Smartwatch Showdown: Samsung Galaxy Gear vs Sony SmartWatch 2 vs Qualcomm Toq


Today saw three new entrants into the smartwatch space in what will likely come to be known as the beginning of the smartwatch boom. As we expected, when we wrote about these devices (at least the ones we knew about), this round of smartwatches still falls within the "first-gen" era, which brings interesting potential, but major drawbacks for early adopters. Essentially, the choice between the Samsung Galaxy Gear, Sony SmartWatch 2, and Qualcomm Toq comes down to one thing: do you want features or do you want battery life?

Note: we decided to leave the Pebble out of this roundup, because its slow display and extremely limited RAM (96k) limit the device too much for consideration, despite its battery life and price point. 

Displays


Both the Samsung Galaxy Gear and Sony SmartWatch 2 have 1.6-inch screens, and Qualcomm hasn't released the specs on its display. We do know that the Qualcomm Toq uses a Mirasol transflective display, similar to the Sony SmartWatch 2, which also uses a transflective display, but it isn't Mirasol. Transflective displays are the most power efficient full color displays on the market, because they are a nifty combination of eInk and LCD using both ambient light and backlight, which gives great battery life with full color and far better performance than you would expect from eInk. 

Samsung's Galaxy Gear uses a Super AMOLED display, which is more power efficient than a regular LCD, especially if the UI is heavy on dark colors because it only lights up pixels that are in use, and full black means the pixel isn't used at all. The Galaxy Gear also potentially has the highest resolution of the bunch. We don't know the resolution of the Qualcomm Toq, but the Gear is 320x320, and Sony SmartWatch 2 has a resolution of 220x176.

Design


The SmartWatch 2 and Toq are basic black squares, but Sony spruces things up by offering multiple interchangeable wrist straps, as well as a stainless steel option. As far as the look of the watch face itself, we kind of like the Galaxy Gear the best out of the bunch, but the size of the bezels seems unnecessary, and adds too much bulk to what should be a small device. Additionally, while it is nice that the Galaxy Gear has speakers, a microphone, and a camera (1.9MP), all of which are features that are not present in either the SmartWatch 2 or the Toq, there are drawbacks for the Gear to have those features. 

First of all, all of those features are built into the watch strap, meaning you cannot change the watch strap and are stuck with what Samsung gives you. Second, it's unclear as yet just how useful those features will be. If you have a smartphone, is the speed difference worth the far lower quality of taking a photo or video with your smartwatch compared to your phone? Lastly, those feature all leach more battery life, which is already in limited quantity on a smartwatch. Sure, it would be cool to be Dick Tracy and run a phone call through your wrist, but if that's going to kill your battery, is it really worth it?


As far as the size differences, the Smartwatch 2 clocks in at 9mm x 42mm x 41mm (.35" x 1.65" x 1.61"), and the Samsung Galaxy Gear is 11mm x 37mm x 57mm (.43" x 1.46" x 2.24"), which means the SmartWatch 2 is 33% smaller than the Galaxy Gear, but surprisingly Sony's smartwatch weighs quite a bit more at 122 grams (4.3 oz) compared to Samsung's 74 grams (2.6 oz). That could be because the standard SmartWatch 2 comes with a stainless steel band, and that would certainly boost the weight. There's no word on the Qualcomm Toq, but the images make it look to be similar in size to the SmarWatch 2.

Lastly on design is durability. We don't know how much of a beating these things can take in general, but we do know that Samsung's Galaxy Gear is rated for IP55, meaning it is protected against dust and water spray for a few minutes; but, the SmartWatch 2 is rated to IP57, which means it is protected against dust and submersion in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes. Again, no word on Qualcomm's smartwatch. 

Software and features


While both the Galaxy Gear and SmartWatch 2 run modified Android software, there is no standardized app store from Google for Android smartphone apps, nor is Android optimized for use on such small displays. Qualcomm seems to be using proprietary software. This means that Samsung, Sony, and Qualcomm all have to get developers on board to develop specifically for each device. 

Samsung has done well on this front, and says that there will be about 70 apps available soon, and about 12 when the Gear launches. But, Sony has had a year's headstart in building its ecosystem, which means it has about 400 apps available for its SmartWatch. Assuming Qualcomm is running proprietary software, that will make it even more difficult for developers, so we certainly wouldn't expect more than a handful of apps at launch. 


Of course, the number of apps doesn't tell the whole story either, because apps will function differently on each device. The general consensus so far is that Samsung's offerings feel more like an actual smartwatch, while Sony's offerings feel more like an annex screen to your smartphone, rather than a separate intelligent device. This isn't always true as Sony's SmartWatch allows for deeper reading of Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook messages than Galaxy Gear. 

But, Galaxy Gear also has extra features like a built-in pedometer app, and Smart Relay, which can automatically move what you're doing on your Gear to your Galaxy phone. And, as you might expect, the extra hardware on the Gear adds more functionality, like being able to take calls, initiate calls, take photos and video, and best of all use S Voice for voice commands to draft messages, create new calendar entries, set alarms, and check the weather. 

Sony's main extra feature is the ability to pair your SmartWatch 2 with an NFC capable Android device. Qualcomm's Toq sets itself apart by offering wireless charging, although it uses Qualcomm's WiPower LE technology rather than the Qi wireless standard. The Toq will also have an option to get a Bluetooth headset which will also use wireless charging, and can have the Toq control music played on them. 

Compatibility


As you may have noticed in that last paragraph, we had to note that the Galaxy Gear does certain things with your Samsung Galaxy smartphone. That's because Samsung's smartwatch is only compatible with Samsung's own smartphones. It will be compatible with the Galaxy Note 3 at launch, and there will be software updates to the Samsung Galaxy S III, S4, and Note II to add support. 

On the other hand, the Sony SmartWatch 2 and the Qualcomm Toq will work with any Android device running 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or higher. Qualcomm is also considering support for iOS, but hasn't confirmed anything yet. 

And, it should be noted that functionality for all of the devices will be severely limited if you don't have a smartphone to pair with. 

Battery life


Samsung rates it for "up to 25 hours in regular". Company battery claims tend to be a bit overblown, so we wouldn't be surprised if the Gear gets less. On the other side, Sony claims between three and four days in normal use, and Qualcomm doesn't give a specific number but also says "days of battery life". 

Price and availability


The Samsung Galaxy Gear will be available beginning late September in most regions, and October in the U.S. and Japan for around $299. Sony hasn’t announced U.S. pricing or availability, but has said that the SmartWatch 2 will be available in late September for €199 (~$263) for the stainless steel strap, and it’s listed on Amazon U.K. as shipping next week for £160 (US$250). No price for the Qualcomm Toq, but it is planned for a Q4 2013 release and is expected to be around $300. 

Conclusion


As we said at the start, its basically a matter of if you want features or battery life, but overall the choice is a lot more complicated than it looks. The Samsung Galaxy Gear has the most features, and the most potential (assuming you have a Samsung smartphone). But, its battery life is far worse than the competition, and it has the most limited compatibility. 

Aside from the lower cost, better battery life, and options for changeable wrist straps, the Sony SmartWatch 2 has the advantage of being the only device that isn't a first generation product. That means the Sony app ecosystem has had more time to mature, and Sony has had the time to fix the problems that were around in the first SmartWatch. We don't yet know what first-gen bugs exist in the Galaxy Gear or the Toq, and we don't know how quickly to expect software updates to fix whatever issues there may be. In fact, we don't know enough at all about the Qualcomm Toq. It has some interesting features, but there are still too many unknowns, most importantly the price and the app support. 

FEATURED VIDEO

38 Comments

1. 1113douglas

Posts: 200; Member since: Jul 04, 2013

if you have a galaxy smartphone, then you should definitively be getting the galaxy smart watch.

7. a_merryman

Posts: 749; Member since: Dec 14, 2011

Or just don't get it, use your phone, and save yourself $300 and keep the ability to not look like a dork.

8. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

I think he means "if you had to choose one of them" then you should definitively be getting the Galaxy Smart Watch.

15. a_merryman

Posts: 749; Member since: Dec 14, 2011

And I was saying that there is always the option of not getting one at all. I wouldn't get any of these in their current forms. But the Galaxy Gear is least likely for me, it is too ugly looking and only goes a day on a charge. A watch is meant to be a fashion piece in todays world, and it should be able to go for a long time without needing a charge. I think the Sony and Qualcomm ones are the best out of these 3. Their display technology allows them to go a majority of the week without charging. To be fair, I've always been partial to the Pebble. But I dont think it offers any of the fitness tracker style benefits, which I think should be a must in a smartwatch.

16. special4u

Posts: 63; Member since: May 22, 2013

25 hours battery life vs 96 hours battery life and for a wearable gear, design is most important . so i bet u know the answer.

20. ardent1

Posts: 2000; Member since: Apr 16, 2011

What happen to the 6th gen. iPod Nano??? People were wearing the device like a watch

21. AnTuTu

Posts: 1620; Member since: Oct 14, 2012

Galaxy Gear FTW :)

27. SonyPS4

Posts: 347; Member since: May 21, 2013

One of the best smartphone with one of the worst product ever. NO

38. apple4never

Posts: 1064; Member since: May 08, 2013

Dude had that pic first lol

2. jeff_1

Posts: 105; Member since: Aug 30, 2013

Sony Smartwatch 2 the best...the original is still the king... copycat galaxy gear makes me vomit. Samsuck time for you to create something new from your lab..not fromn sony's lab, nokia, apple. quallcomms lab...

5. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

You're quite the troll aren't you? Are you disappointed that the Galaxy Gear has more features than the SS2?

12. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

Copycat Galaxy Gear? Samsung didn't copy anything from any company, Samsung is just joining the smartwatch family. So you're saying that other company is allowed to make a smartwatch and Samsung is not allowed to? That's like saying Hershey is allowed to make chocolate and Cadbury is not allowed to.

28. SonyPS4

Posts: 347; Member since: May 21, 2013

Not copycat because it has worse design, worse battery life, no waterproof and useless camera

30. JMartin22

Posts: 2372; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

1) Opinion, 2) whatever - more features will drain the battery; that's just Moore's Law, 3) at least it has a camera; 4) what do you even need waterproofing for really? Those extremely rare occasions when you drop your watch in the toilet or a swimming pool?

34. the_best

Posts: 139; Member since: Oct 14, 2012

haha you really dont know what moores law is, do you =P. and my hand and wrists get wet every time it rains. Thats probably why nobody wears ipod nano on their wrists, cous they break when any kind of moisture is present.

35. McLTE

Posts: 922; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

@ JMartin22 What a ridiculous statement.. if ANY electronic item needs waterproofing, it's a watch. Or maybe you never go outside, wash your hands or take a shower...

3. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Galaxy Gear seems to offer more features overall, but the edge goes to the competitors in battery life.

4. a_tumiwa

Posts: 393; Member since: Mar 16, 2012

lolz PA forget to include Qualcoom in Conclusion

6. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Qualcomm*

11. jaxson983

Posts: 43; Member since: Aug 11, 2013

if you want a smart watch get a Suunto. all of these other things are just for people too lazy to pull their phone out of their pocket.

13. Googler

Posts: 813; Member since: Jun 10, 2013

The winner hasn't been revealed yet. I'm not talking about Apple or Google, but the one who can pull the resources together after the technology makes this viable. So far only 1 has more than a days worth of battery life, until that improves, smart watches will remain niche products.

17. jeff_1

Posts: 105; Member since: Aug 30, 2013

looks like a toy

18. PK1983

Posts: 215; Member since: Aug 08, 2012

Or just spend $10 on a used Timex that works for 6 months, take $250 to buy a Nexus 4 and spend the rest on dinner and a movie.

19. bugsbunny00

Posts: 2266; Member since: Jun 07, 2013

its only the beginning of the smartwatch era, these so called smartwatch will improve in the future ..these are just first of its kind...

22. google-apple

Posts: 34; Member since: Jul 19, 2013

Galaxy Gear... Not good at all...

23. yudi.nemesis unregistered

Sony Smartwatch is the best all-around choice. It can be used with any Android device, has a pretty robust ecosystem, and will last a few days on a charge. Androidauthority

36. McLTE

Posts: 922; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

I have to agree with you on this. I like the idea of the Samsung, but I can't see wearing that thing.. that side profile is hideous! Bummer. The Sony on the other hand looks like a watch which is a requirement for me. It does lack the features of the Samsung however. Oh well.. I'm not in any hurry to jump into the watch game, especially at this price point. I think I'll wait and see what the next generation is. If I'm dropping $300-$400 on an electronic watch, it better dazzle me.

24. kindlefireowner

Posts: 504; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

Seems like it was just yesterday when Casio released a $300 camera watch. It was a waste of money then, just like these watches are a waste of money now.

25. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

I don't want smartwatch. I don't want to wear 2 watches at the same time in one hand or both hands, atleast not smartwatch. If somebody gives me free then I'll take.

26. CX3NT3_713

Posts: 2361; Member since: Apr 18, 2011

The only way, i would be interested in a "smartwatch" , was if it had 3.5" OLED curved screen,. That fitted good around my rist, amd did more than, just tell.me i have a notification,time,ect....patent idea haha

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.