Mobile phone manufacturers vied for attention with their new wearable devices at this year's IFA, which finished on Sept. 10 (local time). Amid intense competition for new functions and designs, there is a hidden winner – Qualcomm.
Qualcomm already supplies application processors (APs) for smart watches to a large number of manufacturers such as LG Electronics, Sony, and Asus, it also continues its dominating position of APs in the wearable market like in the smartphone market. Samsung Electronics, on the other hand, is strengthening its efforts to wean itself from Qualcomm by featuring its own Exynos AP.
A large number of smart watches unveiled at IFA 2014, including LG's G Watch R, Sony's SmartWatch 3, and Asus's ZenWatch, all used Qualcomm's Snapdragon 400. The chip has a maximum clock speed of 1.2 GHz, similar in function to an AP featured in entry-level smartphones.
In contrast, Samsung is heavily using its own Exynos chip. Aside from its Android-based smart watch called the Gear Live, the company has used the Exynos AP from the Galaxy Gear in the Gear 2, the Gear 2 Neo, and the Gear S. The Gear S showcased at IFA 2014 is reportedly fitted with a 1.0 GHz dual-core Exynos 3250 processor based on the ARM Cortex.
Market research firm IDC estimated the total wearable device shipments in 2013 to be 6.2 million units, which is a 317.1 percent increase from the 1.5 million units of 2012. As wearable device shipments are increasing dramatically each year, they are expected to bring new growth engines to mobile chipset makers.
Samsung is in an advantageous position by dominating the smart watch market. According to research firm Strategy Analytics, the Korean tech giant sold 700,000 smart watches in the second quarter of this year, accounting for 73.6 percent of the global market. It illustrates that the wearable market share of the Exynos AP is significant. However, with a significant number of wearable device makers choosing chipsets manufactured by Qualcomm, the gap between Exynos and other APs is expected to quickly narrow.