On Saturday night, the curtains fell on yet another successful IFA Global Press Conference, the annual gathering that brings together over 300 media personalities from around the world. This year, the conference was attended by 310 media representatives (journalists, bloggers like yours truly, YouTubers etc) from over 50 countries.
As is always the case, the IFA Global Press Conference is an avenue to both, catch up on the latest tech trends and products, some that are just fresh from the oven like Chris and that pricey 4G radio as well as others that we already know about, like the products that Fitbit was showcasing and the P20 Pro’s photography prowess that Huawei Global Senior Product Marketing Manager Peter Gauden took the stage to share.
In between, there’s the usual dose of industry data from research firms IHS Markit and GfK, both long time partners of the conference and a constant fixture in the conference’s program as well as the main show in Berlin in early September every year.
Thanks to that level of engagement and access that only the IFA GPC offers, these are some of the things we know:
1. Wearables are here to stay
One thing that came out clear during the just concluded IFA GPC 2018 is that wearables are here to stay. All stories of wearables being on their deathbed have been grossly exaggerated.
According to research firm GfK’s data, 116.6 million wearables were sold in 2016 and 160.5 million were sold last year. GfK projects that 50 million more wearables will be sold this year to bring the annual tally at a whopping 211.1 million units. Are those the numbers for a product category that is on its deathbed?
2. The world may have embraced wearables but our region hasn’t
Sure, users around the world love wearables and are speaking loudly about this using what really matters: their wallets. Guess which users are not feeling that wearables vibe? Those in Africa and the Middle East. Only 2.8 million wearables were sold in the MEA region in 2017 according to GfK data. That’s 2% of the global total which saw sales in regions such as China and North America top global charts at 36% and 34% respectively. Still, it is better than our counterparts in emerging parts of Asia and Latin America.
3. 75% of money spent on consumer electronics goes to smartphones, PCs and TVs
Yes, that’s right. When it comes to consumer electronics, only the three matter.
4. The smartphone is the mother of them all as it continues its world dominance
I always get asked this question either in public or in private: why I am obsessed with mobile technology, particularly the smartphone, and not the other segments of technology since tech is wide and diverse and a man of my talents and training should be pretty much at home with other tech segments besides mobile. My answer is usually simple: while mobile technology is the beneficiary of hundreds of years of technological advancements in other fields, it is the most visible, most widely used, cheapest and as a result, the most significant at the moment so it only makes sense to double down on it. If anything I am a big beneficiary of the rise and rise of mobility in this day and age.
But that’s theory. Refer to the data in the graphic above (in point 3) to substantiate my claims.
More than any other piece of consumer electronics, smartphones will be the most sought after this year. GfK projects that at least 1.5 billion of them will be sold this year, more than 7 times the number of televisions and personal computers that will also be landing in the hands of consumers around the world.
In fact, according to the organization, as smartphones become more and more capable, they are doing some of the tasks that users previously required PCs in order to be able to perform. The end result here is that there’ll be less demand for PCs and increased demand for the all-powerful smartphone.
5. Africa may be one of the fastest growing markets but it is not yet driving spending in consumer electronics
North America, Europe and China, thanks to their superior spending power, dominate the global charts when it comes to who’s spending the most on consumer electronics. The three regions account for 70% of all consumer electronics revenues in the world. Leading.
6. We are spending more on consumer electronics every year and 2018 is not going to be any different
Consumer spending on electronic devices is expected to cross the USD 1 trillion mark for the first time ever, in 2018. GfK estimates that we will spend at least USD 1.014 trillion on consumer electronics purchases this year, an increase of 3.9% over the USD 976 billion spent last year.
According to GfK global director for consumer electronics, Jürgen Boyny, there’s a reason why this is the case. “Consumes ask for innovation and they’re willing to pay for it,” he says.
While I have never been of the opinion that technology should be just for those who can afford it and have been vehemently against the steep descent into the abyss of the $1,000 smartphone, the numbers are not lying and my personal feelings on the matter don’t count, sadly.
7. Consumers are willing to spend more for technical products
8. We use our smart home devices like smart speakers for just two main things
It turns out, all that we ever do on our smart speakers is play music and ask them all manner of questions.
This particular revelation actually spoke to me. I bought a smart speaker that has the Google Assistant built in. While I use this particular gadget every day, all I ever do is bark commands at it all day long. Either ask it to play the Avicii station on Spotify, pause the music so that I can take a phone call or ask it to brief me on the traffic situation on the roads before I step out. Just that. Yet it can do so much more. Apparently, I am not alone. Good to know even though this clearly shows that we are under-utilizing our expensive gadgets.
9. IFA and Messe Berlin have yet another new convention, Shift Automotive
Today’s car is as connected as the mobile devices that we love and use. Heck, it even has infotainment systems running on the same platforms as our smartphones, tablets, watches and televisions. Definitely, this was bound to get the attention of the people behind the world’s largest consumer electronics show and true to form, they are on it.
Messe Berlin has partnered with the Geneva International Motor Show for a new biannual convention dubbed Shift Automotive “which will explore how new technologies are changing the way we think, live and drive.”
Shift Automotive will be held twice in a year in both Geneva and Berlin on the sidelines of the Geneva International Motor Show and IFA. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of Android in the car (Android Auto) at one of these gatherings.
Shift Automotive is the latest product to be added to the Messe Berlin and gfu convention circuit after the IFA Next and IFA Global Markets which were launched last year and made a part of the annual trade show.
10. Smart Country Convention
2 months after IFA, roads will be leading to Berlin again for another new Messe Berlin-led convention, the Smart Country Convention. So, what has this got to do with our daily obsession, mobile? You may ask.
According to Messe Berlin CEO Dr Christian Goke, “The largest tech market in the world is procurement by governments.”
As such, the new convention will basically be about connecting tech companies and governments from around the world so as to ease the process of making them “smart”. Think being able to do most processes via the mobile phone effortlessly like we already do in Kenya via portals like the eCitizen but now for just about everything since someone managed to get the two parties together. In fact, the convention is being billed as a convention for “digitizing administrations and public services”. Think IFA in September but with solutions for governments and government representatives this time around.