Watch this: Huawei takes on Apple in wearables sector

Watch this: Huawei takes on Apple in wearables sector
Huawei Chief Executive Richard Yu presents the Huawei Watch during a news conference in Barcelona March 1, 2015.

Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's first smartwatch, which was introduced a week ahead of the Apple Watch, will be the strongest suit for the Chinese company as it battles with Apple Inc in the wearable market.

Although the Apple Watch is likely to grab the biggest slice of the global smartwatch sector, the Huawei product, which features a round dial with a more traditional appearance, also looks sexy enough to make buyers pay, analysts said on Monday.

Attending the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Richard Yu, chief executive officer of Huawei's consumer business group, said that the 42-millimeter-diameter watch, targeting high-end buyers, will be the world's first wearable with sapphire crystal glass.

The watch monitors the wearer's daily health, including footsteps and heart rates.

It also shows instant short messages and call notifications on its ultra-high-resolution display.

Huawei, which is among the world's top five smartphone producers, also unveiled its second-generation smartband, a futuristic smartphone accessory.

The Guangdong-based company did not announce any price or release details for the watch, but a person familiar with the matter said that customers may get their hands on the device by summer.

The world's interest in smartwatches was ignited by Apple, which is likely to announce the price and date of availability of the gadget on March 9 in San Francisco.

The smartwatch will remain a fancy accessory to smartphones for quite some time, said Thomas Husson, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

"The speculation that Huawei's Android-powered smartwatch can operate independently from a smartphone is mostly irrelevant," Husson said.

"In the next two to three years, smartphones will remain the hub of new connected experiences.

Smartwatches will complement, not replace, smartphones."

Annette Zimmermann, research director at industry consultancy Gartner Inc, said that several hardware producers, including South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co, Japan's Sony Corp and China's Lenovo Group Ltd, are also poised to join the wearables competition.

"To compete with Apple, other vendors must improve their software performance and build out their ecosystems as soon as possible," said Zimmermann.

Total shipments of smartwatches and fitness bands are set to hit 70 million this year, a 38 per cent jump year-on-year, data from Gartner show.

The firm estimated that customers will buy more than 500 million wearable devices in 2020.

The volume was below 150 million in 2014.

The Huawei Watch may miss out on the Chinese mainland market, however, because the Android Wear operating system is not available in the market.

The company said on its website that the watch will only be sold in markets where Android Wear operates.

For the same reason, Moto 360, Motorola Mobile's smartwatch that is also powered by Android Wear, has yet to make an entry into the Chinese mainland market, even though the Lenovo subsidiary has announced an aggressive return-to-China plan.

Amy Teng, a Taipei-based Gartner researcher, said that Chinese vendors need more higher-end wearables to compete with overseas companies.

"The large number of low-end products on the market are quickly consuming buyers' interest in fitness bands and smartwatches.

Companies need to focus on customer experience by launching more higher-end products to clinch customer loyalty," Teng said.

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