Qualcomm jumps back into the smartwatch market with 4 nm “W5+ Gen1” SoC

Enlarge (credit: Qualcomm)

Qualcomm’s long-awaited update to its smartwatch SoC line is official. These chips have typically been called “Snapdragon Wear,” but it sounds like that brand is dead, so it’s time to meet the “Qualcomm Snapdragon W5+ Gen1” and “Snapdragon W5 Gen1.” Qualcomm promises that the chips provide the company’s “most advanced leap yet,” which is not saying much for a company that previously went six years between major smartwatch chip releases.

The W5+ does seem like a major update, though. Compared to 2020’s Wear 4100, Qualcomm is promising “2X performance across CPU, GPU, camera, memory, and video/audio,” “50 percent longer battery life” providing “days of use,” and a “30 percent smaller” chip for sleeker designs.

Unlike the Wear 4100 at its time of release, the W5 is built on a state-of-the-art 4 nm manufacturing process. Qualcomm outfitted the chip with four ARM Cortex A53 CPUs running at up to 1.7 GHz and an Adreno A702 GPU. The “plus” version includes a second 22 nm SOC based on the Cortex M55 for screen-off background processes, like keeping the watch face updated, staying on top of notifications, and tracking fitness stats. Qualcomm promises low-power islands for Wi-Fi, GPS, and audio so that those features can be used without lighting up the whole chip. The SoC has support for an LTE modem, Wi-Fi 802.11n (aka Wi-Fi 4), and Bluetooth 5.3

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