Smartphone Sales Take a Tumble
Surprise, surprise, smartphone sales are down again. According to the tech analyst firm IDC, phone sales have declined by nearly 15 percent year over year in the first quarter of 2023. This is a continuation of a slide that began last year; sales have been declining for the past several fiscal quarters.
Much of the slowdown is likely due to a confluence of pandemic-related economic factors like chaotic supply lines and skyrocketing inflation. But another aspect that could explain why fewer people are buying phones is that, for the most part, phones are perfectly fine. Modern smartphones have plateaued, both in terms of their design and the capabilities of their software, and the future of phones is likely to involve slow, iterative improvements rather than big leaps that warrant faster upgrades.
The response from smartphone manufacturers to this sales slippage, at least on the surface, has been a resounding “this is fine.” Companies aren’t going to stop rolling out new devices on a yearly basis anytime soon. They’re also trying to generate interest and hype by trying out new form factors. Google is reportedly planning to announce a $1,700 folding Pixel phone at its IO event on May 10 that it hopes will get people jazzed up about its phones.
Here’s some more tech news.
An Apple a Day
Apple’s been in the health-tracking game for a while now. In 2020, the company launched Apple Fitness+, its slick Peloton competitor service that syncs with its bestselling Apple Watch. Now Apple seems to be planning an expansion of the service, powered by machine intelligence.
According to Mark Gurman at Bloomberg, Apple is broadening its digital health services to include personalized fitness coaching and emotion tracking. The services may also emerge in a new version of the Health app on the iPad. The AI-powered portion of the app is said to be able to take data from your wearables and make health suggestions throughout the day, like when to exercise and how to eat healthier.
Apple’s mood monitor and some other health features are expected to be announced during Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in early June. The coaching features likely won’t be rolling out until later this year.
In un-health news, Amazon has decided to shut down its Halo product line. That means the end of Amazon’s Halo fitness trackers and alarm clocks that track your sleep. Halo devices were never huge in the fitness market, but they were quirky—and creepy. The fitness trackers were pitched as being able to monitor nearly every aspect of the person wearing them, including monitoring your emotions and scanning your body fat. Amazon says that its Halo devices will stop working on July 31, but the company will offer refunds to anyone who purchased a Halo device in the past year.
Amazon has been keen to cut costs across its operations. It trimmed its Echo offerings in November and has laid off employees in its human resources, cloud computing, and drones divisions. But don’t let the Halo shutdown fool you: the company is still very much interested in health. (Especially all that sweet, sweet patient data.) Amazon is plowing ahead with its Amazon Clinic telehealth service, and in February it completed its acquisition of One Medical, a primary health care provider.
Gadget Lab Bro-dcast
Balls. Roughly half the people on this planet have got ’em, but the unsightly sacks tend to be pointedly ignored in much of polite society. Recently, dozens of companies have started to capitalize on the scrotum, selling ball cleansing liquids, lotions, and deodorants for the gonads. Companies have long exploited societal beauty standards to sell products to women, and now it is the men’s turn. Largely, the marketing has worked, turning men’s grooming products into a $70 billion industry in just a few years.
This week on the Gadget Lab podcast, WIRED’s fact-checker-in-chief Zak Jason joins the show for a balls-to-the-wall conversation about his experience with scrotum sprays and the wide world of men’s beauty products.