Qualcomm Snapdragon W5 Plus Could Create More Apple Watch Rivals

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Fossil Gen 5

Fossil Gen 5 LTE
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

Qualcomm today launched a new wearable chip platform for smartwatches that promises significant improvements to battery life and performance. Called the Snapdragon W5+ and W5, the next-gen chips appear, on paper, to solve some of the most pressing issues plaguing current smartwatches.

The big claims? Qualcomm says the W5+ and W5 will extend battery life by up to 50%, double performance, and allow for a 30% reduction in the size of smartwatches when compared to the Wear 4000 platform.

These gains are a result of using a hybrid design consisting of a smaller 4-nanometer SoC paired with a 22nm integrated always-on co-processor. This is a significant technological advancement from the 12nm+28nm pairing in the Snapdragon Wear 4100. Aiding the new platform are the latest connectivity standards, including Bluetooth 5.3, low-power Wi-Fi, GNSS, and audio, plus low-power Deep Sleep and Hibernation states.

Qualcomm Snapdragon W5+

Qualcomm Snapdragon W5+
Image: Qualcomm

Similar in ways to the hybrid architectures used in smartphones and now more frequently found in laptops, the W5+ will use its main 4nm chip for more demanding tasks, like taking calls or using GPS navigations, while an always-on co-processor handles less complex tasks like health monitoring, notifications, and audio.

“The new wearable platforms–Snapdragon W5+ and Snapdragon W5–represent our most advanced leap yet.” said Pankaj Kedia, senior director of product marketing and global head of Smart Wearables at Qualcomm. “Purpose-built for next-generation wearables, these platforms address the most pressing consumer needs by delivering ultra-low power, breakthrough performance, and highly integrated packaging.”

Qualcomm Snapdragon W5+

Qualcomm Snapdragon W5+
Image: Qualcomm

Unlike previous Snapdragon Wear chips, the W5 and W5+ aren’t repurposed smartphone chips, but rather built exclusively for wearables. They promised to deliver multi-day battery life on some devices and will supposedly allow for 15 hours on a charge for Bluetooth watches with an always-on display and a 300mAh battery.

Qualcomm is relying on the W5 and W5+ to be key pieces in what has turned into a rescue mission now that the Exynos-powered Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is the only recommended non-Apple Watch smartwatch, and Google is rumored to be tapping Samsung for the chip in its upcoming PixelWatch. Based on the above claims, the new chips could very well pull this off, so long as they are paired with compelling hardware and improving software brought to us by Google/Samsung. Of course, we’ll have to do our own testing to see how these chips perform in real-world scenarios.

We won’t have to wait very long to test the new platform. Oppo is set to launch the first W5-powered smartphone, the Oppo Watch 3, this August, and Mobvoi will release a TicWatch this fall with the W5 Plus.

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