Today at a press conference in Shanghia, China, Huawei officially unveiled the chip that's expected to feature in its next flagship phone when it's announced in early November. The Kirin 960 processor uses four of ARM's new, high-performance Cortex-A73 cores and four low-powered A53 cores, produced using a 16nm manufacturing process. It's also the first processor to use ARM's Mali-G71 MP8 GPU for improved graphics and gaming performance.
At today's press conference, Huawei demonstrated a Kirin 960 test device alongside an iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy Note 7, demonstrating that out of the 14 most common apps in China, 13 launch fastest using Kirin 960, as opposed to the two competing devices.
Huawei's own numbers show that Apple's A10 processor still rules in single-core performance, however Kirin 960 pulls ahead of the latest iPhones — and all the Android competitors — in the company's multicore tests.
Kirin 960's new Mali-G71 GPU is 180% faster than the previous generation Mali-T880, coming close to matching the iPhone's graphical prowess; Huawei contends that other areas of Kirin's performance allow it to feel faster — for instance, faster random read/writes thanks to UFS 2.1 storage support. (For what it's worth, Mali-G71 is the GPU rumored to appear in Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S8 in early 2017.
Huawei's already using the GPU rumored to come with the Galaxy S8.
Connectivity-wise, Kirin 960 significantly adds native CDMA support, which potentially allows it to potentially break into markets where the standard is still in use, like the United States. (Previously, CDMA tech would've been licensed from Qualcomm.) The new chip also supports four component carriers (4CC) for LTE, as opposed to rivals' 3CC, effectively adding extra channels for data throughput, and making it easier to hit peak data speeds of 600Mbps. There's support for Cat. 12 LTE for downloads, and Cat. 13 for uploads, and support for radio frequencies between 330MHz and 3.8GHz, opening up the chip a wide range of carriers globally. Huawei also says it's improved radio performance in specific, challenging situations, like using data on a high-speed train.
Huawei also talked up the new chip's camera capabilities, demonstrating how its new ISP (image signal processor), which it says takes smartphone cameras "closer to the vision of the human eye." These can create clearer images, showing improvements in fine detail reproduction through an "eye test" between its new image processing tech and the iPhone 7 Plus. The processor also allows for a wider range of refocusing options than previous generations. (Naturally, overall image quality will depend on the optics paired with Kirin 960 in upcoming phones.)
'How can we reduce the power consumption of finding Pokémon?'
Battery life continues to be a major focus, and Huawei used the example of Pokémon Go to show how it can work to reduce power consumption from demanding apps. Working with partners, Huawei says the optimizations in its low-power i6 "smart sensing" core allows users to go from less than half a day of Pokémon catching to 1.2 days — thanks to enhancements like low-power GPS.
When it comes to security, Huawei announced that Kirin 960 has been certified by UnionPay and the People's Bank of China for use with mobile payments. Meanwhile Huawei's Kirin inSE security design builds security into the SoC design itself, adding over 1000 "anti-hacking sensors," along with a 3-tier security system and support for financial industry standard encryption techniques.
Huawei didn't officially announce any new phones with the processor, however the features showcased at today's Kirin presser show what we're likely to see from the next Huawei flagship — the rumored Mate 9 when it's announced on November 3 in Munich, Germany.