Amid rumours that Apple is preparing to launch an 'iWatch' later this year, a Samsung executive has said that the company is also working on a smart watch product.

According to Bloomberg, Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of Samsung's mobile business, revealed during an interview this week: "We've been preparing the watch product for so long. We are working very hard to get ready for it. We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them."

Lee declined to mention the potential features of Samsung's smart watch, or how much it might cost. "The issue here is who will first commercialise it so consumers can use it meaningfully," Lee aid.

"The race is on to redesign the mobile phone into something that you wear," NPD Group analyst Marshal Cohen has said. "We're going to see formidable competition coming from many different directions – from device makers, accessory makers, even fashion designers."

Bloomberg projects that smartphone sales growth will slow to 9.8 per cent in 2017 from 27 per cent this year, so Apple and Samsung are racing to take on new product categories as handset sales decline.

Last month, Bloomberg claimed that Apple has a team of 100 designers working on a smart watch, dubbed iWatch, while the Wall Street Journal and New York Times also suggested that Apple is working on a watch-like wearable device with some smartphone capabilities, as the company looks to new product categories for future growth.

SEE: Apple is working on 'new product categories' says CEO Tim Cook

Bloomberg's latest report cites an anonymous source who claims that Apple wants to introduce its 'iWatch' as soon as this year, with features under consideration including the ability to make calls, see the identity of incoming callers and check map coordinates. The iWatch would also act as a pedometer and have sensors to monitor health-related data, said the source.

In February, the US Patent & Trademark Office published an Apple patent application describing a wearable computer with a flexible display that could snap around the wrist to become a smart watch, adding further evidence that Apple is interested in making an iWatch.

SEE: Apple iWatch release date, rumours and leaked images

Estimates earlier this month from Citigroup analyst Oliver Chen indicated that an iWatch could be more profitable to Apple than a television set, with the global watch industry expected to generate more than $60 billion in sales this year, with gross margins at about 60 per cent.

Laurence Balter, chief investment strategist at Oracle Investment Research said that smart watch makers will need to price their devices lower than $200 (about £132).

"This is a new category that Apple is trailblazing that will see some competition from Samsung," he said. "If I were Apple, I'd strategically price the watch as low as possible to bring as many as possible into the ecosystem. Samsung is going to be there for many years to come and try to cut them off."

See also:

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Apple patent adds further iWatch evidence to growing pile, but do we need one?

Wearable computing steps out of fantasy