Tech in China 2013: Competition in Domestic Smartwatch Battlefield is Heating Up

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Apart from manufacturers and tech-savvy consumers, smartwatch has attracted wide attentions from both media and fashion industry this year. It is also a leading sector for wearable industry, which is expected to create the next digital craze after smartphones and tablets.

Both foreign and domestic manufacturers swarmed into smartwatch industry. Samsung released Galaxy Gear, a gadget compatible with a raft of custom apps, including several Chinese ones, while speculations on Apple’s iWatch are still stewing.

Domestic smartphone battlefield includes both big internet companies and startups:

Chinese smartphone maker Coolpad launched Cwatch, which features e-ink display, via a startup incubated by the Media Lab (Shenzhen) of Hunan University.

Shanda rolled out an Android 4.1-powered smartwatch GEAK Watch, but the product do not support voice calls like its peers do.

LineKong CEO buddied up with former Android engineer to set up Tomoon Technology and release T-Watch. Several leaked pictures of the upcoming smartwatch raked in nearly 20,000 orders for the companyHu Haiquan (Weibo), a musician of a Chinese two-men vocal band Yu Quan (Weibo Page), invested in the company to develop a smartwatch branded as T-Fire.

Yingqu Technology rolled out inWatch One, which boasts an independent app store to attract developers.

Voice recognition service Yunzhisheng recently launched a smartwatch Z Watch and a Chinese wearable electronics brand Smartdevices.

Guangzhou-based wearable device solution provider AppComm rolled out FashionCommA1, a smartwatch which can make phone call or send messages with embedded micro SIM card.

Umeox, a Shenzhen-based smartphone manufacturer, released Omate in domestic market for the first time after launching the first two generations overseas, mainly in European markets, such as Germany and France.

iChronoCloud also released an in-house smartwatch and announced millions of yuan of Pre-A Series financing.

Smartphone maker Xiaomi and also planned to jump on the bandwagon to release a proprietary smartwatch.

Baidu released a dedicated website for wearables, which features two products of Codoon Wristband and inWatch. The company also established a lab studying how to build such a platform for wearables. Baidu’s strategy on wearable smart devices is to connect devices with its Cloud, said Hou Zhenyu, chief architect of Baidu Cloud, at TechCrunch Shanghai.

The functions of these smartphones range from smartphone connection, such as Geak Watch, TWatch, to sports and health monitors, like Cwatch, iChronoCloud. Wearable technology is expected to upturn several established industries, and become the next wave of hardware innovation.

Market research institution NextMarket Insights predicted that global smartphone shipment will double to 15 million sets in 2014 and reach 80 million sets by 2016. Overall 93.1% of Chinese customers are familiarized with the concept of smartwatch and 46.4% are willing to purchase one, according to a report released by Baidu.

According to Qihoo CEO Zhou Hongyi, existing smartwatches by Chinese producers, which priced at between over 1,000 yuan to over 2,000 yuan, are beyond the affordability level of ordinary consumers. Moreover, Chinese companies are obsessed with slapping together all the functions popular with smartphones, which the small screen and short battery life can’t well support.

China’s manufacturing industry for smart wearables is on the rise in recent years with interesting made-in-China wearables mushroomed.