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Samsung’s Galaxy Buds+ turns up the battery life

At the latest Galaxy Unpacked event in San Francisco, Samsung has unveiled new, longer-lasting, higher-quality wireless earphones, called the Galaxy Buds+, writes BRYAN TURNER

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Samsung’s latest audio gear is heating up the competition in the wireless personal audio space. After struggling with whether it was a Gear or Galaxy item, the Galaxy Buds were born as the successor to the Gear Icon X, separating the earphones from the smartwatches and fitness trackers into a companion for Galaxy devices.

At last year’s Galaxy Unpacked, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Buds, positioned as accessories for the S10. They had all the features other competitors were missing, like good audio quality with low latency, and a charging case that wirelessly charged from the back of the Galaxy S10.

This year, the Galaxy Buds+ were unveiled with some serious upgrades and some technical pointers from Samsung’s acquired premium audio companies, Harman, JBL, and AKG. The earphones feature noise-cancelling capabilities, like the Apple AirPods Pro and Huawei FreeBuds 3.

The major difference is in the design. Instead of sticks hanging out of one’s ears, it features an in-ear pod design. The outer end of the earphones also have a large surface area for controlling music and video by touch.

Inside the box, it comes with the buds, a wireless charging case, and several eartips for users to get a better in-ear fit. The various ear tips sizes are important because they don’t anchor on one’s ear, like the stick designs from Apple and Huawei.

The eartips are also important for a good seal, considering they come with noise cancellation. This is vital for isolating one from other noises for maximum fidelity from one’s listening experience. There’s also an option in the Galaxy Wearable app to intelligently filter out some of the outside audio. The feature is called Ambient Aware and Samsung says it can block out most external noise and can let through important information like flight announcements, oncoming traffic, or a user’s order number at a restaurant.

To help this, there are two microphones positioned on the outside and another on the inside. This is to make sure audio inside a user’s ear canal isn’t the same as on the outside, which helps it dynamically noise cancel. The internal microphone also helps users when they’re on a call in a crowd, by dynamically picking up their voice from audio within the canal and separating it from the noisy crowd.

The big sell from this is the 11-hour audio playback from a single charge. This is a huge leap from the Huawei FreeBuds 3’s 4 hours, and Apple’s AirPods Pro’s 5 hours. After the 11 hours, one can pop the earphones into the case for some extra juice. If it’s important to get back to the music, one can leave the earphones in the charging case for 3 minutes to provide an extra hour of playback. In total, it packs another full charge from flat, from the case, meaning users can expect 22 hours of playback.

The earphones can be paired with Android and iOS via the Galaxy Wearable app for Android and Galaxy Buds+ app on iOS to make use of all the features.

The Galaxy Buds+ will come in white, black, and cloud blue. Pricing and availability in South Africa has not yet been announced.

Read the announcement from Samsung on the next page.

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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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