Local tech firms go, 'Oh yes, let's have OS'

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A technician inspects a smartwatch at a workshop of Shenzhen Hopu Smart Technology Co Ltd in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. [Photo/Provided to China Daily]

Last year witnessed explosive growth in smartwatches and this year, competition may intensify in terms of their external appearances. For, their core part, that is, the operating system or OS space, is dominated by just a couple of international majors.

Brands abound, but most of them use either this or that OS. There isn't much choice there.

According to market research firm IDC, Apple's iOS system has the lion's share of the OS space in the smartwatch market. Apple shipped 13 million units of the Apple Watch in 2015-that is, it took 61.3 percent share of the smartwatch market.

Google came a distant second with its Android Wear OS powering 3.2 million units of non-Apple smartwatches, or 15.2 percent of the market.

Ramon Llamas, research manager of wearables at IDC, predicted that smartwatch shipments will jump to 32.2 million units by the end of this year (2016), with the compound annual growth rate for 2015-18 coming in at 42.8 percent.

Besides smartwatches, other wearables sold well in China in 2015. The new year is expected to sustain their sales momentum. Global market consulting firm Mintel wrote in its latest "China 2016 Consumer Trends" report that awareness of health-related technologies will increase in China.

"Chinese consumers have shown a strong interest in using smart technology to manage their health and wellness. A full 74 percent show interest in using wearable devices to manage their health in future," said Philix Liu, an analyst with Mintel APAC.

None of the leading OS providers comes from China even though a large number of Chinese technology companies have come up with their own smartwatches. For instance, Huawei Watch produced by Shenzhen-based Huawei Technologies, is reliant on Android Wear.

To ensure uniformity, Google has imposed limits on the extent to which its Android Wear OS can be customized at the device-maker and end-user levels. So, manufacturers cannot tweak Android Wear to distinguish themselves from other brands using the same OS. So, Google encourages developers to play around the device design.

Not everyone is playing ball with Google in this regard though. For instance, Samsung dumped the latter and developed its own OS called Samsung Gear for its smartwatches.

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