Type to search

New Huawei Phone Shows US Sanctions May Be Working

A teardown of the Pura 70 smartphone suggests Huawei may have only made incremental improvements in its ability to produce an advanced chip with Chinese partners

A Chinese flag flutters near a Huawei store in Shanghai, China
A Chinese flag flutters near a Huawei store in Shanghai, China. Photo: Reuters


A teardown of Huawei’s new Pura 70 has shown that even though the phones are made with many more homegrown parts, US sanctions seem to have slowed down China’s technological progress.

The high-end Pura series went on sale last month, and quickly sold out — much like its predecessor, the Mate 60 series.

Industry-wide experts assumed the series would feature an advanced China-made chip, similar to the Mate 60.


Also on AF: US Scraps Chipmakers’ Export Licences to Sell to China’s Huawei


Those expectations have been confirmed by a teardown of the Pura 70 Pro, conducted by tech repair company iFixit and consultancy TechSearch International.

The teardown showed the series is powered by an advanced version of the 7 nanometre (nm) Kirin chips behind the Mate 60. But the firms pointed out that the advanced processing chipset, called the Kirin 9010, was likely only a slightly improved version of chip used in the Mate 60 series.

IFixit and TechSearch’s analysis of the processor suggests Huawei may have only made incremental improvements in its ability to produce an advanced chip with Chinese partners in the months since it launched the Mate 60 series.

“This is significant because news of the 9000S on a 7nm node caused a bit of a panic last year when US lawmakers were confronted with the possibility that the sanctions imposed on Chinese chipmakers might not slow their technological progress after all,” iFixit said.

“The fact that the 9010 is still a 7nm process chip, and that it’s so close to the 9000S, might seem to suggest that Chinese chip manufacturing has indeed been slowed.”

Still, the firm cautioned against underestimating Huawei.

Huawei’s chipmaking partner Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) — which was behind the surprise 7nm chip in Mate 60 phones — is still expected to make a leap to a 5nm manufacturing node before the end of the year, iFixit said.


‘All about self-sufficiency’

The teardown showed the new Pura series featured more homegrown parts, including a memory chip, pointing to China’s progress towards achieving greater tech self-sufficiency.

Analysts also found a NAND memory chip they said was likely packaged by Huawei’s in-house chip unit HiSilicon and several other components made by Chinese suppliers.

“While we cannot provide an exact percentage, we’d say the domestic component usage is high, and definitely higher than in the Mate 60,” said Shahram Mokhtari, iFixit’s lead teardown technician.

An earlier teardown of the Mate 60 Pro by research firm TechInsights had found that the phone was made with nearly 50% more homegrown chip components than any of Huawei’s previous phones.

“This is about self-sufficiency, all of this, everything you see when you open up a smartphone and see whatever are made by Chinese manufacturers, this is all about self-sufficiency,” Mokhtari said.



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Asia Financial (@asiafinancial)


SK Hynix still in the mix

TechInsights’ analysis of the Mate 60 had also found the phone to be using DRAM and NAND memory chips made by South Korea’s SK Hynix. SK Hynix said at the time it no longer did business with Huawei and analysts said the chips likely came from stockpiles.

The Pura 70 still contains a DRAM chip made by SK Hynix, iFixit and TechSearch found, but the NAND flash memory chip was likely packaged by HiSilicon this time around.

It was also made up of NAND dies, each with a capacity of 1 terabit. This is comparable to products made by major flash memory producers such as SK Hynix, Kioxia and Micron.

However, the firms were unable to definitively identify the manufacturer of the wafer as the markings on the NAND die were unfamiliar, they added. But iFixit added that they believed that HiSilicon may have produced the memory controller as well.

“In our teardown our chip ID expert has identified it as a particular HiSilicon chip,” Mokhtari said.

SK Hynix reiterated that it was “strictly complying with the relevant policies since the restrictions against Huawei were announced and has also suspended any transactions with the company since then”.


More pain for Apple

Huawei’s Pura series comes amid a worsening tech war between China and the US, that has expanded from chips to electric vehicles and artificial intelligence systems like ChatGPT.

Washington has imposed a range of measures to curb China’s access to advanced technologies. But that push has led Beijing to pour billions of dollars into its technology supply chain.

State subsidies have been key to Huawei’s resurgence in the high-end smartphone market after four years of US sanctions. The firm has, in-effect, become a symbol of growing US-China trade frictions and China’s bid for technology self-sufficiency.

Huawei has, over the past quarter, seen profits grow more than 500%. The tech firm has also eaten into iPhone-maker Apple’s market-share in the world’s largest smartphone market.

Analysts say the Pura 70 will likely take more market share from iPhone manufacturer Apple.

TechInsights expects Huawei’s overall shipments in China this year to surpass 50 million units, including 10 million for the Pura 70 series.

That would make Huawei the biggest seller in China with a 19% market share, up from 12% in 2023.


  • Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena


Also read:

Huawei’s China-Made 7nm Chip ‘Years Behind US’, Raimondo Says

US Lawmakers’ Fury Over Huawei’s Intel AI Chip-Powered Laptop

Huawei, SMIC Set to Defy US Sanctions With 5nm Chips: FT

Year of Wins Propels Huawei From ‘Survival’ to $100bn Revenue

Huawei Profits Jump 144% in Fastest Growth Since US Sanctions

China Central Bank Announces $70 Billion Loans For Tech Sector

Beijing’s Push to Dump Foreign Tech on Display at China Chip Fair

US Curbs Set Off Sales, Tech Boom for China Chip Equipment Firms

China’s SMIC May Have Breached US Curbs With Huawei Chip

Huawei, US-Sanctioned Firms Win as China Dumps Western Tech

US Chip Export Ban Seen as Big Opportunity for Huawei


Vishakha Saxena

Vishakha Saxena is the Multimedia and Social Media Editor at Asia Financial. She has worked as a digital journalist since 2013, and is an experienced writer and multimedia producer. As a trader and investor, she is keenly interested in new economy, emerging markets and the intersections of finance and society. You can write to her at [email protected]


AF China Bond