The wearables market is more diverse than ever, but if there’s one constant, it’s the battle between richer functionality and preserving battery life; one of several areas that Qualcomm’s newly revealed Snapdragon W5 Gen 1 and W5 Plus Gen 1 chipsets hope to address.
The two new chips promise huge gains in terms of performance and functionality, as well as battery life – one of the biggest hurdles, makers of even the best smartwatches are constantly striving to improve.
Qualcomm’s last major wearable chipset launch was just over two years ago – in the form of the Snapdragon Wear 4100 platform. Like its predecessor, the 2022 offering also comes in two flavors: the Snapdragon W5 Gen 1 and the W5 Plus Gen 1. (stylized as ‘W5+ Gen 1’), which have been rebranded to complement the company’s latest mobile chipsets; retracting the ‘Wear’ in ‘Snapdragon Wear’ to simply ‘W’.
Aside from the name, the two models offer a similar range of benefits, made possible by the switch to a much more refined 4nm process (down from 12nm on the 4100 line). There are a number of other tweaks compared to its predecessor, based on this smaller process, a much more efficient chip and that savings are passed on in the form of better battery life.
Compared to the Snapdragon Wear 4100+, Qualcomm claims that an equivalent smartwatch with Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 offers twice the battery life, twice the performance and higher fidelity experiences, while also operating on a 30% smaller platform.
In real-world terms, that means the next wave of smartwatches using these Qualcomm chips will offer smoother, more responsive user experiences than the current crop, with twice the time between charges.
The newly unveiled Oppo Watch 3 is already confirmed to feature a W5 Gen 1, while Mobvoi has committed to employing the new top-of-the-line W5+ Gen 1 in its next smartwatch.
Analysis: Should Apple Watch be concerned?
One of the big upgrades Apple added to the current Apple Watch 7 was fast charging, offering 33% faster charging compared to the Apple Watch 6, but the company was already catching up to Qualcomm’s latest wearable silicon in that regard, with offers like Fossil’s Snapdragon Wear 4100 Plus watch, with its own fast charging, which recharges the phone to 80% charge in just 30 minutes.
With the advancements the W5 lineup brings to the table, that gap is widening unless Apple does something special in the power efficiency department on the Apple Watch Series 8.
The flip side is that despite Qualcomm’s prominent market position, its wearable chips often struggle to find a foothold behind the Apple Watch and Samsung’s popular Galaxy Watch lineup.