Qualcomm's smartwatch takes on Samsung Galaxy Gear, Sony SmartWatch 2, and Pebble just in time for the holidays.
Qualcomm announced Monday that the Toq smartwatch will go on sale beginning December 2. People interested in the Toq will need to buy it directly from Qualcomm, as it won't be sold in retail stores. Qualcomm is charging $349.99 for the device, which takes a slightly different approach with respect to the hardware than some of the competing smartwatches already in the market.
Just like the others, the Toq will allow mobile professionals to manage incoming phone calls and to text messages, calendar appointments, and other notifications from their wrists. They'll be able to read messages as well as respond to them thanks to some preprogrammed voice prompts built into the Toq. The Toq also includes AccuWeather data, a calendar, and a stock ticker for those worried about their portfolios. It's a bit more feature-rich than the Pebble, but lags the Galaxy Gear (which perhaps went a bit overboard).
The significant differentiator here is Qualcomm's Mirasol display technology. Most of today's mobile devices, smartwatches included, turn off the screen when not in use to conserve power. The Toq doesn't need to do that. The Mirasol display is able to remain on constantly while only sipping power. Qualcomm has been working on its Mirasol technology for years. To date, it hasn't been very successful in winning adoption of the low-power screen tech, which has so far been relegated to e-readers.
Thanks to the Mirasol display, Qualcomm says the Toq can go several days between charges. By contrast, the Galaxy Gear lasts about 24 hours on a single charge, while the Pebble and Sony SmartWatch 2 can go about two days. When it is time to charge the Toq, there's no plugging it in. It uses wireless charging, powered by a carrying case that doubles as a charging cradle. It uses Qualcomm's WiPower LE technology, enabling a drop-and-go charging experience. Samsung employs a similar strategy for charging its Galaxy Gear smartwatch.
The Toq connects to headphones and smartphones (just Android 4.0 and up for now) via Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy. It handles messaging via Qualcomm's AllJoyn Notification Services Framework. This is a major benefit because developers will be able to connect to the Toq through this network to deliver information and/or updates.
"The Toq smartwatch showcases key Qualcomm innovations, such as Mirasol always-on, low-power display, AllJoyn interactions, and WiPower LE wireless charging, that will define the emerging wearable category," said Paul E. Jacobs, chairperson and chief executive officer of Qualcomm. "Like a traditional watch, Toq displays information at a glance with no on/off switch. And paired with a smartphone to receive notifications and content, it allows the watch to merge our physical and digital lives seamlessly. Leveraging these and other industry-leading technologies, we and our partners will enable new product opportunities and consumer experiences."
Qualcomm is selling a limited number of Toq smartwatches. The company hasn't said how many, but word on the street has the number limited to the tens of thousands. If it sells through the first run, Qualcomm may consider making more. Samsung hasn't said how many Galaxy Gear smartwatches it has sold, but Pebble admits that it has sold about 190,000 Pebbles.
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