Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 1200 chips have built-in LTE for always-on connectivity

qualcomm snapdragon wear 1200 android ces 2015 s booth 2 resized
Maurizio Pesce / Flickr
If you’re sporting a smartwatch running Android Wear, Google’s mobile operating system, chances are it’s packing a Qualcomm processor. The San Diego, California-based chip maker’s Snapdragon Wear platform powers 80 percent of Android Wear devices in more than 30 countries, including the LG Watch Style, Huawei Watch 2 and Verizon Wear24. But Qualcomm is nothing if not ambitious.

At Mobile World Congress in Shanghai, China, on Tuesday, Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon Wear 1200 platform, a low-powered chipset targeted at compact, single-purpose wearables. That category of devices includes not only activity trackers and pet-tracking beacons, but also Internet of Things devices like parking meters and remote pumping stations.

It’s not Qualcomm’s first foray into power-efficient wearable processors — it launched the Snapdragon Wear 1100 in May 2016. But the 1200 addresses several of the first-gen platform’s biggest shortcomings.

At a minimum, every Snapdragon Wear 1200 device will tap GPS in “multiple regions” for real-time location tracking, including Russia’s GLONASS and the EU’s Galileo. And as was the case with Snapdragon Wear 1100, all devices will ship with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios, Qualcomm’s rapid charging technology, and built-in sensors like accelerators and gyroscopes.

The Snapdragon 1200 also doubles down on connectivity. It supports two new subcategories of LTE, M1 and 1, the latter of which maxes out at data speeds between 10 and 50 Kbps. It’s designed with lower-power applications in mind, like smart home monitoring and location tracking — Qualcomm says it expects NB1-enabled devices to get about 10 days of battery life on standby.

“It’s great for anything in real time — anything that requires constant feedback” Matt Dehamer, product marketing for wearables at Qualcomm, told Digital Trends during a briefing ahead of the announcement. “It can count steps and monitor a workout in a fitness tracker and handle basic voice communication  ,”

Snapdragon Wear 1200 devices that use M1, on the other hand, won’t last quite as long. But they’ll deliver speeds up to 350 Kbps — fast enough to stream from Spotify in high quality, as well as place voice calls over LTE.

On paper, both M1 and NB1 might seem like a downgrade from the Snapdragon Wear 1100’s Cat. 1 and Cat. 4 LTE, which supported speeds up to multiple megabits per second. But Qualcomm says that every Wear 1200 will come with connectivity built-in. And thanks to the reduced bandwidth requirements, it expects carriers to bundle Wear 1200 smartwatches and fitness bands with prepaid data plans that will be potentially as low as $2 to $3 a month.

Qualcomm is also highlighting new kids smartwatch devices utilizing their Snapdragon Wear 2100, all from Chinese manufacturers.

One, from kid-friendly Chinese brand Genius, sports a waterproof body and supports quick charging, calling via Voice over LTE (VoLTE), and texting and messaging.

Qualcomm says it expects more devices to hit the market in July, ahead of a wider rollout in August.

Despite the focus on low-end and midrange devices, Qualcomm is not letting its high-end smartwatch platform languish. Dehamer wasn’t willing to talk specifics, but said that an announcement regarding the Snapdragon 2000 series platform could come as soon as this year.

“It’s not the end of the road map. Companies are always risk averse until you’ve proven yourself on that higher end,” he said. “Partners like Michael Kors and Movado come from the traditional timekeeping industry, [and] gained some interesting insights that might not be obvious immediately.”

Product Review

With style and feature upgrades, Misfit's next-generation Vapor 2 gets it right

Misfit’s next-generation smartwatch, the Vapor 2, packs built-in GPS, a heart-rate sensor, and more, into a beautiful design that starts from $250. We take a closer look at the company's latest device.

Google's Wear OS update 'H' promises battery life improvements

Google has rebranded its Android Wear operating system to Wear OS. Removing the Android name may help people better understand Google-powered smartwatches, which also play nice with iOS devices. 
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.

Everything you need to know about Garmin’s GPS watches and trackers

Garmin jumped into the GPS smartwatch and fitness tracker market five years ago and has built a portfolio of devices that rivals competitor Fitbit. Here's your guide to the latest and greatest fitness devices that Garmin has to offer.

All the Best Target Black Friday deals for 2018

The mega-retailer opens its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 22, and signs indicate that the retailer means business this year. We've sifted through all of the deals, from consumer electronics to small…

The Best Black Friday Deals from Best Buy in 2018

We've been hard at work assembling all the best Black Friday deals Best Buy offers in 2018 and putting them in one place to save you time and money this holiday season. From laptops to TVs, game consoles to smart speakers and much more…
Social Media

Addicted to Instagram? Its new ‘activity dashboard’ is here to help

Ever get that nagging feeling you're spending too much time on Instagram? Well, a new "activity dashboard" has a bunch of features designed to help you better control how you use the addictive photo-sharing app.

Best iPhone 7 Plus screen protectors to shield your big, beautiful display

Cracked screens are expensive to replace. Fortunately for you, we've rounded up what's available in terms of protection for Apple's large iPhone 7 Plus. Here are the best screen protectors you can buy.

Four fake cryptocurrency apps were listed on the Google Play Store

It is a dangerous time to be going after crytocurrency on Android. Four bogus cryptocurrency apps were spotted on the Google Play Store this week, according to a report from cybersecurity researcher Lukas Stefanko. 

New sensor from L’Oréal tracks UV exposure to keep your skin safe from the sun

L'Oréal has announced a new wearable sensor that attaches to your clothing and can track ultraviolet light. The sensor uses NFC instead of Bluetooth -- meaning it doesn't need a battery to work properly.

Uber rolls out rewards program that lets its most loyal riders lock in prices

Uber launched a new loyalty program today called Uber Rewards. It offers frequent riders credits to Uber Eats, car upgrades, and the ability to lock in prices on their most traveled routes.

15 tips for keeping your vault-dwellers alive in ‘Fallout Shelter’

The wasteland can be an unfriendly place, if you don't know what you're doing. Here are 15 tips that will help your vault thrive in Fallout Shelter, including information on questing.

Black Friday 2018: The best deals so far

Black Friday is the biggest shopping holiday of the year, and it will be here before you know it. If you can't wait until November 23 to start formulating a shopping plan, we've got you covered.

Motorola Moto G7: Here’s everything we know

The Moto G6 range is still relatively new to the market, but rumors have already started about the Moto G7, which is expected some time in 2019. Apparently, a G7 Power version will be joining the G7, G7 Play, and G7 Plus.