Along with some intriguing new in-display fingerprint sensors, Qualcomm has also unveiled a couple of new platforms for the smartphone and wearables markets at Mobile World Congress, Shanghai. The new Snapdragon 450 is a refresh of the company’s mid-range mobile SoC tier, while the Snapdragon Wear 1200 platform is aimed squarely at the low power fitness and wearables market.
Starting with the Snapdragon 450 mobile platform, the octa-core Cortex-A53 configuration feels very familiar but the successor to the Snapdragon 435 is the company’s smallest 400 series chip, as it makes use of a newer 14 nm fabrication rather than the older 28 nm process. Instantly, this means big savings for energy efficiency – the company says up to 4 more hours – and has also allowed Qualcomm to push the core frequencies up to 1.8 GHz from 1.4 GHz.
Other improvements include an upgrade from an Adreno 505 to 506, which offers up to a 25 percent performance boost. The image signal processor (ISP) has also been upgraded with new compatibility for a single 21 megapixel rear camera or dual 13 megapixel sensors, complete with support for Qualcomm Clear Sight and Real-time Bokeh features. Video capture rate has also been improved to 1080p60, compared with 1080p30 with the old 435.
Other than that, there are still some similarities between the new Snapdragon 450 and the older 435. There’s the same X9 LTE modem with 300 Mbps down and 150 Mbps upload speeds. Quick Charge 3.0 remains in place on both chipsets, although the 450 has received a USB controller upgrade to support improved 3.0 data transfer speeds.
Interestingly, this chip shares almost identical specifications to the Snapdragon 625, which was superseded by the Snapdragon 630 just last month. Although it’s not hugely surprising to see features from a higher tier begin to trickle down as prices continue to fall.
Snapdragon Wear 1200
The design requirements for fitness and wearable products are a little different to mid-tier smartphones, so Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 1200 platform is designed to be even smaller – measuring just 79 square millimeters in size. That’s 45 percent smaller than its predecessor. This does mean a much more limited processing package though, with just a single 1.3 GHz Cortex-A7 inside. Even so, that should be plenty to power the low energy devices, such as fitness trackers and smart headsets, that this platform is designed for.
The Snapdragon Wear 1200 platform boasts GPS, GLONASS, Gallileo, BeiDou and LTE support, although we’re looking at a low power, low speed Cat-M1 (300 kbps down 375 kbps up) and Cat-NB1 (20 kbps down, 60 kbps up) LTE modem rather than the multi Mbps speeds we’re used to in smartphones. Still, this is enough to transfer small amounts of data over the web and is fast enough to make VoLTE calls.
The Snapdragon Wear 1200 has been designed for internet-connected wearables, fitness bands, as well as tracker bands with limited battery capacities.
The Snapdragon Wear 1200 platform supports Linux and ThreadX operating systems, so we won’t be seeing more powerful Android Wear type devices running on it. It also comes with Qualcomm’s Secure Execution Environment, a hardware cryptographic engine, hardware random number generator and TrustZone for privacy and security.
This chipset is definitely a lower-end option compared with the company’s Wear 2100 platform, but it is pin compatible with Qualcomm’s existing Wear 1100 chip for products that prioritize battery life over LTE speeds.
Qualcomm states that its Snapdragon 450 will head out for commercial sampling in Q3 and could be powering its first devices by Q4 2017. The Snapdragon Wear 1200 is expected to arrive in devices in a similar timeframe.