Qualcomm’s new chipsets for smartwatches are the Snapdragon W5 and Snapdragon W5+, but how do they differ? Like its predecessor, the Snapdragon Wear 4100, the new chipset is available in standard and plus variants that offer different performance experiences. Qualcomm also employs a similar strategy for its smartphone chipsets with the plus variant usually arriving much later as a mid-cycle upgrade.
Qualcomm has been playing catch up in the wearable space for years but its new chipsets boast significant improvements that may see the tide turn in its favor. The first set of smartwatches powered by the new chipsets are expected to launch in the coming months and many more are likely to arrive to market throughout 2023.
The main difference between the Snapdragon W5 and the Snapdragon W5+ is that the former has a single processor while the latter uses a hybrid architecture that combines an applications processor and an ultra-low power co-processor. This dual-processor solution allows smartwatches powered by the chipset to assign certain tasks to the low-power processor, such as notifications, continuous heart rate monitoring, alarms, and timers. The result is extended battery life for the smartwatch.
The main processor, which is called the Qualcomm SW5100, is the same on both platforms. It is a 4nm quad-core CPU with four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.7GHz and it is paired with an Adreno A702 GPU clocked at 1GHz. The SoC also has a modem, four-satellite GNSS module with dual frequency support, dual-band Wi-Fi support, NFC, and Bluetooth 5.3. It also supports LPDDR4 RAM and eMMC 4.5 storage.
The co-processor on the Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 platform is the 22nm QCC5100 with a Cortex M55 CPU core clocked at 250MHz. It also has a 2.5D GPU, a U55 machine learning core, and low-power Bluetooth and Wi-Fi so that the smartwatch can remain connected to a tethered device even when in a low-power state. According to Qualcomm, the dual-processor technology of the Snapdragon W5+ should allow for up to 50% longer battery life compared to what is achievable with the Snapdragon 4100+. Technically, smartwatches powered by the Snapdragon W5+ should have better battery life than those powered by the Snapdragon W5. However, that might not always be the case.
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Some manufacturers combine Qualcomm’s processor with their own low-power processor. For example, the Oppo Watch 2 launched with the Snapdragon 4100, the less-powerful version of the Snapdragon 4100+. This chip doesn’t have an integrated low-power co-processor but Oppo paired it with the Apollo4s, a 22nm low-power processor made by Ambiq. The SoC, like the QCC5100 on the Snapdragon W5+, handles low-power tasks and even has Bluetooth 5.1 to ensure the phone is always-connected. This co-processor, combined with Oppo’s dual-OS solution (Android + RTOS), allows the Oppo Watch 2 to boast an incredible battery life of up to 16 days.
It has been confirmed that the Oppo Watch 3 will be powered by the Snapdragon W5 but it won’t be surprising to see Oppo pair the SoC with a different low-power co-processor, thus putting it on the same footing as smartwatches powered by the Snapdragon W5+. Due to this, and while it might be easier to advise buyers to look out for smartwatches powered by the Snapdragon W5+ if they want the best battery life, they may also want to consider those with a Snapdragon W5 paired with a different co-processor.