Qualcomm’s Snapdragon W5+ promises big speed and battery gains for Wear OS watches

Snapdragon-based Wear OS smartwatches haven’t typically kept up with rivals from Apple and Samsung. The Wear 4100+ was built using relatively old manufacturing processes and performance was rarely remarkable. However, Qualcomm seems to have taken some of those criticisms to heart as it introduces Snapdragon W5 Gen 1 and W5+ Gen 1 chips (so long, Wear branding) that promise not only much-needed speed and battery life improvements, but the expand the range of wearables that use the company’s technology.

The star of the show, the Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1, makes the leap from a 12-nanometer system-on-chip in the 4100+ (already a bit outdated by 2020) to a cutting-edge 4nm design with much newer Adreno 702 graphics and support for 2133MHz memory, albeit with the familiar quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 architecture. The new W1 AON co-processor, meanwhile, has moved from 28nm to 22nm, uses the newer Cortex-M55 architecture and includes the Bluetooth functionality previously reserved for the more sophisticated main SoC. There are also low-power “islands” in the main chip that keep audio, navigation, and Wi-Fi running without waking up other components, while new deep sleep and hibernate states rely almost entirely on the co-processor when tasks require just the bare minimum of processing power require energy.

Qualcomm Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 chip diagram

Qualcomm

The result, according to Qualcomm, is twice the performance with 50 percent longer battery life in typical use. You can expect more 3D applications on your watch (such as Memoji-style maps and watch faces), and you may not have to worry about your wristwatch dying before the day is done. AI-based tasks such as real-time image recognition and language assistants should also get a boost. And if the W5 line has up to 35 percent less footprint, it should allow for slimmer, smaller watches.

The regular Snapdragon W5 Gen 1 is basically a W5+ with no co-processor – it’s up to third-party chips to fill in the gaps. While the W5+ is primarily aimed at Wear OS smartwatches, the W5 is geared more towards children’s watches, medical devices, and other wearable devices that may not be as demanding. Speaking to Engadget, Pankaj Kedia, head of Qualcomm’s smart wearables, said he sees the W5 line open up a “set of new opportunities” to reach brands and device categories that were previously taboo.

You don’t have to wait long for the first products based on the platform. Oppo will release a Snapdragon W5 Gen 1 watch within the next 30 days, while Mobvoi is preparing a W5+ Gen 1 smartwatch for fall. According to Qualcomm, 25 more designs are already on the way. While the company didn’t name any of these other customers, it won’t come as a surprise if some of the more well-known Wear OS watchmakers adopt the technology in the coming months.

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https://www.engadget.com/qualcomm-snapdragon-w5-plus-smartwatch-chip-160032423.html?src=rss Qualcomm’s Snapdragon W5+ promises big speed and battery gains for Wear OS watches

Russell Falcon

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