Huawei has never been one for subtlety in its marketing materials, but a recent Facebook video from the Chinese tech giant is one of its most cringy yet. The company has Apple in its sights after overtaking the iPhone-maker as the world’s second biggest smartphone brand, and is targeting the iPhone’s new ‘neural engine’ — hardware dedicated to AI tasks like object recognition. But, according to Huawei, it’s going to unveil the “real AI phone” on October 16th, with the launch of its latest flagship, the Mate 10.
Despite the bombastic phrasing, Huawei actually has a pretty good claim to being ahead in the mobile AI world. As we’ve discussed in the past, putting dedicated AI chips in mobile devices is a big advantage, allowing for faster processing, longer battery life, and greater user security. And last month at IFA, Huawei unveiled its latest system-on-chip: the Kirin 970, which comes with its own “Neural Processing Unit” or NPU.
Like Apple’s neural engine, the NPU is a set of processing cores within the phone’s chipset that are dedicated to running AI tasks. But it’s possible Huawei’s AI integration can go deeper. With its previous flagship, the Mate 9, it used machine learning to adapt the device’s operating system to users’ habits, allocating processing power and memory to the most-used tasks. Whether or not this works as advertised is difficult to say (the benefits are only supposed to become clear after months of use) but it does show Huawei’s ambition to leverage artificial intelligence on a system-wide level.
Perhaps this is what the company means when it promises to unveil the “real AI phone” next month — not just dedicated hardware, but software tweaks that take advantage of the latest machine learning. However, you’d be forgiven for being skeptical considering how the term “AI” is used in tech to sell everything from washing machines to toothbrushes. Let’s just see what the company shows off come October 16th.