ZTE prepares to launch a smartwatch next year

ZTE said it will probably launch the watch in the first quarter next year

Chinese handset maker ZTE is planning to launch a smartwatch next year, making it the latest company to throw its hat into this emerging gadget segment.

ZTE said on Monday that it was preparing the device, and pointed to the first quarter as a probable date for its arrival. However, it gave no further details.

The company is better known in its home country of China as a low-price smartphone maker, but ZTE also has its eyes on the U.S. market, and wants to introduce more high-end phones while building up its brand recognition.

ZTE's development of a smartwatch is no surprise, considering that many tech vendors are also coming out with rival devices. Samsung and Sony both have smartwatches on the market, at prices of $299 and $199, respectively. Apple has also long been rumored to be working on a watch.

The gadgets, however, still have some way to go before they catch on among consumers. Over 30 smartwatches are in development, according to research firm Gartner's count, but the devices have yet to reach mass market appeal.

Current smartwatches are either priced too high, come in bulky designs, or don't offer enough battery life, Gartner said in an October report. Vendors still need to offer a clear message about the advantages of owning a smartwatch.

In the year-end holiday shopping season, Gartner expects consumers to buy tablets over smartwatches. But over time, demand for the devices will grow, especially from health conscious users, the research firm predicted.

In the fitness and health segment, the wearable devices market is projected to reach US$5 billion in revenue by 2016, according to Gartner, and smartwatches will continue to remain "companion" devices to smartphones at least until 2017.

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