Huawei’s Bracelet Joins Samsung Watch as Wearable Devices Boom

Feb 23, 2014 2:33 pm ET

(For Mobile World Congress coverage, see SHOW <GO>.}

Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Huawei Technologies Co., China’s biggest smartphone maker, unveiled its first smart bracelet while Samsung Electronics Co. introduced wristwatches based on its Tizen operating system at the Mobile World Congress.

Huawei said its bracelet will satisfy demand by customers who want wearable devices that can be used for everything from monitoring health to messaging functions. Samsung introduced the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo. The 1.63-inch wristwatches will go on sale from April and are compatible with more than dozens of Samsung’s Android-based Galaxy smartphones.

“We think that wearables in the future can be a large market,” Colin Giles, an executive vice-president at Shenzhen, China-based Huawei, said in an interview yesterday in Barlecona. “You see the integration of sensors and how devices become more miniaturized.”

Global sales of smart watches, glasses and medical products were about $10 billion last year and are forecast to triple by 2018, according to researcher IHS.

Huawei was the world’s No. 3 smartphone vendor last year with 4.9 percent of shipments, trailing Samsung and Apple Inc., according to researcher IDC. Huawei had 4 percent of the smartphone market in 2012.

Huawei also revealed its Ascend G6 4G smartphone with a 4.5 inch (11.4 centimeters) screen.

U.S. Hurdles

Huawei is expanding its business from its traditional network equipment after encountering opposition in markets including the U.S. and Australia, where politicians claim equipment from the Chinese vendor may pose a security threat. Co-Chief Executive Officer Eric Xu predicted in November that Huawei’s smartphone business would grow 10 percent last year and in 2014.

HTC Corp., the Taiwanese smartphone maker struggling with sliding sales, also plans to demonstrate the first of three wearable devices this week in Barcelona, according to a person with direct knowledge of the plans.

Samsung in September released the Galaxy Gear watch that connects with its smartphones, joining Sony’s SmartWatch unveiled in 2012.

Separately, the world’s biggest maker of smartphones is set to release its new Galaxy smartphone with a display that is larger and sharper than the current S4’s screen, as well as an improved battery and camera.

The new devices come as Samsung faces slowing profit growth amid concern the high-end smartphone market is nearing saturation on top of rising competition from Chinese makers bringing out cheaper smartphones.

Samsung last month said fourth-quarter net income rose 5.4 percent from a year earlier to 7.22 trillion won ($6.7 billion), its slowest profit growth since 2011 as Apple Inc.’s new iPhones lured high-end customers.

--Editors: Mark Beech, Kenneth Wong