Qualcomm made a modern smartwatch chip: Meet the Snapdragon Wear 4100
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Qualcomm made a modern smartwatch chip: Meet the Snapdragon Wear 4100

Time to upgrade my 2014 smartwatch —

Are there any Wear OS manufacturers and customers left to grab Qualcomm’s unique chip?

Ron Amadeo

A Qualcomm watch.

Enlarge/A Qualcomm watch.

After years of repackaging the same basic smartwatch chip over and over again, Qualcomm has graced Wear OS with a modern smartwatch SoC. Meet the Snapdragon Wear 4100, a Qualcomm smartwatch chip that, for the primary time ever, is faster than the earlier chip.

The Wear 4100 uses four 1.7GHz Cortex A53 CPUs constructed on a 12nm manufacturing activity, a major upgrade from the 28nm Cortex A7s that every other Qualcomm smartwatch chip has been up except now. Or now not it is now not the state-of-the-art 7nm activity that Qualcomm’s excessive-cease chip uses, and the Cortex A53 is an venerable CPU design, however for Qualcomm, it is a major upgrade. Between the unique CPU, the Adreno 504 GPU, and faster reminiscence, Qualcomm is promising “85% faster performance” compared to the Wear 3100.

There are actually two variations of the 4100, the vanilla “4100” and the “4100+.” The plus version is specifically for smartwatches with an always-on watch face, and love earlier Wear SoCs, comes with an extra low-energy SoC (based around a Cortex-M0) to maintain the time updated and log sensor data (love step counts). Qualcomm is promising a better display image quality in this low-energy mode, with extra colors and a smoother display.

A block diagram of the Wear 4100+.

Enlarge/A block diagram of the Wear 4100+.


There are also dual DSPs now, which Qualcomm says are for “optimal workload partitioning, make stronger for dynamic clock and voltage scaling, Qualcomm Sensor Assisted Positioning PDR Wearables 2.0, low energy location tracking make stronger, and an enhanced Bluetooth 5.0 architecture.” There are also dual ISPs with make stronger for 16MP sensors (on a smartwatch?). As usual, connectivity alternate options are ample, with onboard LTE, GPS, NFC, Wi-Fi 802.11n, and Bluetooth 5.

Can Wear OS be resurrected? (No, probably now not)

Qualcomm has been neglecting the smartwatch market for years, and whereas Wear OS has many of its bear complications, the sorry state of Android smartwatches today is primarily Qualcomm’s fault.

Or now not it is now not that Qualcomm hasn’t been releasing any smartwatch chips at all—the company has appropriate been investing as few resources as conceivable by selling the same basic chip for six years. In 2014, the primary Wear OS (then called Android Wear) smartwatches came out with a Snapdragon 400 SoC, which traditional four Cortex A7 CPUs and was constructed on a 28nm activity. In 2016, Qualcomm launched the “Snapdragon Wear 2100,” however it wasn’t remarkable diversified from the earlier chip, using four Cortex A7 CPUs and a 28nm activity. In 2018, Qualcomm recycled the same basic designagain, launching the “Snapdragon Wear 3100,” using four Cortex A7 CPUs and a 28nm manufacturing activity. Qualcomm may perhaps point to tiny additional features available in each release, however the fundamentals love CPU pace and energy usage have now not improved for six years.

After standing accrued for six years, is anything left of Wear OS? The lack of viable hardware has devastated the ecosystem. Many hardware manufacturers—love Samsung, Huawei, and Asus—have walked away from the platform. Wear OS’s market share is at-or-approaching single digits and is so low that it does now not get separately called out in market share reports anymore. Without the hardware sales, developers can’t elaborate building apps.

As for Google, the company appears to have slowed Wear OS pattern. For the primary few years of its life, (Android) Wear OS intently tracked the mainline Android release, however an Android 10 update by no means arrived. The last substantial update was to Android 9 (which Wear OS calls machine version “H”) in 2018. Lately, Google has made some acquisitions supporting Wear OS that we haven’t seen the results of yet. In early 2019, it acquired an unknown expertise and an R&D team from Fossil Neighborhood, the largest Wear OS OEM, for $40 million. In late 2019, Google equipped Fitbit, a pioneer of health tracking gadgets, for $2.1 billion. Fitbit wasn’t involved with Wear OS, however Google called the purchase “an opportunity to invest remarkable extra in Wear OS as effectively as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market.” The deal—Google’s fifth-largest ever—is accrued winding its way thru regulatory approval.

Or now not it is now not clear that there may be an ecosystem left to purchase Qualcomm’s unique chip. The company is usually all about touting the manufacturers it has lined up for these chip launches, however it may now not quote or name-check a single major OEM in its press release. The launch partner for the Wear 4100 is a company called “imoo,” the self-described “leading brand for kid smartwatches.” The company says its subsequent-generation “Z6 Ultra smartwatch” will launch in the following 30 days with Qualcomm’s unique chip.