(Pocket-lint) – Qualcomm has lifted the lid on the next chipsets which will likely power nearly all Wear OS smartwatches for the next year or two. These platforms, called Snapdragon W5 Gen 1 and W5+ Gen 1, bring a completely new chipset design which will lead to bettery battery life and better performance.
In western markets, it’ll likely be the W5+ Gen 1 that we see in most of our Google-powered wrist gadgets. This platform features a primary quad-core CPU and an always-on co-processor designed to help important functions run, without needing to use the more power-intensive CPU.
The main CPU is made up of four 4nm process cores – a big step up from the 12nm in previous versions – which should mean that even those functions that need the more powerful processing use less battery juice.
It also means animations and responses on the watch screen should feel smoother and more responsive than before. Qualcomm says we could see up to 2x speed increase on the Snapdragon Wear 4100 (its current smartwatch chipset).
The chipset also has a more capable graphics driver, so you’ll see more advanced watchfaces with 3D graphics animated in real time, plus 3D maps, navigation and smooth video playback – for those who actually watch videos on their wrists.
One crucial update is that – unlike previous versions – both audio and Bluetooth control have both been moved to the more energy efficient always-on co-processor.
What that means to the end user is that you can get notifications from your phone without needing to have the more powerful CPU switched on. Which – again – means less battery used.
The co-processor also runs the accelerometer, gyroscope and heart rate-based algorithms, so it uses less power during all-day movement tracking and sleep tracking.
So exactly how much extra battery life are we talking? Well, Qualcomm says somewhere between 30-60 per cent depending on the user.
A watch model with a 300mAh battery could get up to 43 hours of battery from a full charge with the W5+ Gen 1, where it would be around 28 hours with the current Snapdragon Wear 4100.
Similarly, a 450mAh battery could last 54 hours (versus 36 on the current chipset), and a 600mAh battery could go 72 hours (versus 48 hours currently).
It’s not quite up there with the likes of Huawei Watch or Garmin, but it’s a considerable improvement on current WearOS models, and these measurements are with Wi-Fi enabled and the always-on display switched on. Turn those off, and gains will be even greater.
One last important update to the platform is the design. Qualcomm’s new chipset is 35 per cent smaller than its predecessor, and that – crucially – means smartwatches can be made slimmer and smaller without sacrificing performance. We could start to see watches with cases as small as 38mm.
As for regular W5 Gen 1 processor, that’s similar to the W5+ in that it features the new quad-core main CPU, but doesn’t have the co-processor as well. This chipset is likely to be found mostly in more niche wearables like kids/enterprise watches and smartwatches in China.
Oppo will be the first to launch a watch in China – the Oppo Watch 3 – powered by the W5 Gen 1 in about a month’s time. Mobvoi – the makers of TicWatch – will be the first to launch a W5+ Gen 1 watch, and it will land later this year. Other manufacturers – of course – are in the pipeline.
Writing by Cam Bunton.