Living with Qualcomm's Toq Smartwatch: A Lot to Love

Posted by Rob Enderle

I’ve just finished spending some serious quality time with Qualcomm's flagship Toq Smartwatch. The verdict? For a product that is basically a hardware showcase, well, there really is a lot to love.  

You must realize the watch currently lacks third party apps, along with the kind of extra development and magical marketing that a company like Apple or Lenovo might wrap around a product like this. 

However, having said that, it is actually a nicely done offering, one which provides a sense of what is to come.

The Killer Feature

By far, the killer feature for this watch is the transflective screen, which is the one thing I believe most products in market miss. Think about it - you need to be able to see the face of your watch outdoors and typical LED or OLED screens wash out in direct sunlight.

You also need to hit the screen light to see it at night, while making sure it doesn't wash out but during the day. Of course, everyone wants days of battery life - not hours. Fortunately, I charged mine on Saturday and it was still showing around a third of the battery left the following Thursday. Remember, watches like Samsungs Gear are lucky to make it to the end of the day with any battery life, while Qualcomm's Toq offers nearly a week.   

Apps

As noted, this is more of a prototype watch so the apps are more for simply linking to the watch than anything else. You can control music on the watch, push alerts to the device, and follow items like stock tickers or weather on the watch - all pushed to your phone.  You can also push a button on the watch which prompts your phone to ring, although you need to be in Bluetooth range for that particularly feature to work. The watch does vibrate when it loses contact with the phone, but doesn’t last long and you could miss the alert if you were driving. Personally, I’d prefer something a bit more invasive so it would be more useful as a tool to keep you from losing your phone. 

In addition, one of the more intuitive uses for the watch is for exercising, as it offers updates on distance traveled, calories burned, etc. True, phone apps will capture the same data, although they may have to be altered to feed the phone. For a final version of the device, I think it is quite reasonable to expect a set of core apps, as the current iteration ships with just a basic configuration app.

Things I’d Fix

Qualcomm put the home switch and the light switch in the band, making them relatively difficult to use - often taking several pushes to get a response. The advantage to this setup? The watch is more waterproof, which is truly a great idea, but still, I think I’d look for something that was easier to use. The watch band is relatively stiff likely because it functions as more than just a band. Truthfully, it reminds me of the old Microsoft Spot watches which used to have their antennas in a band and they were stiff as well. This stiffness makes it harder to fit and less comfortable to wear.  Now if the trade-off were to make the watch heavier or lose the fact it was waterproof I’d leave it alone. The watch actually worked surprisingly well and I had more issues with the phone it was connected to than the watch itself.  

Wrapping Up:  I like the watch a lot

I’ll like it better when I can use it with my favorite exercise app. As is, the watch is pretty damned good. I can use it to control my phone and receive short messages and alerts without picking up the phone. Unlike other smartwatches, it offers days of battery life and an outdoor viewable screen. Finally, I actually like the way it looks which is a big improvement over most test of concept products I’ve ever had. In production, it will also likely improve a lot but for a first try on a prototype Qualcomm actually created a decent product you can live with and you might even grow to love. Nicely done!