Editor’s Note: Here’s a post from newish ‘Lab member, Tony. Enjoy, and maybe if you’re nice in comments, he’ll write more. Or not, we won’t know until we know.
The ideas flying, crawling, walking, and slithering around us in the sunny windy San Francisco Bay setting made for an enjoyable, educational, and truly inspirational experience. O’Reilly Solid conference: Software/Hardware/Everywhere was last week and with it, the future finally materialized. Wearables, robots, new materials, new methods, and new software have arrived to change . . . everything.
This spirit was interrupted–no, augmented–for a few hours at the beginning of Solid by some hushed mumbles: O’Reilly was giving away 30 smartwatches at lunchtime!
I will spare the details of finding and analyzing the official rules, staking out and running reconnaissance around the giveaway area, listening in, photographing, and hunkering down. I created my first personal twitter account and opened 10 identical tabs on my smartphone, ready to spawn the required golden tweet. I proudly whispered this strategy to a colleague who responded: “OK, you’ve gone too far now.” I agreed and then quietly, though not completely unabashedly, created two more tabs.
The Toq Smartwatch by Qualcomm features Qualcomm’s Mirasol display technology which delivers a sizable, always on, color touch screen without consuming much power. The screen is readable even in direct sunlight. In darkness, double tap the secret spot on the upper band to toggle the happy backlight. The screen snappily responds to touch and the battery lasted a full week in my test. Given that the display stays on for so long between charges, I find it difficult to overly criticize the often washed out, blurred colors.
The watch face is so much bigger than the band that the screen overlaps my hand a bit. The watch often digs in when the wrist is bent, say when using an armrest to get up from a chair. Tightening the band to prevent the discomfort is not an option. The Toq band is cut to fit, and careful with those scissors: a battery and sensors in the band mean you cannot replace it. The design of the band does not permit an analog fit as there are a finite number of slots. If you are one of the lucky ones with a blessed wrist size then you should be able to use Toq without frequent pain. Got pain? Regularly shove the watch up to where your arm is thicker, or sell it to someone with a wrist of equal or lesser circumference to your own.
The software, both on the Toq itself and on the required Android-only device, is adequate. Devices stayed paired and notifications were timely. Range was around 30 feet. What more do you want in a smartwatch? How about using your voice to dictate a text!? Pretty cool, Toq! An SDK is also available for you to make your own Android apps which communicate with Toq. I tried downloading it and they wanted me to create an account so I didn’t. I was also discouraged by the quiet, small dev forum.
I seldom wear a watch, but I am never without my smartphone. So will I use a smartwatch regularly? I really like being able to casually look down and immediately read a new email/chat/text. Quick access to stocks, weather, calendar, and basic music controls come in handy sometimes. Overall though, Toq leaves me wanting more: a true smartphone experience, always on, on my wrist. But then maybe Toq has done its job. I think I have seen the light, the conversion has been made, and I am enthusiastically on board for next time.
Bottom line: Qualcomm Toq is OK for a free gift but I want more.