​Qualcomm doubles Wear OS battery with all-new Snapdragon W5+ platform

Whole new wearables platform replaces Snapdragon 4100+
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Qualcomm launched its brand new Snapdragon W5+ processor for wearables – and announced new Mobvoi and Oppo smartwatches – with 25 new devices in the pipeline.

The all-new Snapdragon W5 and W5+ arrive instead of the expected Wear 5100, and is designed to power a wider range of new wearables and smartwatches.

Last June, Qualcomm talked about creating a new platform for a wider collection of wearables, including high-power smartwatches, but also kids watches, wearables for seniors and enterprise. The new W5 platform is part of that vision.

Read all about the changes and improvements below.

Snapdragon W5+ launches for Wear OS watches

First up is the Snapdragon W5+, which is designed for Wear OS smartwatches, and is closer to the Wear 5100 we were expecting.

It uses a new 4nm processor, the likes of which are just launching on top smartphones.

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The headline benefit of the W5+ platform, is the promise of 50% better battery life on Wear OS watches.

This is achieved by using a Cortex M55 22nm co-processor, that handles all the standard tasks. When you start upping the intensity, the W5+ hands off to the 4nm SoC main processor, which then shuts off when the job is done.

The SoC handles stuff like GNSS (GPS), the modem and audio playback – and Qualcomm has also improved the hybrid management controller, that not only hands off tasks between the two processors, but can also throttle its own power use accordingly.

Qualcomm also says it's managed to hibernate its processor at power levels not seen before:

"We have broken 0.5mA barrier in a Wear OS watch, and that is unheard of," said Pankaj Kedia, Senior Director & Global Head for the Qualcomm Smart Wearables.
"We have a low power state deep sleep and hibernate. Basically the SOC is totally turned off. And we're hitting numbers we have never had before."

Improved battery life numbers explained

Qualcomm highlighted a few examples of the improvements smartwatch owners can expect:

  • Smartwatch with 300mAh battery: 43 hours (up from 28h on 4100)
  • Connected LTE smartwatch with 450mAh battery: 54 hours (up from 36h)
  • Sports watch with 600mAh battery: 72 hours (up from 48h)

In a conversation with Pankaj Kedia, Senior Director & Global Head for the Qualcomm Smart Wearables, he told us all of these estimates include features fully turned on, with always-on display, SpO2 monitoring and animated watch faces – so it’s entirely possible manufacturers will opt to extend this even further.

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However, it’s hard to feel that a promised 43 hours of battery for a standard smartwatch is slightly underwhelming, when big rivals such as Huawei and Amazfit are already offering in excess of 14 days battery life, with 5-7 days of very heavy usage.

However, Apple doesn’t seem to be close to extending its own 18 hour quoted battery life, which does show this is a big leap forwards in terms of high-performance smartwatches.

As usual, Mobvoi will be the first Wear OS partner to launch onto the W5+ platform. It’s only teased its smartwatch so far, but it looks to be a TicWatch Pro 4 with Wear 3.0 to launch this Fall. We'll update with more details as we get them.

New Snapdragon W5 for non-Wear OS devices

Next comes the standard Snapdragon W5 processor, which runs without the SoC. It’s designed for companies that already have their own platform, but want to run on Qualcomm’s more powerful architecture.

And the company has already announced partners for its new platform.

Oppo will launch the Oppo Watch 3 on the standard W5 chip, in the coming weeks.

And Qualcomm has announced that 25 devices are in the pipeline using the new platform.

Analysis

While some may be quick to dismiss the promise of two-day battery life on Wear OS as underwhelming, there’s been some big leaps forward here. And with some clever power management, we could see manufacturers extend this closer to four days.

As Wear OS 3.0 moves the platform forward, it’s good to see Qualcomm, which powers the majority of devices, doing the same.

We’re also interested to see how it’s embraced by some of the non-smartwatch applications Qualcomm has highlighted.

Kids smartwatches, and other targeted use cases such as seniors and enterprise, have been slow to be adopted outside of China. So having a ready-made platform could accelerate these kids of devices in the West.

The Snapdragon W5 should make for more powerful wearables – but it might not bring Wear OS to the kind of battery numbers users dream of.

TAGGED Smartwatches

James Stables

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James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and T3.com and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.


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