Qualcomm confirms which chips are “capable” of supporting Google’s new Wear OS version
Wear OS is about to get its biggest upgrade in years. At last month’s I/O developer conference, Google announced that it had partnered with Samsung to develop a “unified platform” that combined “the best of Wear OS and Tizen.” The new software update, internally called Wear OS 3.0, will bring a new design, new health and fitness features, new apps, and a lot more to the platform. Both Fitbit (owned by Google) and Samsung have confirmed that they’re building new smartwatches on top of the updated platform, but there’s an open question about what’s going to happen to smartwatches from other brands.
So far, no smartwatch maker has gone on the record to confirm if their existing devices will get the update, although Fossil did confirm that its devices won’t receive the update. While we still can’t confirm if any particular Wear OS smartwatch will get the update, we can at least confirm which wearable platforms are capable of supporting Wear OS 3.0.
A spokesperson for wearable chipmaker Qualcomm confirmed to XDA that the Snapdragon Wear 3100 and Snapdragon Wear 4100/4100+ platforms are “capable” of supporting Wear OS 3.0. However, the company’s spokesperson declined to discuss any specific details at this time. There’s not a lot of information we can glean from the statement we were sent, but it’s the first time we’ve been able to confirm that a hardware upgrade won’t be necessary to support the new Wear OS version.
“We are working with Google on bringing Wear OS 3.0 to Snapdragon Wear 4100+ and 4100 platforms. Snapdragon Wear 3100, 4100+ and 4100 platforms are capable of supporting Wear OS 3.0, but we are not discussing any specifics at this time.” – Qualcomm spokesperson
For its part, Google has been rather vague about whether its new Wear OS update will roll out to existing smartwatches. In a statement to 9to5Google, the company only said that it “will have more updates to share on timelines once the new version launches later this year.” Google apparently hasn’t even confirmed update timings with OEM partners like Mobvoi. In response to customer inquiries, Mobvoi’s customer support team said that the company’s TicWatch Pro 3 GPS will receive an update to Wear OS 3.0, but a company spokesperson later told 9to5Google that it has not yet confirmed with Google if the smartwatch will be eligible for the update. “Mobvoi are a close partner of Google and have even received investment from them, but there hasn’t been any official confirmation on any update timings from Google as of yet,” said the Mobvoi spokesperson in a statement sent to the publication.
With Qualcomm now confirming which of its wearable platforms are “capable” of supporting the new Wear OS version, we can now expect that at least some existing devices will receive the big update. Qualcomm doesn’t directly handle software updates for smartwatches powered by its chipsets, but it does play a big part in getting the ball rolling. With every major OS update, SoC vendors like Qualcomm merge the new Android framework and Linux kernel changes and release an updated BSP, or Board Support Package, that OEMs then use as a software base to build an updated release. That’s how it works on the smartphone side of things, but it’s likely also applicable to how major Wear OS updates are handled, especially when the underlying OS version and Linux kernel are updated — which is very likely the case with an update as big as Wear OS 3.0 seems to be.
If Qualcomm does release an updated BSP for the Snapdragon Wear 3100 and Snapdragon Wear 4100/4100+, then it’s up to OEMs to actually merge the changes and then roll out the update to their devices. Rolling out a major OS update is not a trivial feat, but there will no doubt be pressure from existing customers urging OEMs to do so. New Wear OS products are still being announced with the older Wear OS version, and it would be a shame if a new product misses out on the biggest update to Wear OS in years.
Update 1: Google’s response
A spokesperson for Google has reached out to us with the following statement:
“User experience is a top priority for us. We have not confirmed eligibility or timeline on whether any Wear OS smartwatch will update to the new unified platform. There are many technical requirements in order to run the unified platform that ensures all components of the user experience are optimized.” — Google Spokesperson
The statement, unfortunately, does not confirm if the company plans to make the big Wear OS 3.0 update available to older smartwatches. However, it does confirm that Google wants to make the unified platform run well on supported devices. We’re already skeptical that the Snapdragon Wear 3100 is powerful enough to provide a good experience on the new version of Wear OS, but we’d be shocked if the two Snapdragon Wear 4100 devices aren’t capable of running the new version.