Historically, smartwatches haven’t benefited from annual chip upgrades, chiefly because they haven’t needed them. The basic functions of a smartwatch don’t require as much processing power as smartphones and, generally speaking, wearable upgrades are typically concentrated on battery life and design.
But it looks like Qualcomm may be intending to buck this trend, perhaps as a direct response to Google teaming up with Samsung on a wearable chip for the upcoming Galaxy Watch 4. Code spotted by XDA Developers points to work having begun on the Snapdragon Wear 5100 chip, just a year after the 4100 emerged.
The site dug into code uploaded by Qualcomm to its Code Aurora forum with the build ID of “LAW.UM.2.0-00700-SW5100.0” and the code name of “Monaco.” As the site explains, LAW stands for “Linux Android Wear” (Android Wear being the old name for Wear OS) while “UM” could stand for “Unified Modem”. “SW5100,” meanwhile, seems like it would be the ultimate brand name: Snapdragon Wear 5100.
Given existing Snapdragon Wear 4100 watches including the TicWatch Pro 3 and TicWatch E3 will qualify for a Wear OS 3 upgrade, it seems safe to assume that the upcoming 5100 chipset will also support the latest smartwatch operating system.
A further analysis of the commit history and board configuration files led XDA Developers to conclude that Monaco is likely built upon Qualcomm’s 11nm Snapdragon 662 and 460 platforms from last year. That’s a decent jump from the Snapdragon Wear 4100 chipset, which was built on 2018s Snapdragon 429 chip, and it will apparently use a quad-core design with ARM Cortex-A73 cores.
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But a bigger rival will likely be the 5nm Samsung Exynos W920 chip which is expected to power the upcoming Galaxy Watch 4 when it launches next week. If Samsung’s next wearable feels smooth and offers strong battery life, then Qualcomm may have an uphill battle on its hands to stay relevant in the world of smartwatches.