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Brand challenge of smart and wearable bands

2014-02-25 12:34 China Daily Web Editor: qindexing

Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has shown faith in the fledgling smart wearable market with the world's first hybrid smart band for both Bluetooth calling and fitness tracking.

Shenzhen-based Huawei demonstrated TalkBand B1 at the Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona, Spain, on Sunday.

The smart band, which is worn on the wrist, has a 1.4-inch, flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display and removable earpiece.

Huawei said the device can connect to people's smartphones so they can stay updated with all the information they need with just a quick glance.

The TalkBand B1's fitness tracking feature can record how many steps one has taken, what one's sleep quality is and how many calories one has burned, according to Huawei.

The product will be available for 99 euros ($136) and be out in China next month, whereas Japan, the Middle East, Russia and Western Europe will have to wait until the second quarter of 2014.

Richard Yu, chief executive officer of the Huawei consumer business group, said the company needs to start early in order to acquire a good position in the wearable device industry.

"Because (the smart band market) is new, manufacturers can only march forward by taking tentative steps," Yu said at a news briefing in Barcelona.

Huawei is not the first Chinese company to launch a smart wearable product.

ZTE Corp, Huawei's crosstown rival, released its first smart watch in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Zeng Xuezhong, ZTE's executive vice-president, pointed out that the wearable gadgets market is a "blue sea", since no company currently dominates this new field and every player has an equal opportunity.

Global smart-watch shipments reached a record 1.9 million units in 2013, according to Strategy Analytics, a US-based research company. Matt Wilkins, the company's director, said, "We estimate that less than 1 percent of all smartphones shipped worldwide were bundled with smart watches in 2013, so there remains huge scope for smart-watch growth."

"It is very early days, of course, but the smart-watch market is starting to take shape," Wilkins said in a research note.

South Korea-based Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, of course, poses the most obstacles for Chinese players hoping to gain a major share in the smart wearable market.

Samsung accounted for more than half of the world's smart band shipments in the second half of 2013, according to research firm Canalys.

In the same period, Sony was the No 2 smart-band vendor, with a 19 percent global share.

"Samsung launched Galaxy Gear with a major marketing push that received significant consumer interest," said Chris Jones, principal analyst at Canalys. "Shipments of the device took Samsung to the top of the smart-band category, although disappointing sell-through will necessitate more promotional activity in coming months."

Canalys estimated this will be the year that wearables become a key consumer technology. The smart-band segment is expected to reach 8 million annual units shipped.

Daniel Matt, another Canalys analyst, said he expects the high-margin smart bands that incorporate sophisticated sensor technology will offer vendors great profit potential.

"With increased awareness about personal well-being, having a computer on your wrist will become increasingly common," Matt said in an email to China Daily.

Huawei's Yu predicted that smart-band gadgets likely will utilize cloud technology and that more and more smartphones will be tied to specific wearable products in the near future.

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