All I need from this yr’s Google I/O is an overdue present from Qualcomm

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Google I/O is lower than a month away, and our ideas are beginning to flip to what we’ll see at Mountain View’s massive get-together. For me, I simply need one factor: a brand new chip from Qualcomm.

Wait – do not go! Look, I do know chip chat sounds about as thrilling as a root canal, however that is essential, so persist with me. Google can do much more to enhance Wear OS as a chunk of software program, however its greatest difficulty is the {hardware} working beneath the display, and issues aren’t going to dramatically enhance till that modifications. There’s only one downside: Qualcomm holds all the facility, and it would not appear to be doing a lot about it.

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Ron Amadeo did abstract of the issue over on Ars Technica, so I am going to attempt to not repeat an excessive amount of of that right here, however greater than two months since that piece was printed silence from Qualcomm has been much more deafening. Only a few weeks in the past, Google shrewdly rebranded Android Wear to Wear OS to draw extra iPhone customers, but Baselworld was notably skinny on new Google watches. Are producers holding again for brand spanking new {hardware}?

Google instructed me it has massive plans to enhance its smartwatches this yr, however I will not really feel optimistic about the way forward for Wear OS till it is not working on such outdated expertise. The 2-year-old Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip remains to be powering new Android Wear – sorry, Wear OS – watches in 2018, which is absurd while you have a look at how Apple and Samsung are pushing forward with their very own processor tech. Apple has iterated twice for the reason that launch of the Snapdragon Wear 2100; Qualcomm has change into a crutch for Google’s wearable program.

Qualcomm has change into a crutch for Google’s wearable program

How, precisely? Not that it is the solely inhibitor, however battery life is an apparent sticking level. We have seen Wear companions attempt to treatment this with their very own solutions: the brand new Skagen Falster, the most effective trying Wear watches that cash can purchase, employs minimalist design within the software program to supposedly eke out extra battery. In our evaluation it had no discernible impact. Google’s companions are up in opposition to a wall right here.

Give us what we wish

A form-of counter argument I’ve heard to this downside is that folks do not improve their smartwatches annually like they do their telephones, so having cutting-edge tech is not as essential. I believe that mentality could shift an increasing number of; that is an argument for one more time. High-quality, lots of people do not wish to refresh their smartwatch each 12 months, however when the time comes for them to take action, they should not be settling for one thing prehistoric.

And no, Qualcomm is not the one firm making chips for wearables proper now – Mobvoi’s Ticwatches use a MediaTek chip, Intel has the Atom chip in Tag Heuer’s smartwatches – however it’s the one one making them on the proper value. If it may produce sufficient, Samsung may presumably present its Exynos chips for Wear OS, however I am undecided it has any ambitions to take action.

Final yr Qualcomm teased that it was engaged on a next-gen wearable platform, however that was in October, and it is all been very quiet since. At I/O, Google is internet hosting a session known as ‘What’s new in Wear OS by Google?’ and hopefully its opening keynote, historically held for the headline information, will increase on what Qualcomm teased six months in the past.

“Qualcomm is dedicated to enjoying a long-term essential function in bringing high-performance wearables to new audiences throughout many segments,” a Qualcomm spokesperson instructed me over electronic mail after I requested the corporate what its plans are. “Our roadmap has thrilling new merchandise deliberate over the following yr that may convey larger innovation to the class and ship new ranges of efficiency, particularly close to energy consumption. We’ll have the ability to share these particulars quickly.”

The dream situation is that it makes use of Google I/O as a platform to announce a brand new chip and a launchpad for the following wave of Wear OS watches (a brand new ‘hero’ watch from Google could be the icing on the cake). And I need one thing that actually will be described as “innovative”, which even the 2100 wasn’t two years in the past. Whereas the Snapdragon Wear 2100 SoC runs a 28nm course of, Qualcomm is already enjoying with 10nm expertise that would make smartwatches rather more energy environment friendly.

There’s one other reply to the issue if Qualcomm retains dragging its ft, which is for Google to go and makes its personal wearable SoCs. The corporate has been dabbling an increasing number of in chip design, and the Pixel 2 has a customized picture chip of its personal, so there’s cause to wager this may finally occur with its wearables. Nonetheless, I would count on any customized silicone will hit its smartphones earlier than it reaches its wearables, so this dream could also be somewhat additional off.

With that in thoughts, I hope that when Google I/O rolls round in just a few weeks, Qualcomm will lastly give us what we have been ready for and reignite our optimism for Wear OS.


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