Qualcomm Has New Wearable Chips, And It Swears This Time They’ll Be Good
Looking at the wearable market today, Apple is way out in the lead with the iconic Apple Watch. It wasn’t always this way, though. Google actually beat Apple to the smartwatch game by more than a year, but lackluster hardware allowed Cupertino to lap everyone else. Google’s wearables might get much more capable soon thanks to a new Qualcomm wearable chip. Yes, we’ve said this before, but the new Snapdragon W5+ and W5 could finally be the processors your watch needs.
The new system-on-a-chip (SoC), which no longer uses the “Wear” moniker, will reportedly address some of the glaring issues with Qualcomm’s previous wearable designs. At a time when Apple is knocking it out of the park with its in-house wearable chips, Qualcomm was seen as a major piece of why Wear OS has struggled. Maybe that’s changing, though. For the first time, you can’t really make the case that Qualcomm’s new wearable SoC is just repurposing a smartphone design.
The Snapdragon W5 and W5+ should double performance while making your battery last 50 percent longer. Not enough? Its smaller footprint means smartwatches could be about 30 percent smaller than those based on the aging Snapdragon Wear 4100. This is, of course, based on Qualcomm’s internal testing on reference hardware. It might not be quite that impressive in real life.
While some of the components used in the W5 may sound familiar, it’s actually a big step up for wearable chips. Qualcomm has moved to a 4nm manufacturing process, the same as it’s currently using for its flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chips. This makes the chip more efficient and powerful, but Qualcomm also included a co-processor with the W5+. This part is still made on an older 22nm process, but it’s still a step up from the 12nm+28nm design of the Wear 4100, reports Gizmodo.
The W5 and W5+ are still quad-core chips, relying on four Cortex A53 CPU cores. The co-processor has a single Cortex M55, an ultra-low-power CPU that can keep the lights on to run the display, connectivity, and memory. When necessary, the main SoC will come online and run the show, for example when an app needs to wake up or when you lift your wrist.
These SoCs will be powering some of the first Wear OS 3 devices. We can still say that because, after almost a year, Samsung remains the only OEM that has been granted access to the new software (and it only released two). We expect more watches to arrive with Wear OS 3 soon, and a few of them will have the W5+ or W5. Oppo is on track to launch the Oppo Watch 3 this August, and Mobvoi (makers of the TicWatch series) will have one a few months later.