Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1

Qualcomm’s next chip for smartwatches is the Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1, and it’s a meaningful advancement from what came before.

The chipmaker starts by dropping its previous naming scheme (e.g., Wear 2100, 3100, 4100+) for “W5+” followed by the “Gen,” which is in line with the convention for smartphones.

Notably, the Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 has a 4nm SoC (system on a chip) in a big upgrade from the 4100+’s 12nm (and 28nm before that). Qualcomm is not naming the foundry, but there are four A53 cores at 1.7GHz with dual Adreno 702 GPUs (1GHz) and nearly three times faster memory (LPDDR 750MHz to 2133MHz). In all, two times higher performance is touted.

This SW5100 SoC allows for responsive app scrolling, smooth 1080p video playback, real-time image recognition, and even two-way video calling (dual ISP supporting 16+16MP support). It can also support “3D watch faces” and maps with navigation.

The other major aspect of the W5+ Gen 1 is its hybrid architecture with the 22nm (from 28nm on the 4100+) always-on co-processor running a real-time OS. The QCC5100 features a Cortex M55 core, its own “2.5D” GPU, U55 machine learning core, and handles Bluetooth 5.3 directly. 

In addition to handling sensors (e.g., heart rate, accelerometer, and gyroscope) and the always-on display, this component is now responsible for audio (music playback) and delivering low-power notifications. 

As a result, the W5+ uses 30-60% less power than the 4100+ in common use cases. This includes the always-on display (42% less), background notifications (-57%), Bluetooth music (-36%), GPS location (-42%), display scrolling (-41%), and VoLTE calling (-34%). Besides 50% longer battery life, the W5+ is a physically smaller chip by 30% that allows for thinner designs and even a single global LTE modem SKU. 

Qualcomm is also offering the Snapdragon W5 Gen 1, which lacks the co-processor, to manufacturers of wearables for the Chinese market, seniors, kids, health, and enterprise. Across both chips, over 25 designs are in the pipeline, and W5+ Gen 1 is already in the mass production stage.

The chipmaker worked with Compal and Pegatron on reference designs to speed up development, while Google is enthusiastic:

Google and Qualcomm Technologies have a longstanding history of helping our partners deliver great user experiences. We applaud the technological breakthroughs that Qualcomm Technologies is bringing to the wearables industry with the launch of its Snapdragon W5+ platform,” said Bjorn Kilburn, GM and Senior Director of Wear OS at Google. “With the Snapdragon W5+ platform, we’re excited for what’s possible in bringing new levels of performance, capability and battery life to Wear OS smartwatches.

Mobvoi will be making the first Wear OS device powered by the Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 this fall and you can learn more about that here.

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Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: