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CES: Tech boom in USA to break all sales records

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According to the CTA, emerging technologies and the resilience of historically leading categories will drive the U.S. consumer technology industry to a record-breaking $351 billion in retail revenues in 2018.

Unveiled in advance of CES 2018, the latest edition of CTA’s semi-annual industry report, the U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts, includes for the first time a projection for consumer spending on music and video streaming services – valued at $19.5 billion in revenue, 35 percent higher than just last year. CTA added streaming services sales – which include internet-enabled services that deliver on-demand or linear video content (e.g., Netflix, Hulu and Sling TV) and on-demand audio content (e.g., Spotify, Pandora or Apple Music) – to better capture the full expanse of the ever evolving and expanding consumer technology market. Excluding the addition of streaming services, total industry revenue would increase by 2.2 percent in 2018.

“Technology is improving our lives in more ways than ever – and consumer enthusiasm is growing just as quickly as companies can bring their innovations to market,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA. “Our forecast incorporates several key economic factors including a strong stock market, continued job growth and stable rules for international trade to forecast these record-setting sales for breakthrough technologies and longtime market leaders alike. And the driving themes of 2018, including voice computing, artificial intelligence and connectivity that make our lives better and more efficient, will be on display across the show floor this week at CES 2018.”

CTA is the nation’s largest tech trade association – its semi-annual report serves as a benchmark for the U.S. consumer technology industry, charting the size and growth of underlying product categories. The CTA consensus forecast reflects U.S. factory sales-to-dealers for more than 300 consumer tech products.

Emerging Technologies Expand

Overall, U.S. sales of connected devices are projected to reach 715 million units in 2018 – a 6.6 percent increase year-over-year. Specific products projected to contribute significantly to this growth include:

  • Smart Speakers: Coming off of a tremendous 2017 holiday season, voice-controlled smart speakers, including Amazon Echo and Google Home, are going gangbusters. Unit sales increased 279 percent in 2017, and CTA projects 2018 unit sales will reach 43.6 million units (60 percent increase) and earn $3.8 billion in revenue (93 percent growth). As voice recognition technology is integrated into more speakers at a variety of price points, smart speakers is a category to watch in 2018.
  • Smart Home: The popularity of smart speakers will have a ripple effect on the smart home market, as consumers discover the benefits of voice-activated home automation. CTA expects sales in the category – including smart thermostats, smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, IP/Wi-Fi cameras, smart locks and doorbells, smart home systems, and smart switches, dimmers and outlets – to reach 40.8 million units in 2018 (41 percent increase over 2017), earning $4.5 billion (34 percent increase).
  • Virtual Reality (VR): Popularity among gamers and an increasingly competitive market continue to drive growth for VR/AR headsets and eyewear, with unit shipments projected to grow to 4.9 million units this year (25 percent increase) tallying $1.2 billion in revenues (18 percent increase).
  • Drones: Total drone sales are expected to reach record highs of 3.7 million units in 2018 (20 percent increase) earning $1.2 billion in revenue (17 percent increase). CTA’s forecast also delineates U.S. drone sales for units below and above 250 grams, the FAA’s division for mandatory drone registration. Drones below 250 grams are expected to reach just over 2.2 million units this year, while drones above 250 grams will reach 1.5 million units shipped.
  • Wearables: The total health, fitness and sports tech market – including fitness activity trackers, other health and fitness devices, hearables , over-the-counter hearing devices, smartwatches and, for the first time, sports tech (such as a smart basketballs or baseball bats) – is expected to reach sales of 49.3 million units in 2018 (four percent increase) and earn $6.4 billion (one percent increase).

“Consumers are rapidly adopting new, emerging technology products – with voice-activated smart speakers as the stand-out of 2017 and 2018 – sparking growth in smart home devices, as voice interaction adds a new level of convenience and excitement to our lives,” said Brian Markwalter, senior vice president of research and standards, CTA. “At the same time, core categories – such as smartphones, laptops and TVs – continue to surpass expectations. 2018 will prove to be a milestone year for TVs, especially as LCD 4K UHD TVs make up half of all TVs sold in 2018.”

Maturing Technologies Continuing

The top five revenue categories will contribute just over half of total wholesale industry revenue (51 percent) in 2018.

  • Smartphones: Following the introduction of new flagship models from major manufacturers in 2017, smartphones will continue to anchor the industry and see slight growth in 2018. Unit volume will reach 189 million smartphones (two percent increase) shipping in 2018, with revenues expected to reach $62.9 billion (three percent increase).
  • Laptops: In 2018, the commercial and consumer laptop market will sell 50.1 million units, up three percent over last year, and earn $28.4 billion in revenue. Convertible models remain a high-growth area within computing.
  • Televisions: Performing better than expected in 2017, unit sales of total digital displays in 2018 are projected to reach 44.2 million units (two percent increase) and $22.1 billion in revenue (two percent increase). Future category growth will be driven by next gen features.
    • 4K Ultra High-Definition (4K UHD): For the first time, 4K UHD TVs will make up half of all total digital displays sold in 2018, with unit sales forecast to hit 22 million units (27 percent increase) generating $15.9 billion in revenue (14 percent increase).
  • Automotive Electronics: Factory-installed automotive technology, from driver-assist features to entertainment systems, is projected to contribute $15.9 billion in revenue (5.9 percent increase) – the result of strong automotive sales, propelled by a rising tide of tech, from sensors and artificial intelligence to safety and infotainment systems.
  • Tablets: After tremendous adoption in recent years, some tablet sales have been cannibalized by convertible, 2-in-1 laptops as standalone tablet adoption has leveled off and replacement cycles have slowed. Tablet sales will decline in 2018. CTA expects sales of 45.6 million units (12 percent decrease) and revenues of $12.5 billion (13 percent decrease).

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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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