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Qualcomm’s Feeling the Heat Over Wear OS Chips

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Photo: Victoria Song / Gizmodo

There are many reasons why Google Use the OS smartwatch platform has stagnated over the years, but an important factor was that the majority of smartwatches ran on outdated processors from Qualcomm. But now that Google and Samsung have done it the collaboration to build a new platform—And rumors that Samsung’s new watches have features a great new processor– It seems that Qualcomm finally feels the pressure, and announces that it will “roll out new Snapdragon Wear platforms” next year.

The news comes via a press release announces Qualcomm Wearables Ecosystem Accelerator Program. Referring to increased interest in the space, Qualcomm says it “is growing significantly [its] investments in groundbreaking bottom-up silicon ”and the accelerator program is intended to help portable manufacturers think carefully about how to deliver a good experience, for less money and with faster production times. More than 60 companies have reportedly signed on, including Arm, Fossil, Mobvoi, Oppo, Verizon and Vodafone.

Until now, it has been unclear what Qualcomm planned to do after Google and Samsung’s huge announcement that they were collaborating on a new unified portable platform. The new Wear OS is expected to arrive next month two Samsung smartwatches, but so far there is no clear timeline for when existing Wear OS watches can get an upgrade – if they get one at all. (Google recently updated current Wear OSs Play Store, and suggests that it plans to support the platform for a while yet.) Meanwhile, Qualcomm’s messages have been … messy, to put it mildly.

One question is what Qualcomm means when it says that new platforms are rolling out. If they’re referring to a new SoC, hoo boy. It does not bode well for the current Snapdragon Wear 4100/4100 + platform, which has so far only been used in two smartwatches notwithstanding launches more than a year ago. Fossil Gen 6 will probably run at 4100, as the group confirmed that the clock would run on the new Wear OS, and yet another flagship clock of 3100 would be beyond ridiculous. Three smartwatches in one year, before you push out a new SoC? It’s not entirely to admit mistakes, but it’s not far off.

It also paints a not-so-great picture of Wear OS’s reach. Qualcomm says the last five years, it is sent more than 40 million units distributed on 250 portable products. For comparison, Apple sent 33.9 million Apple watches only in 2020, an increase of 19% from the previous year. It is well known that the Apple Watch is the most successful smartwatch of sales, but this is a strong illustration of how the gap with Android smartwatches have just been expanded.

It is positive to take from this. Although the 4100 platform is ultimately a flop, it is a good sign that Qualcomm is doing something at all. They dragged their feet and waited for two years to update 2100 to 3100 – and even then they used incredibly outdated technology. The 4100 was a significant jump from the 3100, but even it runs on technology that was introduced more than five years ago. We have to see what comes next, as Qualcomm has not impressed in this room for a long time, and Samsung has already thrown down the glove with a rumored 5nm Exynos chip. However, it is at least an encouraging sign that everyone is aware that this new Wear OS is a critical opportunity that should not be wasted.

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