Qualcomm Leaps Forward With W5+

Qualcomm has updated its smartwatch platform with new chip designs. Reduced power enables a visible watch face even when idle; reduced chipset area enables smartwatches that operate globally.
Bryon Moyer
Bryon Moyer

Qualcomm is giving its smartwatch products a complete refresh, upgrading every chip for much-improved power, performance, and size. The new Snapdragon W5+ and W5 Gen 1 wearable platforms build on the prior Snapdragon Wear 4100+, adding new features for a better user experience.

Although performance and the ability to enrich user interactions improved, platform power dropped 32–57% compared with the 4100+ across a range of applications. Both package area and height fell by 30% for the copackaged main SoC and power-management chip.

The platform comprises three new chips: a system-on-a-chip (SoC), an always-on (AON) coprocessor, and a power-management IC (PMIC). Qualcomm optionally addresses RF and the RF front end (RFFE) with both existing and new chips. The W5+ version refers to the SoC and coprocessor in combination; the W5 version omits the coprocessor.

The company intends its fourth-generation smartwatch solution to energize manufacturers trying to compete with Apple and Samsung, which dominate the market using their custom chips. Lacking access to those chips, other watchmakers rely on companies such as Qualcomm to enable competitive products. Smartwatches in this segment all run Google Wear OS, which lags the proprietary Apple and Samsung OSs in market share. Samsung, however, recently gave Wear OS a boost by switching to it for the Galaxy Watch line.

The W5+ platform is in production now. The first customer, Oppo, plans to ship production watches integrating the W5 this month; Mobvoi is expected to ship a device with the W5+ in the fall. Qualcomm says at least 25 other customer designs are in the pipeline. It declined to reveal chipset pricing; it’s targeting both low-cost kids’ models in the $150-and-up range as well as luxury models costing as much as $5,000.

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