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Chipmakers rush wearables to market with borrowed components

Posted: 02 May 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smartphone  smartwatch  wearables  ABI Research 

Looking inside several devices, ABI research found out that smartwatches utilise smartphone components, resulting in trade-offs involving unsatisfactory battery performance and superfluous features that impact cost and size.

The research firm claims that no company is able to offer an optimal wearable peripheral solution yet. It reported that Samsung Galaxy Gear and Z-watch use application processors originally targeted for smartphone/tablets. The uWatch goes a step further with a full blown GPRS SOC, MediaTek MT6260, but only uses the integrated BT. Other watches like the Sony series and Pebble use discrete solutions.

The findings suggest a "wait and see" approach by chipset suppliers on investing into wearable peripherals, according to ABI Researh Engineering VP Jim Mielke.

Mielke added: "Of the solutions available the oversized application processors draw too much current and cost far too much. Discrete solutions tend to be physically large and also a little higher cost than necessary. The closest match is the SOCs with embedded BT which can be both power and size efficient with the only drawback being slight cost impact. Once the market takes off expect to see a number of truly optimal solutions available."

"Rushing to market with adapted components can be both wasteful and often power inefficient, compromising the user experience of wearable devices. Short battery life is one of the main reasons wearables are often ending up unused in a drawer," stated Nick Spencer, senior practice director, ABI Research.

A number of chipset vendors claimed to have developed chips optimised for wearable devices, like smartwatches, but based on the teardowns conducted by ABI, Mielke declared that the claims were misleading at best. The supposedly optimised chips were only existing chipsets that had been rebranded.

"Chipset vendors need to go the extra mile and create optimised chips, or they risk eroding the potential of the wearable device category," concluded Mielke.

- Paul Buckley
  EE Times Europe





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