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First RISC-V smartphones could launch in 2022

Android 10 feeling snappy on an RV64 phone prototype (Image Source: Sipeed)
Android 10 feeling snappy on an RV64 phone prototype (Image Source: Sipeed)
Sipeed recently tweeted a short video depicting its RISC-V RV64-powered smartphone prototype running Android 10. If all goes well, the Chinese company expects to release the first commercial models in 2022.

Developments for the RISC-V ISA seem to be advancing at an ever increasing rate by the year, as SiFIve is now striding to transform the architecture into a high-quality alternative to x86 and ARM. This year, SiFive launched its first PC-oriented RISC-V platform and, with the Linux support approaching full stability on many RISC-V chipsets like the latest RV64 packages from Alpine and other single board producers, we now see plans to push RISC-V adoption on Android-based smartphones.

The flexibility and ease of development brought on by the latest iterations of the RISC-V ISA have also been noticed by Intel and Apple recently, but this architecture seems more appealing to Chinese tech producers that intend to cut ties with the Western world and reduce reliance on US-owned patents as much as possible. To this effect, Alibaba already managed to port Android 10 on RISC-V about a year ago via the T-Head XuanTie board. More recently, Sipeed tweeted a video of what looks to be an Android 10 device with a 7-inch touchscreen powered by the XuanTie C901 board.

Sipeed’s tweet is hinting at a 2022 release, as well, but, with all the shortages going around, the launch could be pushed to 2023. As pointed out by, RV64-based phones should allow for full Linux to be ported much easier than any contemporary ARM-based chips. As far as performance goes, Sipeed noted that the RV64 processors equipping the first RISC-V phones should be more powerful than some quad-core ARM Cortex A73 processors, probably matching Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 662 / 663 models.


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Bogdan Solca, 2021-11-26 (Update: 2021-11-26)