Lesser-known smartphone brands to offer Android Wear watches
By Digital News Asia October 27, 2015
- Bluboo and Elephone announce Android Wear smartwatches
- Will this mean lower prices of Android-based wearables?
CHINESE smartphone vendor Bluboo has unveiled its latest wearable, Xwatch at last week’s Global Sources Autumn Electronics expo in Hong Kong.
At the event, the company released the full specifications for the upcoming wearable which will be powered by Google’s Android Wear operating system.
The Xwatch is designed like a sports watch, an attempt by Bluboo to compete with the upcoming Moto 360 Sport, targeting a fairly large segment of the ‘active lifestyle’ market.
However, unlike many of the mainstream smartwatches today, Blueboo notes that the thickness of this timepiece comes in at 9.8mm, sleeker than the Apple Watch (10.5mm), last year’s Moto 360 (11.5mm) and the new Moto 360 (11.4mm).
Under the hood, a MediaTek MT2601 dual-core chipset running at 1.2GHz provides the grunt, backed by 512MB or memory and 4GB of storage. A heart-rate monitor is also included, along with a number of other sensors typically found on smartwatches today.
The circular display will feature a 1.3-inch panel at 360x360 resolution, which is a pleasant surprise, since not only will the watch be smaller and able to address a larger audience (including women who generally have smaller wrists), but the resolution is sharper as a result.
A 480mAh battery will power the watch, although Bluboo did not indicate how long this would last. Android Wear devices today generally can last up to two days on a single charge, if the ambient (always on) screen is not turned on, and the built-in Wi-Fi is turned off.
However, commenters on forums and technology blogs have noted, what’s interesting about the Xwatch isn’t so much the hardware, but the software.
Most of the top-tier smartphone vendors already have a wearable product out in the market running on Google’s Android Wear platform.
Many of them, such as Motorola, Asus and LG, have recently announced the second generation of Android Wear products and will begin selling them during the upcoming holiday period.
Even China’s Huawei Technologies recently shipped its much anticipated Android Wear-based Huawei Watch this month, after its introduction in February this year.
With this announcement, the market is finally starting to see Android Wear move beyond the traditional top-tier vendors and being adopted by smaller Chinese smartphone makers like Bluboo and Elephone.
These brands may not be well-known in this region, as they sell their devices mainly through online channels and are part of a larger group of handset makers who are trying to emulate the success of Chinese smartphone start-up Xiaomi.
The key proposition from many of these vendors is that they offer good quality smartphones (or good enough at least) at surprisingly low prices. See for example Digital News Asia’s review of Elephone’s P7000 smartphone here.
The same cannot be said for smartwatches from China, since it remains a fragmented and competitive market with wearables that cost less than US$30 going all the way up to around US$150.
Despite the hardware and fitness tracking capabilities, many of these devices come with proprietary software platforms based on chipset maker MediaTek’s reference designs. Some even run the full Android 4.4 KitKat operating system, which can be a challenge to use on a tiny screen.
This is where observers say, Android Wear would benefit these players as they are able to provide lower cost alternatives to the big-name manufacturers, while offering the same software benefits and access to a larger app ecosystem.
Aside from Bluboo, Elephone has also released information about its upcoming ELE smartwatch, which the company said is powered by Android Wear.
The ELE looks more premium with its silver finish and metallic band, but compared to the Xwatch, it's larger 1.5-inch display has a lower 320x320 resolution.
In terms of processing power, it will utilise the same MediaTek MT2601 processor along with 512MB or RAM.
Prices for both smartwatches have not yet been announced, although gadget lovers can indicate their interest to purchase Elephone's smartwatch through online retailers.