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Massive growth for wearables

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Global shipments of wearable devices reached 49.6 million units during the first quarter of 2019 (1Q19), up 55.2% from the previous year according to data from the International Data Corporation (IDCWorldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker. While wrist-worn wearables accounted for the majority of the market with 63.2% share, ear-worn devices experienced the fastest growth (135.1% year over year) and accounted for 34.6% of all wearables shipped.

“The elimination of headphone jacks and the increased usage of smart assistants both inside and outside the home have been driving factors in the growth of ear-worn wearables,” said Jitesh Ubrani research manager for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. “Looking ahead, this will become an increasingly important category as major platform and device makers use ear-worn devices as an on-ramp to entice consumers into an ecosystem of wearable devices that complement the smartphone but also offer the ability to leave the phone behind when necessary.”

“Shipments of wristwear – including watches and wristbands – grew 31.6% year over year, and continue to dominate the wearables landscape,” said Ramon T. Llamas, research director for Wearables. “While the functionalities and capabilities have grown and changed, the one common thread is the relentless focus on health and fitness. This has resonated strongly with users and health insurance companies alike, and new health and fitness insights attract a larger audience.”

Company Highlights

Apple maintained the leading position as the company offers three product lines; Apple Watch, AirPods, and select Beats headphones. The Apple Watch in particular has proven to be highly successful at capturing unit share, but more importantly dollar share as the average selling price (ASP) of these watches has increased from $426 in 1Q18 to $455 in the latest quarter. Apple also seems to be employing a similar strategy in its wireless headphone lineup as the latest AirPods are now available with wireless charging and an increased ASP.

Xiaomi ranked second largely due to the popularity of its Mi Band, which accounted for roughly five million shipments. While the company remains focused on the Chinese market, recent investments in Europe and the Middle East have been paying off as the company has managed to gain share in those regions.

Huawei ended the quarter with market-beating growth of 282.2%. The company’s success in the wearables market has been directly tied to its success in smartphones as the two products are often bundled together. However, with the recent uncertainty surrounding the company’s future in smartphones, the outlook for the wearables side of the business will also remain in flux.

Samsung, like Apple, also offers multiple product lines including the Gear/Galaxy watches and bands, the Galaxy Buds, and select JBL headphones. The launch of Samsung’s Galaxy S10 lineup helped the company propel its wearables business through the use of bundling. Outside of that, the JBL lineup of headphones also performed well thanks to the wide variety of options at a low cost.

Fitbit rounded out the top 5 and maintained its positive growth trajectory. The recent launch of the Versa Lite as well as the Inspire series has helped the company reach new users as well as encouraged upgrades, although this has come at the expense of a lower ASP. However, the company remains highly focused on the healthcare/enterprise segment and has continued to make strides in that market, surpassing many of its competitors. 

Top 5 Wearable Companies by Shipment Volume, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, Q1 2019 (shipments in millions)

Company1Q19 Shipments1Q19 Market Share1Q18 Shipments1Q18 Market ShareYear-over-Year Growth
1. Apple12.825.8%8.626.8%49.5%
2. Xiaomi6.613.3%3.912.3%68.2%
3. Huawei5.010.0%1.34.1%282.2%
4. Samsung4.38.7%1.75.3%151.6%
5. Fitbit2.95.9%2.26.8%35.7%
Others18.036.3%14.344.8%26.0%
Total49.6100.0%31.9100.0%55.2%

Top 5 Wearable Companies, Wrist-Worn Devices Only, by Shipment Volume, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, Q1 2019 (shipments in millions)

Company1Q19 Shipments1Q19 Market Share1Q18 Shipments1Q18 Market ShareYear-over-Year Growth
1. Xiaomi5.316.9%3.715.5%43.6%
2. Apple4.614.8%4.016.9%14.8%
3. Huawei3.912.5%1.35.3%213.0%
4. Fitbit2.99.3%2.19.0%35.9%
5. Samsung2.06.5%1.14.5%92.0%
Others12.540.0%11.648.9%7.8%
Total31.3100.0%23.8100.0%31.6%

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Spotify hits sweet spot

Streaming has shifted the music industry away from ownership and towards customer experience, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Last week marked the end of the beginning of the streaming music revolution. Apple announced the closing of iTunes, the 18-year-old platform that helped shift the music industry from physical to digital. At its height, in 2014, close to a billion people were using it.

However, the business model was still based on traditional ownership of music. Users either converted their physical music into digital tracks, or bought songs from iTunes. Apple founder Steve Jobs said back in 2003, when the iPod music player was launched, that consumers “don’t want to rent their music… They don’t want subscriptions”.

History proved him spectacularly wrong, and when streaming subscriptions services like Spotify and Pandora began taking off, even as iTunes hit the 800-million user mark, the company launched Apple Music in a dramatic acknowledgment that subscriptions were the future. It was also an admission that iTunes, which had also become a download service for movies and TV shows, had become top-heavy and frustrating to use.

Apple’s late arrival in the streaming world has cost it: In January this year, Apple Music reached 50-million subscribers – exactly half the number paying monthly subs to Spotify.

Spotify took South African music by storm when it launched here in March 2018, thanks to close collaboration with local artists.  It has a dedicated South African team that creates playlists for South Africans, in genres that appeal to local audiences. It also has a local ad sales team, and achieved early success with automotive brands like BMW and Mini using the platform extensively.

The company does not break down user statistics by country but, says Claudius Boller, managing director for Middle East and Africa, uptake exceeded all expectations.

“It’s been an amazing year,” he told Business Times. “Engagement in South Africa has crossed the world average. Users are extremely active, lean forward, and engage with playlists on a daily basis. We are not running many campaigns to move people from our free service to the Premium offering, but people do it right away.

“The metric we look at is how often and how long people use Spotify on average per day, and we have already seen those on premium subscriptions using Spotify much more than Facebook per day.”

The South African audience has another key differentiator, says Boller: “The market is extremely loyal. We know other music services have been in the market for many years. But when people make up their minds to try Spotify, they fall in love with it and continue to use it. The drop-off rate of people using our service is one of the lowest of all the markets in which Spotify operates.”

One of the secrets of Spotify’s success is the close relationship it builds with what it calls “the creative community” – both artists and labels.

“They are extra engaged, because of the data they are able to get. We give them a huge amount of data in a way that is very easy to digest. Through Spotify for Artists, they can see in real time how many listeners they have, their demographics, where they are listening, and where their audience is growing. If Jeremy Loops is doing very well in Australia, he can adjust where to promote his music and how to plan his touring schedule.

“We also use that data to work more closely with the creative community. We bring artists, labels and managers together for educational events so that they can get to know how to use the data. We give them practical advice, for example that they should release music on the same day on all platforms, including radio and streaming services, to maximise monetisation.”

Music entrepreneur Siya Metane agrees that audience data is one of the greatest benefits of streaming music. Better known as Slikour, founding member of the legendary hip hop group Skwatta Kamp, he now runs SlikourOnLife, an online urban music site and community with well over a million regular users. Understanding user trends has been at the heart of the growth of the platform, and he believes Spotify and its competitors add yet another dimension.

“The analytics that the streaming platforms provide give artists more insight of where their music is being consumed,” he says. “It is therefore giving the artists and their managers insight on where to invest nationally or globally. Such information has not been readily available to artists and managers before. Historically, everything was based on the physical purchase of a copy in a region – most of the time locally.”

But there is a downside, he says: “The cost of the streaming sacrifice is losing a whole R100 per album to a streaming company that pays you based on their pro rata plays on their service. Therefore only a few people can benefit. But streaming has definitely shifted the business from music alone to everything else music can influence.”

Both Vodacom and MTN have recognised the potential of streaming music to add value to their services, which are becoming increasingly commoditised. MTN late last year bought the local music streaming service Simfy Africa, and Vodacom in April this year launched its own streaming music service, called My Muze. The latter invites aspiring musicians to upload their music, with the possibility of being discovered and signed to a music label.

“The music industry has changed rapidly in recent times in that everything now lives digitally,” says Rehana Hassim, portfolio manager for music at Vodacom. “We also hope to attract new young consumers, to whom music remains one of the biggest passion points, providing various ways to engage with and consume the music they love.”

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AI reveals SA domestic abuse trends

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By Kriti Sharma, leading global voice on ethical technology and founder of AI for Good and Joanne van der Walt, Director, Sage Foundation 

Digital abuse, infidelity, and alcohol abuse are emerging as common conversation topics between victims of domestic violence in South Africa and rAInbow, an artificial intelligence-powered smart companion.

Developed with funding partner, Sage Foundation, and social justice organisation, The Soul City Institute, rAInbow allows users to ‘chat’ to a non-human over Facebook Messenger. It provides a safe space for domestic violence victims to access information about their rights, support options, and where they can find help – in friendly, simple language.

When we launched rAInbow in November last year, we didn’t expect that it would facilitate over 200,000 conversations with 7,000 users – 150,000 of those within the first three months of launch. One of the reasons we believe Artificial Intelligence (AI) can fill a gap in victim support is because many victims are uncomfortable talking to another person about their experience – due largely to social and cultural taboos, embarrassment, and shame.

The data gathered from anonymised rAInbow conversations** providesinvaluable insight into this complex issue; insight that we can use to improve our communication and prevention strategies.

Digital abuse: Behind the screens

Around 30% of rAInbow users believe it’s acceptable for their partners to check their phones and to insist on knowing who they’re talking to at all times.

Yet this constitutes a form of verbal and/or emotional abuse because abusers exploit technology and social media to monitor, control, shame, stalk, harass, and intimidate their victims. In conversations with rAInbow, many victims reveal that they don’t know what constitutes digital abuse because they can’t recognise the signs.

You could be a victim of digital abuse if your partner demands to know your passwords and who you’re talking to, reads your messages, and dictates who you can be friends with on social media.

The bottom line is, when you’re in a relationship, all communication with your partner – be it digital or face-to-face – should be respectful. You should never feel pressured into doing anything you’re uncomfortable with.

Infidelity: Is cheating really abuse?

Infidelity emerged as one of the main challenges facing rAInbow users in abusive relationships. In such cases, the cheating partner usually blames you for his/her cheating, does it intentionally to hurt you, or threatens to cheat again to control you. Infidelity is often accompanied by lying, manipulation, and blame-shifting – all recognised abusive behaviours.

Technology has exacerbated the problem. It’s now easier to access dating sites, pornography, and chat platforms, facilitating behaviour like ‘sexting’, which some people may consider infidelity.

‘Alcohol made me do it’

Alcohol and drugs are common triggers for violent episodes, with rAInbow users saying their partners were more likely to lash out at them verbally or physically after they’d been drinking. While alcohol itself doesn’t cause domestic violence, it can aggravate already tense situations.

Alcohol impairs people’s judgement and behaviour, to the point where they may lose control and become aggressive, short-tempered, and abusive. In most situations, the abusive partner will blame the alcohol for their actions and may not remember what they did or said the next day. The abused partner, however, has to live with the memories and after-effects of the abuse.

Everyone’s responsibility

In his State of the Nation Address earlier this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa said violence against women and children has reached “epidemic proportions” and that ending abuse would be made an urgent national priority. Corporates, NGOs, and ordinary citizens also have a responsibility to end the scourge.

Technology like rAInbow provides the vital information needed to start driving radical change – at policy and societal level. The conversations that rAInbow is having with users is making us think differently about how to approach this issue. It’s apparent that we need targeted, personalised education drives that help victims identify abuse and explain how and where to get help. It’s also apparent that there’s a strong need for information that can be accessed in a safe, anonymous, and non-judgemental space.

We need to use the aggregated data that’s available to us to make better decisions about action plans and strategies. Solutions like rAInbow can provide governments with the information they need to tackle abuse.

To find out how you can contribute to the rAInbow project, e-mail humans@aiforgood.co.uk.

** All conversational data is anonymised. It is used to improve rAInbow and help organisations make better decisions about where to focus their efforts to combat abuse.

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