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9/6/2013
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Qualcomm Toq: The Anti-Galaxy Gear Smartwatch

Samsung's Galaxy Gear may have grabbed the headlines this week, but Qualcomm's smartwatch and its innovative display tech will make an impact, too.

Samsung's New Gadgets: Visual Tour
Samsung's New Gadgets: Visual Tour
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This week, Qualcomm joined the growing number of companies to trot out a smartwatch. The company announced the Toq, a wearable computer, during its Uplinq conference in San Diego. The smartwatch from Qualcomm is simpler than the Galaxy Gear, which was announced by Samsung this week, too, and has some key differentiators.

With Toq, mobile professionals will be able to manage incoming phone calls, text messages, calendar appointments and other notifications from their wrist. Not only can messages be read, but also can be responded to through the use of preprogrammed voice prompts. The Toq also has a stock ticker, AccuWeather data and a daily calendar screen. The Toq offers more than the Pebble smartwatch in terms of features, but perhaps not as many as the Gear. That's okay, the Toq has a giant leg up on the Gear: Qualcomm's Mirasol technology.

One of the key factors behind the Toq's design, said Qualcomm, was to create a device that allows the screen to be on all the time. Most of today's smartphones, tablets and smartwatches turn the screen off when not in use to conserve power. The Toq doesn't need to do that with Mirasol. 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. The Toq could change that. The Toq is probably the highest profile proof-of-concept Qualcomm could have created to show off its mobile screen cred.

Thanks to the screen technology, Qualcomm says the Toq can go several days between charges. By contrast, the Galaxy Gear lasts about 24 hours on a single charge. When it is time to charge the Toq, there's no plugging it in. It uses wireless charging and is powered up by the carrying case, which doubles as a charging cradle. It uses Qualcomm's WiPower LE technology, enabling a "drop and go" charging experience.

[ Smartwatches so far don't seem that bright, but a few tweaks could make them indispensable. See 10 Smartwatch Features We Want. ]

The device, of course, connects to headphones and smartphones (just Android 4.0 and up for now) via Bluetooth. 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.

Qualcomm is hoping developers take notice of the device and begin to create apps for it. Qualcomm hasn't said how many apps will be available when the device launches. By contrast, Samsung says about 70 apps will be available for the Gear. The Sony SmartWatch 2 will have more than 300 apps available when it launches later this month.

The Toq has perhaps a slightly more refined design than the Galaxy Gear. It comes only in black and white, and there are no colors. The Gear has a camera and a speakerphone, however. It's hard to say if those are compelling enough to convince people to buy it, though.

Qualcomm is going to make a limited production run on the Toq, with numbers in the tens of thousands. If the device sells well and garners enough interest from developers, Qualcomm will consider a wider launch for the device.

Begun, the smartwatch wars have.

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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/6/2013 | 10:49:40 PM
re: Qualcomm Toq: The Anti-Galaxy Gear Smartwatch
The screen and charging tech sound intriguing, but what kind of apps does Qualcomm hope people will create? The built-in functions seem to translate a lot smartphone content to the smaller form factor. I don't think that approach is going to win any kind of smartwatch war. If a smartwatch war is brewing, I have the feeling that Qualcomm, Samsung and Sony are just firing muskets at distant targets, and that battles won't start in earnest until Apple, Google and Microsoft show up with the heavy artillery. But we'll have to see.
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