What Qualcomm’s new smartwatch tech is lacking – and why it may not matter

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Qualcomm has lastly introduced its new Snapdragon Wear 3100 smartwatch platform, which is able to drive the following era of Wear OS smartwatches, beginning with the Montblanc Summit 2 later this 12 months.

Throughout a press convention in San Francisco the place Qualcomm’s senior director of wearables, Pankaj Kedia, revealed the chip, it was obvious that the 3100 is all about one factor: battery life. In reality, there was barely a point out of some other enhancements we are able to count on, past a greater ambient show.

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With the 3100, Qualcomm is placing battery life first – which is precisely what smartwatch makers have been asking for. Will there be basic efficiency enhancements like a sooner UI? Qualcomm wasn’t very forthcoming with solutions once I requested, and it is in all probability as a result of there are not any. And it isn’t all that shocking.

To clarify why, we have to first have a look at how the brand new chip is completely different. The headline act is undeniably Qualcomm’s new co-processor, which goes to tackle plenty of the workload if you’re not truly tapping in your smartwatch. Qualcomm says producers will be capable to utilise the co-processor for numerous background duties, like coronary heart charge or sleep monitoring, which operates at 20x much less energy than the primary processor.

Sounds nice, proper? However then you definitely see that foremost processor is similar one which was on the 2100, an ARM quad-core A7 CPU cluster. The distinction this time is that these cores are getting used extra effectively – nice – however that processor is now greater than two years outdated. So whereas we’re listening to about 7nm processors within the smartphone world, why is the smartwatch nonetheless so behind?

The 3100 feels extra like a workaround than a leap ahead

Getting a smaller course of on a chip would require a complete re-engineering of the structure by Qualcomm; it’s not only a case of taking the 28nm course of and firing a shrink ray at it. And guess what? New structure prices some huge cash. Smartwatches are a drop within the ocean of Qualcomm’s smartphone enterprise, and till they’re promoting at considerably increased increased volumes, it’s unlikely Qualcomm goes to place within the R&D to make one thing smaller.

Curiously, Qualcomm instructed Android Police that the choice to not shrink the 28nm course of was as a result of the passing drain on a 10nm course of is definitely greater than a 28nm, and since a smartwatch is idle most the time, it made sense to maintain the identical dimension. That is an attention-grabbing declare, however I am not wholly satisfied that it is a greater resolution than a whole re-working of the structure. It is also definitely solely helpful for battery life.

However all of this is the reason the 3100 feels extra like a workaround than a leap ahead. OEMs need longer battery life above anything, and with the brand new chip they’re getting it. Qualcomm will see a return right here, and whereas improved speeds and different efficiency enhancements can be good – and will surely come from a 10nm course of – they don’t seem to be lifelike proper now. I might like to see Qualcomm throw warning to the wind and double down on smartwatches; if I ran the enterprise I might in all probability really feel in a different way.

So I come away from Qualcomm’s information with combined emotions. It is in all probability not going to galvanise Wear OS in the way in which many, together with myself, had hoped, however it will preserve issues ticking alongside.


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