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Instagram Unveils Its TikTok Rival Reels Globally in Over 50 Countries, Including US

Instagram on Wednesday added a new short-form video feature to the image-focused platform in a direct challenge to TikTok, which is in the crosshairs of US President Donald Trump. “Reels” lets users record videos of up to 15 seconds and provides tools for editing, audio and effects, according to the Facebook-owned company. Reels has been launched in more than 50 countries today, including the US, UK, Japan, and Australia, on both iOS and Android. To recall, Reels was earlier launched in Brazil, Germany, France, and India in the month of June.

“Reels invites you to create fun videos to share with your friends or anyone on Instagram,” the social media platform, based in California, said in a blog post. Trump has threatened to ban China-based TikTok in the United States on national security grounds, giving it until the middle of September to work out a takeover deal with Microsoft or another suitor.

The president on Tuesday defended his demand for the US government to receive a large share of any TikTok purchase price after his stance was slammed by critics who said it appears unconstitutional and akin to extortion.

– Copying competition –

Reels puts an Instagram spin on the kind of playful video snippet sharing that has made TikTok a social media phenomenon. “Reels is a big part of the future of entertainment on Instagram,” the service said. “Our community is telling us they want to make and watch short-form, edited videos.” “Reels gives people new ways to express themselves, discover more of what they love on Instagram, and help anyone with the ambition of becoming a creator take center stage,” the platform said.

The move fits Facebook’s pattern of copying features that are hits at rival online services. How the social networking titan wields its power in the market came under scrutiny last week when Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and the heads of Apple, Google, and Amazon were grilled by a US congressional antitrust committee.

“Simply put, they have too much power,” said Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat who chairs the panel which has been conducting a year-long investigation into the business practices of the four companies. “This power staves off new forms of competition, creativity, and innovation,” Cicilline said.

Any deal allowing Microsoft to buy TikTok could be transformative for the US tech giant’s efforts to become more consumer-focused — if it can overcome the business and political risks. Buying TikTok could make Microsoft a hipper, more youth-centric company after years of shifting to enterprise services and cloud computing, say analysts.


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Tech

Apple Reports 25% Growth in Smartphone Market With 45.1mn iPhone Sales Globally

Image for Representation
(Image: Reuters)

Image for Representation
(Image: Reuters)

Compared to Apple’s growth, Samsung fell 30 percent, Huawei 5 percent, Xiaomi 10 percent, OPPO 16 percent, and others 23 percent in terms of smartphone shipments.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: August 1, 2020, 11:24 AM IST

As the global smartphone market plummeted 14 per cent in the June quarter, Apple was the only vendor to grow as it shipped 45.1 million iPhones globally, a growth of 25 per cent compared to the previous year, according to a new report. Samsung fell 30 per cent, Huawei 5 per cent, Xiaomi 10 per cent, OPPO 16 per cent and others 23 per cent in terms of shipments in the second quarter, reported market research firm Canalys.

“Apple defied expectations in Q2. Its new iPhone SE was critical in the quarter, accounting for around 28 per cent of its global volume, while iPhone 11 remained a strong best-seller at nearly 40 per cent,” analyst Vincent Thielke on Friday. According to him, iPhone SE will remain crucial to prop up the volume this year, amid delays to Apple’s next flagship release. “In China, it had blockbuster results, growing 35 per cent to reach 7.7 million units. It is unusual for Apple’s Q2 shipments to increase sequentially,” said Thielke. The smartphone market worldwide fell to 285 million units, a second consecutive quarter of freefall, as lockdown orders caused by the Covid-19 pandemic persisted through April and May.

Huawei toppled Samsung with shipping 55.8 million units, compared to Samsung’s 53.7 million in Q2 2020. Apple was third with 45.1 million units. Xiaomi came fourth, shipping 28.8 million units, which was down 10 per cent, and OPPO reclaimed fifth place from Vivo, shipping 25.8 million units with a 16 per cent decline. “As well as the new iPhone SE, Apple is also demonstrating skills in new user acquisition. It adapted quickly to the pandemic, doubling down on the digital customer experience as stay-at-home measures drive more customers to online channels,” said the report.


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Tech

Spotify Rolls Out Video Podcasts Globally, Starting With Handful of Shows: Details Here

Swedish audio streaming giant Spotify has introduced support for video podcasts, means that users can now watch video podcasts directly in the Spotify app on mobile and desktop. Podcast listeners will be able to watch a small number of podcasts on video in all markets where Spotify already has Podcasts rolled out, as per a report by GSMArena.

The ability to stream video podcasts will be available to both premium and free tier users. Users can minimize the app or lock their phones without having to stop listening to the podcast, as the audio will continue playing in the background. However, users will still be able to download the audio version of the podcast locally to stream it offline. In May, Spotify announced an exclusive licensing deal with Joe Rogan, one of the world’s most popular podcasters. As part of that deal, he’ll also be taking his video show over to Spotify which is slated to arrive on the platform starting September 1.

The list of podcasts that support video includes Book of Basketball 2.0, Fantasy Footballers, The Misfits Podcast, H3 Podcast, The Morning Toast, Higher Learning with Van Lathan And Rachel Lindsay, and The Rooster Teeth Podcast. Spotify has over 286 million users globally, including 130 million paid subscribers and Archie Comics have sold over 2 billion copies worldwide since it was founded in 1939.


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Google Meet Crosses 100 Million Download Globally on Play Store in Less Than Two Months

Popular video conferencing app Google Meet for Android has surpassed over 10 crore downloads globally on Google Play Store. The platform doubled the install base in less than two-months time as more and more people turned to video conferencing owing to the global pandemic, reports Android Police.

According to app traffic and performance observer AppBrain, Google Meet passed 5 crore (50 million) installs or downloads mark on Google Play on May 17. AppBrain figures indicated that the app crossed 10 crore installs on July 7. According to Javier Soltero Vice President & GM, G Suite, the tech giant has seen daily usage of Meet app grow by 30 times, with hosting 3 billion minutes of video meetings daily.

The search engine giant had earlier made Meet video platform free to anyone with a Gmail account, as part of Google’s Meet expansion. Google Meet is completely free and anyone with an email address can sign up and get started. Users can see Google Meet on the left menu, with two options: Start a meeting and join a meeting.


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Smartphone Sales Witnessed a Drop of 14% Globally in February: Counterpoint

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, market demand is fragile but global smartphone sales in February declined only 14 percent compared to last year, thus showing some resilience, a new report has said. From the supply-side, global smartphone shipments (sell-in) fell slightly more, down 18 percent compared to last year but again a lower than expected drop, according to Counterpoint Research. As coronavirus spreads like wildfire around the globe, its impact on the technology industry is unprecedented. The global smartphone market is largely a replacement market, meaning that smartphones are a discretionary purchase.

“While people may delay purchasing due to the coronavirus pandemic, especially in the early part of the crisis when the disruption and uncertainty are both high, they will still replace their smartphone at some point. This means that sales will not be entirely lost – just delayed,” Peter Richardson, VP and Research Director, Counterpoint Research, said in a statement. Sell-in shipments, which represent the supply of smartphones, were relatively weaker, but February is a traditional low period for production, especially if it coincides with the Chinese New Year as was the case this year.

However China, the initial epicenter of the epidemic, did show a huge 38 percent decline. But it is showing signs of a rebound already. Overall, global smartphone sales in February showed weakness in many markets as consumers became cautious. But with the growth of online channels, we saw sales shifting from offline to online. Offline sales in China fell more than 50 percent during February. But this fall was partially offset with stronger online sales, so the overall drop at 38 percent, was not so severe.

“While China and South Korea are gradually recovering, the worst is far from over for many other parts of the world,” said Jene Park, Senior Analyst at Counterpoint. In terms of the competitive landscape, the demand for Samsung smartphones remained stable due to the minimum exposure to the Chinese supply chain and China market demand, thus, capturing 22 percent global smartphone market share in terms of sales volumes. Apple felt some impact from the supply-side during the month both in China in early February and outside of China in the latter half of the month, which affected its sales performance. However, Huawei which has maximum exposure to China from both supply and demand perspectives, actually performed well above expectations, selling more than 12 million smartphones during February, seeing just a 1 percent drop in global market share.

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Nike, Under Armour and Lululemon Closing Retail Stores Globally Due to Coronavirus

File photo of a Nike store. (Photo: Reuters)

File photo of a Nike store. (Photo: Reuters)

The three retail chains are majorly closing stores in North America and Western Europe among other regions to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: March 16, 2020, 8:08 PM IST

Nike Inc, Lululemon Athletica Inc and Under Armour Inc on Sunday said they would close stores in the United States and other markets, joining a growing list of major retailers moving to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. The virus, which began in China at the end of last year, has led to school closures and canceled sports events in the United States and beyond. It is widely expected to hit retail sales as shoppers stay home to avoid catching the highly contagious COVID-19 respiratory illness that the virus causes.

The United States’ top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said conditions would likely get worse before they get better. Nike on Sunday said it will close stores in Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand from March 16 to 27. It will continue normal operations at stores in South Korea, Japan, most of China and in many other countries. “We are taking additional steps in other Nike-managed facilities, including the option to work from home,” the U.S. sportswear firm said in a statement.

Under Armour said it would shutter all North America stores from Monday for about two weeks. Lululemon said it would close its stores in North America and Europe for a similar period. “We are living in uncertain times and we’re learning more about this virus every day,” Lululemon said in a statement. Nike and Lululemon operate over 650 stores combined in the United States, while Under Armour has nearly 190 stores in North America, showed the companies’ latest annual reports. Each said their online stores would continue to be open.

Apparel retailer Lands End Inc and Columbia Sportswear Co also said on Sunday they would temporarily shut all of their stores in the United States and North America respectively. Gap Inc is temporarily reducing store hours for all of its locations in the United States and Canada, and closing over 100 stores, incoming Chief Executive Sonia Syngal said in a message posted on the company’s website here.

Apparel retailer Urban Outfitters Inc, which owns brands including Anthropologie and Free People, said on Saturday it would close its stores worldwide until at least March 28. Last week, retailers including Macy’s Inc and Saks Fifth Avenue sent notices to shoppers saying they were open for business, in a move to stem losses due to a drop in store traffic. Earlier this month, Nike temporarily closed its European headquarters in the Netherlands after an employee was infected with the coronavirus.

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Tech

206 Million Used Smartphones Were Sold Globally in 2019: Report

The global shipments of used smartphones, both officially refurbished and used ones – will reach a total of 206.7 million units in 2019 — an increase of 17.6 per cent over the 175.8 million units shipped in 2018, according to a new report from the International Data Corporation (IDC). The used smartphone shipments will reach 332.9 million units in 2023 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.6 per cent from 2018 to 2023.

“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,” said Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC’s aWorldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker’. 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,” said Scarsella. This growth can be attributed to an uptick in demand for used smartphones that offer considerable savings compared with new models. Moreover, original equipment manufacturers (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. 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, said IDC.

“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,” said Will Stofega, Program Director, Mobile Phones.