Xiaomi ‘doing a lot of research’ on A.I. chips for smartphones, top exec says

  • Xiaomi is researching chips that enable artificial intelligence (AI) on mobile devices, but has not made a decision on whether to make one, the head of its international business has told CNBC.
  • Xiaomi launched a chip last year called the Surge S1 processor chipset that is in its mid-range Mi 5C smartphone.
  • Many smartphone makers like Apple and Samsung have been designing their own chips.

Xiaomi is researching chips that enable artificial intelligence (AI) on mobile devices, but has not made a decision on whether to make one, the head of its international business has told CNBC.

Speaking to CNBC at Xiaomi's store opening in Barcelona, Spain, ahead of Mobile World Congress, which begins Monday, Wang Xiang said the company is exploring AI-specific chips.

"We are also working on doing a lot of research on AI on chips," Wang said in a TV interview that aired Monday.

It comes after Xiaomi launched a chip last year called the Surge S1 processor chipset that is in its mid-range Mi 5C smartphone. Apple, Samsung and Huawei all have their own chips too.

But there's been more of a focus from those smartphone makers to create chips that enable better AI applications. Huawei launched in 2017 the Kirin 970 chip that is now in its high-end Mate 10 Pro device, Apple has put its own A11 bionic chip in the iPhone X, while Samsung has its Exynos series of silicon.

These specific AI chips allow more of the processes to happen on the device, rather than in the cloud. That means AI apps will be faster and smoother on the smartphone because its being processed on the device.

"The main purpose of doing our own chips is to learn the technology… deeper… we launched the first Surge-based smartphone… into the market. And we will continue to explore the technology and do the research. Not only the chipset, but also the AI and other related technologies," Wang said.

Wang Xiang, head of international at Xiaomi, holds a Mi Max 2 smartphone for a photograph during a news conference in Hong Kong, China, on Monday, June 26, 2017.
Photographer | CNBC
Wang Xiang, head of international at Xiaomi, holds a Mi Max 2 smartphone for a photograph during a news conference in Hong Kong, China, on Monday, June 26, 2017.

He added that the company has made no decision on whether to create its own AI chip.

Smartphone makers are trying increasingly to control their supply chain, giving them more control over how the device eventually ends up. Designing a key component like the processor, rather than relying on a company like Qualcomm, can help Xiaomi create a better experience for its devices.

But Wang said Xiaomi will continue to use chipsets provided by other manufacturers.

"We will continue to strengthen our partnerships with strong partners from other chipset companies," he said.

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