The US chip group Qualcomm has been trying to counter Apple and its mobile SoCs in the wearables market for years with its own platforms. The new Snapdragon Wear 5100 or 5100+ should now bring the breakthrough again. We have a lot of details in advance.
Among other things, the Snapdragon Wear 5100 (SW5100) should bring significantly more performance for wearables and therefore gets more computing cores. This was known before, but apparently Qualcomm has made a fundamental change in the meantime. However, it is not known whether this will result in any delays.
If the chip has so far been manufactured on a 5-nanometer scale, the design has recently been changed to manufacture on a 4-nanometer scale, so that the new wearables SoC will work a little more energy-efficiently. Production is likely to be carried out by Samsung's semiconductor division, although this does not mean that Samsung will also use the new chips in its products.
Two packaging variants planned
Two variants of the SW5100 are in the works, which differ primarily in that they rely on different "packaging". It is planned to offer a version called SW5100 in the so-called "Molded Laser Package" (MLP), in which the SoC and the associated power management IC (PMIC) are located separately on a carrier material, while the other version SW5100+ as a "Molded Embedded Package" ( MEP) will come along, with the SoC and PMIC housed in the same "package".
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The difference is in a more compact design, with only the MEP version also supporting an ultra low power deep sleep mode, i.e. if necessary, thanks to the QCC5100 co-processor included separately in the package, you can continue to transmit via WLAN or Bluetooth in an extremely energy-saving way and with it can remain connected to the host smartphone to receive notifications or updates while the four powerful main cores of the CPU remain switched off.
Additional chip QCC5100 allows extremely energy-saving operation
Incidentally, Qualcomm is likely to market the MEP-based variant as the Snapdragon Wear 5100+, as is already common with the current wearables SoCs from its production. As mentioned, the SW5100+ will be the only one of the two chips to bring the separate QCC5100 co-processor as part of the platform, which offers a 22 nm scale ARM Cortex-M55 ultra-low-power processor.
The QCC5100 has been on the market as an independent chip for some time and is mainly used in Bluetooth headphones. In addition to the radio modems, it also offers an audio processor that, among other things, is capable of active noise suppression. Because the chip also has its own GPU and display controller, it can display graphics on a smartwatch screen even when the main CPU is "sleeping," ensuring always-on operation.
Four ARM Cortex-A53 CPU cores on board
Both versions of the Snapdragon Wear 5100 will come with four ARM Cortex-A53 cores that can work at a maximum of 1.7 gigahertz and will be supported by an Adreno 702 GPU that clocks at up to 700 megahertz. Both variants support LPDDR4X RAM and eMMC 5.1 flash memory, which should be "stacked" on the actual SoC using a "package-on-package" design.
Snapdragon Wear 5100 supports both Android and Wear OS
Android and Wear OS are supported as operating systems, although a launch in connection with Wear OS 3 or Android 11 is likely. Depending on the variant, transmission is via Bluetooth 5.2 – in the MLP version, through a separate BT/WiFi chip, in the MEP version via the BT/WiFi module contained in the QCC5100.
If necessary, both variants can also establish a connection to the Internet via LTE, which at least theoretically opens up the option of making telephone calls via GSM networks. The SW5100 is also equipped with support for 5 GHz WLAN (802.11c) with a bandwidth of 80 MHz. In return, only the SW5100+ has dual-band Glonass positioning via an optional chip, while 802.11c support is missing here.
Fall detection, better haptic feedback possible
With the Plus model, it should be borne in mind that the QCC5100 low-power chip also has an ARM Ethos Machine Learning Core, which can be used to detect activity, determine heart rate variance and detect falls.
The power management chip included in the package will also allow Qualcomm customers to use LRA haptics and a 1-watt amplifier for speakers. This should significantly improve the haptic feedback on the smartwatches equipped with it, which is usually hardly usable on the previous models.
It is still unclear when Qualcomm will make its new wearables platform Snapdragon Wear 5100 and Snapdragon Wear 5100+ available in the first commercial devices. However, the recent node change could mean that it will probably be a few more months before the first providers adapt the new chips. However, we have basically no information about the timing of the chips. The details of the new chips described here could still change before the market launch, also because the project is currently still deep in development.
smartwatch, Qualcomm, watch, watch, generic, Jonas Dähnert, generic, Snapdragon Wear, PhoneDesigner