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Huawei fires salvo at Apple Watch, unveils its own wearable at MWC

Chinese electronics giant Huawei has unveiled a stainless steel smartwatch, jumping into the hot market for wearable technology just weeks before Apple is expected to bring its own version to consumers.

The Huawei Watch, the Chinese company's first entry into the wearables market, runs on Google's Android wear and has a 1.4 inch round touchscreen face. The device was unveiled at Mobile World Congress on Sunday.

"We have responded to consumers' requests from around the world asking for a smartwatch featuring a timeless design that is truly smart from within," Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer business group.

The Huawei Watch has a scratch-proof sapphire crystal lens, a heart rate monitor, and can detect the type of activity in which a user is engaged, such as running or cycling. It connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth, and can show notifications from texts and emails.

Huawei plans to release the device in 20 markets, but did not give immediate details of availability or pricing.

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The company is aiming at the premium end of the market, and joins an increasing number of device makers looking to create trendy wearable gear. Last week, LG unveiled the Urbane, a smartwatch it described as "luxury."

Sales of wearables are expected grow from 29 million in 2014 to 172 million in 2018, according to CCS Insight, and companies are looking to grab a share of the torrid market.

Device makers are also trying to drum up support for their smartwatches ahead of the release of the Apple Watch. The tech giant is expected to begin shipping its devices in April, though a cryptic event invite from the Cupertino-based company hints that consumers may see it as early as this month.

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Analysts said the success of the Huawei Watch could presage the fortunes of the Apple Watch.

"If Apple Watch were to stumble, it could set back the whole market. If it's a blinding success, then Huawei may be too far behind by the time the Huawei Watch eventually goes on sale in mid-2015," Ian Fogg, head of mobile at IHS said.

Huawei said it was working with partners such as fitness tracker Jawbone to bring third party apps to consumers.