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Skywalker falls and rises

The final episode of the 9-part Star Wars saga delivers, but not always on time, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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It’s impossible to talk about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker without any spoilers. So let’s get a few out of the way:

The movie is in many ways a memorial to Carrie Fisher, with recycled footage cleverly manipulated to give her a central role in the story. Her end is transformed from tragedy to a moment of beauty.

Emperor Palpatine is back, as hinted in the trailer and the opening crawl text, and there is nothing beautiful about his return. It is probably not a spoiler to say that some of the worst clichés of monster movies are invoked in his name.

Droid abuse is a thing. As we know from the trailers, C3PO faces an uncertain destiny, but remember that he isn’t the only droid we’re looking out for. Expect this movie to inspire some kind of Droid Anti-Cruelty League, since droids certainly were hurt in its making – both physically and emotionally.

Oh, and C3PO looks great in a hoodie.

For the rest, it doesn’t give anything away to state that R2D2 can still only process information via something resembling a 1980s 8-track cassette. In a galaxy far, far away, flash drives haven’t been invented, not to mention wireless data transfer. And every kid on Tatooine or Yavin doesn’t grow up coding, so you have to fly to distant planets to find a hacker.

The rest of the humans are far less interesting, although Chewbacca’s instills real heart in some of them. The main characters lurch from one Star Wars cliché to another, miraculously escaping being hit by stormtroopers, regardless of the number of adversaries, weaponry at their disposal, or whether they are running to or from their adversaries.

That’s another way of saying, this is classic Star Wars, representing a breathlessly entertaining two hours and 20 minutes rollercoaster ride.  For die-hard fans, it’s a fitting climax to the saga – although even that statement could be a spoiler, given that it implies a satisfying ending in the eternal war between rebels and empire. But then, the very last spoken line of the movie is its true climax, delivering the full meaning of the episode title, and making it worth remaining seated to the end.

In many ways, the final episode invokes the original trilogy, drawing heavily on both its mythology and its iconic scenes. That, too, will sit well with the fans, but tends to undermine the solemnity of some of the scenes. Not that this is meant to be a solemn movie, aside from the odd death or two. It does attempt to tie up all the loose ends, but leaves a few dangling.

The most intriguing of these is probably the saga of Temiri Blagg. Okay, maybe not a saga, but it could have been. He’s the slave kid from The Last Jedi who had to sweep the stables on Canto Bight, when he used the force to bring the broom to him. Fan expectations for him were high, given his role in the climax of Episode VIII.

Well, expect both shocking revelations and the shocking destruction of fan theories – including those about Rey’s parentage. But don’t expect FN-2187, aka Finn, to overcome his inability to communicate his feelings. To anyone. Love triangles are so, like, episodes IV to VI. 

Do expect awe-inspiring landscapes, planetscapes and formations both natural and unnatural, which demand watching the movie on the big screen. The production designers also deserve applause for the gritty, retro realism they invest in every battle-scarred spaceship and weatherworn landspeeder.

The awe falls apart when the sky is filled with such vehicles, and the CGI teams don’t cover themselves in glory in such scenes. The terrible beauty of a giant ship going to its doom trivialises spaceship crowd scenes.

For critical viewers, delivery will feel a little like the prehistoric times before same-day fulfilment: a little stuck in the past. As a visual spectacle, however, the movie delivers on all expectations.

  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens in cinemas in South Africa and around the world today, 20 December 2019. 
  • It stars the late Carrie Fisher, along with Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, with Ian McDiarmid and Billy Dee Williams.
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Abrams and Michelle Rejwan. Callum Greene, Tommy Gormley and Jason McGatlin serve as executive producers. It was written by J.J. Abrams & Chris Terrio.

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Second-hand smartphone market booms

The worldwide market for used smartphones is forecast to grow to 332.9 million units, with a market value of $67 billion, in 2023, according to IDC

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International Data Corporation (IDC) expects worldwide shipments of used smartphones, inclusive of both officially refurbished and used smartphones, to reach a total of 206.7 million units in 2019. This represents an increase of 17.6% over the 175.8 million units shipped in 2018. A new IDC forecast projects used smartphone shipments will reach 332.9 million units in 2023 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.6% from 2018 to 2023.

This growth can be attributed to an uptick in demand for used smartphones that offer considerable savings compared with new models. Moreover, OEMs have struggled to produce new models that strike a balance between desirable new features and a price that is seen as reasonable. Looking ahead, IDC expects the deployment of 5G networks and smartphones to impact the used market as smartphone owners begin to trade in their 4G smartphones for the promise of high-performing 5G devices.

Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, says: “In contrast to the recent declines in the new smartphone market, as well as the forecast for minimal growth in new shipments over the next few years, the used market for smartphones shows no signs of slowing down across all parts of the globe. Refurbished and used devices continue to provide cost-effective alternatives to both consumers and businesses that are looking to save money when purchasing a smartphone. Moreover, the ability for vendors to push more affordable refurbished devices in markets in which they normally would not have a presence is helping these players grow their brand as well as their ecosystem of apps, services, and accessories.”

Worldwide Used Smartphone Shipments (shipments in millions of units)

Region2018
Shipments
2018 Market
Share
2023
Shipments*
2023 Market
Share*
2018-2023
CAGR*
North America39.022.2%87.226.2%17.4%
Rest of World136.877.8%245.773.8%12.4%
Total175.8100.0%332.9100.0%13.6%

Source: IDC, Worldwide Used Smartphone Forecast, 2019–2023, Dec 2019.

Table Notes: Data is subject to change.
* Forecast projections.

Says Will Stofega, program director, Mobile Phones: “Although drivers such as regulatory compliance and environmental initiatives are still positively impacting the growth in the used market, the importance of cost-saving for new devices will continue to drive growth. Overall, we feel that the ability to use a previously owned device to fund the purchase of either a new or used device will play the most crucial role in the growth of the refurbished phone market. Trade-in combined with the increase in financing plans (EIP) will ultimately be the two main drivers of the refurbished phone market moving forward.”

According to IDC’s taxonomy, a refurbished smartphone is a device that has been used and disposed of at a collection point by its owner. Once the device has been examined and classified as suitable for refurbishment, it is sent off to a facility for reconditioning and is eventually sold via a secondary market channel. A refurbished smartphone is not a “hand me down” or gained as the result of a person-to-person sale or trade.

The IDC report, Worldwide Used Smartphone Forecast, 2019–2023 (Doc #US45726219), provides an overview and five-year forecast of the worldwide refurbished phone market and its expansion and growth by 2023. This study also provides a look at key players and the impact they will have on vendors, carriers, and consumers.

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Customers and ‘super apps’ will shape travel in 2020s

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Customers will take far more control of their travel experience in the 2020s, according to a 2020 Trends report released this week by Travelport, a leading technology company serving the global travel industry.

Through independent research with thousands of global travellers – including 500 in South Africa – hundreds of travel professionals and interviews with leaders of some of the world’s biggest travel brands, Travelport uncovered the major forces that will become the technology enablers of travel over the next decade. These include:

Customers in control

Several trends highlight the finding that customers are moving towards self-service options, with 61% of the travellers surveyed in South Africa preferring to hear about travel disruption via digital communications, such as push notifications on an app, mobile chatbots, or instant messaging apps, rather than speaking with a person on the phone. This is especially important when it comes to young travellers under 25, seen as the future business traveler, and managing their high expectations through technology.

Mobile takeover

With the threat of super app domination, online travel agencies must disrupt or risk being disrupted. Contextual messaging across the journey will help. Super app tech giants like WeChat give their users a one-stop shop to communicate, shop online, book travel, bank, find a date, get food delivery, and pay for anything within a single, unified smartphone app. Travel brands that want to deliver holistic mobile customer experiences need to think about how they engage travellers within these super apps as well as in their own mobile channels.

Retail accelerated

In the next year, research shows, we will see an accelerated rate of change in the way travel is retailed and purchased online. This includes wider and more complex multi-content reach, more enriched and comparable offerings, more focus on relevance than magnitude, and an increase in automation that enables customer self-service.

“How customers engage with their travel experience – for instance by interacting with digital ‘bots’ and expecting offers better personalised to their needs – is changing rapidly,” says Adrian Roodt, country manager for Southern Africa at Travelport. “We in the travel industry need to understand and keep pace with these forces to make sure we’re continuing to make the experience of buying and managing travel continually better, for everyone.”

Read the full 2020 Trends report here: 2020 Trends hub.

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