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Qualcomm’s Toq smartwatch promises to last days rather than hours (hands-on)

IFA 2013 didn’t just give us a pair of notable new smartphones, but also looked to be the year of the smart watch. With offerings from both Samsung and Sony tailored to best suit their creator’s respective smartphone lines it seems that anyone outside of these brands was left out in the cold, at least until Qualcomm pulled the wraps off the Toq – an Android-friendly smart watch that offers something a little different to the competition.

The Qualcomm Toq is one of the first pieces of consumer-facing hardware that the famed chipset manufacturer is putting its name to. It aims to offer customers an alternative smart watch that works in unison with their a variety of Android devices (so long as they’re running Jelly Bean), whilst also promising better battery life than the competition.

In truth Qualcomm wanted to clarify to us that the Toq is the embodiment of the company’s Mirasol display technology in a consumer facing product and it’s unlikely that it’ll be pushing to get its brand on the shelves of high street tech stores anytime soon. This also means that if you want to pick up a Toq outside of the US, you’ll have to import it, frustratingly.

The Toq’s Mirasol display is not that dissimilar from a colour e-Ink or e-Paper panel in appearance. As such outdoor and sunlight legibility is extremely good and the brighter the light, the higher contrast the display appears, a serious advantage over the LCDs and AMOLEDs on the likes of the SmartWatch 2 and Galaxy Gear. The trade off is the lack of backlighting, which Qualcomm has rectified by integrating a front-lit screen for dark conditions, a feature activated by tapping the top of the bezel.

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The watch face itself won’t respond to touch initially, meaning it’s always on, but doesn’t consume too much power. At its base there are capacitive controls to swap out watch faces showing varying levels on information on the fly. Qualcomm will be offering more down the line, but at present there are various styles of simple watch face as well as faces featuring date and calendar information.

Tapping at the base of the bezel activates the touch screen and brings up a wealth of apps, from calendars to notifications, weather forecasts to stocks, Qualcomm has already kitted the Toq out with a number of handy features and more are going to be pushed to the watch at launch via its companion Android app.

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Latency is a little noticeable and colours don’t have the same impressive vibrancy as the Toq’s rivals, but these are small prices to pay when considering the idea of wearing an enhanced accessory like this on a daily basis. An accesory that charges wirelessly and promises days rather hours of battery life.

It’s a shame the Toq won’t have the same global audience as other new smart watches, but at the same time it’s early technology, which will only improve with time and ultimately might reach new markets in a later revision down the line.

Check back to see how it really stacks up to the leading rivals soon.

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