ZTE eyes wearable tech market

Chinese networking equipment vendor believes wearable technology will pave the way in future and plans to focus its products development in this sector, with its first "affordable" smartwatch slated for launch first half of 2014.

ZTE sees wearable technology as the next big thing and is making plans to launch various products in this segment, starting with a smartwatch next year. 

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In fact, the Chinese networking equipment and smartphone maker had been assessing this market for the past seven years and studying smart, sensor-enabled devices such as smart televisions, glasses, shoes, and socks, said Lu Qianhao, ZTE head of handset marketing. These can be connected to smartphones to track the user's activities, stride, speed, distance, and calories, he said, in a report Wednesday by South China Morning Post (SCMP). 

Lu said: "We have been looking at wearable devices since 2006. Instead of producing cheap versions of big-brand products, we can show we can innovate and move up the value chain. I believe smart wearable devices will be a big thing in the future as mobile Internet becomes essential to more and more people, and available at quicker speed."

ZTE will launch its own smartwatch in China in the second quarter of 2014, with plans to extend availability in the U.S. and Europe later. Launch dates for other markets would depend on local demand and conditions, he added. 

The pricetag will be "affordable", he said, but the device will work only with the vendor's own smartphones.  

According to the report, ZTE is losing market share in the Chinese smartphone market, slipping from 10 percent last year to its current 5 percent. The vendor posted a 5.6 percent drop in revenue, though its net profit climbed 112 percent in the third quarter of this year.

The SCMP report quoted iResearch analyst, Suo Zhiguo, to say: "Several Chinese companies are trying to jump on the [wearable technology] bandwagon, and that's not necessarily a good thing for consumers as many of them are things you wear on your body, so safety is important."

Earlier this week, Sony added another potential wearable smart device segment when it filed for a "smartwig" patent . The hairpiece comes with hidden input sensors that process data, communicate wirelessly, and provide tactile feedback to the wearer.