Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 3100 chip will finally make Google’s Wear OS competitive

Qualcomm has taken some lumps over the past year about not updating the aging Snapdragon 2100 chipset, which has powered many smartwatches over the past couple of years. It has now answered those criticisms with the new Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform, and it has definitely come out fighting, as it packs a variety of new technology to power the next generation of wearable technology.

The Snapdragon Wear 3100, unlike the 2100, is a new low-power chipset designed for smartwatches, rather than being adapted from a chip designed for smartphones. To understand what makes it special, think back to how many multi-core phone chips were described as having “big” cores and “little” cores, which helped manage power and reduce battery consumption. The Snapdragon Wear 3100 is made up of 4 A7 “big” cores, a little DSP, and a new tiny co-processor.

5 years of research

It has taken five years of research to create the 28nm QCC1100, ultra-low power co-processor, and it’s going to fix many of the things that frustrate us about wearable tech at the moment. Crucially it will be responsible for keeping the lights on when you’re not interacting with the watch, removing strain from the main processor. Two new display architectures kick in depending on activity, further reducing power consumption. How much lower? Qualcomm said the Snapdragon Wear 3100 reduces active power by 20 times over current products.

qualcomm snapdragon 3100 news snapcdragon wear
Snapdragon Wear 3100 co-processor.

The introduction of the new chip will make future Google Wear OS smartwatches more versatile, and is designed to power both fashion and sports-focused watches. Qualcomm told Digital Trends we will see more sports manufacturers introduce smartwatches with the Snapdragon Wear 3100 inside, due to the platform now able to run GPS and a heart rate sensor for 15 hours on a single charge, rather than the three that’s possible now.

How about battery life overall? Depending on the capacity of the battery, new smartwatches with this chip will operate for between 36 and 60 hours before a recharge. Snapdragon Wear 3100-powered watches will also have a power-saving traditional watch mode, similar to what we’ve seen on the Mobvoi Ticwatch Pro and the Huawei Watch 2, except here it’s a combined hardware and software system that will see the watch run in ambient mode for 30 days on one charge. You’ll get a week from 20-percent battery power too.

New Snapdragon Wear 3100 ambient mode, shown on reference hardware.

It’s not just power benefits either. The co-processor will run a brand new ambient mode, which elevates the current boring Wear OS ambient mode look to something much more watch-like. It will display 16 different colors, a moving second hand, and complications too. We saw a beta version running, which you can see in the image above, and it looks great. With ambient mode on, the A7 cores are asleep, and everything operates using the co-processor. Interestingly, the co-processor doesn’t run Wear OS like the A7 cores, but an RTOS operating system, which again increases efficiency.

Do more, for longer

The co-processor isn’t the only new aspect of the Snapdragon Wear 3100. There is a new PMIC (Power Management Integrated Circuit) for improved battery life, a next generation NFC chip for better contactless payments, a more efficient modem designed for use in wearable products, and custom SRAM. Additionally, the Digital Signal Processors are built on an open framework for manufacturers to add more sensors based on product requirements, rather than being limited to what Qualcomm provides.

Qualcomm describes the Snapdragon Wear 3100 as a platform, not simply a chip, and it will be supporting it through updates in the future. These will being new features and improve the battery life too. We should expect a Monday-to-Friday battery life extension first, followed by Monday-to-Sunday life in the future. Boiled down to the basics, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform will let us do more with our smartwatches, for longer, and become less reliant on charging. It’s exactly what we’ve been waiting for.

For all the new features in the Snapdragon Wear 3100 to work, it will require a new version of Google’s Wear OS on the watch. Google unveiled a new way to interact with Wear OS, but we haven’t seen these new power-saving modes in action. Plus, some manufacturers may decide to use a smaller battery due to the power efficiency enhancements, so a thinner watch case can be introduced, potentially negating the bulk of the battery life improvements.

When can you get a watch with the 3100?

The first smartwatches with the Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform inside will be from the Fossil Group, Montblanc, and Louis Vuitton, which shows the high level of interest from fashion brands in continuing to churn out these watches. The Fossil Group contains brands such as Michael Kors, Misfit, Marc Jacobs, Emporio Armani, and Skagen. The Montblanc watch already has a name — the Summit 2 — and it’s coming in October. Qualcomm also announced a partnership with a major sports brand, and the watch is codenamed Project Stamina — we’ll learn more soon.

Updated on September 11: Added video 

Computing

An inside look at Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx, a revolutionary laptop processor

Six years after Microsoft’s failed foray into ARM computing with Windows RT, its second effort with Always-Connected PC is now showing early signs of success. Microsoft partner Qualcomm told us how the Snapdragon 8cx might revolutionize…
Product Review

Montblanc Summit 2 offers smart functionality but still looks good with a suit

Montblanc’s Summit 2 is the first smartwatch to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor. It’s feature packed, with GPS, NFC for Google Pay, and a heart rate sensor, but it also has the classic timepiece look.
Mobile

The Nokia 8.1 is a Pie-powered midrange phone that’s not coming to the U.S.

Nokia's latest addition is the Nokia 8.1, a good-looking phone with a huge display, powered by the Snapdragon 710, and a claimed two-day battery life. But it won't be coming to the U.S.
Mobile

Xiaomi overtakes Apple in unit sales of wearables as market booms

The wearables sales for the third quarter of 2018 are in, and it's all change on the leaderboard, with Xiaomi taking first place from Apple, despite the exceptionally strong Apple Watch Series 4.
Gaming

Seedling for Magic Leap is the most expensive plant you’ll ever take care of

Insomniac Games has officially launched its new game for Magic Leap One, called 'Seedling.' Throughout the game, you can nurture your very own life form wherever you are. In our demo with Seedling, we got to check out if the game is worth…
Wearables

The Apple Watch Series 4's heart-monitoring ECG feature is now available

Apple officially unveiled the Apple Watch Series 4. From a larger display to a built-in electrical heart sensor, the latest device brings along some notable new features. Here's everything you need to know.
Emerging Tech

This implant goes beyond pacemakers, helps aging hearts beat more vigorously

The FDA's advisory committee has voted to recommend an innovative pacemaker-style gadget be approved in the U.S. The Optimizer Smart Implantable Pulse Generator boosts performance, strength, and pumping ability of weakened heart chambers.
Mobile

Galaxy Watch vs. Apple Watch Series 4: Which one is the smartest?

The Samsung Galaxy Watch and the Apple Watch Series 4 are two of the best smartwatches available today. But which is better? We put the two watches head-to-head to find out which you should buy.
Wearables

The $200 TicWatch C2 smartwatch is now being sold in the U.S. and U.K.

Digital well-being and disconnecting from your phone is one of 2018's big trends. Mobvoi wants you to think about its TicWatch C2 smartwatch as a great way to help you use your phone less.
Deals

The best Apple Watch deals for December 2018

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.
Outdoors

Built to take a beating and still perform, these are the best hiking watches

A proper hiking watch should track exercise metrics and act as a navigational co-pilot during any kind of hike. Ideally, it'll even have a built-in GPS system and sensors. Here are five of the best hiking watches.
Mobile

Beddit Sleep Monitor 3.5 now available on the Apple Store

The Beddit Sleep Monitor 3.5 is now available on the Apple Store for $150. The sensor strip, which is only 2 millimeters thin, automatically tracks a wide array of sleep data when placed under the user's sheets.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Outdoors

Conquer the cold season with the best heated clothing and outdoor apparel

If you're thinking about going outside this winter, heated apparel is a must. Luckily, we've rounded up some of the best heated clothing, whether you're looking for battery-powered gloves or heated insoles.