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More HUAWEI sanctions go into effect from today. What does that mean?

From processors to RAM and more, here's how the latest round of sanctions will affect HUAWEI.

Published onSeptember 15, 2020

HUAWEI P40 Pro Plus back camera macro

The US government initiated a number of additional sanctions against HUAWEI earlier this year, targeting the smartphone manufacturer’s ability to produce phones and associated components.

Some of these sanctions go into effect from today, September 15, 2020. What does this mean for HUAWEI and its customers?

No more flagship Kirin processors

Kirin 990 with HUAWEI logo

The White House issued stiffer restrictions against HUAWEI in May 2020, forcing foreign chip producers making chips with US equipment to cease production and shipments for HUAWEI.

Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC is one of these affected companies and is now barred from producing and shipping chipsets for HUAWEI as of today. The chipmaker reportedly stopped taking new orders for the Chinese brand soon after the restrictions were first announced back in May. Up until today, however, it was apparently allowed to fulfill orders already in production and those taken before this new restriction was announced.

At least one of the upcoming Mate 40 series phones will indeed be packing the new Kirin flagship processor. Supplies won’t last though, so don’t expect the P50 series to offer this new Kirin SoC.

HUAWEI consumer CEO Yu Chengdong said last month that Kirin chipsets “cannot be manufactured” after September 15. It’s unclear if he was referring to the flagship tier only or its entire portfolio.

Another major blow to HUAWEI may have come via Chinese chipmaker SMIC. The company recently mass-produced the budget-focused Kirin 710A processor on a 14nm process for HUAWEI, but SMIC has reportedly indicated that it’s abiding by the US sanctions as well. However, Reuters reports that the chipmaker has applied for a license to resume business with the Chinese giant.

No more MediaTek support?

No Kirin flagship processor means HUAWEI needs to source chipsets from other companies, as it’s believed that domestic chipmakers don’t have the know-how to make bleeding-edge flagship processors just yet and might be shackled by sanctions anyway. One of the front-running companies to deliver flagship chipsets to HUAWEI was MediaTek, but it was also subject to sanctions as of today.

HUAWEI had also been making increasing use of MediaTek chipsets in its mid-range devices this year, with the likes of the Dimensity 800 family appearing in several phones. This could affect more than just HUAWEI’s flagship segment.

Related: MediaTek chip guide — All you need to know about MediaTek processors

MediaTek confirmed late last month that it would be abiding by the latest US sanctions, and noted that it has applied for a license to continue business with HUAWEI.

Companies like Microsoft previously secured a license in this regard, which is why HUAWEI’s Matebook line is able to offer Windows. At the time of writing, however, other companies like Google and Qualcomm have yet to receive the green light from Washington.

Display supplies from LG and Samsung

HUAWEI P40 Pro front
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Another casualty in this escalating action against HUAWEI is the supply of displays from LG and Samsung. The two companies reportedly decided to suspend the supply of “premium” displays to HUAWEI by today.

HUAWEI has made use of displays from the likes of LG, Samsung, and China’s BOE for its high-end needs, so that seemingly leaves only one big-name supplier. However, it’s believed that HUAWEI is testing screens from domestic companies like CSOT, Tianma, and Visionox. In other words, there are definitely alternative suppliers here.

Displays also require special chips to drive them and enable touch (in addition to the SoC), and a report published last week suggests that HUAWEI might experience trouble in obtaining these special touch and display chips, as well as power management chips. Nevertheless, DigiTimes reported last month that HUAWEI and SMIC have teamed up to develop some display chips.

Memory supply could be constrained

Memory suppliers Samsung and SK Hynix moved to suspend dealings with HUAWEI earlier this month, in accordance with the latest sanctions going into effect today. The two firms supply RAM used in smartphones and tablets.

In saying so, the two companies have reportedly applied for licenses to continue supplying these components to HUAWEI. Again, some companies have succeeded in obtaining these licenses while others have yet to receive approval over a year later.

Read more: Phones with 12GB of RAM — What are your options?

There are other companies supplying RAM for use in mobile devices though, but it’s unclear whether they are bound by sanctions too. Speaking of other suppliers, Toshiba has halted supplies of flash storage to HUAWEI as well, the Nikkei Asian Review reports.

Image sensors from Sony

HUAWEI P30 Pro camera array with glare 1000x563

HUAWEI is well known for its camera credentials, but this could be under threat too. The aforementioned Nikkei Asian Review story also notes that sales of Sony image sensors to HUAWEI were halted completely by September 15.

Sony image sensors used by HUAWEI contained RYYB color filters for improved low-light performance, as opposed to RGB filters used in the vast majority of digital camera sensors. This was one of the main reasons for recent HUAWEI flagships delivering great image quality in near-darkness.

Sony is apparently considering an application to continue supplying HUAWEI with image sensors. Again, the chances of this application being successful seem to be 50/50.

That’s it for our rundown of the latest US sanctions against HUAWEI. Have we missed out on something? Please let us know via the comments section below.

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