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PC not ready to die

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ABI research has revealed that 163 million notebooks were shipped last year – debunking the myth that the personal computer is meeting its demise.

Market intelligence company ABI Research has found that 163 million notebook PCs were shipped globally during 2015. The majority of shipments were laptops, which constituted nearly 80% of the category. The data suggests that despite a floating myth speculating that it will only be a matter of time before personal computers meet their demise, the market is still going strong and shows no sign of slowing down in the immediate future.

“Industry experts greatly exaggerated the death of the PC,” says Jeff Orr, Research Director at ABI Research. “The platform is continuing to evolve its designs to provide flexibility for productivity purposes, while also adapting its shape to support tablet-like, touch applications. Chromebooks and ultraportable PCs will continue to drive the most growth within the notebook PC market.”

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Though ultraportable PCs hit the shelves at premium prices, consumer interest for the 2-in-1 systems is increasing due to the supreme versatility that the models provide. As such, ABI Research predicts that new, low-cost models will emerge from a broader range of system OEMs in 2016 and forecasts ultraportable PCs will constitute more than 24% of total notebook PC unit volume in 2021.

Meanwhile, ABI Research anticipates Chromebooks to continue to dominate the education market in 2016, as school initiatives drive toward 1:1 student deployments with a technology device. And though the majority of Chromebooks historically shipped in the U.S., the education trend is beginning to see growth in other regions, notably Western Europe. ABI Research predicts that Chromebooks will represent nearly 7% of all notebook PC shipments in 2021.

From an operating system standpoint, however, there remains room for further notebook PC development. “Intel architecture powers the majority of notebook PCs, and its introduction of the Core M SoC processor greatly enhanced the number of potential systems manufacturers that can participate in the 2-in-1 market,” concludes Orr. “With ARM processors dominating mobile devices, many in the industry wonder if an ARM-based PC will eventually surface. With no Windows 10 desktop support for ARM processor architecture, only a handful of Chromebooks are using ARM-based processors in their designs. As such, we do not expect ARM-based PCs to emerge during the forecast period.”

In all, data suggests regional growth from the notebook PC category will stem from Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa over the next five years as computing penetration in both the workplace and consumer markets expands.

These findings are part of ABI Research’s Tablets and Pervasive Computing Service, which includes research reports, market data, insights, and competitive assessments.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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