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.
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:
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.
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.
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.