Qualcomm Toq Review – Qualcomm is not a name you’d normally associate with consumer products. Sure, the majority of the phones we buy have Qualcomm chips inside, but until now, complete products have been limited to reference devices. With that in mind, you can start to understand a little bit about the Toq and its purpose for being.
Qualcomm’s Toq innovative display tech finally comes to market
The centrepiece of the Toq is its display. It uses a technology called Mirasol, which is similar to e-ink as seen on devices like the Kindle, but rather than being simply black and white, it’s colour. It has two fantastic characteristics: it is easily viewable in direct sunlight and it only consumes power when it is changing what is displayed on the screen, a valuable asset on a smartwatch. Although the Mirasol display is colour, don’t expect vibrancy like you’d see on a Samsung Galaxy Gear’s OLED screen.
Colours are rather washed out, but the screen is sharp and the value of not having to wake the screen to view the content cannot be underestimated. Aside from the display, is the Toq worth having? It has some neat tricks and certainly shows potential, but it has some flaws too – and positively fatal ones at that.
First, the good. The software is solid, both on the device and for your Android phone. Everything is a breeze to set up. A decent selection of apps and modes are available on the watch and once you are familiar with the user interface paradigm, you’re set. The device itself isn’t just a touchscreen – although there are no conventional buttons, you interact with the device either by sweeping on an area along the bottom of the screen, or by touching the wristband. It feels a bit unnatural at first, but is easily mastered. The core function of a smartwatch will be to notify the wearer about events happening on their phone, and the Toq accomplishes that with aplomb.
Notifications can be sent to the watch either en masse or more selectively – if you don’t want to receive notifications from a particular app, you can configure this in the companion software. With a battery life of a couple of days, the charging experience is important, and Qualcomm has done a good job. The watch charges wirelessly using another Qualcomm technology – WiPower – via a supplied dock. When docked the watch is flipped sideways but the screen rotates too, making a neat bedside clock. Cut-outs in the dock also allow for charging of wireless earbuds (sold separately). So far so good, however, the watch itself is pretty chunky and manufactured from cheap plastic, which doesn’t give it a desirable look, but the biggest issue is in the strap.
As mentioned, it’s used in the UI of the device but even more significantly, the battery is built into the clasp of the strap. You’d imagine that this would make the strap expensive to replace. Fear not, you can’t replace it. Oh, and you have to cut the strap to adjust it to size. Yes, cut it! Once you’ve trimmed the strap, that’s it, someone with a larger wrist can never wear the watch. It’s an incredibly stupid design decision. The Toq is a showcase for Qualcomm’s technologies, which show a lot of promise, but currently, this is not a desirable package.