Another IFA has passed us by, and with it a healthy new crop of Wear OS smartwatches. Casio’s back for round three. The new Diesel watch is sure to attract a crowd. And the Skagen Falster 2 looks daringly close to the perfect smartwatch.
More’s the pity, because you really shouldn’t buy any of them. Instead, you should wait.
Because as tempting as all of these smartwatches may be, they’re the last drips being wrung out of ancient technology. Buy one, and you’re about to find yourself an entire generation behind.
Sure, they may be svelter, they might cram in more features than ever before; they’ll even run on Google’s newly-revamped Wear OS software. But it’s what’s inside that counts – in this case, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 2100 chip, which is about to replaced by something better. And when I say about to, I’m talking about a matter of days. Qualcomm is holding a press conference on 10 September to usher in its next smartwatch processor, which will be the starting pistol on the next generation of Wear OS smartwatches.
Through lack of competition the smartwatch chip market has become Qualcomm's stronghold
When I spoke to Pankaj Kedia, Qualcomm's senior director of wearables, earlier in the year, he threw us a few scraps of information about the new chips. "The next platform will be the first with purpose-built chips," he told me in May, revealing the new chips have been created with special consideration to fashion and sports use cases. Oh, and improved battery life.
And it’s not a moment too soon. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 2100 arrived in 2016 but even then it was behind the times. Its 28nm process was a relic of older smartphones, even at that time, and yet here we are today, in 2018, with OEMs continuing to use that very same technology. Through lack of competition the smartwatch chip market has become Qualcomm's stronghold. Samsung has its superior Exynos chip with its 14nm process – but that’s just for Samsung.
You'll see new watches soon. Very soon
Kedia told me we can expect to see new smartwatches from partners, running the new tech, by the holidays. Google might not be doing a Pixel watch after all, but I suspect other companies will announce new watches alongside, or shortly after, Qualcomm’s big reveal.
It’s possible some smartwatch makers weren't told about Qualcomm’s next-gen processor
So why push out new devices now? After all, news that Qualcomm is readying new tech has been public knowledge for four months – and probably longer in discussions with partners. It’s possible that these companies are squeezing the last few dollars out of the tech they have to hand.
It’s also entirely possible some of them only found out about Qualcomm’s next-gen processor by the time it was too late. This would not surprise me. Back in May I asked one of Google’s biggest smartwatch partners if they planned on holding back new products until they had access to Qualcomm's next-gen tech. They didn't even know there was new tech.
Whatever the case may be, my advice is to wait just a little longer. At least until 10 September when we have a better idea of what’s coming. I don't think you'll regret it.