By The Numbers: U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015

A new survey from Pew Research Center revealed some interesting insights into mobile user behaviors of US consumers.

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Nearly one in five American adults now use mobile as primary source of Internet access, a group that, as the survey reveals, tend to skew younger, non-white, and lower income. Overall, 64% of US adults own a smartphone, but its usage varies by generation.

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More than half of the US adults have used a smartphone to get heath information and handle online banking. This signals the great potential that mobile has to disrupt the healthcare and payment industries.

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Texting, Internet browsing, and emailing rank among top features for mobile users across all age groups. Younger generations, however, show a clear inclination towards video and audio consumptions on smartphones.

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Furthermore, the survey also uncovered some insights into smartphone owners’ emotional connection to their devices. As we pointed out in our Outlook 2015, mobile is ushering in a new era of intimate computing that brings the consumers both the Internet of Thrills (happy and grateful) and Peak Distraction (distracted and frustrated).

All charts from the Pew Research Center

Event Recap: Transit Wireless Brings Connectivity to NYC Subway

IPG Media Lab visited Transit Wireless’ press conference event today, during which they announced the launch of Phase II of its plan to bring mobile connectivity to the New York subway system. Wireless and WiFi connectivity has now been added to 40 stations—29 in Queens, and 11 in Manhattan (including Times Square and Grand Central). Partner carriers supplying connectivity will include AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon, while Royal Caribbean will sponsor free WiFi until the end of the year.

Added productivity won’t be the only benefit: Transit Wireless partnered with the MTA to provide dedicated health and safety lines in case of emergency. Additionally, partners will be able to distribute content over the new networks, which means access to millions of commuters.

It’s unclear who is bankrolling the rollout, which is scheduled for completion by 2018. Either way, it’s free WiFi for Manhattanites and Queens residents, with Brooklyn and the Bronx to come soon. But a quick etiquette note: try not to talk on the phone on the train.

Attention! There is A New Security Loophole On Your Smartphone

Researchers from Stanford University have discovered a new privacy concern on smartphones: the gyroscope. They found that not only were the gyroscopes sensitive to phone vibrations, they could also pick up the frequency of minute air vibrations around the device, which gives them the capability to serve as unauthorized microphones that eavesdrop on your personal conversations. This new finding could potentially bring a new set of regulations regarding the use of gyroscopes on digital devices.

Microsoft Wants Its Smartphones To Touch You Back

You press your fingertips on the screen of your smartphone at least dozens of times every day, but if you are one of the few people who owns a Windows smartphone, pretty soon your phone may be able to reciprocate your touch. A Microsoft researcher is reportedly applying so-called haptics to add tactile sensations to touch screens to provide instant feedback to users’ touch. Whether to assist faster typing or guide the visually impaired, haptic feedback could potentially open up ways we interact with our digital gadgets.

The Big Ambitions Of Little Rice (XIaomi)

By now, you have probably heard about Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi. Heralded as either “the Apple of China” or “Blatant Copycat”, depending on whom you ask, Xiaomi’s meteoric rise in recent years has caught the eyes of western media, even if its target market has been almost exclusively domestic so far. Popular as their products are in mainland China, even outperforming iPhone in a recent study on leading smartphones’ app usage in China, it is not until recently that a few new developments from the company indicate the big ambition of Little Rice (a literal translation of Xiaomi).

Earlier last week, Xiaomi launched Mi 4, its newest offering in smartphones. Boosting a steel frame, IR blaster, top-tier specs and an affordable $320 pricetag, it is a dazzling product that once again raises the bar on “made-in-China” budget phones. More importantly, the “one more thing” that Xiaomi revealed along with Mi 4 is a $13 sleep and fitness tracking wristband named Mi Band. It also promises a battery that lasts up to 30 days and a proximity-based function that unlocks linked Xiaomi phones without password. By introducing such an aggressively priced, multi-functional smart wearable, Xiaomi is not only gaining an unchallenged head-start in the wearable market in China, but also potentially upending the upscale positioning that most wearables seem to employ in the global consumer tech market.

xiaomi-mi-band-enAnother indication of Xiaomi’s big ambition is its recent foray into the international market. By striking an exclusive partnership with India’s biggest e-commerce operator Flipkart, Xiaomi has launched its smartphones in the subcontinent, marking its first step in entering the Indian market where Samsung and native brands currently dominates. In addition, Xiaomi is starting sales in 10 new markets including Brazil and Russia, while also reaching out to local e-commerce operators for its expansion to the Philippines and Indonesia. Such an extensive roll-out has turned out fairly successful so far, with Xiaomi reportedly more than doubled its year-on-year sales since the international expansion began.

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Formidable as Xiaomi’s rapid growth might seem, the big tech players in the western world don’t need to start worrying about Xiaomi just yet, as the company is still very much focused on markets in the developing countries. Whether its products are quality enough to conquer the global market also remains to be seen. And the company’s long-standing habit of unabashed appropriation of Apple could hinder it from entering the western market where the tech giants are litigious and have deep pockets. Nevertheless, one thing is clear to see: the little rice is aiming big, as the company starts shouting “Xiaomi the money” at the global market.

Blackberry Now 0% Of Market Share

In addition to Apple, Android, and Window’s Phone market share numbers, we’ve now had the chance to take a look at where Blackberry falls in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately for Blackberry, the numbers confirm what we’ve known to he true for some time: Blackberry now accounts for 0.0% of market share of smartphone activations in the United States. It’s not at all surprising, considering the numbers they’ve put up for the past few years, but it’s yet another nail in the coffin for the company. It’s unclear if it’s at all possible to recover from this, but if they do it will need to be a miracle at this point. 

Smartphone Sales May Slump Q1

According to TrendForce, Q1 of 2014 could spell the first time that smartphone sales trend downwards worldwide. It’s not necessarily cause to abandon ship – it simply means that the smartphone has matured as a market enough to follow traditional seasonal trends. Shipments are expected to drop by 5.1% in Q1 of this year for the first time after a steady climb over two years. Nonetheless, as smartphones continue to penetrate globally, consumers will buy less and less at the beginning of the year, with the high profile releases coming in the spring; at the same time, people naturally spend less over the holidays. As spring starts up, though, expect sales to climb, much like the rest of the market, and indeed eclipse the same time periods from 2013. 

Kindle & Surface Gain Tablet Share Over Holidays

Early holiday shopping data is trickling in, and we now know that Amazon and Microsoft both gained significant tablet market share over the 2013 holiday season. According to Chitika, Amazon is now at 9.4% market share, a 0.6% increase, and Microsoft is at 2.3%, which represents a 0.5% increase. Apple’s tablets are very clearly out in front, with a 76.1% market share, but there were clear chunks taken out of that lead over the past two months. The holidays didn’t spell entirely bad news for Apple; they were the only company to see good holiday news in the smartphone market, as usage numbers increased again last month. 

LG Unveils LG Flex

Beyond all the traditional specs that you’d associate with a quality smartphone, LG and Samsung have entered into what seems like an oddly-shaped battle: the two manufacturers are trying to out-curve each other. The Galaxy Round features a horizontally curved screen, while the LG Flex has a vertically curved screen. Supposedly, the curved screen optimizes the phone for the average face and improves visual and audio quality. But for the moment, the curved models have yet to prove any real market penetration. We’ll only be able to see whether consumers take to the idea in a few months’ time. 

Are Flexible Smartphones On The Horizon?

LG, this morning, announced “the world’s first flexible OLED panel for smartphones.” They also very quickly bragged that they would be announcing products – within a year’s time – that would feature the flexible screens. That said, flexible displays don’t necessarily preclude flexible devices; the engineering behind making flexible electronic innards is still a long way off, and even if it were it would likely be prohibitively expensive. For the moment, the most we should expect is a device that curves before the technology is sufficiently developed (and sufficiently inexpensive) for mass consumption. So, succinctly, the answer to the title is: no.