News You might have missed: Week of Sept 1st

Samsung Updates Its Wearables Lineup

On the first big day for the European Consumer Electronic Show IFA, Samsung launched the new Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro, the Samsung Gear Sport and the Samsung Icon X 2018. Both the Gear Sport and the Gear Fit 2 Pro offer water resistance and swim tracking, auto-activity detection, and personalized motivation. Both devices provide access to Under Armour’s fitness apps including Under Armour Record™, MyFitnessPal®, MapMyRun® and Endomondo™2 for activity, nutrition, sleep and fitness tracking functions.

Samsung also announced a new Smart Frame TV, a 49” gaming monitor, the AddWash washing machine and the PowerStick Pro Vacuum cleaner

Via Samsung Newsroom 

  • Interesting partnership with Speedo on the Gear Fit 2 Pro. The Speedo On app provides lap counts, time and stroke type. Very similar to what AppleWatch does. This is a Samsung’s spin to the Apple Nike partnership. Targeting the second most popular fitness activity for fitness enthusiasts, Samsung is hoping to provide a differentiator with the help of a very well respected brand. The Gear Fit 2 Pro could be a good upgrade for current Gear Fit owners as well as Fitbit owners.
  • In the new IDC wearable market share numbers released on Thursday, Samsung dropped out of the top five. With the revamped portfolio I would expect Samsung to regain its place but moving to the top remains challenging as Xiaomi owns the low end of the market and Apple the high-end one.
  • The updated Icon X wireless earbuds should do better than their first gen. When they first came to market, consumers were still questioning the wireless earbuds segment but Apple AirPods have proven very popular and scored very high in satisfaction. This higher degree of awareness is something Samsung can harness as well as some AirPods’ envy for Samsung Galaxy users. The bad news for Samsung is that Sony and Bang & Olufsen both launched new wireless earbuds at IFA: the WF-1000x and the B&O Beoplay E8. So this segment is getting crowded fast.

 

Nest has a New, Cheaper Thermostat: the Thermostat E

Nest added a new thermostat to its line, not an upgrade to the current one but rather a brand new cheaper model called Thermostat E. What is different? Mainly the look. The Thermostat E is meant to blend in with your walls and disappear so it comes with a white plastic ring instead of an aluminum one and with a white frosted screen. As far as capabilities, users are not sacrificing anything. This is still a learning thermostat that works with Alexa and Google Assistant. The only feature that the Thermostat E won’t have that Nest’s higher-end thermostat has is a feature called “farsight,” which lets the thermostat tell when you’re across the room and then turn on its display to show you the time or temperature. Compatibility with higher-end heating and cooling systems is not guaranteed as Nest says Thermostat E is compatible with 85%, rather than 95% of homes. At $169, the Thermostat E is certainly an interesting buy if you can get over its looks.

Via Wired 

  • With Google, you always know mass-market is the goal so this should not be a surprise. At $169 compared to the $249 of the aluminum frame model, the Nest E will sure temp a few people who have been sitting on the fence due to price. After all, the original Nest has rarely seen large discounts.
  • Interestingly as I was looking at nest.com I found that PG&E is offering a $50 rebate on all smart thermostats bought and installed between June and December. This would bring the price down to almost the sweet spot of tech impulse buy $99.
  • In our connected home research at Creative Strategies, we found that thermostats and, Nest, in particular, were the first devices consumers experimenting with a smart home would try, followed by lights. At the start of the market many Nest buyers were iPhone users but as Nest continued not to support HomeKit, Apple users might be looking elsewhere which might just mean that Google does not enter certain homes at all.

Samsung gets approved by California to test Self-driving Cars

According to the DMV list,  Samsung has joined a bunch of other companies from the car and tech world approved for testing self-driving cars in California. Back in May, Samsung had the approval to undergo testing in its own market of South Korea.

Via The Verge 

  • This should not come as a surprise given Samsung’s acquisition of Harman Kardon. Just  this week at their IFA press conference the SVP of Technology at Harman highlighted the strong presence of the brand in connected cars
  • As we have seen in other cases, though, just because a company has been granted permission to test a self-driving car it does not mean it will make one
  • Samsung has been quite clear from the get go of the Harman acquisition that the focus is on taking advantage of what is on the roads today. In other words, there are different steps between aided-driving and self-driving cars that Samsung believes capable of playing a role as a supplier of components, software and more.

Amazon adds Parental Control and Kids Skills for Echo

Amazon announced a bunch of kid-friendly activities and games that are available right now as part of the new push. Kids can check out The SpongeBob ChallengeSesame Street, and Amazon Storytime as well as games like The Tickle Monster Game! and Zoo Walk on their own Echo. Amazon also says that hundreds of developers are interested in making kid skills, with more on the way. With the added skills, Amazon also added parental control. The first time you ask Alexa to enable a skill that’s been identified for kids, it will ask you to give the skill permission in the Alexa app. You’ll need to verify your identity with a one-time text code sent to the phone number in your Amazon account or with the security code of the credit card on file. You’ll be able to manage permissions on Amazon.com thereafter.

Via Engadget  

  • Echo Dot and its very aggressive pricing have helped Amazon increase penetration in the home. According to our research at Creative Strategies, Echo Dots do indeed end up in kids’ bedrooms mainly as a low-end speaker.
  • Kids games have been available on Echo since the very beginning but what Amazon is doing here is actually rubber stamping skills that are aimed at children.
  • Having gone through the process of adding a kids skill I can say it is very straightforward and only takes a couple of minutes. While it might not seem necessary today we know from phones and tablets that some kind of control with apps is needed and skills are no different
  • With some focus on detoxing from screens, I can see how Alexa could become the new glorified babysitter representing a sizable opportunity for developers.
  • Alexa has been able to read certain Kindle books and we have used her for bedtime stories before but the new skill makes Alexa much less robotic improving the experience. Although Amazon is starting with using Amazon Rapids for some of the stories, I could see a new Audible offering targeting kids through Alexa.

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Carolina Milanesi

Carolina is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc, a market intelligence and strategy consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and recognized as one of the premier sources of quantitative and qualitative research and insights in tech. At Creative Strategies, Carolina focuses on consumer tech across the board. From hardware to services, she analyzes today to help predict and shape tomorrow. In her prior role as Chief of Research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, she drove thought leadership research by marrying her deep understanding of global market dynamics with the wealth of data coming from ComTech’s longitudinal studies on smartphones and tablets. Prior to her ComTech role, Carolina spent 14 years at Gartner, most recently as their Consumer Devices Research VP and Agenda Manager. In this role, she led the forecast and market share teams on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. She spent most of her time advising clients from VC firms, to technology providers, to traditional enterprise clients. Carolina is often quoted as an industry expert and commentator in publications such as The Financial Times, Bloomberg, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She regularly appears on BBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox, NBC News and other networks. Her Twitter account was recently listed in the “101 accounts to follow to make Twitter more interesting” by Wired Italy.

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