Opinion: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 Will Help Make Wear OS More Mainstream

Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon Wear 3100 pretty recently, and it's replacing the two-year-old Snapdragon Wear 2100 that was launched back in February of 2016. The chipset is said to make the Wear OS experience much better. That is because Qualcomm worked hand-in-hand with Google to perfect this chipset and make sure it is the best possible chipset for Wear OS, which is needed because there aren't many choices for wearable chipsets like there are for smartphones. Not only does it improve on battery life, but it also improves performance and so much more.

Starting with the co-processor that's included on the Snapdragon Wear 3100, users are going to be able to use the always-on function on their smartwatch to actually make it look like a watch instead of just a computer on their wrist, without worrying about it impacting the battery. This is because the co-processor is a much slower processor than the main processor here. The reason behind that is saving battery life, and because things like pulling in notifications, keeping the watch face and such on, don't need a whole lot of power. So Qualcomm was able to preserve battery life on wearables by doing this, while not forcing users to turn off certain options to get better battery life out of their smartwatch.

Qualcomm says that this co-processor was implemented because it found that users were really only interacting with their smartwatch around 10 to 20-percent of the day, if even that much. So it didn't make a lot of sense to have the processor running at full speed all day long when it is not needed. Instead, using a slower processor that uses less power for the times when the watch is not being interacted with, and then switching to the faster cores of the processor when it is being interacted with, is smarter and leads to better battery life. Qualcomm believes that users will see between four and 12 hours more on a single charge with the Snapdragon Wear 3100 versus the Snapdragon Wear 2100. But it is also worth pointing out there that there are many factors that might affect this - like battery capacity, screen size/resolution/type, as well as apps and sensors being used. Qualcomm also says that its customers could make a watch with week-long battery life. It's good to see that this is now possible, but it would be very surprising to see any smartwatches coming out anytime soon that are touting week-long batteries. Many are looking to make smaller watches, and week-long battery would likely need a larger capacity battery to actually make it a reality.

The co-processor isn't the only thing that is going to improve battery life though. Google also unveiled a redesign for Wear OS at IFA earlier this month. That redesign brings in a timeline-style list of notifications, instead of cards that would take up around half of the display. But that is more of a design change that makes the smartwatch more elegant. The battery savings come from Google using a black (this is a true black and not a "dark gray" like you'd find on the quick settings panel on Android Pie) background throughout the OS. Since most smartwatches use an OLED panel, the black background means better battery life, even on older smartwatches with the Snapdragon Wear 2100, but it will also mean better battery life on the Snapdragon Wear 3100 as well. That redesign hasn't yet started rolling out, but it will also improve the Wear OS experience for many, making it easy to deal with notifications, and not worry about the battery dying as quickly.

The Snapdragon Wear 3100 is also going to enable more 4G LTE-enabled Wear OS smartwatches. Now there have been a few Wear OS (and formerly Android Wear) smartwatches with 4G LTE, but they were far and few between. However, with the Snapdragon Wear 3100, Qualcomm believes that more of its customers will opt for a 4G LTE model of the chipset for their smartwatch, especially with the improvements in battery life and the latest modem from Qualcomm being great at conserving battery life while offering faster speeds. 4G LTE-enabled smartwatches allow users to leave their smartphones at home, and still get phone calls, messages, and even stream music. So there is a space for it - Samsung and Apple both have 4G LTE models of their popular smartwatches. Though that also adds to the price.

Overall performance will also be enhanced with the Snapdragon Wear 3100. While it is still a quad-core Cortex-A7 chipset, it is more optimized for Wear OS, and this is another fruit of both Qualcomm and Google working together on this chipset. Users are going to experience better performance because of that, and the co-processor being included, as it allows the four Cortex-A7 cores to do nothing for the majority of the time that the watch is on your wrist, so it's not overheating and throttling. Though that shouldn't be an issue here since there are only four Cortex-A7 cores and this is not an octa-core chipset like what you'd find in the latest smartphones.

Qualcomm is very proud of the Snapdragon Wear 3100, and they should be. Seeing as the previous Wear OS chipset was announced over two years ago, they did spend a ton of time as well as research and development on this chipset. Now since there are no actual smartwatches available right now running on this chipset, it's hard to say how much it will improve the Wear OS experience, but it really does check a lot of the right boxes. That includes saving up 67-percent battery when in lowest-power mode (also known as standby). While there are no smartwatches currently available with the Snapdragon Wear 3100, we do know the first three brands that will feature this chipset. That includes Fossil, Louis Vuitton and Montblanc. So there's going to be some pretty nice looking Wear OS smartwatches with the Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset coming pretty soon.

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