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Google and Qualcomm are fixing the worst thing about smartwatches

James Tsai's concept design for the much rumored Pixel Watch
(Image credit: James Tsai)

Some of the best smartwatches for Android could get better very soon. More specifically, smartwatches running Wear OS are moving toward major battery life improvements with Qualcomm's help.

During the Qualcomm Wearable Summit 2021, which we attended virtually, Google's Björn Kilburn offered insights on the direction of Wear OS smartwatches. Though there was no mention of the Google Pixel Watch, Kilburn said Google and Qualcomm are collaborating on an "always-connected experience that extends battery life."

When Google revealed the new Wear OS at its I/O developers conference earlier this year, the software promised impressive battery life among other sweeping upgrades. As it stands, most of the best smartwatches don't blow us away in terms of stamina — a slightly-annoying setback compared to the best fitness trackers that we've learned to deal with.

Though the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 shipped with Wear OS, it didn't live up to the battery life hype. In our testing, Samsung's watch lasted about one day with normal use. So instead future Wear OS smartwatches using a Qualcomm SoC could deliver the significant battery life improvements Google teased.

According to Kilburn, the Wear OS platform is on pace to find success with "ultra-low-powered co-processors," or chipsets that offer superior battery life compared to some current smartwatches. Qualcomm's contemporary wearable processor is the Snapdragon 4100/4100+, found in the small crop of smartwatches eligible to upgrade to the new Wear OS sometime next year including Fossil Gen 6.

Neither Google nor Qualcomm mentioned whether the Snapdragon 4100 or a different upcoming processor will achieve longer battery life ambitions. But it's apparent the first Wear OS device that lasts significantly longer between charges is coming as the result of the companies working together. 

Right now the best Fitbit and best Garmin watches perhaps provide the mainstream smartwatch market's top battery life estimates. The former brand operates under Google, so it's possible the premiere Fitbit device running Wear OS will be long-lasting smartwatch we've been waiting for. The Fitbit Sense already lasts up to 6 days, but that's with limiting display settings and consistent GPS use. We'd really like to see a smartwatch that lasts a full week with fewer limitations. 

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.