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TV invades new spaces

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Despite the challenge of video-on-demand services on mobile devices, the ever-evolving formats of TV ensures it maintains a hold on viewers, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

A snapshot of global TV sales suggests that the format has stagnated. In the first half of last year,  according to retail research organisation GfK, 104.7 million TVs were sold globally, down 3.7 per cent on the same period a year before.

However, a very different picture emerges when one drills down into regions, formats and demographics. While some formats and traditional ways of watching are dying, others are rising rapidly.

A few startling examples were presented last week in Lisbon at the IFA Global Press Conference 2017, an event that previews Europe’s largest consumer electronics show, IFA, taking place in Berlin in December.

“In Italy, 25 per cent of TV sets are located in the kitchen,” said Jürgen Boyny, Global director consumer electronics at GfK. “This means there is a market for small screen sizes and for lots of different viewing behaviours.”

The statistic may well be indicative of social activity revolving around the kitchen, but it also suggests growth in new locations as new formats of device and new forms of content make it appropriate for other spaces.

“This creates potential for multi-ownership, people buying another TV for children’s bedrooms, holiday apartments or even the kitchen.”

The numbers show that the trend is already taking off in some European countries. In 171-million households with TV on the continent, 321-million TV sets are installed. The dubious honour of the biggest appetite for multiple screens goes to Norway, with an average of 3.1 TV sets per viewing household.

However, the assumption that this is a factor of the many months of darkness in Scandinavia doesn’t apply: Norway’s neighbours don’t feature on the list. Next comes the United Kingdom with 2.7 sets per household, and France with 1.8. Both Germany and Italy boast 1.5 sets per household, and Poland features with 1.2.

This is all good news for the industry, says Boyny, as it means there is extensive market potential for selling multiple TVs.

The real opportunity, however, lies in the growth of specific formats of TV, and this applies in South Africa too.

“We are seeing sustainable growth into bigger screen sizes, 55-inch and above, but 32-inch still has the biggest share and is still growing in units.”

It is these smaller TVs that are invading new spaces, as they are idea for kitchens, children’s bedrooms and other smaller areas of the home beyond the living room. Smaller screen sizes, below 32-inch, have become a must-have for the many holiday apartments in southern Europe, meaning that these formats are seeing substantial demand in Mediterranean countries.

However, there are three specific trends driving growth within specific segments in Europe: large-format TV sets above 60-inches, which have grown from 1 per cent of TV sales in 2014 to a projected 4 per cent this year; 4K or Ultra High Definition (UHD) TVs, which have grown dramatically from a mere 2 per cent to 30 per cent; and the jewel in the crown, Smart TV, which has grown more slowly but off a much higher base, from 43 per cent to 53 per cent.

The latter is beginning to make an impact in South Africa as well, and is allowing for video-on-demand, like Netflix and ShowMax, to migrate from mobile devices to TV sets. The challenge, says Boyny, is to “bring the younger generation into the world of the big screen” by showing them that platforms like YouTube offer a better experience in this format.

“What is next in TV is continuous development, driven by new content and easier access to content. At present, for example, it is not easy to type in a website address on the remote control, and we need easier access. Consumers want more than traditional content, and they will get apps for different and new kinds of content on Smart TV.

“A connected TV should be more than only entertainment; it should support people in their daily lives.  If a child is sick, why is it not possible to follow a class on a big screen at home? For older people, why is there no fitness or health app on the TV? This is also the future of TV.”

As if in response to Boyny’s call, Michael Zöller, Samsung vice president and head of visual display for Europe, asked the audience at the IFA press conference: “How can the TV integrate seamlessly into modern homes and lifestyle?”

He had an answer, too: “For example, making a TV that is not only a TV anymore, but a piece of art.

With that, Samsung unveiled the latest version of its upcoming Frame, which has been shown in prototype since early this year. It is an ultra-thin large-screen TV that looks like a picture frame hanging on a wall. When not being viewed, its display transforms into a work of art – more than a hundred have been curated by Samsung – so that it blends almost seamlessly into walls already decorated with paintings.

The frame itself can be customised to fit in with a colour scheme, and the display will be matte rather than glossy, so that it looks more like a painting or photo than a screen image. It is due to be launched in Europe by the end of May, and will roll out across the rest of the world in the following weeks.

It won’t be cheap, but it will be yet another format that will ensure the ongoing health of the market for TV sets.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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