The Next Big Thing

Huawei unveils new smart watch to challenge Apple in luxury wearables market

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 March, 2015, 1:51am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 June, 2015, 1:24pm

Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei has unveiled its first smartwatch that is aimed at the higher end of the wearables market, a week before Apple is expected to host an event to present a rival device.

The 42mm in diameter "luxury" watch would be the world's first wearable with sapphire crystal glass, Richard Yu, chief executive officer of Huawei's consumer business group, said at an event in Barcelona on Sunday, ahead of yesterday's opening of the Mobile World Congress.

The firm unveiled its watch line in classic, business and sporty versions, while at the same time, across town, South Korea's LG Electronics launched a similar round-faced model.

Pairing the watch with a smartphone running Android, users can receive text-message notifications, emails, calendar reminders or incoming phone alerts.

It is not, as some analysts had hoped for, a watch that can operate independently from a smartphone, using its own SIM card.

But with their new circular watches, LG and Huawei have clearly positioned themselves at the luxury end of the market, differentiating themselves from the square-faced design revealed in previews by Apple.

Huawei's watch will come with more than 40 customisable interfaces, some of which resemble the faces of expensive luxury watches popular with big-spending Chinese consumers.

Huawei, ranked fifth in global smartphone shipments during the third quarter, is focusing on higher-end smartphones that can rival those from Apple and Samsung. All have expanded into wearables.

Apple sent out invitations last Thursday to an event on March 9 in San Francisco, where it will unveil details for the release of the Apple Watch. The connected, fitness-tracking wristwatch is the first entirely new gadget line to debut since Tim Cook took the helm of the company.

Wearables shipments are expected to jump 158 per cent this year to 75 million, analysts at CCS Insight estimate. By 2018, almost 350 million wearable devices will be worn worldwide.

"Smartwatches will complement, not replace smartphones" for at least the next two to three years, said Thomas Husson, an analyst at technology research firm Forrester.

Huawei aims to become "one of the world's most loved brands", Amy Lou, its global brand director, said before Yu spoke in Barcelona.

The watch, the price of which is yet to be revealed, is due to be released around mid-year, according to Yu.

Also on Sunday, Samsung unveiled its latest Galaxy S smartphones, featuring a slim body made from aircraft-grade metal.

Bloomberg, Reuters, Agence France-Presse


The SCMP is your independent news source on China.

What impact does China have on your life? #GetChina now by taking our quiz here.