According to a new report, Qualcomm is designing a new chipset specifically for smartwatches. It could be Wear OS’s last hope.
It is not a secret open or otherwise that Wear OS—previously called Android Wear—is a failure. Google’s smartwatch platform provides a great user experience that is far more usable and discoverable than that on the Apple Watch. But it’s dogged by poor performance and battery life, and large, uncomfortable form factors.
The issue, according to Qualcomm senior director of wearables Pankaj Kedia, as told to Wareable, a wearables-focused blog, is that the current chipset that powers these watches isn’t optimal. It was, in fact, simply a modified version of a low-end smartphone chipset. Which was released in 2016 and then never updated.
So Qualcomm started over.
“It’s designed from the ground up for a no-compromises smartwatch experience with dedicated chips that make your watch look pretty when you’re not looking at it, that bring the best fitness and watch experience, and extend battery life,” Kedia told the publication. “We rethought the system architecture together [with Google].”
The new Qualcomm chipset, which isn’t named by Wareable, is expected later this year, and in time for the holidays. It has been custom-designed to support dedicated use cases and will include onboard Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. A version for fitness-oriented watches will include GPS. And LTE connectivity will be optional on both.
The new chipset is considerably smaller than its predecessors and will enable a much-needed new generation of smaller smartwatches.
“People have their normal watch where they can rely on long battery life, and then they have their smartwatch where the battery life is not as good and it does not look as sleek,” Kedia is quoted as saying. “When we want to add Fossils and the Michael Kors and LVs of the world, they don’t want that. A smartwatch is first and foremost a watch, it needs to look good, it needs to be sleek, it needs to look good when I’m looking at it or when I’m not looking at it. It cannot be static when I’m not looking at it; it cannot be black and white when I’m not looking at it. So when we talk to Fossil consumers and Michael Kors consumer, they want a no-compromises smartwatch.”
Kedia also notes that this new platform will “significantly change the Wear OS ecosystem” and “what you expect from a smartwatch.” It had better: From what I can tell, Wear OS is on life support today. And this new platform can’t arrive quickly enough.