Huawei straps on smartwatch play

Updated: 2014-02-25 11:50

By Michael Barris in New York (China Daily USA)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Huawei Technologies Co has become the latest Chinese smartphone maker to launch a low-priced smartwatch, tapping into a growing field as the crowded phone market reaches a saturation point.

The company's TalkBand smartwatch connects with a Huawei smartphone to relay calls and messages through a Bluetooth wireless system, eliminating the need for the phone to be taken out of a shirt or pants pocket during a conversation.

"When you look around us, everything is getting connected," Huawei consumer business unit vice-president Colin Giles was quoted by Agence France-Press. Giles said the Shenzhen-based company will launch the watch, unveiled on the eve of this week's World Mobile Conference in Barcelona, "first in China, then in the rest of the world."

Huawei's smartwatch makes its bow a year after the company, best known as a maker of telecom network gear, was the focus of a US Congressional report which declared Chinese telecommunications equipment a potential security risk and urged US carriers to stop doing business with Huawei and fellow Chinese telecom company ZTE Corp.

Giles said the group was taking early steps in the US to build better relationships with mobile operators and directly with consumers via online shops. "We recognize that the US is a very competitive and very tough market for us," Giles was quoted by Reuters.

Beijing's ZTE and Shenzhen's Coolpad Group Ltd already have unveiled or announced plans to release smartwatches. Huawei's TalkBand takes aim at Samsung's Galaxy Gear 2, a newly unveiled update of the smartwatch it introduced in September, now powered by Samsung's own Tizen operating system instead of Google's widely used Android platform. Like Huawei, Samsung released the Galaxy Gear 2 a day ahead of its press conference at the World Mobile Conference, the largest event of its kind.

China, which overtook the US as the world's largest smartphone market last year, is cluttered with many domestic rivals peddling cheaply priced handsets.

Research firm Canalys has predicted that global smartwatch shipments this year will top 5 million units, a tenfold jump from the 500,000 expected in 2013, and said it expects Apple, Google Inc and Microsoft Corp to launch smartwatches by year's end. IDC puts the number of annual smartwatch shipments expected this year at 8 million. Worldwide smartphone shipments surpassed 1 billion last year, up 40 percent from 2012, according to IDC.

Chinese smartphone makers were expected to bring out relatively inexpensive smartwatches after Samsung captured extensive media attention with the Galaxy Gear's release. Huawei, No 3 in global smartphone sales last year, said the TalkBand will sell for about $136. Smartwatches typically sell for $150 to $350.

To take a call, the user lifts the face off the watch and puts it to his ear. The watch can work only with Huawei smartphones but plans are afoot to modify it to work with other brands, Giles said. The watch also can be used as a pedometer to measure the distance a wearer travels by walking, he said.

Other companies that have recently boarded the smartwatch bandwagon include Qualcomm Inc, which launched its Toq smartwatch in December. Apple Inc, maker of the iPhone, is reportedly developing an iWatch for mass production in the second quarter of 2014, Digitimes has reported.

ZTE's Bluewatch is expected to go on sale in China sometime in the second quarter. It would allow the wearer to connect to his phone via Bluetooth, drawing attention to incoming calls and notifications, plus social networking interactions, Digitimes reported. The watch also would record steps taken and body-fat information.

Coolpad released its waterproof CWatch in September.

(China Daily USA 02/25/2014 page1)