Qualcomm Toq Preview – First smartwatch with Mirasol screen

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When chip manufacturer Qualcomm announced some time ago that it would release a smartwatch, it was a surprise. As a rule, the company does not make products that are sold directly to the consumer, but rather supplies the parts that other companies need to make their products work. For example, almost all high-end Android smartphones from the past year have a system on a chip from Qualcomm as the beating heart.

The reason why Qualcomm is now coming out with a consumer product is simple. It needed a vehicle to demonstrate its technology, especially its display technology. In 2004, Qualcomm took over the company Iridigm, which at the time was working on a technology for extremely economical screens that can display colors. In recent years, the company has worked hard to further develop this Mirasol technology and its Toq smartwatch is the first consumer product to feature the technology.

Mirasol is a cross between a transflective LCD and e-paper. A Mirasol screen can be used with or without a backlight and becomes more readable when there is a lot of light, just like e-paper. The big difference with e-paper and other memory LCDs , such as those in the Pebble smartwatch, is that Mirasol can also display color. However, the power consumption would be many times lower than with conventional LCDs or OLEDs.

Although it is a color screen, colors do not look the same as on an LCD or OLED screen. When we first got our hands on the Toq, the low saturation was immediately noticeable. You can immediately see that it is not a monochrome screen, but the colors are very faded and especially if the backlight is not on, everything looks a bit dull. Still, we find the 1.55″ screen a lot nicer than the pure monochrome screens in some other smartwatches and thanks to the relatively high resolution of 288×192 pixels, everything also looks relatively sharp.

The Toq looks like a ‘real’ smartwatch and is made of plastic for the watch itself and a rubbery substance for the wristband. With a weight of 90 grams it is not unpleasant to wear, but it is heavier than, for example, a Pebble or Galaxy Gear and also looks a bit ‘bulky’. On the inside there is an economical Cortex M3 processor to keep things running and the Toq can be charged wirelessly via a special accessory. According to Qualcomm, the watch lasts “several days” on a single battery charge. The employee who demonstrated the Toq to us said he could achieve an average of four to five days.

The strap contains more functionality than the simple appearance suggests. Both at the beginning and at the end of the band are sensors that detect touch and actions can be performed by tapping them. For example, you turn on the backlight by tapping twice on the piece of wristband above the screen and by tapping on the lower part you return to the home screen. In addition, the battery is concealed in the closing buckle, which is a bit cumbersome, by the way.

The lion’s share of navigation is done by swiping gestures on the touchscreen. By default you will see a home screen with a grid of icons, as we are used to from smartphones. Scrolling vertically shows even more icons, and swiping horizontally opens a quick menu of options. The system is fairly simple and works quickly. What also contributes to the user experience is that the Mirasol screen refreshes quickly, making animations look smooth.

Functionally, the Toq is a real accessory. If no smartphone is paired via the Bluetooth connection, the watch can only display the time. However, if a smartphone is connected, the usual functions of a smartwatch are activated.

For example, it is possible to receive notifications from the phone, view calendar appointments, check the weather forecast, switch between different clocks, control a music app on the phone and accept or end calls. There is no possibility to develop and install apps yourself, as is possible with many other smartwatches.

The Toq currently only works with Android and a separate Android app must be installed to manage the watch. For example, it can be set which applications are allowed to forward a notification. There are no plans for an iOS app at this time.

The Android exclusivity combined with the lack of apps, the high price of $ 349 and the somewhat clumsy appearance make the Toq not very attractive to many consumers at the moment. Qualcomm itself admits that it does not expect to deliver large numbers and the Toq is therefore primarily a product to demonstrate the Mirasol technology. It does that perfectly, because the Toq’s display looks a lot nicer than that of many other smartwatches, with the exception of the Galaxy Gear, and we would like to see manufacturers like Pebble turn to Qualcomm for their next model for their displays.

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