According to a report by Sohu Tech on Thursday, Xiaomi‘s Surge P1 chip, a purportedly self-developed charging chip, was recently questioned to be produced by an original equipment manufacturer (OEM). The Xiaomi Surge P1 chip was first installed in the Xiaomi 12 Pro smartphone model. At that time, the firm said that R&D of the chip had taken 18 months and cost over 100 million yuan ($15.74 million).
Some Chinese web users posted a group of comparison pictures of the Xiaomi Surge P1 chip and another chip on social media platforms, revealing a certain similarity between the two chips’ wafer screen printing. Some netizens commented on the pictures that the “Xiaomi Surge P1 chip was bought.” Others pointed out that the screen printing of chips can be considered an exclusive logo because it is almost impossible to have two chips with the same screen printing pattern. If the screen printing of two chips is the same, then the two chips are the same chip.
In response, Southchip, a high-performance analog semiconductor IC design company, officially released an article saying that the Xiaomi Surge P1 chip was designed by Xiaomi and manufactured by Southchip (with the internal code SC8561). “Xiaomi‘s independently developed Surge P1 charging chip and the SC8571 are completely different in topology. They are two charging chips with different designs, different functions and different positioning.” As of 2 p.m. on February 10, Xiaomi has not officially responded to the rumors.
Subsequently, Southchip’s response also raised some questions. Some netizens commented that Southchip, as a chip designer, lacks the ability to independently manufacture chips, let alone to become Xiaomi‘s OEM.
According to Southchip’s official website, the firm is a China-based high-performance semiconductor design company, focusing on power supply and battery management, with R&D teams focusing on integrated circuit design, process, test technology and system applications. Its official website does not mention that the company has a chip manufacturing business.
Chip production mainly takes place in three phases: design, manufacturing/packaging and testing. A senior executive of a domestic top chip manufacturer told Sohu Tech: “In the chip industry, OEM generally refers to the manufacture phase, while OEM in the design phase is generally called ‘outsourcing.’ Xiaomi may outsource some design work to Southchip.”
“After the chip is designed, it still needs communication with the factory, and then tape out. The chip can be mass-produced only after it is successful,” said the source. Lin Zhi, chief analyst of Wit Display, believes that Southchip is a professional chip design company and has cooperation with wafer factories. Xiaomi may not directly cooperate with the factories, but it may cooperate with factories with the help of Southchip.
In fact, it is not uncommon to outsource some chip design work in the chip industry. With the transformation of the semiconductor industry and the higher design requirements, as early as the late 1980s, a number of chip design service companies emerged, providing complete solutions for chip design companies, reducing the cost of taping out and speeding up product listing. For example, Vivo is mainly involved in the soft algorithm and IP design during the creation of V1 chip, while the subsequent work was handed over to Vivo’s partners.
If part of the chip design work is handed over to a third party, many wonder if this chip be considered self-developed. According to the above-mentioned expert in the chip industry, it depends on whether the outsourced work is the core part, that is, it is necessary to know precisely how Xiaomi has contributed to the chip design before making any determinations.