Qualcomm today announces two new Wear OS processors, the Snapdragon Wear 4100 Plus and the Snapdragon Wear 4100, the first major updates of its smartwatch platform since 2018. Qualcomm says that the new chips will have significantly improved speeds, with a “significantly more new processor” fast, “And big leaps in performance for GPU, memory, camera and overall battery life.
They are great promises, but simply Google’s Wear OS bad needs this type of hardware overhaul. The last major revision of the Snapdragon Wear range, Snapdragon Wear 3100, was a minor update to the 201
The biggest changes are in the processor, which is moving from a 28 nm process to a 12 nm process, with four A53 CPU cores clocked at 1.7 GHz replacing the A7 cores of the 3100 (only 1.1 GHz) , which Qualcomm says should deliver over 85 percent faster performance. The GPU is now Adreno A504 (up to two and a half times faster than the 3100), along with faster memory.
However, Qualcomm is taking a slightly different approach with the 4100 line. It is actually shipping two SKUs to the developers. The top model is the Snapdragon 4100 Plus, which (like the previous 3100) is a hybrid platform that features the main SDM429w SoC, along with an updated version of the always active QCC1110 coprocessor introduced with the 3100. But for developers who don’t want to or do not need to offer always-on features, Qualcomm will also offer a standard Snapdragon Wear 4100 model, which only offers the SDM429w SoC.
For the Snapdragon 4100 Plus, however, the QCC1110 coprocessor, which manages the environmental display mode common to most modern smartwatches, is also getting some improvements. These include the ability to view many more colors – up to 64,000, starting with the 16 colors that the 3100 might show – as well as support for new “clock mode” features such as step monitoring, continuous heart rate monitoring, alarms , tactile feedback and more (which previously had to rely on the main processor).
The move to the new 12nm CPU architecture (along with other more technical improvements) also means that watches with a Snapdragon 4100 should see up to 25% better battery life.
Qualcomm is already shipping its Wear 4100 and 4100 Plus chipsets to hardware manufacturers, with the first devices set to arrive in the coming months. Mobvoi has already announced that it is working on a new TicWatch model that will include the new chips, and Xiaotiancai is also working on a child-friendly smartwatch based on Wear 4100.
On paper, at least, these are the types of major improvements Qualcomm needed to make to help combat the struggling Wear OS hardware ecosystem (which at this point relies almost entirely on the Qualcomm platform) in competitive gaming.
But the world of smartwatches is a very different place compared to 2016, when the last major improvements of the Qualcomm processor arrived, or even 2018. Wear OS is widely dominated by fashion brands such as Fossil, but the entire ecosystem of smartwatch is dominated by Samsung’s Gear line and Apple Watch.
Google’s own ambitions to make a flagship smartwatch are pending. The recent announcement by the company that intends to buy Fitbit for $ 2.1 billion could be a way to strengthen its hardware division to make Wear OS watches better or it could be for something else.
After years of lackluster hardware and a seemingly apathetic Google when it comes to developing new Wear OS software features, the question is whether Qualcomm’s new chip is too late for Google’s smartwatch experiment.