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Wearables boom in Africa

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The Middle East and Africa (MEA) wearables market continued its strong growth trajectory into the first quarter of 2017, according to the latest figures compiled by ICT.

Bucking a trend that has seen slowdowns in other segments of the personal consumer devices market, IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker for Q1 2017 shows that shipments of wearables were up 30.2% year on year (YoY) in the MEA region.

Intriguingly, while shipments of basic wearables (devices that do not support third-party applications) increased 16.8% YoY, it was the growth of smart wearables (devices that do support third-party applications) that provided much of the market’s momentum, with shipments up 64.9% YoY. This marks a considerable turnaround for the market, with Samsung’s Gear S3 line of smart watches and Apple’s Series 1 and Series 2 smart watch offerings being particularly well received in the market, both by first-time buyers and consumers looking to upgrade.

“The MEA wearables market is in the midst of a major transformation,” says Nakul Dogra, a senior research analyst for personal computing, systems, and infrastructure solutions at IDC MEA. “Indeed, we are seeing an evolution of the market from fitness bands to smart wearables such as watches, earwear, and clothing. IDC expects that by the end of 2021, smart wearables will account for 43% of total wearables shipments in the region, up from just 26% in 2016.

“Fashion-conscious consumers now have a variety of smartwatch options to choose from, with sleek designs, myriad strap options, and trendy interfaces being offered by vendors, without compromising on features like responsiveness, sensor performance, battery life, and smartphone interaction. Increasingly, tech firms are collaborating with well-known fashion brands on new offerings to keep consumers interested, and this approach will be instrumental in driving wearables growth as it opens up the devices to new audiences through the inclusion of point of sales in fashion outlets.”

IDC expects the MEA wearables market to grow 20.9% YoY in 2017 to reach a total of 2.9 million units. The smart wearables segment will continue to be the prime driver of this growth, with shipments tipped to increase 52.0% YoY. In the longer term, IDC’s latest forecast shows the market expanding at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.2% over the 2016–2021 period.

“The next wave of growth for the wearables market will stem from adoption by value-seeking customers and from existing fitness band owners looking to upgrade to smartwatches now that they offer a better value proposition,” says Dogra. “Wearables vendors should focus on effectively utilizing the data captured by the sensors on these gadgets so that the day-to-day tasks performed by users can be made more straightforward and less time consuming. The role of third-party application developers will be critical in achieving this, so vendors should look to actively engage with the developer community.”

To keep pace with the changes taking place in this fast-moving market, IDC has launched its Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, which assists vendors that are looking to enter this market, promote new product developments, or accelerate the growth of their wearables divisions.

The tracker includes details on products, vendors, and technology trends at both global and country levels, as well as historical market data and five-year forecasts. The report also provides valuable insights into the adoption of core wearable features, such as form factor, connectivity, sensors, operating systems, and applications, and offers invaluable assistance to tech firms looking to develop successful long-term business strategies for wearable devices.

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Huawei Mate 20 unveils ‘higher intelligence’

The new Mate 20 series, launching in South Africa today, includes a 7.2″ handset, and promises improved AI.

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Huawei Consumer Business Group today launches the Huawei Mate 20 Series in South Africa.

The phones are powered by Huawei’s densest and highest performing system on chip (SoC) to date, the Kirin 980. Manufactured with the 7nm process, incorporating the Cortex-A76-based CPU and Mali-G76 GPU, the SoC offers improved performance and, according to Huawei, “an unprecedented smooth user experience”.

The new 40W Huawei SuperCharge, 15W Huawei Wireless Quick Charge, and large batteries work in tandem to provide users with improved battery life. A Matrix Camera System includes a  Leica Ultra Wide Angle Lens that lets users see both wider and closer, with a new macro distance capability. The camera system adopts a Four-Point Design that gives the device a distinct visual identity.

The Mate 20 Series is available in 6.53-inch, 6.39-inch and 7.2-inch sizes, across four devices: Huawei Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 X and Porsche Design Huawei Mate 20 RS. They ship with the customisable Android P-based EMUI 9 operating system.

“Smartphones are an important entrance to the digital world,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer BG, at the global launch in London last week. “The Huawei Mate 20 Series is designed to be the best ‘mate’ of consumers, accompanying and empowering them to enjoy a richer, more fulfilled life with their higher intelligence, unparalleled battery lives and powerful camera performance.”

The SoC fits 6.9 billion transistors within a die the size of a fingernail. Compared to Kirin 970, the latest chipset is equipped with a CPU that is claimed to be 75 percent more powerful, a GPU that is 46 percent more powerful and an NPU (neural processing unit) that is 226 percent more powerful. The efficiency of the components has also been elevated: the CPU is claimed to be 58 percent more efficient, the GPU 178 percent more efficient, and the NPU 182 percent more efficient. The Kirin 980 is the world’s first commercial SoC to use the Cortex-A76-based cores.

Huawei has designed a three-tier architecture that consists of two ultra-large cores, two large cores and four small cores. This allows the CPU to allocate the optimal amount of resources to heavy, medium and light tasks for greater efficiency, improving the performance of the SoC while enhancing battery life. The Kirin 980 is also the industry’s first SoC to be equipped with Dual-NPU, giving it higher On-Device AI processing capability to support AI applications.

Read more about the Mate 20 Pro’s connectivity, battery and camera on the next page. 

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Epic Games brings a
Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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