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China's Huawei unveils 'luxury' watch in bid to rival Apple's

[BARCELONA] China's Huawei Technologies unveiled its first smart watch that is aimed at the higher end of the wearables market, a week before Apple is expected to host an event to present a rival device.

The 42-millimeter (1.6-inch) diameter "luxury" watch will be the world's first wearable with sapphire crystal glass, Richard Yu, chief executive officer of Huawei's consumer business group, said at an event in Barcelona Sunday, ahead of the Monday opening of the Mobile World Congress. Mr Yu also unveiled an upgrade to Huawei's smart band, introduced at last year's conference.

Huawei, ranked fifth in global smartphone shipments during the third quarter, is focusing on higher-end smartphones that can rival Apple's or models by Samsung Electronics. All have expanded into wearables.

Apple on Thursday sent out invitations to an event on March 9 in San Francisco, where it will unveil details for the release of the Apple Watch, a person with knowledge of the matter said. The connected, fitness-tracking wristwatch is the first entirely new gadget line to debut since Tim Cook took the helm at the Cupertino, California-based company.

For Huawei, this year's upgrade in accessories comes after sales of higher-end smartphones helped revenue rise about 20 per cent in 2014 and operating profit improve. The maker of phone-network gear that also competes against the likes of Ericsson AB, has also been widening its product portfolio as it works toward a goal of achieving US$70 billion in revenue by 2018, from US$46 billion last year.

Growing Market Global sales of smart watches, glasses, fitness and medical products are forecast to reach about US$30 billion by 2018, according to estimates by researcher IHS. That is triple the US$10 billion recorded in 2013, the year smartphone-makers like Samsung started announcing devices including smart watches.

Huawei aims to become "one of the world's most loved brands," Amy Lou, Huawei's global brand director, said before Mr Yu spoke in Barcelona. The watch, for which a price tag wasn't revealed at the conference, is due to be released around mid- year, Mr Yu said.

Huawei had a 5.1 per cent share of global smartphone shipments during the third quarter, Strategy Analytics said in October. The company trails Samsung, Apple, Xiaomi and LG Electronics, the market researcher said.