Samsung and Qualcomm fail to launch the smartwatch revolution

Two new smartwatches are really relics from yesterday, not a glimpse of tomorrow

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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

The Toq's battery is built into the watch band clasp.

But let's be clear, the Qualcomm Toq is not intended to be a serious contender for the future of smartphones. It's more of a proof-of-concept for Qualcomm's technology, especially its sunlight-readable, low-power, color mirasol display technology. The company has said it expects to sell tens of thousands of units only and would prefer that other companies make smartwatches with Qualcomm parts.

But don't worry: The revolution is coming

Despite Samsung's and Qualcomm's poor efforts in smartwatches, we're going to see a flood of devices coming in the next year. We're likely to see smartwatches from Acer, Apple, Dell, Foxconn, Google, Intel, LG, Microsoft and Toshiba. We'll also see startups shipping watches, including AGENT, Androidly, EmoPulse, Hyetis, Kreyos, MyKronoz, Neptune, Omate, PHTL, Rearden, Sonostar and Vachen. And we have already seen smartwatches ship from the likes of Cookoo, GEAK, I'm Watch, Pebble, Sony and others.

Some of these are likely to hit the right combination of size, features, performance and price that will knock the likes of Samsung's giant Galaxy Gear right out of contention.

In fact, Sony's SmartWatch 2 is already vastly superior to the Galaxy Gear in key respects. It's smaller, cheaper, looks more professional, has longer battery life and is far more widely compatible.

The Samsung Galaxy Gear and Qualcomm Toq are not the smartwatch revolution you've been waiting for.

A few hardcore geeks will buy them. But the rest of us will wait until the real revolution starts -- when smartwatches are small and sleek enough, low cost, functional and useful enough for everybody to wear.

This article, Samsung and Qualcomm fail to launch the smartwatch revolution, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. Contact and learn more about Mike at http://Google.me/+MikeElgan. You can also see more articles by Mike Elgan on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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