It’s been more than two years since Qualcomm last introduced a new smartwatch processor, and Android smartwatches have very much stalled (to a large extent, though certainly not exclusively) because of it. That’s going to change this year as Qualcomm introduces at least two new smartwatch chips. The first one is being announced today, but it isn’t the general-purpose chip we’ve been waiting for: instead, it’s meant just for kids’ watches.
The new chip, the Snapdragon Wear 2500, is designed for what Qualcomm sees as an emerging market of smartwatches built around kids’ (and parents’) needs. Pankaj Kedia, who leads wearables at Qualcomm, says these watches are meant to give kids the ability to keep learning and connecting with gadgets when they leave the house and find themselves in school, where they aren’t always beside a computer.
“It’s like you grew up on Alexa and you want to take Alexa with you,” Kedia said in a phone interview. “You want to ask Alexa ‘what’s the capital of the US’ or ‘who is the 35th president of the US?’ or learn a different language, and voice assistants are making it easy for you to do that. Literally, kids in that bracket are using kid watches to learn.”
The Wear 2500 chip is around a third smaller than prior Wear chips and is supposed to provide slightly better battery life. The chip supports LTE, up to a 5-megapixel camera, location tracking, and plenty of other sensors.
Since it’s meant for kids, it sounds as though it’ll be a less powerful platform than whatever Wear chip Qualcomm is planning next, but Kedia wouldn’t clarify that point or why the 2500 couldn’t be used to make general-purpose watches. “I have a Tesla and a Porsche,” he said. “Both take me from point A to point B, but they’re designed for different use cases. Same kind of thing here.”
There’s one other interesting quirk to the Wear 2500 chip: it isn’t designed to support Wear OS, Google’s smartwatch platform. Instead, it’s meant to be paired with a custom version of Android that Qualcomm has built for kids’ watches. It’s called Android for Kids, and it sounds like it won’t support notifications or an app store; instead, manufacturers will preload it with the apps and games that they think kids and parents will want.
Qualcomm has already started providing the Wear 2500 to hardware partners and expects watches using it to start coming out later this year. Huawei will be among the first partners.
Kedia didn’t have an update on when the Qualcomm’s next general-purpose smartwatch chip — one meant for Wear OS watches — would arrive. But he said both the kid and adult watch segments “are big today, getting bigger” and that Qualcomm intended to lead in both. “Winning is fun,” Kedia said. “Qualcomm is winning. We are winning because we are investing.”