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article imageHuawei's new Mate 10 comes with dedicated AI hardware

By James Walker     Oct 16, 2017 in Technology
Huawei has announced its new Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, smartphones designed to compete with the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S8. Huawei has aimed to differentiate its brand by adding dedicated AI hardware to the handsets, including a neural processing unit.
Huawei could push Apple's market position down to third this year if the Mate 10 becomes a sell-out success. Huawei has designed the series with the intention of creating one of the most sophisticated handsets available. Both are similarly sized, with the Mate 10 getting a 5.9-inch 2560x1440 16:9 display and the Mate 10 Pro a 6-inch 2160x1080 18:9 unit.
Neural Processing Unit
Both phones come with Huawei's own Kirin 970 processor, an octa-core 2.36GHz chip. However, the standout feature is its onboard Neural Processing Unit (NPU), a sub-module dedicated to powering real-time on-device AI apps. This puts the Mate 10 into direct rivalry with the iPhone as Huawei becomes a brand looking to make the most of AI's opportunities.
According to The Next Web, Huawei claimed the Mate 10 Pro's AI performance is twice as quick as the iPhone 8 during its launch event. For forward-thinking developers and consumers, this could be a compelling reason to purchase the Huawei handset. Unfortunately for the company, the phone's likely to be held back by the same lack of AI apps that have hindered other devices.
Lack of apps
At launch, Microsoft's Bing Translator will be able to use the Mate's Neural Processing Unit. The promise of improved translation capabilities in a single app isn't likely to attract many consumers though.
Although Huawei's got the hardware it needs, the company still needs to develop apps to utilise it. Even if a stable ecosystem of AI-enriched apps arrives, consumers will still need to be convinced that they actually need the extra performance.
Over the next few years, AI should find its way into several genres of app. Automatic photo tagging, improved voice search and more advanced proactive assistance could all benefit from dedicated hardware as on-device AI developers.
Until neural computing units become widespread, developers will still need to retain backward compatibility with older handsets though. At the Mate 10's launch, prolific smartphone AI is still too far off for its NPU to see much use.
Looking forwards
Even with these issues, Huawei's decision to focus on the future of mobile technology is likely to only pay off over time. With its market share now just 0.7% behind Apple's, the company's presence is growing and its research teams are able to offer similar levels of innovation.
AI features aside, the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro offer true flagship performance that asserts Huawei's desire to be seen as a leading Android manufacturer. There's a 4,000mAh battery, a dual camera unit and up to 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The phones also come with USB-C and a Huawei-developed variant of Samsung DeX and Windows 10 Continuum, letting you run mobile apps on a PC screen.
More about Huawei, huawei mate 10, Ai, Artificial intelligence, Smartphones
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