At a Global Analyst Summit for Huawei held in Shenzhen, China on Tuesday, CEO of the company Eric Xu Zhijun dropped what seems like a bombshell, yet is probably exactly what most people think about smartwatches. In response to a question about whether the wearable devices might impact smartphone sales if features like 4G telephone capabilities are added, Xu stated, “I am always confused as to what smartwatches are for when we have smartphones.”
To be fair, the question about just why anyone would want a smartwatch is one that many people ask and given the relatively stagnant growth of the market, consumers may feel the same way. It is still a bit stunning to hear this coming from the head of Huawei which has released two smartwatches to date, including the recently announced Huawei Watch 2 devices.
Xu indicated that he personally would not wear one. He also said he frequently pushes back on the smartwatch team when they are pitching product ideas, “reminding them to consider whether there are tangible needs in the market.” One could argue great success comes not from meeting a market need, but from creating a market need that did not exist before. Smartwatches do not seem to have achieved that goal.
Analyst have been a bit bearish on the smartwatch market. Thomas Husson with Forrester Research has noted that “a significant percentage” of smartwatch buyers stop using them and that the market “is not growing as fast as many anticipated.” Ramon Llamas with IDC was possibly more harsh in comments noting that the devices bring a “limited and unclear value proposition to a broad base of potential users.” Clearly Huawei’s Xu joins those who question the value of the devices.