Disregarding my opinion that smartwatches (unless they’re the Pebble, or something as intuitive and elegantly-executed) can all be tossed in a skip and set on fire, I’m actually really impressed after a brief play with the Qualcomm Toq (pronounced “talk,” not “toc.” Dubbed “the anti-Galaxy Gear” (by us), such is the stripped-down nature of what’s crammed inside the 1.5-inch display, it’s more of a pimped-out watch than Dick Tracy phonewatch. And that’s a good thing, before you ask.
Firstly, this thing is light. While we weren’t told the exact measurements — and didn’t exactly have a pocket scale on hand — it’s no heavier than a cheap plastic Swatch or something similar. The actual display is slim; so slim in fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Toq was just a normal watch, rather than crammed with technology. The band, while plastic, doesn’t look cheap, and the clasp is actually really well-designed as you can see from the photo above. I’m not sure how long the hardware would actually last for, given its plastic nature, but I’m sure if Qualcomm was serious about selling the Toq (or convinced some OEMs to take it on), the materials would be refined, or at least the option of colourful or metal bands would be offered.
It works as follows: A tap on the wristband below the display will take the user back to the homepage menu of the watch. Tapping the wristband above the display will adjust the Mirasol display so it’s brighter if you enter direct sunlight. The screen, a low-powered panel which is normally seen in colour eReaders, was easily-readable and well-suited to the slick UI.
While the model we saw was very much a prototype (it froze several times), when it worked, the capacitive display was minus any sluggishness — whether swiping through the responsive menus, or pairing to a HTC One over Bluetooth. Compatible with all Android 4.0+ devices (a Qualcomm chipset isn’t necessary), the partner app enables you to change the Toq’s watchface design; the stocks that can be accessed; the cities that the weather app shows, and a few other settings such as which auto-responds can be sent to callers.
The battery, which lasts for three to four days after a 90 minute charge on the wireless-charging pad (a nifty black box which opens up to sit the watch in, using Qualcomm’s WiPower tech), is actually located in the clasp, helping keep the display’s thickness down. As there’s no Wi-Fi radio, data connection, speakers or camera, it may not be as fully-specced as Samsung or Sony’s efforts, but I found that refreshing — others who actually see the point to these smartwatches may not agree. But I will admit that being able to view music controls and skip tracks etc with a few swipes on your wrist is rather tantalising, and as Brent pointed out in his Google Glass review, being able to get an at-a-glance view of your next calendar appointments or incoming emails or texts without having to pull your phone out (an act which only distracts you more, especially if the email or text isn’t important) is pretty powerful stuff.
The big thing here however is that you’re unlikely to ever get your hands on one. Qualcomm’s made the Toq as a proof-of-concept; they’re currently shopping it around the OEMs to gauge interest, and will consider doing a limited sale online, for around $300 apiece.