From:FORTUNE By:Scott Cendrowski
Surprise! A week before Apple Inc. unveils details for its watch, Chinese smartphone maker Huawei came out with a digital watch of its own, with sapphire crystal, stainless steel band and the design aspirations of a Swiss timepiece.
Huawei, the world’s fourth-largest smartphone maker by market share, unveiled the watch at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress, the biggest hyped event for mobile tech outside Cupertino. It’s where Samsung Electronics Co. drummed up excitement for its latest flagship phones. The initial feedback on Huawei’s Watch was encouragingly positive. Mashable called it elegant and TechCrunch said “it’s easily one of the best looking devices ever to sport Google’s wearable software platform.”
Huawei is like a lot of Chinese smartphone makers striving to move up market with premium phones and wearables. The commoditized smartphone middle market is forcing the Chinese to add some premium flavor to their brands if they want success selling abroad. And Huawei badly does.
Huawei says it plans sell the watch in 20 countries, including the U.S., U.K., and Canada, and said release dates and pricing will come later.
Here’s initially where Huawei falls short of Apple’s watch: the Huawei Watch comes in three different colors in gold, silver and black, but Apple offers different materials, like 18-carat rose and yellow gold. And though Huawei earned early praise from Android critics, those same critics wondered if the operating system could compare to Apple Watch’s when it’s released.
Still, Huawei is newly intent on trying to match Samsung and Apple’s premium wares. Its watch makes Apple’s event on March 9 just a little more interesting.