Processor update might make Google’s Wear OS a better Apple Watch competitor


Qualcomm's upcoming processor might make Google's Wear OS more competitive.
Qualcomm's upcoming processor might make Google's Wear OS more competitive.
Photo: Google

One of the reasons Apple Watch has no problems fending off competition running Google’s Wear OS is that they all use a two-year-old processor. Qualcomm is finally readying a new smartwatch chip for release this fall.

In addition, the next version of Watch OS will make greater use of Google Assistant, the company’s artificial intelligence powered system for voice control.

Back when it was still called Android Wear, smartwatches ran first on a phone processor with most of its CPU cores disabled, then later on Qualcomm’s Wear 2100 chip. That second one was less kludgy, but was still just a modified phone processor. Plus, it was outdated at its launch in 2016.

That’s going to change in the next generation chip. “It’s designed from the ground up for a no-compromises smartwatch experience with dedicated chips that make your watch look pretty when you’re not looking at it, that brings the best fitness and watch experience, and extends battery life,” Pankaj Kedia, Qualcomm’s senior director of wearables, told Wareable.

Kedia gave just a glimpse at the features of Qualcomm’s upcoming processor at Google I/O this week, but the formal announcement is still months away.

By contrast, a new version of Apple’s processor debuted with each generation of Apple Watch. The S3 chip in the most recent wearable boasts a dual-core processor and 16GB of RAM. It’s powerful enough to give the device speedy performance… something that can’t be said about Wear OS devices.

An even better Apple S4 chip should launch this fall in the next Apple Watch version, about the same time Qualcomm will have its third-gen chip available.

Google Assistant in Wear OS

An area in which Wear OS might jump ahead of its rival is Google Assistant. Although overshadowed by the more popular Amazon Alexa, the version shown off at Google I/O is more advanced than its rivals.

Apple’s Siri, on the other hand, is languishing in a distant third place in general intelligence. It can be used on an Apple Watch, but its functionality is limited. Still, Apple seems to be working on Siri.

Dennis Troper, product director for Google’s recently renamed Wear OS, promises big improvements in the operating system. He told Cnet that “You should expect more and more personalization, and having a more intimate relation between your smartwatch and yourself over time.”