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Mobile World Congress canning sends shockwaves

The cancellation of Mobile World Congress forces industry to rethink strategies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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With more than 100,000 attendees originally expected at MWC Barcelona, the cancellation will be a major blow for airlines across Europe, and the hospitality and tourism industry in Barcelona. Almost all hotels in the city are fully booked during the event, taxis are permanently busy, and most restaurants are full at night. Now, Barcelona may well resemble a ghost town, as the regular tourist trade would have been turned away by the lack of flights and accommodation – and it is both inappropriate and too late to market the city as a destination for that week.

For major brands who have to rethink launch strategies, marketing budgets will be strained, and launch campaigns could be set back by weeks or even months. This will put further constraints on a mobile industry already reeling from the impact of the coronavirus on manufacturing in China. Supply chains, shipping, and other logistics are also in disarray. Now add marketing to the list of casualties.

There is one big winner from the cancellation of MWC: Samsung, which launched its new range of mobile devices at a stand-alone event in San Francisco on Tuesday (link here). Samsung decoupled its annual Galaxy Unpacked event from MWC two years ago, after running it on the eve of MWC in Barcelona every year since the launch of the Galaxy S2 in 2011. The Galaxy S9 in 2018 was the last flagship Samsung phone to be launched at MWC.

A key reason for the decoupling, giving Samsung blanket coverage on launch day and pre-empting announcements by rivals, suddenly looks like a stroke of genius. The likes of Huawei, Sony, LG, Xiaomi, Nokia, Vivo, Oppo and OnePlus now all have to rely on online or delayed events for the launches planned this month. Apple never exhibits at industry expos, and keeps its iPhone launches to September, when it can unveil new devices in time for the holiday market.

Samsung does not have it all its own way, however. Its fiercest rival, aside from Apple, is Huawei, which also does not launch its flagship phones at MWC. While it was expected to launch the sequel to its Mate X foldable phone, that is not the device that will drive its market share.

Rather, Huawei is counting on the new P40 range to re-establish it as a technology leader, following Google pulling the plug on Android being included in the manufacturer’s devices. The launch is expected to take place at a stand-alone event in Paris in late March. Huawei was expected to showcase its own operating system, Horizon OS, during MWC, but will now probably do so in local events and combine it with the launch of the P40. It is also likely to include the new foldable device in that event.

The 6-week gap between the Samsung and Huawei flagship launches will also probably give the latter the chance to tweak the specs on its phones to be more competitive with the S20 range, which has pushed the boundaries of video and zoom technology.

Not that it’s all good news for Samsung. Despite moving Galaxy Unpacked from Barcelona, it still used MWC to launch its new tablet ranges. It will have to rethink that roll-out and marketing strategy.

Even for those who are unscathed in the immediate aftermath, the cancellation is bad news: it highlights the vulnerability of the industry as a whole to geopolitical events, and reduces the appeal of the sector to investors. If the coronavirus is not contained in the coming months, a mobile industry that is already relatively stagnant will experience a sharp decline.

  • 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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Alexa can now read all messages

For the first time, an Alexa skill is available that makes it possible to listen to any kind of message while driving

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For the first time, Alexa users can now hear all their messages and email read aloud.

Amazon’s Alexa has become a household name. The world’s most popular virtual assistant is getting smarter every day and now, with Amazon Echo Auto, it’s in cars too. 

“In today’s highly connected world, messaging in the form of emails, texts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and work channels like Slack, are integral to our daily routine,” says Barrie Arnold, chief revenue officer at ping. “However, distracted driving is responsible for more than 25% of car crashes and thousands of preventable fatalities every year.” 

ping, a specialist in voice technology founded by Arnold and South African Garin Toren, has developed a new Alexa skill as a companion to its patented smartphone app, that enables any message type to be read aloud. Designed for safety, productivity and convenience, “pingloud” is the first skill of its kind for keeping users connected when they need a hand or an extra pair of eyes.

“The ping Alexa skill is specifically designed to help drivers stay off their phones while giving them exactly what they want – access to their messages.” says Toren, ping CEO. 

Opening up Alexa to developers has resulted in an explosion of new skills available either for free or for a fee that unlocks premium services or features. These tools magnify the usefulness of Alexa devices beyond common tasks like asking for the weather, playing music or requesting help on a homework assignment. According to App Annie, the most downloaded apps in 2019 were Facebook Messenger, Facebook’s main app and WhatsApp, highlighting the importance of messaging. 

“The ping Android app is available worldwide from the Google Pay Store, reading all messages out loud in 30 languages,” says Toren. “The iOS version is in global beta testing with the US launch coming very soon.” 

Once you’ve signed up for ping, it takes a few seconds to link with Alexa, enabling all messages and emails to be read aloud by a smart speaker or Echo Auto device. Simply say, “Hey Alexa, open pingloud.” ping links an account to a voice profile so unauthorised users with access to the same Alexa cannot ask for the authorised user’s messages.

All major message types are supported, including Texts/SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Snapchat, Slack, Telegram, Twitter DM’s, Instagram, and all email types. Promotional and social emails are not read by default.

*For more information, visit www.pingloud.com

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Coronavirus to hit 5G

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Global 5G smartphone shipments are expected to reach 199 million units in 2020, after disruption caused by the coronavirus scare put a cap on sales forecasts, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “Global 5G smartphone shipments will grow more than tenfold from 19 million units in 2019 to 199 million in 2020. The 5G segment will be the fastest-growing part of the worldwide smartphone industry this year. Consumers want faster 5G smartphones to surf richer content, such as video or games. We forecast 5G penetration to rise from 1 percent of all smartphones shipped globally in 2019 to 15 percent of total in 2020.”

Ville-Petteri Ukonaho, Associate Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “China, United States, South Korea, Japan and Germany are by far the largest 5G smartphone markets this year. The big-five countries together will make up 9 in 10 of all 5G smartphones sold worldwide in 2020. However, other important regions, like India and Indonesia, are lagging way behind and will not be offering mass-market 5G for at least another year or two.”

Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The global 5G smartphone industry is growing quickly, but the ongoing coronavirus scare and subsequent economic slowdown will put a cap on overall 5G demand this year. The COVID-19 outbreak is currently restricting smartphone production in Asia, disrupting supply chains, and deterring consumers from visiting retail stores to buy new 5G devices in some parts of China. The first half of 2020 will be much weaker than expected for the 5G industry, but we expect a strong bounce-back in the second half of the year if the coronavirus spread is brought under control.”

Exhibit 1: Global 5G Smartphone Shipments Forecast in 2020 1

Global Smartphone Shipments (Millions of Units)20192020
5G19199
Rest of Market13941165
Total14131364
 
Global Smartphone Shipments (% of Total)20192020
5G1%15%
Rest of Market99%85%
Total100%100%

Source: Strategy Analytics

The full report, Global Handset Sales for 88 Countries & 19 Technologies, is published by the Strategy Analytics Emerging Device Technologies (EDT) service, details of which can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/wep83gc.

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