Not on my watch: Huawei CEO sees no future for wearable smart devices

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 April, 2017, 6:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2017, 4:55pm

It turns out even people at the very cutting edge of technical innovation are entitled to a “technophobe” moment.

For the boss of Huawei Technology – one of the world’s biggest makers of smart products – that moment came on Tuesday, when he declared he could not see the appeal of smartwatches in a world where smartphones seem to have it covered.

“I am always confused as to what smartwatches are for when we have smartphones,” Eric Xu Zhijun, Huawei’s rotating CEO, said during the company’s Global Analyst Summit 2017 held in Shenzhen on Tuesday.

I am always confused as to what smartwatches are for when we have smartphones
Eric Xu Zhijun, rotating CEO, Huawei

Xu, whose company has to date released two smartwatches, questioned the future of wearable smart devices and proclaimed he would never dream of wearing one himself.

“Therefore, when the smartwatch team in Huawei presents their ideas to me with great excitement, I keep reminding them to consider whether there are tangible needs [for these products] in the market,” he said during a Q&A session with analysts and reporters from all corners of the globe.

Xu was responding to a question on whether the development of terminal products like smartwatches would squeeze its smartphone business.

The company’s latest smartwatch, the Huawei Watch 2, can be fitted with a SIM card, which enables users to dial out and answer calls on the device. It was launched two years after Huawei’s first-generation Android Wear-powered smartwatch entered the market in March, 2015.

The Chinese technology giant has never released official figures regarding the sales of its wearable smart devices. Apple and Samsung dominate the market, according to most data sources.

“The overall smartwatch market is not growing as fast as many anticipated,” said Thomas Husson, principal analyst at Forrester Research. “Our data shows that among the consumers who bought a smartwatch, a significant percentage stop using it.”

According to an IDC report released on March 20, global shipments of smartwatches in 2016 amounted to 49.2 million, slightly higher than the 48.7 million shipments of similar wearables such as fitness bands.

“Watches struggled as mass market devices due to their limited and unclear value proposition to a broad base of potential users,” Ramon T. Llamas, a research manager at IDC, wrote in the report. “Most potential customers saw watches performing multiple functions, but none of them worked exceptionally well to accomplish a myriad of tasks.”