This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.
Qualcomm's new chipset for smartwatches, the Snapdragon Wear 4100+ platform, announced on July 1, is a feature upgrade that could make smartwatches into smartphones. We haven't seen any new smartwatch products that have made a big splash in recent months, but we could see a lot of interesting products coming out this fall and beyond.
In the global smartwatch market, Apple's Apple Watch remains the dominant force. However, since the beginning of this year, other manufacturers have been gaining momentum due to the increased activity in the Chinese market. In the first quarter of this year, Apple ranked first in the smartwatch market share with 36.3 percent. However, Huawei and Samsung followed with 14.9 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively, and the two companies combined to overtake Apple. From the same period last year, Huawei's sales have doubled and Samsung's have grown by about 1.5 times. They were followed by Garmin and Fitbit (Canalys survey).
By region, China accounted for 66% of all smartwatch shipments, or two-thirds of the total, while the U.S. accounted for less than 30%. And the rest were other countries. The U.S. has a large number of iPhone users, which is why many people in the U.S. are using the Apple Watch, and smartwatches are becoming more popular.
About 9.4 million smartwatches were shipped in China in the first quarter, of which about 2.5 million were cellular-equipped models, or a quarter of the total. Smartwatches that can talk and communicate have become the norm in China.
Smartwatches for children are also becoming a major player in China. They are designed to be used on their own rather than in conjunction with a smartphone, and are equipped with GPS to track a child's location, an SOS button that can be used to call the police in an emergency, and a camera that can take pictures of their whereabouts and send them to their parents' smartphones or make video calls. Many children in urban areas even wear smartwatches on their arms. Imoo (BBK), a lesser-known company in Japan, leads the category of smartwatches for kids with 26% market share, while Huawei is in second place, but is far behind with 9% market share.
The Snapdragon Wear 4100+ platform has also been improved to reflect the Chinese market, which has become the world's largest smartwatch market. Compared to the previous model Snapdragon Wear 3100, the performance around communications has been increased as a performance enhancement for standalone use. The Snapdragon Wear 4100+ platform now integrates an LTE modem that saves 29 percent of power during VoLTE calls. The communication method supports TD in addition to FDD, with Cat.4/3/1 support and speeds of up to 150 Mbps. Wi-Fi is also compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n. In addition, Bluetooth is now compatible with 5.0 in addition to 4.2. The communication performance is the same as smartphones a few years ago.
The Snapdragon Wear 4100+ also has an improved always-on display feature, which increases the number of colors displayed from 16 to 64,000, as well as the ability to display numbers on the dial, date and time, step count, and heart rate. That means you can get more of the information you need as a watch, even when the display is off. Now you'll be able to see the time and notifications without touching the display, just like the Apple Watch Series 5's always-on display.
The always-on feature is only available on the higher-end Snapdragon Wear 4100+ model. It incorporates the QCC1110 power-saving co-processor that provides the new feature. On the other hand, the lower-end Snapdragon Wear 4100 will not support the always-on feature, but it will be used for children's smartwatches at a reduced price.
The Snapdragon Wear 4100+ platform will also support up to 16 megapixels for the camera. The maximum camera in smartwatches for children currently available on the market is around 8 megapixels, so this will drastically double the number of pixels. Higher resolution cameras can capture higher-resolution photos and videos that convey a child's location, which can be useful for emergency contact, as well as for facial recognition.
High quality camera support may lead to the inclusion of cameras in business smartwatches in the future. A 16-megapixel camera can be used for scanning applications such as reading business cards. Payments using smartwatches, which currently display a QR code, will also be able to be paid by scanning the QR code with the smartwatch's camera. The Snapdragon Wear 4100+ platform could quickly expand the inclusion of cameras in smartwatches.
The Snapdragon Wear 4100+ platform was unveiled at the same time as the announcement of Imoo and Mobvoi's adoption of the product in China. With the Chinese smartwatch market on the move, these two companies are looking to be the fastest to launch their latest models.
Imoo's Z6 Ultra is a high performance smartwatch for kids, with the watch itself rising up on a hinge and a rear camera that can recognize images of objects on the back of the watch. There are two cameras, one with 13 megapixels on the back and the other with 5 megapixels on the front, and it has LTE support for stand-alone calls and communication, and can be used as a transportation IC card using NFC. The price is 1999 yuan (about 30,400 yen).
Mobvoi has launched business-oriented smartwatches powered by Wear OS by Google under the TicWatch brand. TicWatches are also capable of voice control, including Google Assistant, so the latest TicWatch Pro 3, powered by the Snapdragon Wear 4100+ platform, is expected to improve the UX. No release date for the TicWatch Pro 3 is yet to be announced.
When smartwatches were first introduced, some people even said that they didn't need smartphones anymore. However, due to the small display size, a battery that doesn't last for a day, and the inability to communicate on its own, smartwatches have never replaced smartphones, and to this day they are still only used as assistants.
The arrival of the Snapdragon Wear 4100+ platform could greatly improve the performance of smartwatches and bring us to the age of "living some life without a smartphone". We can expect to see new products from Huawei and other companies in the future.
This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl. The Japanese edition of Engadget does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of this article.