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Tech war: Huawei ups smartphone sales target amid Mate 60 Pro popularity, as it maintains silence on chip details

Huawei Technologies has upped its sales target for the second half of 2023 by 20 per cent to give a full-year total sales volume of 40 million smartphones, buoyed by the popularity of its recently released Mate 60 series, according to a report by Chinese newspaper Securities Daily, citing unidentified sources from the Shenzhen-based company.

Huawei, which has been denied access to advanced chips involving US-origin technologies since 2020, has been riding a wave of patriotic fervour since the release of its 5G-capable Mate 60 Pro, which comes with a powerful chip despite the tough US sanctions.

TechInsights, a Canadian semiconductor intelligence firm, has identified China's biggest foundry Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) as the maker of the Kirin 9000s chip inside the Huawei Mate 60 Pro, based on a teardown analysis. Neither SMIC or Huawei has commented on the matter.

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Huawei declined to comment on its new handset sales target.

Huawei's Mate 60 Pro is expected to provide a tough challenge for Apple in China, with the California-based tech giant releasing its new iPhone 15 range on Tuesday. Although the country is still home to thousands of loyal Apple consumers, rising geopolitical tensions and a partial ban by Beijing on government use of iPhones have raised the stakes.

At a launch event on Tuesday for the Huawei-supported new AITO M7 electric vehicle, executive director Richard Yu Chengdong, who has been dubbed "Big Mouth" by some Chinese netizens for his tendency to be outspoken, made no reference to the Mate 60 Pro.

Meanwhile, the US government has launched an official probe into the chip used in the Mate 60 Pro. The Commerce Department said last week it is working to get more information on the "purported" 7-nanometre processor used within the handset.

Nova Daly, a public policy consultant at US law firm Wiley Rein and a former US Treasury official, told the Post on Tuesday that the launch timing of Huawei's Mate 60 Pro, and the technology contained within, is troubling for Washington policymakers and further strains already distraught relations between the US and China.

"I think the Biden administration will likely respond and address [this issue] should it become evident that SMIC and/or Huawei didn't comply with US sanctions," said Daly.

A recent research note by Jefferies Equity said that the US Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is likely to look into the matter and "political noises [in the US] may call for tighter sanctions against China."

In its analysis, TechInsights concluded that SMIC manufactured the Kirin 9000s with its 7-nm process, known as the N+2 node. Other analysts have suggested that Huawei may have bought equipment and operations from SMIC to engineer it.

Huawei's Mate 60 Pro has already triggered an outpouring of nationalist sentiment, with netizens hailing the device as proof that China can make technological breakthroughs in the face of tough US repression.

Ivan Lam, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research, said earlier that the new model could help Huawei make it back into the top four brands in China in the fourth quarter, although there will be no race to the top. Shipments of the Mate 60 Series in the first four months after launch could reach 4 million units in the country, according to a Counterpoint research note.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2023 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.