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Huawei Teases the Mate 10 Phone and its AI Processor

BERLIN — We're about to find out just how much of an impact artificial intelligence will have on smartphone performance. Huawei's next mobile chip will have a dedicated on-board AI processor, and that chip is going to power the Huawei Mate 10 when it debuts next month.

Huawei's Richard Yu shows off the Kirin 970 at IFA. (Credit: Philip Michaels/Tom's Guide)

(Image credit: Huawei's Richard Yu shows off the Kirin 970 at IFA. (Credit: Philip Michaels/Tom's Guide))

There will be two Huawei Mates, in fact, according to Huawei Consumer Business Group CEO Richard Yu — a Mate 10 and a Mate 10 Pro. And the new phones will have the kind of edge-to-edge display that other phone makers like Samsung and LG have been adopting in their recent flagships.

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But Yu really wasn't at IFA to drop details about the Mate 10. Rather, his focus was on the processor that will power it, the Huawei-built Kirin 970. The 10-nanometer mobile processor features an 8-core CPU and 12-core graphics processor. There's also a dedicated Neural Processing Unit, or NPU, right on the chip, so that AI tasks can be performed right on your phone instead of relaying them to the cloud first.

That should mean a faster and more efficient smartphone, Yu told IFA attendees today (Sept. 2). Compared to a phone with a quad-core Cortex-A73 CPU, the Kirin 970 will be able to deliver 25x the performance while consuming less power, Yu said.

In practical terms, Yu said a Kirin 970-powered device could recognize 2000 images in a minute. The iPhone 7  sorted 487 images in that time..

The iPhone comparison is interesting because Apple's next phone is rumored to include AI-focused features. It's unclear if the A11 CPU expected to power the iPhone 8 will have dedicated AI processing built into the chip. Apple is holding a Sept. 12 event to unveil the iPhone 8, about a month before Huawei's Mate 9 unveiling.

Huawei wasn't done making comparisons to rival handsets. The Kirin 970 has a dual image signal processor, which should focus faster and be more responsive. To prove that point, Yu showed a pair of motion shots — one captured by a Kirin 970-powered device, the other by Samsung's Galaxy S8 — and the Kirin photo looked much sharper than the S8 image.

Other features in the Kirin 970 include dual SIM card support and a 4.5G LTE modem capable of supporting 1.2 Gbps network speeds.

We'll find out for certain what the Mate 10 containing that Kirin 970 processor can do when Huawei unveils its new phones Oct. 16.

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.