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Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100: Qualcomm’s new chips will make smartwatches last longer than ever

Alan Martin
10 Sep 2018
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Qualcomm has unveiled its Wear 3100 platform, finally putting the 2100 out to pasture

The wait is over. After 31 months of the Snapdragon Wear 2100, Qualcomm has unveiled its successor, somewhat unoriginally called the Snapdragon Wear 3100.

It starts shipping from the 10 September 2018, meaning we can soon expect to see a whole new range of smartwatches powered by a significantly more energy efficient chip. That charge, according to Qualcomm, will be led by fashion brands such as Fossil, Louis Vuitton and Montbanc.

So, what can you expect from a Snapdragon Wear 3100-powered watch? Here’s everything you need to know.

Snapdragon Wear 3100: Architecture

The Snapdragon Wear 3100 is based on what Qualcomm describes as an “ultra-low power hierarchical system architecture approach”. That means that a quad-core A7 processor works with an integrated digital signal processor (DSP) and an ultra-low power co-processor to deliver energy efficient performance in a tiny package. How tiny? Well, the co-processor (the QCC1110) is just 21 square millimetres –  or a fraction of the size of a cent coin, as this picture shows.

While the Snapdragon Wear 2100 felt like a smartphone chip reimagined for wearables, the 3100 is designed from the ground up for the wrist, with allowances made for smaller devices and additional sensors.

There are three variants, Qualcomm says: one for Bluetooth/WiFi smartwatches, one for GPS-based watches and another for 4G LTE-toting ones.

Snapdragon Wear 3100: Features

So what does that mean in practice? Well, hopefully better stamina with less of a need to either shoehorn in a bigger battery or reduce features to compensate.

That’s the dream anyway and, according to Qualcomm, the early signs are good. The company says typical battery life will be extended by between four and 12 hours over Snapdragon Wear 2100 performance, depending on various factors, and powering a sports device with both GPS and heart-rate monitoring enabled should be possible for up to 15 hours based on a 450mAh battery. For most people, that’s overkill, but it could make all the difference for ultrarunners.

This power-saving jiggery pokery extends to a low-power mode that can last for weeks if enabled early enough. Qualcomm says that, with 20% battery remaining, the power-saving mode could help smartwatches last up to a week while a full battery would keep it going for a month.

And, while ultra-power-saving modes are nothing new, Qualcomm has worked to make them a bit more beautiful: there’s now support for smooth second hands, 16 colours and live complications which should make quite a big difference.

Snapdragon Wear 3100: Release date

Although the new chips are shipping now, it’ll still be a little while before one is living in a device on your wrist. Curiously, the first devices to benefit won’t be from Samsung, LG or Motorola, either, but fashion brands such as Fossil, Louis Vuitton and Montblanc, which gives you an idea of where Qualcomm thinks the smartwatch market is headed.

“With the Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon smartwatch, we collaborated with Google and Qualcomm Technologies to combine our exquisite design and watchmaking know-how with the best of technology, in order to delight our customers,” said Eric Pradon, from Louis Vuitton Malletier.

Montblanc’s CEO Nicolas Baretzki had similar thoughts on the benefits for his company’s upcoming smartwatch. “Summit 2 perfectly bridges fine watchmaking and state-of-the art technology. This watch is built to seamlessly power [users] through their everyday adventures stylishly and reliably.”

Barring the names Tambour Horizon and Summit 2, we don’t have a great deal to go on. But these – along with an unnamed Fossil number – will be the first to benefit from the Snapdragon Wear 3100. We hope they won’t be the last.

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