What is the biggest complaint that consumers have when using a smartwatch? In a user survey conducted by Counterpoint in South Korea in 2021, 41% of the respondents who were dissatisfied with their smartwatches showed low satisfaction with specifications such as battery and processor. The short battery life has also proved to be an obstacle in the expansion of the smartwatch market.
Now, with its new wearable platform, Qualcomm is taking the consumer experience to the next level. The company recently announced the Snapdragon W5 platform for next-generation wearable devices. Since announcing the Wear 1100 platform in 2016, it has been consistently tracking feedback from smartwatch users and device manufacturers. The latest upgrade is expected to have taken into account this feedback. The following are the three key aspects of the Snapdragon W5 platform:
1) Low power consumption for longer battery life
One of the reasons that have limited the utilization of wearable devices, including smartwatches, so far has been the battery life. Manufacturers have always faced the challenge of allowing consumers to use the device for longer periods on a single charge. However, there is a limit to increasing the size of the battery due to space constraints, so the best solution is to minimize power consumption.
- The Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 has a 4nm SoC based on a hybrid architecture. Considering that the previous work Wear 4100+ was produced on the 12nm process, this can be described as a huge development.
- However, the secret weapon that enables low power consumption is the 22nm co-processor. According to Qualcomm, 95% of smartwatch usage activities are tasks that require low power consumption, such as notification, Bluetooth and health tracking. These should always be running in the background while the device is in use. Qualcomm has minimized power consumption by entrusting these functions to the co-processor.
- Taken together, the W5+ Gen 1 aims to achieve twice the performance of its predecessor through a 4nm SoC and 50% lower power consumption through a 22nm co-processor.
2) 30% smaller size to achieve innovative designs
Smartwatches are much smaller than smartphones, but consumers are demanding more types of health tracking and fitness tracking functions from them. As a result, although the size of the chipset must be small, more and more computing power is required.
- The Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 is 30% smaller than its predecessor to meet the needs of this trend.
- Smartwatch manufacturers can use this upgraded SoC to make smaller devices, or they can use a larger battery to extend the hours of use. They can also use additional sensors for more advanced health features. Looking forward to the next few years, the space needed to add 5G antennas may have already been secured.
3) Taking advantage of Snapdragon branding
Breaking away from the name ‘Wear XXXX’, which has been used for its wearable platform so far, Qualcomm is bringing the renowned Snapdragon brand here with this new announcement. Through this new branding, Qualcomm wants to emphasize that the W5+ Gen 1 is an SoC of a different level from its predecessors, while at the same time trying to benefit from Snapdragon’s brand image of high technology and trust. By taking this familiar branding, Qualcomm seems to have intended to get one step closer to consumers as well as manufacturers.
As with the previous series, Qualcomm has released two variants – W5+ and W5, giving manufacturers a choice. Manufacturers can focus on maximizing battery life by using the W5+ equipped with a co-processor or use the W5 to manufacture low-cost smartwatches. They may also get customized chipset performance by using MPU from a third party.
The smartwatch market is growing at a fast pace, with shipments rising 28% YoY in 2021. Counterpoint expects that the market will continue to grow in double digits through 2024, achieving around 200 million units annually. It would be worth watching to see whether Qualcomm’s W5+ Gen 1 platform can give this promising market even bigger wings.
(Source: Counterpoint Research Quarterly Smartwatch Shipments Forecast, Q1 2022)