It seems that the hectic Wear OS 3 launch gave Qualcomm a much-needed kick in the pants. Qualcomm just revealed the Snapdragon W5 and W5+ chipsets, which use a modern 4nm platform and feature significant gains in both battery life and processing power.
According to Qualcomm, the Snapdragon W5+ enables a 50% longer battery life than the previous Snapdragon Wear 4100+. This massive gain is largely due to new “Deep Sleep” and “Hibernate” power-states, plus “low-power islands” that reduce the impact of Wi-Fi, audio playback, and GNSS.
Qualcomm can utilize these low-power modes thanks to a new 22nm always-on co-processor. This extra chip offloads background tasks, like fitness tracking, away from the main SoC. (Qualcomm also boasts Bluetooth 5.3 support, but this will only reduce power usage when connected to a phone that supports the same spec.)
A huge leap in battery life—that’s great. But Qualcomm also says that the Snapdragon W5+ offers more than twice the performance of the previous Wear 4100+ chip. And the specs seem to line up; we’re looking at a 250MHz CPU (up from 50MHz), a 1GHz GPU (up from 320MHz), and LPDDR4 RAM running at 2133MHz.
I’m not sure how Qualcomm can make this leap in performance without increasing power consumption. Unless the Snapdragon W5 platform’s new energy-saving tricks are outrageously effective, we may not see the big boost in smartwatch battery life that’s promised by Qualcomm.
But even without an increase in battery life, the Snapdragon W5 platform looks promising. It seems that Qualcomm finally wants to contribute to the Android smartwatch world after half a decade of launching underpowered, outdated wearable SoCs.
I have no doubt that Wear OS 3 influenced the push for Snapdragon W5 and W5+. The frustrated engineers at Google intentionally made Wear OS 3 too demanding for Qualcomm’s chipsets, as this was the only way to force progress within the Android smartwatch industry.
Unfortunately, Qualcomm didn’t share much information on the standard Snapdragon W5. All we know is that the Snapdragon W5+ boasts some major improvements over its predecessors.
We expect the first smartwatches with Snapdragon W5 chipsets to launch in late 2022 or early 2023. Oppo and Mobvoi will be the first brands to take advantage of the Snapdragon W5 platform, according to Qualcomm.