Samsung Gear vs. Qualcomm Toq: The unbattle of smartwatches

Posted by Rob Enderle

While it would certainly be easy to look at these two products and envision a huge battle for the hearts and minds of the consumer, neither are likely to capture the imagination of huge numbers of buyers - at least not at this point in time. 

Indeed, both are more technology showcases to get people thinking about what is possible. This is done as a stepping stone to a broad market product, rath than an end product. Both devices will appeal to very different people, mostly men given their size, specifically those who want to do very different things. Both are also phone accessories, but they do evolve quickly after that. 

Qualcomm Toq

Toq is about interconnect, battery life and outdoor activity. It showcases two technologies Qualcomm Join (kind of a super remote control) and Mirasol (transflective screen technology). Since Join isn’t broadly available yet, the key differentiator is the transflective display which extends the battery life for heavy screen users from hours to days, all while allowing the device to function well outside.  

This is ideal for folks who work and play outside extensively and become so addicted to the secondary display that they don’t want to risk it failing mid-day. Since the watch depends heavily on the features in a smartphone, this device will likely play better for those who have a feature rich phone and should work best with one that runs Qualcomm’s current generation smartphone solution. 

Ideally the user will be someone who wants to explore this technology and develop apps that run outside on the phone or create products the device would remotely control.  In other words, folks developing products for the kind of audience that would use this device would probably be the ideal customer because they will be able to see what works and doesn’t. 

While it is functional, much of Toq's true advantage will be the applications developed to make use of either the outdoor viewable display or Qualcomm Join - as this will be a good test platform for both. Once integrated, Gear provides an in-market product that can then be used to remotely control the developed device, at least until a third party takes these technologies and builds something under their own brand. 

In the end, Qualcomm is using this device much like Goggle is using iGlass, to explore, understand, and bootstrap the Smartwatch segment in a direction consistent with Qualcomm’s products and strategy.

Samsung Gear

Samsung Gear is also a technology showcase, similar to the Galaxy S4, as it is basically a display of what Samsung can put into a watch. Since no one has yet set the bar with regard to what people want in a device like this, Gear pretty much has everything but the kitchen sink in it - from cameras to GPS capability. 

Because the category hasn’t been defined by someone like Apple, the core set of features the market wants aren't yet known, so this product is something of a grab bag. More apps, additional capability, but it sacrifices battery life and makes the device larger than the market will eventually accept as a result.  

This is product for someone who wants to live on the cutting edge and has a pretty good sized wrist to carry the product. Meaning, it will work best for those who have phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4.  The camera is relatively low quality to what it being shipped on the phone and it isn’t front facing, so using Gear for communications will be somewhat problematic. Plus, it makes the device look like Samsung missed the meeting on what otherwise appears to be a communications focused product.  

But that is simply because the device is attempting to probe the market to determine what features people want in a watch. Think of this as being as much of a product test as anything else, as it casts a broad net in order to determine what folks actually want to use. It isn’t a "generation one" product, but rather a "generation .5" tasked with capturing the data needed to create a truly successful product.  

Wrapping Up:  Choices

Both of these products are for folks who want to explore the cutting edge of technology.  However if you going to wear one to replace a watch, Qualcomm's Toq, due to its battery life and screen, will likely do that core job better. If you want to see what someone can put into a watch and mess with a large number of in process features and are a Samsung customer, the Gear will likely best fit your needs.  

Most will probbaly wait to see what the true first-gen smartwatch looks like and I’d be surprised if either product set any sales records. In fact, Qualcomm only expects to build a relatively small number so the watch should be pretty rare. Both of these products will help define the next generation which should be far better targeted and popular. For now, these are both best for folks who like to be first with a given technology and are willing to accept what comes with being first.