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Samsung and Qualcomm fail to launch the smartwatch revolution

Mike Elgan | Sept. 9, 2013
Two new smartwatches are really relics from yesterday, not a glimpse of tomorrow.

The Samsung Galaxy Gear is not part of the new smartphone movement, and it doesn't employ the elements of that movement. It's just a big dorky smartwatch that suffers from the same fatal flaws that have plagued the category for years.

In fact, Samsung isn't even trying to ignite, define or dominate the coming smartwatch revolution. Their Galaxy Gear watch is just an add-on gimmick for a tiny range of high-end Samsung phones and tablets.

The Galaxy Gear displays notifications from a phone or a tablet via Bluetooth, plays music, shows various watch faces, runs apps, takes photos and video and functions as a speakerphone and phone dialer. It's got a 1.63-inch Super AMOLED touch display at a resolution of 320 x 320 and a 1.9-megapixel camera built into the strap facing away from the 12-hand position of the clock. It's powered by a single-core 800MHz Exynos processor, has 512 MB of memory, 4 GB of storage and a 315-milliamp-hour lithium-ion battery. It comes in six colors. Out of the box, the Galaxy Gear has a few apps, with up to 70 to choose from in its store. It's scheduled to become available in the U.S. in October after being launched abroad Sept. 24.

Today, the Samsung Galaxy Gear, which requires a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone or tablet in order to function right, works with exactly zero phones — literally incompatible with every phone ever sold.

When the Galaxy Gear ships, a giant new Samsung phone called the Galaxy Note 3 will also ship and support the watch. Later, the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S III are expected to support the watch when Samsung releases a software update, probably in October.

Among this tiny minority of Android smartphone users, Samsung will have to find males who are not professionals (it's too big for women or for business wear), who are among the minority who want a smartwatch at all, are willing to pay $300 for it, don't want biometric fitness features, can put up with its lousy battery life and don't prefer a smartwatch from the dozens of other companies that will be selling smartwatches compatible with many phone brands.

Qualcomm's Toq smart watch
Qualcomm's Toq smart watch

This watch has a market of a few thousand people, tops.

Qualcomm is trying even less than Samsung is.

Qualcomm's Toq (pronounced "talk") is also way too big and also $300. At least it can last a few days on a charge and work with a majority of newer Android smartphones and later iPhones.

In fact, controlling the phone is the main focus of Toq, rather than running apps on its own. The interface provides basic controls for navigation notifications and performing basic smartphone functions, like playing music


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