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article imageHuawei's chief hasn't 'figured out' why we need smartwatches

By James Walker     Apr 12, 2017 in Technology
Huawei's chief executive has stated he sees no value in the concept of a smartwatch, admitting most people – himself included – struggle to find any value in the devices. Huawei has been one of the most successful makers of Android Wear smartwatches.
Huawei CEO Eric Xu made the comments while answering a question during Huawei's analyst summit in Shenzhen this week. Xu is one of three Huawei CEOs who take it in turns to serve six month terms at the head of the company.
Asked whether he thinks smartphones are being usurped by wearable tech like smartwatches, Forbes reports Xu's response was clear-cut. In an unusual statement from the CEO of a company that has just unveiled a new smartwatch, Xu said "I'm not a man who wears watches, and I've never been optimistic about this market."
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Xu went on to say what the rest of us have already concluded: "I've never figured out why we need to wear smartwatches when everything we need is on our phones." Smartphone manufacturers, Huawei included, have struggled to move past this perception. Many analysts believe wearables have already reached their peak as sales plummet and consumers lose interest. Unlike the smartphone revolution of ten years ago, smartwatches look set to disappear into obscurity, without ever having become truly mainstream.
Android Wear
Android Wear
Google's recent feature-filled relaunch of Android Wear has failed to attract much attention, not least due to a lack of watches that actually support it. One of the platform's best known hardware partners, Motorola, has indefinitely postponed new device launches. Although Huawei hasn't stated its future plans, Xu's comments suggest the company may also be planning a withdrawal.
During the interview, Xu outlined what he wants smartwatches to evolve into. He noted that they must have a defined purpose to succeed as anything more than a basic smartwatch extension. Noting that new tech products often don't reflect consumer needs, Xu explained that he doesn't want to launch smartwatches just to include them in the company's portfolio.
"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 the features] in the market," he said during the event.
Huawei Watch 2
Huawei Watch 2
This comment appears to explain Huawei's comparatively conservative Huawei Watch 2, announced at Mobile World Congress earlier this year. Huawei added several significant new features, including GPS, while abandoning the traditional look of the original for a more sports-focused design. The decision seems to reflect the higher demand for fitness-oriented watches over "smartphone on your wrist" devices.
Xu handed over Huawei's leadership to fellow rotating CEO Guo Ping at the end of March. Ping will be running the company for the next six months and may take the company's wearables in a different direction to the one encouraged by Xu's pessimistic approach. Product development cycles are much longer than six months though, suggesting that even if Xu is the most vocal Huawei smartwatch critic his ideas are likely reflected by other company executives.
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