary HiSilicon, these chips rely heavily on the ARM architecture. In fact, most of Huawei’s recent offerings utilize a number of ARM-based Cortex cores created by the British chip designer. 

Due to the ban, Huawei will no longer have access to the architecture or the custom cores. This means that Huawei and its subsidiary won’t be able to create chips for the company's future devices. The only way to do so involves finding a completely different architecture that doesn’t utilize US technology or developing a chip architecture of its own, something that would take years. But in this case, Huawei would face a separate problem – Android only supports ARM and Intel's x86.

According to the report, Huawei is free to continue manufacturing its existing chips, so the Kirin 980 used inside the Huawei P30 and Honor 20 lineups, and the Kirin 710 that Huawei includes in its mid-range devices are under no threat. Work on the next-gen Kirin 985 is also unaffected. However, this chipset hasn’t yet been completed, meaning that, as things stand, it can’t be finished and won’t make its way into the Huawei Mate 30 series that is planned for later this year unless Huawei rebuilds it from scratch. 

What does this mean for Huawei's smartphone business?


Huawei has been preparing for the worst over the course of the past few months by creating its own Play Store rival and continuing development on its Android replacement. However, the company didn’t expect to lose access to Google’s entire catalog of apps alongside many other American offerings.

Presumably, Huawei also wasn’t expecting any issues with Arm Holdings, something that could potentially lead to the company’s exit from the smartphone market. After all, while Huawei could survive without the software offered by American companies, the inability to create processors for its own smartphones means that, unless the situation changes, eventually it won’t be able to produce competitive devices. Huawei also may not be able to purchase chips from rival companies due to the fact that most are based on the ARM architecture.

Ultimately, only time will tell what happens to Huawei and its smartphone business. But if a trade deal isn’t reached soon between the US and China – Huawei is most likely being used as a bargaining chip by Trump – Huawei’s future could be pretty bleak.

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69 Comments

62. mootu

Posts: 1541; Member since: Mar 16, 2017

One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is that Apple licenses 769 patents from Huawei. These patents cover LTE and 3G, if US company's cannot do business with Huawei then Apple cannot use these patents and therefore cannot legaly sell any phones using Huawei tech. This means Apple cannot legaly sell any of it's iPhones designed from 2016 onwards. This has been kept very quiet in the US media and could be one of the reasons for the 90 day reprieve.

59. DroidTech

Posts: 11; Member since: Oct 11, 2018

About time

58. cheetah2k

Posts: 2341; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

I understand this only affects Huawei due to "speculation" they have a back door to China - but has this really been proven? It would not surprise me if this has all been created by Apple - as Huawei was looking mighty threatening to the rotten fruit I wonder how this will affect Xiaomi and Oneplus?? If this is a China ban, then surely this will affect them too?? or has Trump specifically singled out Huawei??

52. dimas

Posts: 3461; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Not a surprise if future huawei phones run on mediatek with lineage os.

51. GrosseFatigue

Posts: 211; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

They deserve Trump like the NYT said. They really do. Like Syria's president deserve to get hit with a missile. If a ding dong has to hit them, so be it. The Chinese have been abusing us since GATT that put all our manufacturing industries out of business. It is time to hit back.

49. Dadler22

Posts: 243; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

Lol have you guys seen the conspiracy theory that the US doesn't want Huawei because the digital zoom is so strong!

50. Dadler22

Posts: 243; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

About as silly as the actual risk it poses

42. Poptart2828

Posts: 523; Member since: Jan 23, 2018

Huawei will continue to operate as normal and in short time the trump administration will be gone.

36. irwan92

Posts: 57; Member since: Feb 12, 2013

How about using custom cpu like apple did? Its not required license from Arm right?

34. oldskool50 unregistered

Most of the dupes here are so stupid. Theer are other companies that make SoC's that don;t use ARM technology. They simply aren't that good or popular, because no one poured money into them. if Huawei doesn't have an alternative to ARM, then they will simply find a company that offers an option, pour money into it and make it a option. This trade war is gonna hurt a lot of US companies, all because the US can't get its own act together and move forward with their own technology. In order to catch up, they have to try to cripple companies who spent years pouring money into their tech to get it where it is, and because US didn't do the same, they resort to these low tactics. Once trump is out of office, the next President who likely will be Democratic, will simply undo what Trump has done. China has never been a threat to US security. China under both Bush's, bought out a huge amount of the US debt. And this is how we thank them? If China decides to block all exports to the US, we will see what you all be sayin when many goods start to double or triple in price because, every US company will have to move manufacturing to other countries where it will cost more to ship stuff here. As they say, payback is a biatch and the US is gonna get retribution!!! And as for Trump, with-in the next 2 years , him and his family are gonna be in prison.

31. P20prouser

Posts: 44; Member since: Oct 10, 2018

Very sad with this evil doings... US always portrays as good yet they full of evil. Huawei gaves as an opportunity to use a remarkable phones and healthy competition... Now what will happen.... Asia need to reinvent mobile devices not relying on US tech. Asia should be one..

38. Cicero

Posts: 1165; Member since: Jan 22, 2014

Asia is not China. Think about Japan, South Korea, India, Taiwan, Vietnam. How do you think the can work together on a OS? They have their own interests and alliances.

30. redmd

Posts: 1965; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

This is getting worse. Huawei should just comply to the US and its all business as usual. Win win!

26. AlienKiss

Posts: 357; Member since: May 21, 2019

I was never a fan and ever since they decided to stop the bootloader unlocking service, claiming that nobody was using, it I'm totally against them. They were worried that people were rooting their phones and deleted their spying software, so they immediately stopped the unlocking service. Just pathetic! Hey copy/paste/spy, people outside china have something called freedom, weather it's real or digital. Take that away and you're doomed! Also, android is all about open-source, while this wannabe brand is making it a digital prison that also spies on it's clients. Serves you right!

35. oldskool50 unregistered

That isn't why they have locked bootloadfers. Having locked bootloaders prevents anyone from actually install what you just claim. Their phone hvae never had any spying hardware. if you believe it did, then show the proof. If you can't prove what you said, then you basically sound like a complete fool. if what you claimed was true, ten why do all phones for the most part have locked bootloaders?!!!

71. Dealler

Posts: 22; Member since: May 03, 2019

Because you know better than the american government. Sure.

25. Cat97

Posts: 2064; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Well, this will also not be good for the US. Don't believe for a second that others (like Samsung) will not learn a lesson from this and begin relying less on American technology and more on open technology that is not controlled by the US. Europeans were first to realize that their citizen's data should be hosted in Europe and not the US. The GDPR was also a smart move, seeing how the US can just cut a country off their technology. Now the EU will take further steps in increasing the independence from the US technology. This means less revenue and less jobs for the US. There is no free lunch...

70. Dealler

Posts: 22; Member since: May 03, 2019

Samsung is already fully capable of creating its own chips. They don´t need US.

24. kryme

Posts: 470; Member since: Oct 24, 2013

It’s almost sad... they were doing so good

18. mel0524

Posts: 98; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

That is a real huawei flagship killer. This is a Big blow to this company

16. Dealler

Posts: 22; Member since: May 03, 2019

I could not care less.

21. QuantumRazer

Posts: 225; Member since: Apr 27, 2019

Then why comment?

69. Dealler

Posts: 22; Member since: May 03, 2019

Because we got a comment section? Commenting =/= caring. Educate yourself.

15. OneLove123

Posts: 1326; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

Mediatek?

22. User123456789 unregistered

All cpu uses arm based tech

12. bucknassty

Posts: 1420; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

DAMN.... that's pretty tough

10. Budhainthemood

Posts: 104; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

Good news jus keep on coming! Good for the world!

9. iloveapps

Posts: 909; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

Another android is going down. Some already are extinct.

8. surethom

Posts: 1774; Member since: Mar 04, 2009

When i get my next phone my Huawei Mate 10 Pro will be worthless on Ebay, thats how i fund my next phone purchase.

6. surethom

Posts: 1774; Member since: Mar 04, 2009

I bet if ARM was Still a UK company, this would not happen, they would wait for USA to issues a statement direct to ARM.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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