Qualcomm has launched its all-new Snapdragon wearable platform, Snapdragon Wear 3100.
Although based on the existing 28nm design used in existing watches using Snapdragon Wear 2100, the new ‘killer app’ feature is an ultra-low co-processor that can extend battery life to as high as 30 days, although the actual gains will depend on how individual watch makers decide to utilise the new chip in their own products.
The chipset will be based on a Big.Little.Tiny concept.
As is common for Qualcomm launching a new chipset, it has created its own reference design watch that it showed off to select journalists at an event held in London last month.
I went along to see the pre-briefing and have to say that I was quite impressed with the possibilities, but also left a little disappointed at how the key battery saving features may not be quite as exceptional as suggested given the way you toggle between modes.
In effect, the watch comes with two independent operating systems. In the traditional mode, akin to existing watches running on Snapdragon Wear 2100 platform, the watch will run on Wear OS and operate exactly as other watches do today. While there may be some gains in power management, the real benefits come when you select the power saving mode.
Here you will ‘drop’ to a custom OS that powers a simple always-on display (which can be updated in real-time to provide counting seconds, or a sweeping second hand) and has limited functionality. Unlike hybrid-display watches, the two power states use the same display.
Qualcomm says manufacturers could use an OLED display or a reflective e-paper display as they see fit.
The event-driven RTOS could potentially run on its own on a watch, and Qualcomm was even asked about how this ultra-low power co-processor could perhaps find its way into smartphones to offer exceptional standby life.
However, executives remained tight-lipped and preferred to simply tease us by saying they wouldn’t be talking about that today.
The watch also supports improved NFC and a modem that will work on 130 networks around the world, including more power efficient modems so 4G-enabled watches should consume less power than existing connected watches on sale today.
Choose one or the other
Switching modes would appear to require user intervention, rather than the watch automatically doing so when you’re not actively using the watch. It will not be as simple or quick as the current ambient mode that kicks in after a few seconds – and switching modes takes a short time, meaning you need to make an active decision on how you want the watch to function.
However, hardware manufacturers may opt to do things differently as time goes on. I would certainly like to see a watch that could change at timed intervals, or perhaps even do so when you’re actively engaged with your phone and don’t need to use your watch.
In reality, the time you engage with a smartwatch is relatively small in comparison to your primary device.
Indeed, there’s perhaps no reason that a watch couldn’t be created to only operate with the custom OS and provide the improved battery life gains that will put it on a par with other watches such as the Amazfit Bip.
Qualcomm wouldn’t name individual manufacturers intending to use the new platform for making watches, but did hint that in addition to the current manufacturers that will clearly use it for new watches going forward, there would likely be a number of new entrants to the market, mostly in the high-end fashion space.
At least one watch will be announced for release this year.
Improvements in functionality for sports watches with heart rate monitors and GPS will also likely see a barrage of new active watches hitting the market in 2019.
Down with the kids
Qualcomm also has another platform that was announced earlier in the year, aimed at 4G Kids watches. The Snapdragon Wear 2500 platform will see the global introduction of watches for children, which have traditionally only been popular in certain markets (such as China).
Huawei is one of the first manufacturers to produce a watch for kids, with many more in the pipeline. Last month Vodafone launched a kids watch in the UK, for a one-time payment of £135 and a fixed-monthly fee of £4 to allow the watch to send its location automatically, and allow a child to contact a parent. However, this watch is based on an older platform and newer watches, such as the Huawei one mentioned above, are likely to hit the market soon.
Original press release
SAN FRANCISCO – September 10, 2018 – Today, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, launched the next generation Qualcomm® Snapdragon WearTM 3100 Platform for smartwatches. The platform is based on a new ultra-low power system architecture designed to deliver a rich interactive mode, new personalized experiences, and extended battery life. The official launch, at an event in San Francisco, was supported by Google, who discussed the evolution of the Wear OS by Google software platform. The launch also included the announcement of the first Snapdragon Wear 3100 customers.
Snapdragon Wear 3100 Platform Redefines the System Architecture
Snapdragon Wear 3100 is based on a new ultra-low power hierarchical system architecture approach. In this architecture, the high-performance quad core A7 processors, the highly efficient integrated DSP, and a new ultra-low power co-processor work in conjunction with each other to help customers re-imagine new smartwatch experiences while supporting extended battery life. The new capabilities are designed to allow consumers to enjoy the beauty of a fashion watch with the power of a smartwatch, the battery life of a sports watch with the richness of a smartwatch, and the utility of an analog watch with the flexibility of a smartwatch.
“Qualcomm Technologies has played a critical role in the evolution of the smartwatch segment and our customers are currently shipping more than 100 Wear OS by Google smartwatches with 25 brands globally based on our existing platforms,” said Anthony Murray, senior vice president and general manager, wearables, Qualcomm Technologies International, Ltd. “With the Snapdragon Wear 3100 Platform, we envisioned a new ultra-low power system architecture and in collaboration with the latest from the Wear OS by Google team, to help deliver a rich interactive mode, bring in new personalized experiences and support extended battery life for tomorrow’s smartwatches. We are delighted to announce Fossil Group, Louis Vuitton, and Montblanc as our first Snapdragon Wear 3100 customers.”
The new co-processor, the Qualcomm® QCC1110, has been designed from the ground up and is at the heart of the Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform. It is incredibly small at ~21mm2, is optimized for ultra-low power operation, and acts as a powerful companion to the main processor, re-defining audio, display, and sensor experiences for next generation smartwatches. The co-processor also integrates a deep learning engine for custom workloads, such as keyword detection, and is extensible over time.
Additionally, the Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform includes a new wearable power management sub-system (PMW3100) to support lower power and higher integration, brings in a new DSP framework to support next generation sensor processing in an open execution environment, and implements a new dual display architecture to support the hierarchical approach. The 4G LTE modem, proven in mobile applications, and which has already shipped over one billion units, is paired with new high-performance Gallium Arsenide power amplifiers, which helps to increase power efficiency in smartwatches.
Snapdragon Wear 3100 Based Smartwatches Aim to Enrich the User Experience
The Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform, in conjunction with the latest from Wear OS by Google, is designed to deliver a rich interactive mode, new personalized experiences, and support for extended battery life.
(a) Rich Interactive Mode
Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform serves as a strong, proven foundation for rich interactions by helping to deliver high performance, superior connectivity, smart sensing, and compelling features. Qualcomm Technologies is collaborating closely with the Wear OS by Google team to utilize and enhance the capabilities of the Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform and support increasingly rich, fluid experiences designed for the wrist.
“Together with Qualcomm Technologies and the ecosystem, Wear OS by Google has enabled a vibrant set of wearable devices, offering consumers with great choice and diversity,” said Dennis Troper, director of product management, Wear OS by Google.
“We’re excited to see Qualcomm Technologies’ new Snapdragon Wear 3100, their continued investment in the wearable space, and we look forward to the ecosystem bringing the next generation of smartwatch technology to the industry.”
(b) New Personalized Experiences
Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform, based on the new ultra-low power system architecture, is being used to help bring new personalized experiences to next generation Wear OS by Google based smartwatches. Three such personalized experiences include the Enhanced Ambient Mode, Dedicated Sports Experiences, and Traditional Watch Mode. The Enhanced Ambient Mode helps the smartwatch to meet consumer desires for a fashion watch by supporting a smooth second hand, up to 16 colors, live complications and improved brightness. The Dedicated Sports Experiences is designed to allow active users to go for an ultra-marathon, swim long distances, bike for miles, or hike the mountains with GPS and heart rate turned on for the duration. The Traditional Watch Mode is designed to make it possible for consumers to continue to enjoy their beautiful watch for extended periods of time. Each one of these personalized experiences are supported by offloading the display and sensor processing from the A7 processors to the ultra-low power co-processor.
(c) Support for Extended Battery Life
Snapdragon Wear 3100 Platform is designed to help reduce power usage and bring increased flexibility for consumers to experience the benefits of extended battery life. The new platform is designed to help reduce power usage in areas such as low power modes, GPS/location batching, per minute/second clock updates, sensors processing, MP3 playback, and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth voice queries. This results in typical battery life day of use improvements ranging from 4 to 12 hours compared to the previous Snapdragon Wear 2100 platform, depending on display type, battery capacity, and device configurations. The new Personalized Sports Experiences keep GPS and heart rate monitoring on for the duration of the activities and is designed to deliver up to 15 hours battery life (calculated based on typical 450mAh sports watch battery). The Traditional Watch Mode, great for travelling, supports an impressive week-long battery life to the smartwatch by switching to this mode from the Wear OS by Google experience and is designed to allow consumers to enjoy basic watch functions for an extended period.
Working Together to Extend the Benefits of the Platform
Fossil Group, Louis Vuitton, and Montblanc were announced as the first customers to launch products based on the Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform. These companies are working to bring beautiful smartwatches for a diverse set of consumers including lifestyle sports users, fashionable travelers, and those seeking a high-end luxury smart timepiece.
“Qualcomm Technologies brings Fossil Group the latest technology that helps connect products into the lifestyle of our consumers, and this latest chip is no exception,” said Steve Evans, executive vice president, Fossil Group. “Our collaboration enables our constant reinvention of the smartwatch. As technology is enhanced, so are the product innovations and designs that we are able to offer our customers.”
“Louis Vuitton has long been known for combining tradition and modernity in the luxury world,” said Eric Pradon, senior vice president of finance and administration at Louis Vuitton Malletier. “With the Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon smartwatch, we collaborated with Google and Qualcomm Technologies to combine our exquisite design and watchmaking know-how with the best of technology, in order to delight our customers. We are excited about the new possibilities that Snapdragon Wear 3100 brings to our customers and are working with Qualcomm Technologies to bring another beautiful smartwatch to the industry.”
“Built for travel, fitness or exploration, Summit 2 is a versatile companion created for urban explorers, business travelers and performance seekers looking to push boundaries in everything they do,” explains Nicolas Baretzki, Montblanc CEO. “Designed for both men and women, Summit 2 perfectly bridges fine watchmaking and state-of-the art technology. This watch is built to seamlessly power them through their everyday adventures stylishly and reliably.”
The Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform comes in three variants targeting Bluetooth and Wi-Fi tethered smartwatches, GPS-based tethered smartwatches, and 4G LTE connected smartwatches. The platform is in mass production and shipping today. For more information, visit (insert URL).
Qualcomm invents breakthrough technologies that transform how the world connects, computes and communicates. When we connected the phone to the Internet, the mobile revolution was born. Today, our inventions are the foundation for life-changing products, experiences, and industries. As we lead the world to 5G, we envision this next big change in cellular technology spurring a new era of intelligent, connected devices and enabling new opportunities in connected cars, remote delivery of health care services, and the IoT — including smart cities, smart homes, and wearables. Qualcomm Incorporated includes our licensing business, QTL, and the vast majority of our patent portfolio. Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm
Incorporated, operates, along with its subsidiaries, all of our engineering, research and development functions, and all of our products and services businesses, including, the QCT semiconductor business. For more information, visit Qualcomm’s website, OnQ blog, Twitter and Facebook pages.
Qualcomm, Snapdragon and Snapdragon Wear are trademarks of Qualcomm Incorporated, registered in the United States and other countries.
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear and Qualcomm QCC1110 are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.