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Comms chips

Watch Out! Qualcomm's Got a Wearable Device

SAN DIEGO -- Uplinq 2013 -- At last year's Uplinq conference, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs was adamant that the chipmaker wouldn't build mobile devices again, but it's making an exception this year for a mobile device you can wear on your wrist. (See: Qualcomm to Remain Absolutely Fabless.)

At Uplinq Wednesday, Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) unveiled the Toq smart watch, a branded, wearable computing device built by its Qualcomm Connected Experiences subsidiary and designed to be a second screen to the smartphone.

The device features a low-power Mirasol display optimized for viewing outdoors, wireless charging through Qualcomm's own WiPower LE technology, its AllJoyn developer framework, and connectivity through Bluetooth. The device will work with Android 4.0.3 versions and later at launch.

"We see a wearable device like Tog as really central to our vision," Jacobs said his keynote, adding that the Toq is upgradable, and Qualcomm will continue to add functionality to it and find more ways to make it seamlessly interact with its owner's environment. In particular, he sees a lot of potential in health and fitness.

Paul Jacob's Toq Time
Why did Qualcomm make a smart watch? Chandhok says it's because, 'Paul wanted to have something on his wrist that helps him remember things, and he had a vision for it.'
Why did Qualcomm make a smart watch? Chandhok says it's because, "Paul wanted to have something on his wrist that helps him remember things, and he had a vision for it."

Speaking after the keynote, Rob Chandhok, president of Qualcomm Interactive Platforms, said that Toq doesn't mean Qualcomm is becoming a consumer electronics maker. Rather, it's using it to show off what it can do with its technologies. Qualcomm will judge its success by how well its partners take a piece of the design, put their own twist on it, and bring it to market, he said. As such, the watch will only be released as a limited edition in the US in the fourth quarter.

In fact, the Toq doesn't even include a Qualcomm processor, at least not yet. Chandhok said if demand goes up, the company will evaluate if it makes sense to do Snapdragon for wearables.

"It's an example; a thought piece for us," Chandhok said. "Paul particularly worked on it, so there's lots of Paul in the device."

Qualcomm's partners, however, aren't exactly waiting for Qualcomm's leadership to put out their own versions. In fact, while Qualcomm was unveiling its wares, Samsung Corp. was on its own stage showing off its wearable computing device, the Galaxy Gear, a "glanceable notification machine."

Chandhok said that Qualcomm isn't making a statement about the validity of others' smart watches by putting out its own, but it does see a different focus for them. Rather than replacing the phone, the Toq is all about complementing it. It's also not the only computing device Qualcomm expects consumers to have eventually, which is why it's making a big deal about AllJoyn connectivity to tie additional devices together.

"This isn’t about what we think about what any of our partners are doing," Chandhok said. "We're not trying to criticize. We are trying to add to the conversation."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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SarahW 9/5/2013 | 7:50:46 PM
Re: Limited edition That's a good point. Will be intersting to see your writeups on this topic a year from now...
Sarah Thomas 9/5/2013 | 7:47:03 PM
Re: Limited edition I agree, Sarah, but what makes the Toq more intesting than some of the others I've seen is the Mirasol display, which Qualcomm has been working on for awhile. Not being able to see your screens in the sunlight is a big issue, and the Toq addresses that. Reminds me of ereaders versus tablets for reading. Not sure if that justifies the around $300 price tag, but it's one feature I think will catch on.
sarahwallace 9/5/2013 | 7:23:03 PM
Re: Limited edition Though intriguing, it will be interesting to see if consumers really eat up smart watches with the small screens...
mendyk 9/5/2013 | 11:33:43 AM
Re: One Toq over the line I would bet that a pooper snooper would be wildly popular for those who'd rather use their nose for other purposes.
PaulERainford 9/5/2013 | 11:32:11 AM
Re: WiFi pants Sarah, you know me so well. The WiFi pants are all I need.
PaulERainford 9/5/2013 | 11:30:20 AM
Re: One Toq over the line I found my nose device usually worked pretty well for that.
DanJones 9/5/2013 | 11:18:47 AM
Re: WiFi pants There was an embedded tooth phone a while back. Seems quaint now, I mean who talks on their phone anymore?
mendyk 9/5/2013 | 10:53:11 AM
One Toq over the line Four words for the wearable device development squad: Substance-detection disposable diapers.
Sarah Thomas 9/5/2013 | 10:26:22 AM
Re: WiFi pants Sorry, Paul, that was a general question, not one to you. I know you never want your dress to light up...
Sarah Thomas 9/5/2013 | 9:41:45 AM
Re: WiFi pants hmm And why would you want your dress to light up instead of your phone?? Seems a bit obnoxious. 

Speaking of being comfortable with wearable tech, what about when it's embeddable??

Jacobs said he recently trialed a glucose testing device that involved a needle to constantly monitor your levels. I wouldn't be a fan of that, although I'm sure diabetics would find it useful. Qualcomm is also working on a clinical trial of a sensor that goes in your blood stream because there are typically signs of a heart attack in the bloodstream two weeks before one occurs. This would alert you if that happened, so you could go to the doctor early.

It's certainly invasive, but could be life saving!
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