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China's Huawei unveils new smart watch to rival Samsung

BARCELONA--Rising Chinese smartphone maker Huawei on Sunday launched a connected watch to rival Samsung's Gear 2, both unveiled on the eve of the world's biggest mobile fair in Barcelona, Spain.

Huawei, already a major force in building mobile networks and the world number three smartphone maker in 2013, showed off its TalkBand, to be sold for 99 euros (US$136).

Connected by Bluetooth to a smartphone, the watch lets you receive calls and messages without removing your mobile from your pocket, as well as measuring the steps you take with a podometer and even following your sleep pattern.

“When you look around us, everything is getting connected,” Huawei consumer business unit vice president Colin Giles said.

“We will launch it first in China, then in the rest of the world,” he told AFP ahead of the February 24-27 World Mobile Conference.

To take a call, the user lifts the face off the watch and puts it to his or her ear, like a hands-free kit, he said.

It works only with Huawei smartphones for the moment but is to be made compatible with other brands later.

Just a few hours earlier, Samsung launched the Gear 2, after a first version won over few critics, adding new features and ditching Google's Android in favor of its own operating system.

The South Korean electronics giant revealed the new watch in a statement before unveiling on Monday its new flagship smartphone, almost certainly the Galaxy S5.

Besides an array of features including sports tracking software and a heart rate monitor, the Gear 2 marks an important and widely anticipated step toward independence from Android.

The watch, available in two models — the Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo, which has no camera — will be powered by the Tizen operating system developed by Samsung with various partners to break free of the Android dominance.

The first Gear, launched last September, was criticized by many for being unfashionable and unwieldy.

Mature Markets Slowing

Samsung, like other device makers, is banking on smart devices to boost revenue as sales of smartphones slow in the mature markets, which are also the most profitable.

Though smartphone sales surged 42 percent to 968 million units last year, according to Gartner, the growth came from developing markets such as Latin America, India and China while mature markets such as western Europe and the United States hit the brakes.

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The CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group, Richard Yu, presents the Mediapad X1 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain on Sunday, Feb. 23.

(AFP)

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