The Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 is a huge leap forward for Wear OS smartwatches in terms of both performance and efficiency, and Qualcomm is making huge claims about battery life.
The Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 is built on a 4nm process, making it a much more efficient chipset than what Qualcomm has been using for the past few years. For reference, the Snapdragon Wear 2100 and 3100 worked on the 28nm process, while the Snapdragon Wear 4100 worked on the 12nm process.
That being said, Qualcomm says the Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 has a 30-60% reduction in power consumption for “key use cases” compared to the Snapdragon Wear 4100+. The biggest area of improvement seems to be in background notifications, which show a 57% reduction in power consumption, but the biggest area of active battery drain is in VoLTE calls, which should use about 34% less power on the new chip.
Qualcomm breaks down power saving as you can see below.
How does this affect real-time battery life? Qualcomm has some ambitious statistics to share.
Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 battery life estimates
First, Qualcomm shared an example of “elegant fashionable” smartwatches with battery 300 mAh. If this device lasted 28 hours with Snapdragon Wear 4100+, 43 hours on Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1.
The total capacity of 300 mAh is key in this story as it is rough the average we see on most smartwatches. For example, the Fossil Gen 6 is rated for 24 hours of battery life with a 300 mAh battery. According to Qualcomm, this device will run for at least 40 hours on the Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1.
And indeed, this is in line with what we expect from the transition to a 4nm processor.
The Galaxy Watch 4 is rated for 40 hours of battery life on its 5nm Exynos chip, so Qualcomm’s estimate isn’t out of the question here at all.
Switching to “Smart watch with 4G connectivity” from battery 450 mAh, Qualcomm claims two days of battery life. If this smartwatch ran for 36 hours on a single charge on the Snapdragon Wear 4100+, they would see 54 hours on W5+.
Finally, Qualcomm shared an example of a “sports watch with 4G connectivity” with battery 600 mAh. Where on the 4100+ this would give 48 hours of battery life, Qualcomm says that 72 hours on Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1. However, looking at this figure, it is extremely important to note that there is currently no Wear OS smartwatch on the market with such a large capacity.
The only smartwatch we know of that can come close is the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, which has yet to be released but is expected to ship with a 572mAh battery. Looking back at the history of Wear OS, the Polar M600 had a 500mAh battery and listed two days of battery life, including eight hours of workout tracking. Later Suunto 7 probably has a similarly sized battery, but we couldn’t find Suunto anywhere to disclose the actual size of the battery, only that it’s rated for two days of use under “normal” conditions.
Needless to say, this is huge if true.
If the average Wear OS smartwatch lasts more than 40 hours on a single charge, that will eliminate most people’s complaints and put Google-powered smartwatches on the same level, at least in terms of battery life, as the Apple Watch. It also opens the door for much smaller Wear OS smartwatches that can sacrifice space for a full-size battery while still being usable all day long.
It’s hard to take things at face value, of course, and even Qualcomm knows those estimates may not come true.
Qualcomm says these estimates were based on “internal measurements and projections,” so you should definitely expect actual Wear OS products using the Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 to vary significantly in actual battery life.
That said, if what Qualcomm says indicates battery issues in Wear OS might eventually come to an end. At least for those of us sane enough to admit that a fully functional smartwatch doesn’t have to last a week on a single charge.
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