Business / Technology

Google-backed Mobvoi to take on Apple watch

By Ma Si (China Daily) Updated: 2016-09-29 07:28

Google-backed Mobvoi to take on Apple watch

Mobvoi's smart watch. [Photo/]

Mobvoi Inc, a Chinese artificial intelligence startup backed by Google Inc, is eyeing to take on Apple Inc in the latter's home turf with a smart watch, which enables consumers to order pizzas, hail cabs and make restaurants bookings via voice control.

The Beijing-based firm, which has so far landed $75 million from investors including Google, is bringing Ticwatch 2 to the United States, after its products stood out in China with self-developed voice search technology.

"Unlike rival products which rely on Google's operating system, we have developed software, voice recognition algorithms and hardware all on our own, which gives us full autonomy on development plans and thus ensures rapid upgrades of products," said Li Zhifei, founder and CEO of the four-year-old company.

Equipped with a 1.4-inch color OLED display and wireless charging technology, Ticwatch 2 will soon be available on The sensor-rich gadget also has a unique design, allowing consumers to roll their fingers along the side of the face to shift between apps and screens.

In July, the firm brought Ticwatch 2 on Kickstarter, a crowd-fund platform dedicated to turn creative ideas into products, and managed to raise over $2 million from more than 9,900 consumers on it.

"Currently, the global smart watch market is about three to four times the size of China market. Compared with their Chinese counterparts, overseas consumers are more willing to lay their hands on products from startups," said Li, who is among the group of ex-Googlers behind the startup.

The move to boost global presence came after the firm made waves in the domestic market with appealing products. It already has amassed more than 100,000 users via its first-generation smartwatch. The Chinese version of Ticwatch 2 also raised over 15 million yuan ($2.2 million) on a domestic crowd-fund site, the firm said.

"Offering a high-performance smart watch at an affordable price is one of our biggest edges. This is especially important when the market is still in development and low prices can prompt more consumers to try on new things," Li said.

Price-wise, Ticwatch 2 starts from 999 yuan. In comparison, Apple watch is priced from 2,500 yuan.

Mobvoi has been offering voice recognition technology to Chinese firms since its founding. And making smart watches is part of its broad efforts to commercialize AI. In June, the firm unveiled a voice-activated smart rear-view mirror for automobiles.

In the April-June quarter, the global smart watch shipments declined 32 percent to 3.5 million units, data from International Data Corp show.

Xiao Jing, an analyst at IDC, said currently smart watches are just not smart enough to justify their high price, which is denting consumers' interest.

"Mobvoi has an obvious edge in AI technology which allows it to add more functions to the watch, but it needs to beef up resources to expand offline retailing channels, if it wants to enter the US mainstream market," she said.

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