Qualcomm And Google Team Up On A RISC-V Snapdragon Wearable Platform For Wear OS

Snapdragon WearOS news
Qualcomm and Google have announced a partnership for a next-gen wearable platform, featuring chips based on the RISC-V architecture. In the past, Qualcomm and Google have relied on ARM-based chips for almost everything mobile, including wearables, so this shift to RISC-V (which is often billed as a chief rival to Arm, the company that owns the ARM architecture) is perhaps symbolic of bigger things to come.

RISC-V is an open standard and architecture maintained by RISC-V International. Qualcomm began making Snapdragon platforms for wearables in 2016, and to date all of them have used ARM's architectures. Google's Wear OS, first launched in 2014, has also been featured primarily (if not exclusively) on wearables powered by ARM chips, including Snapdragon platforms made by Qualcomm.

One of the key advantages of RISC-V is that it's free to customize, whereas ARM isn't. While it's true that any company can license the ARM architecture from Arm the company, there are certain things that customers aren't permitted to change or remove as part of their licensing agreement. This could pose a problem for processors that need to be especially lightweight, like those made for wearables.

Qualcomm Snapdragon news

There are other things to consider when switching to RISC-V as well. Qualcomm will not have to pay Arm additional royalties, for example, which could be a welcome bonus while the companies are embroiled in a legal battle over Qualcomm's rights to use Nuvia's ARM chips. Qualcomm purchased Nuvia in 2021 to acquire the innovative ARM-based chips it had started designing in 2019, but Arm has attempted to block Qualcomm from launching these chips by asserting that Qualcomm didn't obtain Nuvia's ARM license in the purchase.

Qualcomm's announcement is also good news for RISC-V in general. This support from Qualcomm and Google is important now as American lawmakers are becoming increasingly worried about RISC-V as a potential security risk, because the architecture is increasingly being used by China and Russia. As some of America's largest tech companies, their adoption of RISC-V will help the Foundation show that its architecture offers potential benefits to everyone and could be a key component of future platforms both in the US and abroad.