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Colour is the new black

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Gone are the days when only a black or white phone was cool at the high end. Now colour is all the rage, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

A funny thing happened in iStores around South Africa last weekend. The new iPad went on sale, and no one noticed. What they did notice, though, was a new version of the iPhone, not with enhanced features, but with a new colour.

The new iPad 9.7” tablet is the successor to the iPad Air 2, but carries many of the same specs as the high-end iPad Pro, without the enhanced price tag. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus Red Special Edition smartphones introduce only a new colour.

Suddenly, that is a big deal.

Yes, the vibrant red aluminium finish has been released in recognition of more than ten years of partnership between Apple and the (RED) global campaign to fight AIDS, so it is not merely a matter of cosmetics. However, this nuance will probably be lost on most customers for the device.

In 2017, it seems, new colour options are a prerequisite for high-end smartphones. In fashion terms, colour is the new black. Any colour.

The trend was kicked off in earnest during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, when Huawei unveiled its new flagship phones, the P10 and P10 Plus. As this column noted at the time, it was not the advanced camera and other specs that were expected to turn heads. Rather, it was the physical design of the phone, along with a fresh suite of colour options. Huawei had collaborated with the Pantone Color Institute, global thought leaders in colour standards, to introduce new colours not seen before on smartphones.

Pantone Greenery, named the official Pantone Colour of the Year for 2017, was applied to a handset with a sandblast finish, giving it a clean look that it said would reflects the eco-friendly symbolism of green. A new deep blue shade named Dazzling Blue, added to the diamond-cut finish, delivered a subtle glow effect that is likely to make it the most popular shade.

It is rare that colour options are stand-out features for phones, but Huawei pulled it off with its refreshed palate and the ultra-fresh Greenery.  The new phones, due in South Africa in May, also come in Ceramic White, Dazzling Gold, Prestige Gold, Graphite Black, Rose Gold and Mystic Silver.

“With consumers increasingly comfortable using colour as a form of expression, we are seeing more experimentation and creative uses of colour,” said Laurie Pressman, VP of Pantone Color Institute, at the launch. “Colour is truly a medium through which individuals can express themselves to the world around them.”

Last month, when Samsung launched its own new flagships, the S8 and S8 Plus – likely to be the standout phones of 2017 – it also unveiled a new colour range.

When it arrives in South Africa on 5 May, a key element of its marketing will be, in Samsung’s words, “a rich colour palette”. It will include Midnight Black, Orchid Gray and Maple Gold, with more colours to be introduced later in the year. The official global launch range includes Coral Blue and Arctic Silver.

While Samsung made less of the philosophy behind its colours, it put as much effort as Huawei into colour as a differentiator and a key element of the phone’s design. In a commemorative book issued at the S8 launch, entitled simply Galaxy S8: Design Story, it offered an echo of the Pantone argument:

“The influence of nature informs the colour palette for the Galaxy S8. Samsung’s Liquid Shade spectrum explores the depth of lustre as seen through the surface tension of a water droplet on metal.”

As abstract as this may sound outside the rarefied language of design, the real clue to the colour explosion in high-end smartphones probably lies in another principle expressed in Design Story – that of neutrality:

“With a strong and flexible but fluid design ethos that blends naturally into its environment, the Galaxy S8 is a device not defined by age, gender or geography.”

In other words, in contrast to a trend over the past few years to define phones according to their target market, the S8 attempts to be all things to all people. The only way to achieve this is to suit all colour tastes. The idea then, is that one of the five distinctive colour options for the S8 handsets will appeal to any of the various gender, age and location-based demographics of people who would be in the market for a high-end phone.

It is clear, then, that as it becomes more difficult to distinguish phones by design – although Samsung can argue that the S8 stands out from the rest – colour will become more important than ever before. Apple has proved the point with the new iPhone Red. There is little doubt that new-look phones ranging from Samsung Coral Blue to Huawei Greenery will make consumers more aware of colour than ever before in the short history of smartphones.

  • 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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Notre Dame, Scoop Makhathini, GoT, top week in search

From fire disaster to social media disaster, the top Google searches this week covered a wide gamut of themes.

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Paris and the whole world looked on in shock as the 856-year-old medieval Catholic cathedral crumbled into ash. The tragic infernal destruction of this tourist attraction of historical and religious significance led South Africans to generate more than 200 000 search queries for “Notre Dame Cathedral” on Monday. Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire that razed the architectural icon.

In other top trending searches on Google this week, radio presenter Siyabonga Ngwekazi, AKA Scoop Makhathini, went viral when it appeared he had taken to Twitter to expose his girlfriend, Akhona Carpede, for cheating on him. Scoop has since come out to say that he was not responsible for the bitter rant and that his account was hacked. “Scoop Makhathini” generated more than 20 000 search queries on Wednesday.

Fans generated more than 20 000 search queries for “Sam Smith” on Tuesday ahead of the the British superstar’s Cape Town performance at the Grand West Casino. Smith ended up cutting his performance short that night due to vocal strain.

Local Game of Thrones superfans were beside themselves on Sunday, searching the internet high and low for the first episode of the American fantasy drama’s eighth season. “Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 1” generated more than 100 000 queries on Google Search on the weekend.

As the festivities kicked off in California with headliners such as Childish Gambino and Ariana Grande, South Africans generated more than 2 000 search queries for “Coachella” on Saturday.

South Africans generated more than 5 000 search queries for “Wendy Williams” on Friday  as it emerged that the American talk show host had filed for divorce from her husband Kevin Hunter after 21 years of marriage. Hunter has long been rumored to have been cheating on Williams, which reportedly finally led to the divorce.

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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5G smartphones to hit 5M sales in 2019

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According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Early 5G smartphone models will be expensive and available in limited volumes. Samsung, LG and Huawei will be the early 5G smartphone leaders this year, followed by Apple next year.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “We forecast global 5G smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Less than 1 percent of all smartphones shipped worldwide will be 5G-enabled this year. Global 5G smartphone shipments are tiny for now, due to expensive device pricing, component bottlenecks, and restricted availability of active 5G networks.”

Ville Petteri-Ukonaho, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, added, “Samsung will be the early 5G smartphone leader in the first half of 2019, due to initial launches across South Korea and the United States. We predict LG, Huawei, Xiaomi, Motorola and others will follow later in the year, followed by Apple iPhone with its first 5G model during the second half of 2020. The iPhone looks set to be at least a year behind Samsung in the 5G smartphone race and Apple must be careful not to fall too far behind.”

Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The short-term outlook for 5G smartphones is weak, but the long-term opportunity remains huge. We forecast 1 billion 5G smartphones to ship worldwide per year by 2025. The introduction of 5G networks, by carriers like Verizon or China Mobile, opens up high-speed, ultra-low-latency services such as 8K video, streaming games, and augmented reality for business. The next big question for the mobile industry is how much extra consumers are really willing to pay, if anything, for those emerging 5G smartphones and services.”

Strategy Analytics provides a snapshot analyses for the outlook for 5G smartphone market in this Insight report: 5G Smartphones : From Zero to a Billion

Strategy Analytics provides a deep-dive into the air-interface technologies that will power phones through 2024 across 88 countries here: Global Handset Sales Forecast by 88 Countries and 19 Technologies : 2003 to 2024

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