It’s been two and a half years since Qualcomm final launched a significant new smartwatch chip, and within the time since, Android smartwatches have languished. However within the coming months, they might lastly begin seeing some significant enhancements: Qualcomm is releasing a brand new processor for watches, referred to as the Snapdragon Put on 3100, that’s meant to increase battery life, improve always-on shows, and provide extra versatility with regards to sports activities units and health sensors.
The brand new chip’s key function is the addition of a secondary low-power processor, which is meant to deal with many of the work when a smartwatch isn’t in use. This co-processor will energy a watch’s sensors and ambient show, doing so whereas utilizing as much as 20 occasions much less vitality than the principle processor would, based on Qualcomm.
“The 95 p.c of the time once you’re not really interacting with [your watch], you might be in ambient mode or always-sensing mode,” says Pankaj Kedia, Qualcomm’s wearables chief. “So the co-processor, that’s the place you might be 95 p.c of the time … we’re doing much less and fewer issues in the principle [processor].”
For this chip technology, that’s about all that’s altering. Each the Put on 3100 and the Wear 2100, its predecessor, share the identical primary processor — so there’s no cause to count on main pace positive factors. The co-processor is the principle enchancment, and meaning nearly the entire enhancements enabled by Qualcomm’s new chip come from what the co-processor can do.
Lots of these enhancements are associated to battery. Qualcomm estimates greater than a day of battery life for a typical Put on OS smartwatch, or round a five-hour increase over present fashion-style fashions. Firms may additionally select to make use of a smaller battery and slim down their watch. Sports activities watches are purported to get a lift, too. The brand new chip is designed to do a greater job with GPS, serving to them run nonstop with round 15 hours of utilization — although Qualcomm is assuming these watches can have bigger batteries within the first place, that means thicker units.
The co-processor can also be supposed to permit for a a lot richer ambient show. Qualcomm says a watch can now present a easily shifting second hand in addition to live-updating issues, like a step counter, and do all of that in as much as 16 colours. Most of that doesn’t sound significantly spectacular, however certainly one of Put on OS watches’ few benefits over the Apple Watch has been their skill to point out a watch face always; including issues to that can make the function much more precious.
Smartwatches with a Put on 3100 processor will achieve one different useful trick: if their battery will get low, the key features of the smartwatch can shut off, permitting the battery to final doubtlessly for days longer whereas powering a easy watch face. Qualcomm says that from 20 p.c battery, you’d get every week of further use on this mode. The draw back, although, is that Put on OS shuts down, so that you don’t get options like notifications. Nevertheless it’ll at the least proceed to inform the time.
The ultimate attention-grabbing replace is to how the chip handles sensors. Prior to now, corporations needed to depend on algorithms constructed by Qualcomm to learn coronary heart fee or different collected information. However now, Qualcomm says corporations will have the ability to write their very own code, doubtlessly permitting some corporations to get an edge on others. That’s one thing Qualcomm thinks will likely be significantly precious to corporations constructing sports activities watches.
Qualcomm says the primary watches with a Put on 3100 chip will ship earlier than the top of the 12 months. Among the many first out the door will likely be fashions from Fossil, Louis Vuitton, and Montblanc — Google, nevertheless, will be a no show this year, having mentioned final week it isn’t planning to launch the rumored Pixel Watch. That style manufacturers would be the first adopters ought to come as no shock. Over the previous couple years, style manufacturers have taken to smartwatches and churned out mannequin after mannequin of watch with differing designs and never a lot else in the best way of enhancements.
However the greater query is that if any of this will likely be sufficient to revive the Put on OS ecosystem. Whereas it launched with a variety of promise, the platform rapidly hit a hunch and has been sluggish to see updates — each on the software program facet from Google, and on the facet from Qualcomm and different chip corporations.
Clearly on the finish of this 12 months, the platform is getting one other push. Alongside Qualcomm’s new chip, Put on OS watches are additionally getting improved software from Google that’s purported to make the platform simpler to navigate and simply typically extra useful.
None of those are main overhauls, although. And the platform faces a tricky future: in two days, Apple will announce a redesigned model of the Apple Watch that seems to be, at the least on the entrance, leaps and bounds forward of Put on OS watches. And whereas Apple’s software program isn’t essentially price marveling at, it has developed sufficient to easily and coherently deal with the fundamental features individuals need from a smartwatch.
Put on OS will want greater than only a single push to catch up. Qualcomm says it’s not correct to say the corporate did nothing with watches for 2 years — the Put on 2100, which got here earlier than this, was improved over time through software program updates, Kedia says. And Put on 3100 would be the identical. “The options we announce on day one are only the start of the highway,” he says. Deliberate updates are supposed so as to add new options and scale back energy consumption much more.
Nonetheless, these all sound like primary steps ahead. And in contrast to Apple, which might enhance and software program abruptly at a daily tempo, enhancements for Android smartwatches are reliant on three totally different events: Google, Qualcomm, and the corporations that really construct the watches. Thus far, we’ve seen what two of them have in retailer for this 12 months. Subsequent up, the precise watches.