Opinion: Huawei CEO’s Wearable Confusion Explains Why They Botched the Huawei Watch 2
The company failed to iterate upon the best smartwatch, now we know why
Throughout Android Wear’s life thus far, there have arguably been two products that really stood out from the rest as “iconic” devices: the original Moto 360, and the Huawei Watch. The 360 ushered in a great, round design, and was leagues above something like the G watch or Gear Live in terms of aesthetics.
However, the Moto 360 was not without its drawbacks, namely the flat tire in an unspectacular display, and ancient processor. Luckily, the then-soon-to-be-released Huawei Watch looked to correct and improve upon almost every aspect of the round smartwatch pioneer: full circle sapphire screen, a speaker, a better processor, standard band lugs. The Huawei Watch was met with rave reviews and consumer praise. In the past year and a half, very few watches have presented an actual compelling alternative. As the device’s price naturally lowered, aided by frequent sales, it only became a better purchase. It was more future proof than most, too, with a hidden speaker to take advantage of Wear’s updates, and it eventually received a taste of Wear 2.0 through a developer preview, one of very few privileged devices.
Fast forward to this year’s Mobile World Congress. Eric Xu, the CEO of Huawei, has made a bit of noise about the future of Android Wear. When asked about the future of wearable technology he stated:
“I’m not a man who wears watches, and I’ve never been optimistic about this market. In fact, I’ve never figured out why we need to wear smartwatches when everything we need is on our phones.”
This comment seems out of place coming from the chairman of the company who created the most widely-praised Android Wear device yet. But, his comments may grant a bit of insight about the Huawei Watch 2. The company’s follow up to the much-loved Huawei Watch is an uninspired, bland, sporty looking me-too device that does little to stand out or feel like an improvement from the first model. The Watch 2 seems to share almost none of the classy and competent DNA that made the original Watch so special. Changing the follow-up watch to a sportier, more-rugged alternative looks a lot like Huawei trying to find a purpose for their watch. It certainly feels like Huawei doesn’t have their heart in the wearable market, and couldn’t really figure out just what made the Huawei Watch tick so well.
Of course wearables and smartwatches are a luxury in general. At a bare minimum, the watch serves as a remote notification screen. Even this alone is a valuable ability, once one becomes accustomed to it. The ability to quickly glance and either act on, or ignore until later, a message or email can save a bit of time in a busy day, and it can becomes instinct after some time. Notification triage can provide some much needed relief and order in our crowded mobile world.
If the CEO can’t communicate what makes smartwatches valuable, how can we expect Huawei watches to offer customers what they want?
I myself bought a Huawei Watch at launch. I still wear the watch daily and don’t leave home without it. The stainless watch and stainless link band still receive compliments from strangers. Unfortunately, no one ever has a clue (here in the USA) who Huawei is, or what Android Wear is. I’m constantly asked “is it like an Apple Watch?” and I chalk this particular issue up to a failing of both Google and Huawei. Perhaps consumers aren’t really excited about smartwatches because they have no clue what they are capable of, what they do, or how they can be of value to their lives. Some consumers obviously do, but Huawei’s own CEO does not. If the CEO himself can’t communicate what makes smartwatches special, how can we expect Huawei watches to offer customers what they want? In turn, how can Huawei expect such products to sell?
In addition to Huawei’s weak hardware follow-up to the original Watch, Google and Huawei have let down original Huawei Watch owners in the software department. We have already written about the incredibly-bad roll-out of Android Wear 2.0. It’s been about 3 weeks since that article went up and we’re still waiting for the Wear 2.0 update. Two of the very few watches with the update are the only watches on Google’s store: the LG Style and Sport. Neither of these are particularly inspired devices and they launched with middling reviews. If Google can’t even get behind Android Wear with some serious effort, can we even blame Huawei?
I think consumers (at least a significant segment) obviously see potential in smartwatches. Even non-tech traditional watch companies like Fossil, Michael Kors, and Tag Heuer have created compelling smartwatches. Fossil has even managed to provide the Wear 2.0 update before the tech giant Huawei, though we can’t pinpoint why that is. We were told that Android Wear being free from tinkering by the OEMs would be good for updates and providing a better experience for users. This last part only seems half true thus far. There’s really no excuse for Fossil to provide a better looking, better updated watch than Huawei. Unfortunately, the Huawei Watch 2 doesn’t provide much hope for the future of the Chinese tech giant’s wearable offerings… I won’t be expecting anything from Huawei’s wearables moving forward, certainly not without a change of heart at the top.
What do you think about the Huawei Watch 2 and the CEO’s comments? Sound off below!