Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM:US), the biggest maker of chips for mobile phones, will begin selling a connected wristwatch called Toq, seeking to ensure that its display technology finds a place in the wearable-computing market.
The smartwatch features wireless charging and an always-on screen built on the company’s Mirasol technology, Chief Executive Officer Paul Jacobs said today at an event in San Diego. The watch will let the wearer manage calls and text messages and get calendar notifications from a connected phone.
Qualcomm wants its chips and displays to be part of the growing market for wearables, and is using Toq to show what it can offer. Customers such as Sony Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. have released wearable products or have said they’re planning devices. Google Inc., whose Android operating system runs most of the world’s smartphones, may also be considering an entry after purchasing smartwatch designer WIMM Labs in 2012.
“Think about it, how many times a day do you check your smartphone? And you’re going to have more reasons to access that device,” Jacobs said at the event. Toq is “a second screen for your smartphone, and it’s always available to you.”
Toq will go on sale only in the U.S. in limited numbers and will retail for $300 to $350, Rob Chandhok, a senior vice president at Qualcomm, said at a briefing. The device will be available in the tens of thousands of units, he said. Toq also comes with wireless headphones that let the user listen to music or make calls.
South Korea’s Samsung unveiled its own smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear, at at event in Berlin today. To avoid competing with its customers, San Diego-based Qualcomm will limit production of Toq and doesn’t plan to enter the device market on a wide scale, the company said. When it goes on sale in the fourth quarter, the watch will be compatible with Android devices.
The adoption of wearable technology is still in its early stages, with the majority of devices focused on fitness and health monitoring. The market for all wearable technology, including smartwatches, will more than double to $18.8 billion in 2016 from $9.3 billion this year, according to market researcher IHS Inc. (IHS:US)
Qualcomm’s Toq accesses data and services via short-range wireless connections to a user’s smartphone. It comes with a carrying case that doubles as a wireless charger, and goes about 5 days between charges. Its battery is built into the strap clasp to keep the unit slim, and parts of the strap also contain touch sensors used to access the watch’s functions.
The main feature of the device is the display. Qualcomm is using its Mirasol technology to give the watch a screen that can be left on without draining the battery. By using reflective technology, Mirasol can be used in bright sunlight and consumes little power.
Those features haven’t helped Mirasol meet the company’s original goal of overturning the dominance of liquid crystal-based technology in the display industry, because Mirasol displays don’t yet deliver colors as vivid as their rivals do. That has held back the technology’s adoption in tablet computers and larger-screen smartphones, particularly for use with video.
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