Qualcomm Jumps Into The Smartwatch Fight With The $350 Toq Smartwatch

Meet the Qualcomm Toq. The $350 smartwatch will be available come December 2nd directly from Qualcomm. The watch packs some interesting features including Qualcomm’s own low-energy screen technology called Mirasol that should make it more readable in direct sunlight. The smartwatch race just got a bit more interesting.

Qualcomm designed the Toq to bring Android notification to a smaller screen. Reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy Gear, the device is rather attractive even if it’s a touch bulky. The watch only connects with Android devices and runs a bespoke OS.

The smartwatch market is very similar to the mp3 player market prior to the iPod’s eventual domination. Nearly every consumer electronic market is throwing their hat into the ring with their own interpretation. However, consumers have yet to latch on primarily because the concept itself is still under development. Samsung’s smartwatch is essentially a gimped smartphone, Sony’s is centered around notifications, and the Pebble offers basic functions for a low price.

The smartwatch market needs a device to break open the market. The market needs a device to show consumers why the need a smartwatch. The smartwatch market needs an iPod. And the Qualcomm Toq is not that device and Qualcomm knows that.

By Qualcomm’s own admission, the Toq will not be a blockbuster. Think of it as a proof of concept. It’s a limited edition and at launch will only be available from Qualcomm itself. Qualcomm, after all, does not have the consumer electronic distribution channels to properly compete within the walls of retail stores.

This isn’t the first time Qualcomm has tried the consumer electronic game. Remember the FLO TV? Probably not. The small device brought live TV to buyers willing to shell out $350 for the device and $8.99 a month for the service. The device rocked a 3.5-inch screen and stereo speakers. Unexpectedly, FLO TV didn’t survive. Qualcomm refunded buyers the cost of the device and sold the wireless spectrum to AT&T for $2B (which was probably Qualcomm’s original intent).

Qualcomm likely has a similar outcome planned for the Toq. If the company can drum up enough hype around its smartwatch, it will be in a better position to license or sell the smartwatch’s key technology such as the Mirasol screen or the custom OS. Qualcomm doesn’t want to get into consumer electronics. It’s too smart for the that.