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Qualcomm's Toq Takes a Place in the Sun

Qualcomm's Toq Takes a Place in the Sun

Smartwatch makers may still be picking the petals off daisies to determine whether consumers love them or not, but one thing's for sure: They're not much use if their faces can't be seen. That's a problem Qualcomm addresses -- and solves -- with the Mirasol display on its Toq watch. It doesn't wash out in bright sunlight, and its easy on the device's battery too.

By Peter Suciu
11/19/13 9:57 AM PT

Qualcomm on Monday announced its Toq smartwatch will be available on Dec. 2 for US$350.

The Toq is compatible with Android-powered smartphones. Wearers can accept or reject phone calls and view text messages and other notifications via a Bluetooth connection.

It features Qualcomm's WiPower LE technology for "drop and go" wireless charging. Perhaps of greatest interest, the Toq incorporates Qualcomm's Mirasol display technology, which makes it easier to see in direct sunlight.

Toq smartwatches

"Like a traditional watch, Toq displays information at a glance with no on/off switch," said Qualcomm CEO Paul E. Jacobs, "and paired with a smartphone to receive notifications and content, it allows the watch to seamlessly merge our physical and digital lives. Leveraging these and other industry-leading technologies, we and our partners will enable new product opportunities and consumer experiences."

Transflective Display

The Toq is the first product to take advantage of Qualcomm's Mirasol technology.

"Unlike any other watches, it has what is essentially a transflective display," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. "It actually works outside better than any other smartwatch, and it uses less power."

Typical displays wash out in bright sunlight.

"No one else is delivering a product like this," said Enderle.

"It's a technology that was used in PDAs at the end of the 1990s and then went away," he recalled.

"However, it really only works well with small devices, which is why we don't see it in laptops," Enderle added. "The colors are somewhat subdued, but in direct sunlight you can see it. ... The Galaxy Gear is a lot harder to see outside and it overdrives in the sun. That is why it has only a day's of battery life."

Technology Showcase

Because the Toq can handle bright conditions, the watch's display won't drain the battery as fast.

"You want a watch that can run all day, so having a watch that needs to recharged every day like a cellphone isn't practical," said Enderle. "There is still no way around the charging when it does need it, but the wireless charging makes it a little bit easier."

While "the first Toq devices will only appeal to the ubergeeks -- the ones that rushed out to buy Google Glass -- future generations will likely appeal to a broader consumer base," Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research, told TechNewsWorld. "Qualcomm really doesn't want to be the smartwatch vendor, they want other OEMs to take their design and technology and make it better."

Novelty or Trend?

There's still considerable doubt over how big a draw smartwatches will be.

"Smartwatches are still a solution that is looking for a problem," Roger Entner, principal analyst of Recon Analytics, told TechNewsWorld.

"In its current incarnation, [the Toq] doesn't fit into the market. Just like Samsung's Gear watch, it is a novelty item at best and a waste of money at worst," he maintained.

"Right now there isn't much demand for smartwatches," acknowledged Enderle, but "consumers didn't want a tablet until Apple made them want one."


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