This Monday in Munich, China’s largest domestic mobile phone maker Huawei unveiled Mate 10 — billed as the most powerful artificial intelligence (AI) phone in the world. The company’s new flagship smartphone is seen as a direct challenge to industry leaders Apple and Samsung.
One of the biggest differences between Mate 10 and its predecessor Mate 9 is the core processor Kirin 970, the world’s first AI SoC (System on a chip) for mobile devices. This chip includes a Neural Network Processing Unit (NPU), making it up to 25 times faster and 50 times more energy efficient than traditional processors and dozens of times more powerful for machine learning tasks than today’s top mobile CPUs
Built-in AI for mobile devices is the trend for next-generation smartphones, says Bruce Lee, Vice President of Handset Business at Huawei Consumer Business Group. “It is not efficient to connect smartphones with AI on the cloud. Huawei intends to plug AI directly into the device, which can dramatically enhance the learning capability.
Undoubtedly Mate 10 is taking aim at the iPhone X, which is powered by Apple’s newly released A11 Bionic chip, a SoC containing an AI-powered neural engine built for a specific set of machine learning algorithms. This new chip enables iPhone X users to awaken the phone by simply looking at the camera (FaceID), and to create dynamic emojis that mirror users’ facial expressions
Huawei threw down the gauntlet at the Mate 10 launch, pitting their challenger against Apple’s iPhone 8 and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 in an image recognition performance test. Mate 10 took five seconds to recognize 100 images, while iPhone 8 Plus took nine seconds and Galaxy Note 8 dawdled for some 100 seconds on the task
Mate 10’s AI also helps it learn how to take good pictures. Out of the box it has already trained on a library of 100 million labelled photos, enabling it to recognize different scenes and subjects such as snow, food, flowers and cats, and appropriately adjust camera settings. An icon representing what’s in front of the camera will appear on screen when Mate 10 identifies it
Mate 10 consumes only 0.19 percent of its battery power to take 1000 pictures, and lasts 30 percent longer than the Mate 9 on a charge. By using machine learning to study users’ power usage habits, Mate 10 is able to further optimize energy efficiency
On the audio side, Mate 10 features a noise reduction system that can accurately separate human voices from ambient sounds and adjust volume accordingly. Huawei has also applied Microsoft technology to real-time translation, accelerating online & offline translation speed of 50 languages by 300%
At the Mate 10 launch, Huawei introduced an open AI ecosystem that enables mobile applications to access the AI processing capabilities of Kirin 970 via third-party machine learning frameworks, including TensorFlow, TensorFlow Lite, Caffe, and Caffe2
Huawei is confident of Mate 10’s performance. As such, the company best known for its cost-effective smartphones has priced Mate 10 as its most expensive smartphone ever at US$825, with the Mate 10 Pro selling for US$945. The Porsche Design model hits a staggering US$1640. Mate 10 is however still US$150 cheaper than iPhone X
Apple meanwhile is having tough times. The company is reportedly struggling with an OLED screen production snag which might cause supply shortages ahead of iPhone X’s launch. And last week, San Diego-based chipmaker Qualcomm filed a patent infringement lawsuit in Beijing Intellectual Property Court to halt sales of iPhones in China, the world’s biggest smartphone market
In this year’s first quarter, Huawei captured nine percent of the global smartphone market, up from 8.3 percent last year; while Apple’s market share dipped from 14.8 percent to 13.7. Huawei hopes Mate 10 will further close the distance
Mate 10 will be available to the public next month, following iPhone X’s Oct. 27 launch.
Journalist: Tony Peng | Editor: Michael Sarazen