Qualcomm's new chip will make smartwatches faster and longer-lasting
Many smartwatches that aren't the Apple Watch run on Qualcomm chipsets, so a new product launch is a big deal in the wearable world – and Qualcomm just unveiled the leaner, faster, improved Snapdragon 4100 and 4100 Plus.
Coming two years after the previous Snapdragon 3100 chip launched, the new silicon will provide a welcome boost for smartwatches, particularly those running Google's Wear OS. As with most processor updates, the big draws are improved performance and a lower power draw (which means better battery life).
Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 4100 and 4100 Plus will offer performance boosts of up to 85 percent over the Snapdragon 3100, so expect a snappier on-the-wrist experience. Everything from ambient mode to activity tracking will be more responsive as a result, according to the manufacturer.
A big part of this jump is due to Qualcomm using a 12-nanometer manufacturing process rather than the older 28-nanometer one. Core clock speeds and graphics performance have been boosted along the way as well.
Connectivity has been improved too, so if your smartwatch has 4G LTE built in, then calls should connect more quickly and be more reliable. On the battery front, wearables carrying the Snapdragon 4100 or 4100 Plus should be able to go a full day between charges even with heavy screen, sensor and GPS use.
The key difference between the Plus model and the standard 4100 chip is the addition of an extra coprocessor to handle ambient mode tasks – it should ensure that manufacturers and watch face designers are able to keep more information on screen (and displayed in more colors) when the device is in standby. Activity tracking performance when in ambient mode should get a boost too.
In short, it's the sort of serious hardware upgrade that should help Wear OS watchmakers and other manufacturers a better chance of competing with the Apple Watch. With Fitbit now owned by Google, the wearable market might be about to get interesting again.
Two Wear OS-powered smartwatches running the new chip are already on the way: a new TicWatch model from Mobvoi and a kid-friendly watch from Imoo. Other watchmakers like Fossil should also have new devices out soon, and one day we just might even get a flagship Pixelwatch straight from Google.