Qualcomm's certainly made a name for itself in the mobile chipset space, but the company's past attempts at creating a fully baked consumer device have not been tremendously successful. Take FLO TV, for example. The pocketable television receiver had potential, but a botched execution left the firm with an embarrassing failure. It's this legacy that leaves us cautiously optimistic about today's product introduction, a full-function smartwatch called Toq.
Why is Qualcomm designing, marketing and selling a smartwatch, you ask? The answer lies in a troubled display tech called Mirasol. We got our first good look at this low-power color display technology at CES back in 2010. Since then, Mirasol has had a hard time catching on, with manufacturing costs a likely culprit. We've seen new iterations each year, mostly in the form of prototype e-readers, but a decision to shutter production last summer seemingly marked the final straw for the inventive concept. Then, we regained hope following this year's SID Display Week, where two new high-res panels made their debut, including one in a smartwatch. Curiously, that wearable we saw in May bears little resemblance to the product we're meeting today, which you'll find detailed in full after the break.
Gallery: Qualcomm Toq Smartwatch hands-on | 24 Photos
Gallery: Qualcomm Toq Smartwatch hands-on | 24 Photos
Sure, there are a handful of smartwatches already on the market, but Toq doesn't tick with the rest. A unique Mirasol display offers excellent outdoor readability, thanks to its reflective properties, while also delivering color output with far less power draw than an LCD or OLED equivalent. There's also full touch functionality on the display, which is disabled when you don't need to use it. A double tap on the band below the screen will wake it back up, while the same action up top will activate a light for easy reading indoors.
A unique design allowed Qualcomm to add a color display and touch functionality while still maintaining a slim profile. The battery, one of the device's largest and heaviest components, is mounted at the bottom of the band by the buckle, rather than below the Mirasol screen. There's no physical connectors to deal with, either -- the watch communicates with a companion Android app (iOS is coming) via Bluetooth and WiFi, and it charges through a wireless dock that doubles as a carrying case for the optional stereo Bluetooth headset, which also charges wirelessly using the same accessory.
On the software side, you get a lot more functionality here than you do with similar devices, such as Pebble. Toq isn't designed strictly for consuming information. You can read emails and text messages on the device, but you can also respond to them, albeit with a list of programmed responses. From the smartphone app, you can add, remove and reorder your replies, which can range from a simple "yes" or "no" to several words or even complete sentences. There's also a stock viewer that pulls quotes and charts from E*Trade, an AccuWeather feed, a calendar readout and a handful of unique watch faces, designed in-house at Qualcomm.
The pre-production Toq we tried out worked very well. It was responsive and easy to use, with an intuitive yet comprehensive interface. It's rated for three to five days of use on a single charge, though the wireless power accessory couldn't be easier to use. Unlike other recent products, it's not going to be restricted to developers either, though Qualcomm plans to keep the production run fairly small -- think tens of thousands of watches, not millions. If it's a success, though, the company hopes that partners will embrace the Mirasol technology, and create similar wearables of their own. In the meantime, you'll soon be able to order a black or white Toq through Qualcomm's website, with delivery expected in Q4.
Qualcomm Launches the Qualcomm Toq Smartwatch Featuring Mirasol Display
Revolutionary Smartwatch Unveiled at Qualcomm's Uplinq 2013 Developer Conference
SAN DIEGO - September 4, 2013 - Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) today announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Qualcomm Connected Experiences, Inc., will release a Qualcomm branded smartwatch in Q4 of 2013. Designed to serve as a second display to your smartphone, the Qualcomm® Toq™ ('talk') smartwatch will feature proprietary Qualcomm MEMS Technologies, Inc.'s Qualcomm® Mirasol™ display technology, a revolutionary reflective, low-power display that enables an always on viewing experience, wireless charging by Qualcomm WiPower™ LE technology and a true stereo Bluetooth audio experience, all while offering its wearer long battery life with seamless connectivity to their smartphone.
"Toq's always on, always connected, always visible wearable technology gives you a 'Digital 6th Sense,' telling you what you need to know, when you need to know it, with just a glance at your wrist or a whisper in your ear. Toq is a showcase for the benefits of the Mirasol display, WiPower LE and stereo Bluetooth technologies and highlights the experience that the wearable category can provide," said Dr. Paul E. Jacobs, chairman and chief executive officer of Qualcomm. "Toq not only represents a long history of technological innovation for Qualcomm, but it also demonstrates our commitment to delivering the breakthrough technologies that redefine the ways we interact with each other and the world around us."
The introduction of this limited edition smartwatch will feature the key technologies necessary to deliver unique experiences on wearable devices. The color capacitive touchscreen display is always on – similar to a traditional watch – with days of battery life before the device needs to be recharged. In fact, Toq's power profile is so low that it does not require an on/off button. Recharging Toq is hassle-free, as it also is the world's first smartwatch to incorporate the Qualcomm® WiPower™ LE technology, enabling a true "drop and go" charging experience.
With Toq, consumers will be able to manage smartphone calls, text messages, meeting reminders and various notifications from their wrist. Developers also will be able to tap into Qualcomm Innovation Center, Inc.'s AllJoyn™ framework to send program notifications to the smartwatch through the Qualcomm Toq app, which supports the AllJoyn Notification Services Framework. Qualcomm will continue adding functionality to the Toq through software upgrades, including integration with Qualcomm Life, Inc.'s 2net platform and the recently announced 2net Mobile software. Toq provides participants of the 2net ecosystem the opportunity to deliver new, compelling ways for consumer to manage their health. Qualcomm Life and Qualcomm Innovation Center are subsidiaries of Qualcomm Incorporated.
Toq also will be made available in a "Premium Audio Edition" that features the first truly wireless stereo headphones. This means no wires between the headsets for listening and no wires for recharging. Another key feature of the headset is that it sits outside the ear canal for all day comfort and wearability. The Toq Premium Audio Edition features high quality stereo sound with a dedicated tweeter and woofer for superior wide band audio. Calls can be placed with the smartphone using either of the headsets.
As this category grows, Qualcomm expects to closely collaborate with traditional ecosystem participants and new entrants to enable new product opportunities leveraging these industry-leading technologies, further driving forward the emerging wearables space.
At launch, Toq will be compatible with Android™ 4.0.3 and above mobile devices. For more information about the Toq, please visit www.toq.qualcomm.com.
About Qualcomm Incorporated
Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) is the world leader in 3G, 4G and next-generation wireless technologies. Qualcomm Incorporated includes Qualcomm's licensing business, QTL, and the vast majority of its patent portfolio. Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, operates, along with its subsidiaries, substantially all of Qualcomm's engineering, research and development functions, and substantially all of its products and services businesses, including its semiconductor business, QMC. For more than 25 years, Qualcomm ideas and inventions have driven the evolution of digital communications, linking people everywhere more closely to information, entertainment and each other. For more information, visit Qualcomm's website, OnQ blog, Twitter and Facebook pages.