Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 Focuses on Longer Battery Life
A low-power processor improves battery life and a range of performance for next-generation Android smartwatches
It’s been two and a half years since Qualcomm released the latest smartwatch chip and, since then, Android smartwatches have declined. But in the coming months, we could finally begin to see some significant changes.
Qualcomm announced Snapdragon Wear 3100, the company’s new chip for smartwatches that use WearOS, Google’s operating system for wearable devices, at an event held Monday in San Francisco.
Within the Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform are a high-performance ARM Cortex A7 processor clocked at up to 1.2GHz, a Qualcomm Adreno 304 GPU that supports displays up to 640×480 resolution at 60fps and the new ultra-low-power QCC1110 co-processor. Integrated audio technologies are Qualcomm Noise and Echo Cancellation, Qualcomm Voice Suite, Qualcomm Voice Activation and Qualcomm Aqstic audio codec and speaker amplifier.
The platform can also include the Qualcomm Snapdragon X5 LTE cellular modem that supports download speeds up to 1 Gbps and uploads up to 150 Mbps. Other integrated modules are WiFi (WCN3620), RF (WTR2965), PMIC (PWM3100), NFC (NQ330), and optional GPS.
The main highlight of the new chip is related to the duration of the smartwatch, a point that is often criticized by some users. According to Qualcomm, devices equipped with the Wear 3100 should operate for about one to two days in normal mode.
After this period, they can enter a “clock mode,” which can last for a week or more until you need to recharge. However, this is only possible with all the ‘smart’ functions turned off, turning the device basically into a traditional clock.
To do so, the chip received the addition of a second processor, less powerful than the main. It will be active for most of the time the user is not interacting with the device, consuming fewer resources and consequently extending the clock time away from the power outlet. The new chip also promises to be more efficient during the use of GPS, guaranteeing about 15 hours of continuous use of the function, something especially aimed at those who exercise.
According to the company, the coprocessor will be used to power sensors and ambient display with 20 percent less energy than the primary processor.
“The 95 percent of the time when you’re not actually interacting with [your watch], you are in ambient mode or always-sensing mode,” says Pankaj Kedia, Qualcomm’s wearables leader. “So the co-processor, that’s where you are 95 percent of the time … we are doing less and less things in the main [processor].”
The co-processor should also enrich the screen with new features. Qualcomm says that a smartwatch can now show a second hand that moves smoothly as well as real-time applications, like a pedometer, and do all of this in up to 16 colors. Most of this does not seem particularly impressive, but one of the few advantages of the Wear OS smartwatch compared to the Apple Watch has been their ability to show an ever-active quadrant; adding applications will make this feature even more valuable.
Sports smartwatches should also benefit from this. The new chip is meant to do a better job with GPS, helping it work seamlessly with around 15 hours of use – although Qualcomm claims that these types of smartwatch will have larger batteries at the beginning, which means thicker devices.
As the main processor will remain the same as the Wear 2100, the new chip should not bring about major changes in performance, making it clear that the focus of the new generation is even better at improving the battery. Qualcomm also said new functions for power-saving mode could be released in the future through firmware updates.
But the biggest question is whether all this will be enough to revive the ecosystem of the Wear operating system. Although it has been launched with many promises, the platform has slowed down sharply since the beginning and has seen slow updates, both from the point of view of the Google software, both from the hardware side of Qualcomm and other chip companies.
Mass production of Snapdragon Wear 3100 has already begun, according to the company. The first watches to bring the chip should be released in the coming months, with the Montblanc Summit 2 scheduled to hit stores in October. Among the first to go out, there will be the models of Fossil, Louis Vuitton and Montblanc.