Wear OS gets a generation leap thanks to Samsung | GeekComparison

Samsung's 5nm Exynos W920.
Enlarge / Samsung’s 5nm Exynos W920.

Tomorrow is Samsung’s big event for the second half of 2021, and in addition to launching some foldable smartphones, the company is expected to unveil the Galaxy Watch 4 and the major Wear OS refresh it’s working on with Google. Google is prepping its first major Wear OS release since 2018, and Samsung is leaving Tizen for smartwatches and going all in on Wear OS with the Galaxy Watch 4. Last night, Samsung took the wraps off the main SoC for the Galaxy Watch 4, and compared with what Wear OS usually gets, Samsung delivers a beast of an SoC.

The “Samsung Exynos W920” will be a multi-generation performance leap for Wear OS. Samsung says this is a 5nm chip with two ARM Cortex A55 cores and an ARM Mali-G68 GPU. For the always-on display mode, there is an additional Cortex M55 CPU, which can keep the dial ticking while consuming minimal power. There’s also an integrated LTE modem for on-the-go connectivity.

Compared to Samsung’s previous smartwatch chip, the Tizen-only Exynos 9110 (10nm, 2x Cortex A53), the company promises “about 20 percent” better CPU performance and “ten times better graphics performance”. Don’t forget the Exynos 9110 is from 2018so those comparatives are inflated, but at 5nm this is a more modern chip than Wear OS has ever seen.

Wear OS has suffered for years at the hands of Qualcomm, which has starved the ecosystem of high-end wearable SoCs. Most people’s latest experience with Wear OS is the Snapdragon Wear 2100 or 3100 SoCs, both old Cortex A7 CPUs built on a 28nm process. Qualcomm introduced a slightly more modern chip in 2020, the Wear 4100 (a Cortex A53-based 12 nm chip), but hardly any manufacturer shipped that chip a year later, and we’re still getting Wear 3100 launches today. Qualcomm’s answer to Samsung’s chip will be the Wear 5100, which isn’t coming until 2022.

So now we know that Samsung’s chip looks great on paper. Wear OS gets another real hardware company on board rather than the hordes of fashion brands it used to live on, and the Galaxy Watch 4 becomes a quality piece of hardware. However, what does Google do with the software? The company has said almost nothing about Wear OS 3.0. Hopefully tomorrow we will hear a lot more about the operating system. Expecting to hear more about Google’s operating system at a Samsung event feels a little iffy, but apparently that’s how this partnership works now.

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