Ars Technica want to want a really particular second birthday to the Qualcomm Snapdragon Put on 2100 SoC. Whereas most flagship SoCs have a life cycle of about one yr on the highest of the market, over the weekend the Put on 2100 will rejoice two years because the least terrible Smartwatch SoC you should use in an Android Put on gadget. It is positively historical at this level.
Critically although, Qualcomm has seemingly deserted the smartwatch market. The Put on 2100 SoC was introduced in February 2016, Qualcomm skipped out on an improve for February 2017, and it does not seem to be we’re getting a brand new smartwatch chip any time quickly.
In a wholesome SoC market, this could be fantastic. Qualcomm would ignore the smartwatch SoC market, make little or no cash, and all of the Android Put on OEMs would purchase their SoCs from a chip vendor that was addressing smartwatch demand with a high quality chip. The issue is, the SoC market is not wholesome in any respect. Qualcomm has a monopoly on smartwatch chips and does not appear all in favour of making any smartwatch chips. For firms like Google, LG, Huawei, Motorola, and Asus, it’s completely crippling. There are actually zero different choices in an inexpensive worth vary (though we would like to offer a shoutout to the $1,600 Intel Atom-equipped Tag Heuer Related Modular 45), so firms both preserve transport two-year-old Qualcomm chips or cease constructing smartwatches.
Android Put on will not be an ideal smartwatch working system, however the major downside with Android Put on watches is the , like measurement, design (which is carefully associated to measurement), pace, and battery life. All of those are primarily influenced by the SoC, and there hasn’t been a brand new possibility for OEMs since 2016. There are solely so some ways you’ll be able to wrap a display, battery, and physique round an SoC, so Android smartwatch has completely stagnated.
To make issues worse, the Put on 2100 wasn’t even an excellent chip when it was new. The chip is constructed with a 28nm course of, which was outdated and busted even in 2016. Qualcomm’s flagship smartphone SoC on the time was the Snapdragon 820, which used a a lot better 14nm course of. To discover a flagship 28nm smartphone chip, you’d have to return in time to the Snapdragon 801/800. That is proper, 28nm was state-of-the-art smartphone know-how in 2013. A smaller transistor manufacturing course of will result in a chip that’s cooler, smaller, and extra battery-efficient. Whereas these attributes matter in smartphones, they matter way more in smartwatches, and Qualcomm has by no means put actual effort into its smartwatch chips.
From a short-sighted numbers perspective, Qualcomm’s habits is smart. Smartphones promote excess of smartwatches, so Qualcomm’s backside line within the quick time period is healthier if it dedicates its efforts to smartphones. However with the launch of Android Put on, Google, Qualcomm, and the Android OEMs had been constructing a brand new “Android smartwatch” market class from scratch. It was all the time going to take some dangers and funding from everybody concerned, however the upside can be a bigger marketplace for everybody. With Qualcomm by no means placing in a severe effort to supply an excellent smartwatch chip, the Android Put on market struggled out of the gate, and in the present day it appears lifeless.
In the meantime, Samsung and Apple have taken over the smartwatch market. Apple sells Apple Watches to iOS customers, whereas Samsung makes smartwatches primarily based by itself Tizen OS that work with Android and iOS gadgets. Each firms have managed to keep away from being sabotaged by Qualcomm as a result of each have their very own in-house SoC groups. Apple and Samsung gadgets get a brand new SoC yearly, delivering sooner efficiency and higher battery life, whereas Qualcomm and Android Put on stand nonetheless. In consequence, Apple is on the prime of the smartwatch market, and even Samsung Tizen watches have claimed second place and overtaken the mixed 20 or so firms making Android Put on watches.
Since no different SoC firm has taken up arms in opposition to Qualcomm on the excessive finish of the market, the one answer for OEMs trying to shield themselves is to construct their very own SoC program. As talked about, Apple and Samsung are in the perfect place. Huawei is subsequent in keeping with its “Hisilicon” SoC division, though it has solely produced smartphone SoCs. Google appears to be slowly constructing an SoC division, together with hiring a key Apple chip architect for the place of “Lead SoC Architect.” To date we have solely seen a single machine-learning co-processor from the corporate, the Pixel Visible Core, which shipped within the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, but it surely looks as if a most important utility processor will sometime seem in a Google smartphone.
Within the meantime, Android smartwatches proceed to be thick, gradual, power-hungry gadgets that may’t sustain with the competitors. Check out some iPhone benchmarks and you will find Qualcomm’s smartphone chip is not doing that nice in opposition to the competitors, both. Qualcomm killed the Android smartwatch with a mix of monopoly energy and apathy. Issues will in all probability get even worse if Broadcom’s marketing campaign to buy Qualcomm is profitable.