Chinese smartphone maker Oppo on Tuesday unveiled a new self-developed chip, as the hardware company moves further into the semiconductor sector. The chip, called the MariSilicon X, is a neural processing unit (NPU) that improves images for video and photography taken on smartphones. It will be manufactured using Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s (TSMC) 6-nanometre process technology and will be placed in the company’s upcoming Find X series of smartphones, set to hit the market in early 2022.
Oppo is one of China’s top phone brands, occupying 21 percent of the domestic market as of the third quarter of 2021, according to research firm Canalys. The company is owned by BBK Electronics, which also owns Vivo, another top-selling Chinese smartphone brand. The two companies compete for customers but have an overlapping supply chain. Both firms are investing heavily in the chip sector as well.
In addition to MariSilicon X, Oppo has also developed a power management chip that it uses for some of its chargers. In September, Vivo announced it had developed an image signal processor chip (ISP) it will use in its phones. The chip efforts dovetail with a government push for Chinese companies to boost the country’s domestic chip sector, which for decades has lagged behind that of the United States and other East Asian economies. The need for a self-sufficient chip industry came to light last year when US sanctions against Shenzhen-based Huawei Technologies Co Ltd prevented the company from sourcing key components.
The measures crippled the company’s smartphone division as well as its in-house chip division HiSilicon, once the only Chinese unit developing smartphone processors that could rival those of Qualcomm. Governments and companies around the world have been scrambling to boost semiconductor production after a global shortage hit manufacturing in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.