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Qualcomm launches its new smartwatch chips

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Qualcomm sign outside its office in Santa Clara, California
Image Credits: Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto / Getty Images

Qualcomm today announced the launch of its new Snapdragon Wear platforms for wearables, the Snapdragon Wear 4100 and 4100+.

Based on a 12nm process technology, these new platforms promise to breathe new life into the Android Wear ecosystem.

One of the first things users will notice is that, compared to the previous generation of Wear 3100 chips, the 4100+ platform will offer support for a far richer ambient mode, which can now show more colors in this energy-efficient mode, all while supporting sleep tracking, live complications and adaptive brightness.

Traditionally, in the Android Wear ecosystem, the ambient mode was quite pared down compared to the live mode, but this new platform is going to change that. According to Qualcomm’s data, most smartwatches spent 95% of their time in ambient mode, so that was an obvious feature to improve upon. For its sports mode, the watch falls back to a similar mode, which now features similar capabilities to keep you up to date while you are on a run, for example, and are using various sensors, maps and the GPS.

Image Credits: Qualcomm

As for the actual technology, the 4100+ platform consisted of a main system Cortex A53-powered system on a chip that promises 85% higher performance compared to the previous generation, all while offering 25% longer battery life. The GPU itself is 2.5 times faster than only a generation ago, which should make for a far smoother user experience. Step counting, heart-rate monitoring and more is handled by a tiny always-on co-processor, (it measures 5mmx4mm), while a 4G modem provides high-speed connectivity.

Image Credits: Qualcomm

One other major advantage, especially for sport-oriented smartwatches, is improved GPS support with significantly lower power requirements.

For connected smartwatches, Qualcomm promises a 25% improvement in battery life (and these connected watches have traditionally had pretty dismal battery life).

If you really want to conserve battery life, a lot of recent Android Wear watches let you switch to a low-battery mode, which until now meant you only got to see the time. This “enhanced watch mode” is getting a major update on the new 4100+ platform with the addition of step and heart-rate support, a battery indicator, alarms and reminders (and yes, you can still see the time and date, too. It’s a watch, after all).

Image Credits: Qualcomm

It’s worth stressing that Qualcomm will launch two variants of the 4100 platform, the 4100+, which features the main system on a chip, the always-on co-processor and the various connectivity chips, as well as the 4100, which will not feature the always-on co-processor.

The first watches to use the new 4100 chips will come from Mobvoi, the makers of the TicWatch line, and imoo, which will launch a kid-centric smartwatch based on the platform.

Image Credits: Qualcomm

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