Huawei has now disappeared from the Dutch street scene, but if it’s up to the Chinese smartphone manufacturer, it will soon return. For this the company has few assets which would be a great advantage for the manufacturer. In this article we will of course discuss the return of Huawei in the Netherlands, but also a look back at the past period. After all, we have written a little about it, but that does not change the fact that there was nothing to report about Huawei.
Huawei on the sanctions list
In 2018, we told you that Huawei was working on an operating system to replace Android should it lose access to the Google Mobile Services version of the software. What worried Huawei at the time was that ZTE, another Chinese smartphone and networking equipment company, had been placed on the US device list for failing to comply with sanctions imposed by the US after selling equipment to North Korea and Iran. These sales were in violation of US sanctions.
While then-President Donald Trump removed ZTE from the device list, his administration added Huawei to the list a year later, and it remains there to this day. In August 2019, Huawei introduced HarmonyOS. Company CEO Richard Yu said during the announcement that the operating system is designed to work on a variety of devices, such as smartphones, smart speakers, cars, computers, smartwatches and tablets.
Harmony OS 3.0
HarmonyOS 3.0 was pre-installed on the Mate 50 line released earlier this year. According to GizChina, HarmonyOS is running on more than 320 million handsets. The operating system is the third largest mobile operating system in the world after Android and iOS, with annual growth of 113%. This is no small feat for a company forced to compete with one hand tied behind its back.
Third-party installations of HarmonyOS are also on the rise, with more than 250 million units of products such as light bulbs, televisions, microwaves and refrigerators using the software. These installations are up 212% year over year. Huawei’s own AppGallery app storefront is also growing rapidly and is now the third largest in the world after the Google Play Store and the App Store. It’s a little light on options (just 220,000 apps compared to about 2.5 million in the Play Store), but still manages to serve more than 580 million monthly users.
Something more possible
A year after being placed on the device list, Huawei was barred from receiving chips made by foundries using American technology. For its last two flagship series (2021’s P50 line and this year’s Mate 50 series), Huawei has been granted permission to use 4G versions of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipset. For example, this year’s Mate 50 Pro is powered by the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 SoC, which has been modified to work only with 4G signals.
China’s largest foundry, SMIC, does not have access to state-of-the-art lithography machines used to etch circuits on wafers thinner than the width of a human hair. The United States ensures that these extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines cannot be imported by China. But MyDrivers says Huawei recently filed a patent application for some EUV components and the EUV lithography process. The application number is 202110524685X.
Huawei will make its own EUV machines
DigiTimes Asia notes that the patent has not yet been granted to Huawei by China’s National Intellectual Property Administration, and it is not clear whether Huawei is capable of producing a complete EUV machine roughly the size of a school bus. Each EUV machine has more than 100,000 components. Huawei’s patent allegedly improves some of the problems in the EUV process by using a more uniform light source.
The only current EUV manufacturer in the world, the Dutch company ASML, applied for a similar patent in 2016. However, both patents differ in how light is used in the EUV process. In addition, Huawei is believed to be working on a way to “bypass” lithography by using optoelectronic wafers and other innovations.
Huawei’s work in lithography is extremely important to the company and to China. If Huawei can patent its own EUV technology, it could help Chinese chip foundries produce advanced chips. This would help the country move closer to its goal of becoming self-sufficient in semiconductors. More importantly for fans of Huawei’s handsets, it would allow Huawei to offer 5G as a built-in feature on its phones while equipping them with the most powerful and power-efficient SoCs available.
While Huawei says it is “back in the game,” it will be some time before the patent is issued on a Huawei-built EUV machine. If the company can figure out a way around the lithography process, it would be time for Samsung and Apple to start worrying.