Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) isn’t just the biggest name in processors for Android smartphones. The company’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 is the processor when it comes to smartwatches running WearOS, the operating system designed by Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL,NASDAQ:GOOG).
The QCOM chip is ancient and is being blamed in large part for allowing Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to run away with the smartwatch market. However, QCOM is on the verge of finally replacing the old silicon with a new Qualcomm smartwatch processor. And the processor is going to be announced at an event on Sept. 10.
With all the problems encountered lately by QCOM stock — including Apple ditching its smartphone modems, penalties imposed by regulators, lawsuits and more smartphone vendors looking at making their own custom chips — Qualcomm is about due for some good news.
Replacing the Snapdragon Wear 2100
QCOM’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 is the chip that powers most WearOS (formerly Android Wear) smartwatches. The chip is old and was never considered to be great in the first place. It was released in early 2016, but its 28nm manufacturing process was 2013-era technology.
With Qualcomm having a virtual monopoly on WearOS smartwatch chips, Apple has been able to retain a big lead in smartwatch sales with the Apple Watch, despite the dozens of competitors making WearOS smartwatches.
Ars Technica published an article earlier this year lamenting how the Snapdragon Wear 2100’s limitations have translated into Android smartwatches that are big, slow and have poor battery life compared to the Apple Watch. The website went so far as to say that, “Qualcomm killed the Android smartwatch with a combination of monopoly power and apathy.”
Apple Watch dominates smartwatch sales to the point that IDC’s 2018 industry forecast predicts that Apple Watch will outsell all WearOS vendors combined by a nearly four-to-one margin.
However, the reported death of the Android smartwatch may be premature. The release of a new Qualcomm smartwatch processor could breathe new life into Google’s Wear OS platform.
QCOM Sends Invitations for September 10 Event
Qualcomm has invited the media to a Sept. 10 event, entitled “It’s Time,” where an all-new Qualcomm smartwatch processor is expected to be announced.
In the spring, Qualcomm told The Verge that a new chip will be arriving this fall and that it will be “designed from the ground up for a no-compromises smartwatch experience.” According to QCOM, the new chip will enable WearOS smartwatches to have a smaller form factor, with better battery life. Qualcomm is also focusing on ensuring that smartwatches powered by its chip will be able to always show their displays, so wearers can see the time at a glance. That is one feature which Apple Watch lacks.
QCOM goes so far as to claim that the new chip will “significantly change the Wear OS ecosystem.” That’s “marketing speak,” but if reality even comes close to the hyperbole, Apple Watch has some more intense competition coming.
Qualcomm said to expect new WearOS smartwatches that utilize the new chip from its hardware partners this fall and also hinted at a new flagship device.
We’ll have the confirmed details of what Qualcomm is up to in a month. But count on a new and improved Qualcomm smartwatch processor powering new Wear OS smartwatches that will take on Apple Watch in the battle for holiday shopping dollars. Plus, we’ll see that secret “flagship device” which Qualcomm is hinting about. If all goes according to plan, the September event could even have at least a glimmer of upside for QCOM stock as well.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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