Qualcomm is best known for making the processors that power many phones and tablets. But for the past few years the company has also been trying to bring its Mirasol display technology to market in eReaders and other devices. It hasn’t really caught on.
But that could change if Qualcomm’s new Toq smartwatch is a hit. That’s because unlike like the Samsung Galaxy Gear, the Toq has a low-power screen that’s easy to view in direct sunlight.
The company says you should be able to get up to 3 to 5 days of battery life, while Galaxy Gear users will have to charge their wristwatches every night.
The Mirasol display is backlit and supports colors, but it’s also visible in direct sunlight or other bright conditions with little or no backlight. That allows the screen to use far less power than a typical LCD or AMOLED screen… although the colors won’t look as vibrant on this watch when you’re not sunbathing.
When you do need to recharge the watch, you can do it without wires. The watch’s case includes an inductive charging pad.
The watch is buttonless, and features touchscreen controls. There’s also a Bluetooth headset.
You’ll be able to pair it with Android or iOS phones and tablets over WiFi or Bluetooth and use a companion app to let you view and respond to text messages, emails, and other notifications using your watch. Other apps for the watch include a calendar, weather app, and stock tracker.
Qualcomm hasn’t announced a price or launch date yet, but you can register to get updates by email at the Toq website. The company is calling it a limited edition device though, so don’t expect a huge number of these watches to hit the streets… unless it proves to be so popular that Qualcomm can’t resist making additional batches.
Update: Qualcomm revealed some specs to AnandTech. It looks like the watch is powered by a 200 MHz ARM Cortex-M3 processor, features a 1.55 inch, 288 x 192 pixel Mirasol display, an adjustable band, and support for phones running Android 4.0.3 or later.
That white bar is a really bad design choice. Almost like they realised the screens were one size and the bezel was another and so they stuffed it with white.
Watch design merits aside, I think passive displays like mirasol are absolutely the way to go. It means the watch display is always on unlike OLED / LCD displays which would have to turn off to save juice.
30 years ago I bought my first digital watch, an Ingersol. You had to push the button to light up the LED display and the battery lasted days if you did it too often. Here we are 30 years on and history is repeating all over again. A “smart” watch that needs charging every day or two is not smart, it’s dumb. A “smart” watch that turns its display off so you can’t tell the time without two hands free to activate it is not smart, it’s dumb.
These smart watches need to be aiming for at least a week, preferably much longer. And that means using low power displays and low power bluetooth and setting reasonable expectations of the functionality they provide.
Sounds like Qualcomm is hedging its bets on this product. Not wanting to appear to directly compete with its chip customers with a full-blown retail product. This is probably a reference design Qualcomm would dearly love its chip customers to use (HTC, Acer, Asus, get the hint?). On the other hand, Qualcomm could take the plunge and sell this as a consumer product if the limited edition takes off.
& explodes upon contact with water. Anything less than 100M water resistance is worthless.
why didn’t mirasol take off? it seemed like a great screen technology
It’s good no paper, but in practice the viewing angles are limited and the colors a bit washed out. It’s not really ideal for an eReader, but it could be great for a watch that you wear outdoors.
The colours in colour e-ink were far more washed out. I think a more likely reason for mirasol not taking off was they either had manufacturing issues, or the thing was too expensive and they couldn’t get interest for it.
It also has a slow refresh rate. Nowhere near as slow as e-ink but possibly too slow to use it in a tablet for streaming videos and such like.
Yeah, price and refresh rate are also issues — but are you suggesting that color E Ink *has* taken off? Because it hasn’t really.
Colour e-ink didn’t take off because it sucked. It was like a badly tinted grayscale image.
Mirasol didn’t take off either for price or manufacturing difficulty. The tech itself is obviously useful and perhaps the reason it’s appearing in watches, on the backs of phones is that the production costs are more under control and the payoff in battery is so much more obvious.
Comments are closed.