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Qualcomm Toq Review

qualcomm toq-3

With a stack of smartwatches having sat on the corner of my desk for the last three or four months, it’s finally time that we start running through reviews of them all. The stack is only going to grow over the coming year, so it’s probably best that we give you something to compare the new stuff to. These will be “quick” reviews that cover the basics and also offer my opinions on what I like and don’t like.

First up, is without a doubt my favorite of the moment – the Qualcomm Toq. I know what you are probably thinking, and yes, it’s overpriced, oversized, and was originally supposed to be just an outlet for Qualcomm to show off their Mirasol display. But I’m actually loving it.

Let’s talk about why. 

What I Like


Battery Life

A smartwatch shouldn’t need to be charged every day or even every third day. My regular watch doesn’t need to be. Sure, my phone, tablet, and laptop do, but I don’t want to add another item to that list. With the Toq, you are looking at days and days (anywhere from 3-6 depending on use) without needing to use its awkward charger. The Mirasol display sips power, even though it displays in full color.

qualcomm toq-3

Display

Speaking of display, Qualcomm used its Mirasol display tech that we hope more companies adopt for wearables. It displays full color, is easy on battery life, and actually gets more visible in sunlight. Mirasol uses light around it to make it more visible, so it’s actually easier to see in the brightest hour of the day than it is at night. Thankfully, there is a light that can be triggered during those dark hours.

The 1.55-inch display is also touch sensitive, but more importantly, is on all of the time. In other words, you don’t have to flick your wrist or tap a button to see what time it is – the Toq is always on, yet still lasts for days on a single charge.

App

If you have ever used the Galaxy Gear or Pebble (pre 2.0) apps, then you’ll know how terrible they are. The Toq app, on the other hand, is fantastic. The UI is simple, but still has all sorts of settings that can be tweaked. You can select which apps you’d like to see notifications from, setup multiple weather/world times, decide on music apps, pick clock and icon styles, choose calendars, and even tweak things like light duration.

It’s a solid watch companion app that is also used to push through updates.

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 1.50.35 PMScreen Shot 2014-03-14 at 1.50.25 PM

Design

I actually really like the look of the Toq outside of its size. Appearance is something that can be debated for days, but the combination of metal, rubber, and plastic make for a premium feeling watch. It certainly feels a lot nicer than both Pebbles and the Sony Smartwatch 2.

Even though it is quite large, the watch head isn’t as thick as some other smartwatches. The white coloring of mine allows the watch to go with almost anything you are wearing, plus it all contours quite nicely around your arm. There are no off-putting buttons, just a big face and a couple of cutouts at the wrist strap. It reminds me a bit of a Diesel watch.

It does require that you cut the band to size, something that makes it yours for keeps and is quite the confusing move.

Notification Handling

Unlike the Samsung Gear watches, the Toq works with every Android device (Android 4.0.3+) and also lets you tell it which notifications from which apps you’d like to receive. As notifications arrive, they show in mini-previews that give you just enough info. You can’t really act upon any of them, so like with other smartwatches, you have to head over to your phone to do the real work. But the fact that the Toq lets you pick and choose from all of your apps, and then shows you real info in your notifications (like Pebble) does, makes this a “like.”

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Clock Styles

As I write this post, Qualcomm has included 19 watch or clock styles that can easily be changed on your Toq. They actually did a great job designing most, as well, with styles ranging from a simple clock with a colorful background to those that have date, location, weather, or calendar appointments. You can easily flip between them using the black touch-bar on the bottom of the display.

What I Don’t Like


Size

The Toq is huge. It’s bigger than every other major smartwatch on the planet, including the Sony Smartwatch 2, Galaxy Gear, and of course, Pebble. I can get down with it, but I often find that I take it off throughout the day to give my arm a rest. It’s so big, that doing a little shimmy with your wrist and long-sleeved shirt some times doesn’t even unveil the whole watch for time or notification checking.

qualcomm toq-4

Navigating the UI

The navigation of and around the Toq takes some time to figure out. There is a touch sensitive area on the wristband just under the display that brings you into your apps. It’s hit or miss whether or not this will work each time you tap it. Once in your apps section, you can swipe right to get into your favorite apps or scroll up or down through a list of the rest. From within an app, a swipe right takes you back one screen, but you can also swipe along the black bar at the bottom of the display, though it is completely inconsistent in what it wants to do. Some times a swipe left will get you into previous notifications, while at other times it does nothing.

I’m telling you, I’ve had the watch for a couple of months, and it still doesn’t make sense to me. I stick to my favorite apps, dismissing notifications, and switch clock faces from time to time. That’s it.

Cutting the Watch Band

Qualcomm couldn’t figure out an adjustable watch strap, so they ask that you size it yourself, and then cut off excess in order to wear the Toq. I’m serious. They actually ask you to cut your watch strap with a pair of scissors within the first few minutes of owning their few hundred dollar watch. If you cut it too short, well, good luck!

I got mine right the first time, but you can imagine how many people could get this wrong. Woof.

Price

The Toq originally debuted for $350, which as you can imagine, is way too steep of a price. It is now available for a much more reasonable $250 in both black and white. At $250, I’d argue that the watch is worth it, though not everyone can justify a cost like that, especially for a watch that was really made to showcase a display tech. I’ll just say this – if Pebble can sell their new Steel for $250, then the Toq is well worth it since it is a much better watch (in my opinion) in terms of features and build quality.

Other

  • White version discoloration:  I own the white Toq and have already started to see some discoloration in the watch band after only a month or two of use. The band is made of white rubber, but if it’s happening this soon, I can’t imagine how bad it might look in a year from now. You may want to consider the black version.
  • No camera:  While I do not care that the watch doesn’t have a camera built-in, many others today do. If you want a camera on your smartwatch for creepshots, the Toq is not for you.
  • Battery enclosure:  I’m pretty sure that the battery is housed in the enclosure of the the watch strap of the Toq. That’s unfortunate, because it adds bulk to the underside of your wrist and can be uncomfortable at times.

Video Overview


Gallery


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Specs


  • Smartwatch Weight: 3.2oz
  • Wrist Band Size Range: 6 inches to 8.7 inches
  • Display Size: 1.55in
  • Display DPI/PPI: 222ppi
  • Display Technology: Qualcomm Mirasol: I.M.O.D.
  • Touch Screen: Yes – Capacitive
  • Smart Phone Software Compatibility: Requires Android™ version 4.0.3; Jelly Bean and above preferred.
  • Battery Life: Multiple days between charges
  • Charging Technology: Qualcomm® WiPower™ LE – Magnetic Resonance Charging
  • Battery Capacity: 240mAh
  • Bluetooth: BT 3.0
  • AllJoyn™ Enabled: Yes
  • Vibration: Yes
  • Airplane Mode: Yes

Final Thoughts


The Toq, as of today, is my favorite smartwatch because of a combination of its design, the fact that it has a touch-colorscreen that is on all of the time, shows notifications from whatever apps I choose, works on almost all Android devices, and doesn’t need to be charged but once a week. The price doesn’t make it the cheapest watch around, but the premium build quality and experience have made it worth it to me.

Links:  Qualcomm Toq deals on eBay | Amazon

  • jimbob

    Is there a smartwatch on the market which would allow me to go running with it, without carrying my phone, and still track my distance/route? I love using MapMyRun on my phone, but it would be great if I could just wear the watch. I would want to be able to track my route while running, so I need more than just a fitness band/gps watch which only records.

  • teejaycard

    Was the video and the audio recorded separately? It has a weird feeling to it.

  • Chad

    I own both the Toq and the Pebble, and I have a few comments to add to this review which I hope will be valuable for readers. I am a Pebble KickStarter backer so have been using it for a long time. I am also a Qualcomm fan and I love the touchscreen and big color daylight readable Mirasol display on the Toq. I really wanted to move from the Pebble to the Toq, but ultimately after about a month I have moved back to the Pebble. Here is why:

    1. Limited Bluetooth Range: When I am home I don’t want to always carry around my Android phone, so I leave it on a charging dock on my desk. My phone connects via Bluetooth to a gateway in my home cordless phone system so I can make/receive cellphone calls on cordless handsets placed in every room of my house. With the Pebble I can receive call/text/calendar notifications anywhere in my two story home, even in the front or back yard. However with the Toq the Bluetooth range is truly limited to the standard 10m (30ft) so that the Toq disconnects from my phone when I am downstairs or when I move only a few rooms away. The Toq also requires manual interaction to reconnect to my Android phone (I need to unlock the Toq by touching it before it will attempt a reconnect). If you always have your phone in your pocket then this is no big deal, but if you are like me then this issue is a show stopper. This is also surprising as Qualcomm is a known for their stellar RF performance, and yet they allowed a tiny startup to significantly out-distance them on Bluetooth range. Granted the Pebble uses a lower power monochrome ePaper display so they have the battery budget to include a Bluetooth RF PA (power amp) to boost Bluetooth range, but I would have continued using my Toq even if I had to charge it more frequently if it had similar range.

    2. No Alarm: I have grown to depend on the silent alarm in the Pebble. I use it to wake me up reliably without disturbing my wife or when traveling in a a noisy hotel room while wearing earplugs. The Toq has a similar silent vibration feature, but sadly Qualcomm hasn’t yet decided to build an Alarm app.

    3. No SDK / 3rd Party Apps: While I agree with Kellex that the built in Qualcomm apps are fantastic (besides the lack of an alarm), its sad that there are no 3rd party apps because Qualcomm has yet to release an SDK to enable a 3rd party ecosystem. The Pebble has virtually limitless customization options thanks to the 1000s of 3rd party watch face and app designs. Customization options on the Toq are highly limited in comparison.

    4. Huge Charger: I would like to expand on Kellex’s “awkward charger” comment. Toq uses Qualcomm’s proprietary inductive wireless charging which is cool (even if its not Qi compliant), but sadly the charging base is massive at 4.5″ x 2.5″ x 1.2″ + micro USB cable. If you travel a lot with a bag that is already packed with goodies then finding space for this beast isn’t easy. In comparison the magnetic charging connector on the Pebble measures in at a slim 1″ x 0.25″ x 0.2″ + USB cable that will cram into even the smallest space.

    5. Battery Life: I have no problem charging a watch once per week, but multiple times per week can be a minor burden. For my lifestyle I needed to charge the Toq every 3 days vs 7 days on the Pebble.

    6. Water Immunity: Qualcomm makes no mention of water resistance in any of their documentation so I was always concerned about getting the Toq wet (eg, I remove it and put in a pocket when out in the rain). There is a small paperclip sized reset hole on the back side that likely means its not safe to submerge the Toq.

    CONCLUSION: The Toq is a nice first start for Qualcomm. It is a nice demonstration vehicle for several of their technologies. However the Toq also highlights Qualcomm’s limited product design experience. I am looking forward to seeing a Toq 2 that addresses many of the 1st gen devices shortcomings. In the mean time I will continue to enjoy my amazing little Pebble (although I really do miss that touchscreen and big beautiful Tow display).

    • Pleine1335

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    • She_Beast

      Thanks. Just want to let you know that I’ve appreciated this comment.

    • Hoffman

      I agree with most of your points, but, I feel that color saturation of the display is very low (very greyed down) and that viewing angles (as seen in Kellen’s video) is limited. The UI is the worst though as Kellen pointed out. Nice try Qualcomm. I have even tried the Omate TrueSmart which is a total mess. The Pebble is the one that I always go back to.

    • Mike H.

      Great comments. I have the Toq, Gear and Pebble, and choose the Toq now. All the points here are valid.. One thing to increase the comfort of the watch is to wear it a bit higher on your wrist so it doesn’t flop around, then at least for me it is the most comfortable.

      The Mirasol screen is fantastic… I definitely think this watch is worth every bit of what it costs.

    • VegasDude73

      Hey Chad, you need to stay updated. They released the SDK over a month ago!! https://www.facebook.com/QualcommToq/posts/10152037984033640?stream_ref=10

      I just went for an entire week (5 days) without charging it once. Spent time in disneyland throughout the week, with the typical usage on the watch and activity turned on. Lasted great for me.

      I fit the charger into my laptop bag that I’m already carrying. The case is hardly bigger than my sunglasses case…

      It is water resistant, don’t remember where they listed it, but they do.

      To each their own. also why not subscribe to the Alarm and/or Clock app and when the notification comes for your alarm your watch will start buzzing. Just my thoughts on the matter.

  • FAL_Fan

    Kellen, can you clean off the white band? I would prefer the look of the white band to that of the texture of the black one. Also, what’s the water resistance on it? I didn’t see you write anything about it.

  • jer85008

    I still prefer the simplicity of the pebble, and think it looks better. I picked up mine new for $115 on ebay. I have a dark metal/wood looking wrap and it blends in pretty nice with business casual clothes. Sticking w/ Pebble until the next gen watches are out.

    • https://www.facebook.com/christopher.johnsc chris_johns

      actually not bad looking…but do you feel the lip of the skin? bc ive seen them and they look nice but i feel in person it would look cheapish

      • jer85008

        I don’t feel it, and it actually looks pretty nice in person – especially if applied right. I looked at a lot of them before choosing this one, and i’m very happy with the results. Choose a darker one w a metallic finish.

    • Ayush

      What watchface is that? Looks really good!

  • anonymous

    i want that display technology on my next smartphone. make it happen qualcomm and I’ll buy one

    • jer85008

      I dont think it refreshes fast enough for games, video, etc.

      • buckley101

        It’s 30Hz but can get up to 60Hz if needed. The end goal is to be in a phone. They tweaked the technology in the display to achieve better color and pixel density so we’ll see how it turns out

        • anonymous

          i’d love to see it on a full sized smartphone screen once it’s optimized. I’m colorblind and just my personal opinion, this looks better than any other display tech on the market. the prospect of actually being able to see my screen in sunlight too is really exciting

  • Eric

    4.0.3 is ICS not JB Kellen.

    • HaveSomeVodka

      He just said “jelly bean and above preferred” .

  • evilfatcow

    Been wanting to pull the trigger. The Google watch is the only thing holding me back

    • needa

      that and the moto. but i really like the way this one looks.

  • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

    Ummmm guys there’s not name for who wrote this article.

    • Michael

      kellex.

  • n900mixalot

    Another great option. That’s all. It doesn’t beat the Pebble. It isn’t better than the Gear. It’s *different* and that’s what this market needs right now.

  • Maxim∑

    Love this watch because it’s the only one besides pebble that supports ios also. I personally think it’s better than pebble and now 249$ on amazon as apposed to 349$ 2 months ago

    • Kevin

      Razer Nabu.

      • David Hayden

        What about it? It’s not out yet, so it’s difficult to discuss how it’s better or bested by the competition.

    • Chad

      Please confirm that you are certain about the iOS support. Many reviewers have dinged the TOQ due to lack of iOS support. iOS is not mentioned on the TOQ website and the FAQ shows the following requirements: “Android™ Smartphone (version 4.0.3; Jelly Bean and above preferred) and Bluetooth® wireless technology”.

      • VegasDude73

        yeah it doesn’t support iOS yet. I think they are going to soon.

  • Ryan

    Nice. I have the Sony smartwatch 2 I like it because I use watch it so it pushes all notifications to my watch. Works great so I know if I need to step away or not.