Phone firms look beyond the handset at top mobile fair

Updated 01 March 2015

Phone firms look beyond the handset at top mobile fair

MADRID: Phone makers will seek to seduce new buyers with even smarter Internet-connected watches and other wireless gadgets as they wrestle for dominance at the world’s biggest mobile fair starting Monday.
Along with the launches of numerous new smartphones — dominated by South Korean giant Samsung — tech firms are trying to conquer users’ bodies and connect their environments.
Several makers are set to unveil new “smartwatches,” some of which will have users chattering into their cuffs or getting on-wrist e-mail updates, at the four-day Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in northeastern Spain.
Tech executives and regulators will meanwhile seek to chart a course for a new age of wireless networks that could lead to billions of objects being connected, from cars to refrigerators.
“It’s a showpiece for smartphones in the short term, but it’ll go way beyond smartphones,” said Nigel Major, a top executive at tech group Laird.
“The most exciting trend we can see is the proliferation of connected devices everywhere we go. Ten years from now, virtually everything you’re looking at will have the potential to be connected.”
On Sunday evening, Samsung is expected to unveil its Galaxy S6 smartphone, the larger Galaxy S6 Edge “phablet,” and the latest in its series of watches.
Samsung is the world’s biggest seller of smartphones but saw its share of the world market fall in 2014 from 34 percent to 20 percent, according to research group IDC.
It faces a squeeze by Chinese phone makers on one side and on the other by US titan Apple, which released its iPhone 6 last year.
Apple, as usual, is steering clear of the show in Barcelona, but is set to launch its own smartwatch in April.
Several other Asian heavyweights also plan launches of “wearable” gadgets on the eve of the congress, such as Korean firm LG, Chinese contender Huawei and Taiwanese makers Asus and HTC.
Designers have come up with numerous gadgets that can connect to an application on your mobile, from popular “fitness tracker” wristbands to measure your heart rate to sex toys.
Now they hope some big product launches this year can make smartwatches a mainstream gadget and boost sales of other wearables.
This year could be a “tipping point for wearables,” research firm CCS Insight said in a report.
In Barcelona, “low-cost smartphones will feature prominently, as will wearables,” it said. “We expect an avalanche of new products.”
Mobile telephones are a massive business — 2.1 billion people, or one person in three in the world, owned one in 2014, according to Linda Sui, an analyst at global tech consultancy Strategy Analytics.
But the battle for profits is shifting away from the handset to other connected objects, experts say.
“The wearable market is really going to expand because the smartphone market has reached a saturation point in developed markets,” said Kevin Curran, a telecom specialist at the University of Ulster.
“So they have to be seen to be doing something else.”
On a larger scale, companies and experts in Barcelona will be mulling what leaps forward in wireless coverage and technology are needed to create a new “5G” generation of super-fast and secure wireless connections.
“The path to 5G and the battle for early leadership will be one of the show’s hottest topics,” said Wood.
Standards have yet to be hammered out, but the mobile consortium organizing the congress, GSMA, says future 5G connections could support functions such as connected cars and traffic systems.
It “will further transform the lives of individuals, businesses and societies around the world,” said the GSMA’s director general, Anne Bouverot.


Africa development bank says risks to continent’s growth ‘increasing by the day’

Updated 18 August 2019

Africa development bank says risks to continent’s growth ‘increasing by the day’

  • The trade dispute between US and China has roiled global markets and unnerved investors
  • African nations need to boost trade with each other to cushion the impact of external shocks

DAR ES SALAAM: The US-China trade war and uncertainty over Brexit pose risks to Africa’s economic prospects that are “increasing by the day,” the head of the African Development Bank (AfDB) told Reuters.
The trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies has roiled global markets and unnerved investors as it stretches into its second year with no end in sight.
Britain, meanwhile, appears to be on course to leave the European Union on Oct. 31 without a transition deal, which economists fear could severely disrupt trade flows.
Akinwumi Adesina, president of the AfDB, said the bank could review its economic growth projection for Africa — of 4 percent in 2019 and 4.1 percent in 2020 — if global external shocks accelerate.
“We normally revise this depending on global external shocks that could slowdown global growth and these issues are increasing by the day,” Adesina told Reuters late on Saturday on the sidelines of the Southern African Development Community meeting in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam.
“You have Brexit, you also have the recent challenges between Pakistan and India that have flared off there, plus you have the trade war between the United States and China. All these things can combine to slow global growth, with implications for African countries.”
The bank chief said African nations need to boost trade with each other and add value to agricultural produce to cushion the impact of external shocks.
“I think the trade war has significantly impacted economic growth prospects in China and therefore import demand from China has fallen significantly and so demand for products and raw materials from Africa will only fall even further,” he said.
“It will also have another effect with regard to China’s own outward-bound investments on the continent,” he added, saying these could also affect official development assistance.
Adesina said a continental free-trade zone launched last month, the African Continental Free Trade Area, could help speed up economic growth and development, but African nations needed to remove non-tariff barriers to boost trade.
“The countries that have always been facing lower volatilities have always been the ones that do a lot more in terms of regional trade and do not rely on exports of raw materials,” Adesina said.
“The challenges cannot be solved unless all the barriers come down. Free mobility of labor, free mobility of capital and free mobility of people.”