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Wearables finally get a new chip, but it's for kids watches
Smartwatches, fitness trackers, and other wearables haven’t received much love from the chip industry in a while. Many of the latest designs still run on processing year’s old hardware. Qualcomm has announced its first dedicated wearables chip since 2016 at Mobile World Congress Shanghai — the Snapdragon Wear 2500. It’s designed for the quickly growing kids market rather than premium tier smartwatches.
The performance remains the same as before, there’s the same quad-core Cortex-A7 CPU and Adreno GPU as the older Wear 2100 platform. Instead, Qualcomm has focused on improving power consumption, which drops by about 14 percent during both standby and active use. This has been accomplished through the use of a new power management controller and a selection of software optimizations. The chip is also 38 percent smaller.
The platform includes a number of feature improvements as well, mostly geared towards supporting the child wearable applications popular in Korea, Japan, and China. There’s an integrated 5th-gen 4G LTE modem for wireless connectivity, NFC support for mobile payments, and GPS and sensor fusion for more advanced and accurate location and fitness tracking. The chip also supports up to a single 5MP camera for video calls, etc, as well as low power keyword detection for virtual assistants.
Qualcomm also offers its own lightweight version of Android Oreo for these future watches.
Along with the new hardware, Qualcomm announced its own lightweight version of Android Oreo for manufacturers to install on their watches, saving them precious software development time and costs. It’s designed to fit in just 512MB of memory thanks to a number of software optimizations, but there’s no Play Store support. Instead, manufacturers can pre-install their own software or storefront, which seems like the ideal option for kids wearables anyway.
Products powered by the Snapdragon Wear 2500 will hit the market this year. Huawei is the first major partner to make use of the Snapdragon Wear 2500. The company doesn’t have any details on its watch to share yet — an announcement will be coming in the next couple of months. We’ll have to wait a while longer still for a next-generation mainstream chip from the company, but hopefully, this is just the first of a new batch of smartwatch processors, which could give the segment a shot in the arm.