CTA: 170 Million to Purchase Tech Gifts This Holiday Season

According to the Consumer Technology Association, 170 million people (68 percent of U.S. adults) plan to purchase tech gifts this holiday shopping season. While the CTA’s annual report indicates tech spending is expected to only increase 1 percent to $96.8 billion during Q4, it still represents a new record following a strong 2016. “On the surface, it sounds pretty weak, but we saw 3.8 percent holiday growth in 2016,” said Steve Koenig, CTA’s senior director of market research. “That’s a tough act to follow. It’s hard to post 3 percent to 4 percent growth rates year after year.” Headphones, drones, VR headsets, 4K TVs, laptops and smartphones are among the products predicted to be top-sellers. Continue reading CTA: 170 Million to Purchase Tech Gifts This Holiday Season

Voice Shopping: Target Expands its Partnership With Google

Target announced that it is expanding its partnership with Google to cover a number of initiatives: consumers will be able to shop Target via Google Express home delivery (including by voice), Target’s REDcard payment card will be integrated into Google’s shopping platform, and new support for store pick-ups of purchases made through voice will be introduced. Amazon’s biggest rival Walmart announced in August that it would also team with Google for voice-based shopping efforts. The moves could help Google Home compete with Amazon’s Alexa-powered smart speakers. Continue reading Voice Shopping: Target Expands its Partnership With Google

LINE’s New Clova Wave Smart Speaker Is Available in Japan

LINE, known for its popular WhatsApp-style mobile messaging platform, has released a $125 smart speaker in Japan named Clova Wave, beating Amazon and Google to market. LINE has more than 220 million messaging users in the region. The company first announced the speaker device at a conference in June, after unveiling its new digital assistant, Clova. LINE also earlier announced a smart speaker called Champ, based on the LINE Friends characters, but no release date was revealed. LINE is a subsidiary of Naver Corp., South Korea’s largest web operator and search portal. Continue reading LINE’s New Clova Wave Smart Speaker Is Available in Japan

Walmart and Google Debut Voice-Command Online Shopping

Walmart is debuting shopping with voice commands on its website, via Google Home and Google Home Mini devices; it also offers customers $25 off their order if they buy one of the Google devices and link their Walmart account to Google Express’ shopping platform. The result may boost numbers of users who adopt voice shopping, and will also make it easier for customers with Google Home to easily reorder items they’ve previously purchased; with it, Walmart’s ease of shopping rivals Amazon’s Buy Now option and Dash Buttons. Continue reading Walmart and Google Debut Voice-Command Online Shopping

Google to Take On Tech Giants With Second-Gen Hardware

Google just debuted its second-generation Pixel smartphones and Google Home speaker, among other hardware devices, as it competes with Apple, Samsung and Amazon to break into the top ranks of consumer electronics. The company’s first year in the space was mixed: although the devices got positive reviews, the Pixel smartphone suffered from supply shortages, capturing only a minute market share in the U.S. and elsewhere. Likewise, Google Home only made minor inroads into the arena dominated by Amazon’s Echo. Continue reading Google to Take On Tech Giants With Second-Gen Hardware

Amazon Launches Alexa on Music Apps to Attract New Users

Amazon, ranked third in streaming music, launched virtual assistant Alexa on its Amazon Music apps this week to better compete with No. 1 provider Spotify and No. 2-ranked Apple. Amazon Music will provide a button which users can push to access Alexa “play” commands that will work as they do on Echo. Amazon determined that Alexa is now the primary way that users listen to Amazon Music. Competitor Apple offers its virtual assistant Siri on Apple Music. Meanwhile, Google has decided to stop supporting the Amazon Echo Show on YouTube. Continue reading Amazon Launches Alexa on Music Apps to Attract New Users

Google to Acquire Part of HTC Mobile Division for $1.1 Billion

Google will spend $1.1 billion to purchase part of HTC’s smartphone operations. The Internet giant plans to use HTC’s engineering and design teams to help ramp up its nascent hardware efforts to complement its expanding portfolio of software products and grow its revenue beyond Android and search ads. The deal, which is expected to bring about 2,000 HTC employees to Google, also includes a non-exclusive licensing agreement for HTC intellectual property. While HTC has shown growth potential in VR with its Vive headset, its mobile business has been struggling. Continue reading Google to Acquire Part of HTC Mobile Division for $1.1 Billion

Facebook Messenger Day Now Attracts 70 Million Daily Users

Messenger Day, Facebook’s version of Snapchat Stories that launched six months ago, may not be experiencing the same growth as similar offerings from Instagram or WhatApp, but it now touts 70 million daily users. Messenger Day enables users to share photos and video slideshows. While its latest daily usage is significant, it only took Instagram Stories two months to reach 100 million users, and two weeks less for WhatsApp Status to attract 175 million (both have since surpassed the 250 million daily user mark). Continue reading Facebook Messenger Day Now Attracts 70 Million Daily Users

Sony, Harman Kardon and JBL Debut New Smart Speakers

At the Berlin trade show IFA this year, manufacturers showed smart speakers that incorporate voice assistants from Amazon and Google. Sony debuted its LF-S50G, one of the first third-party products, including Google Assistant and offering 360-degree sound and a digital clock, due out in December for $200. Another rival is the $250 Harman Kardon Allure, which offers Amazon’s Alexa and features ambient lighting that keeps the music’s beat. In addition, JBL’s new LINK series features three wireless speakers with Google Assistant and Chromecast support. Continue reading Sony, Harman Kardon and JBL Debut New Smart Speakers

Best Buy and Amazon Testing In-Home Sales Consultations

Best Buy and Amazon are both betting on salespeople who make visits to homes as one potential model for selling more consumer electronics. Best Buy is already testing that theory by hiring hundreds of salespeople in several cities to do just that. The free service is slated to roll out in the U.S. this fall. For Best Buy, getting salespeople in the home is another way to sell more TVs and CE gadgets while increasing business for its Geek Squad, which offers tech installation and repair services for a fee. Likewise, Amazon is expanding its free “smart home consultations” to help promote interest in its smart speakers and related products. Continue reading Best Buy and Amazon Testing In-Home Sales Consultations

Walmart and Google Partner to Better Compete With Amazon

Amazon dominates e-commerce, but now Google and Walmart Stores are partnered to compete. Google will enable customers to place orders via its virtual assistant, and Walmart will join Google’s online shopping market Google Express. Walmart will fulfill orders made through Google Express, and will also share consumers’ purchase history with Google, which streamlines re-ordering of products. Voice-enabled shopping is a rapidly growing market sector, with Amazon enabling it through its Alexa voice assistant and Echo speakers. Continue reading Walmart and Google Partner to Better Compete With Amazon

Facebook Builds Video Chat Device, Refutes ‘Scary’ Bot Tale

Facebook is developing a video chat device for the home that features a touchscreen the size of a laptop’s screen and smart camera technology. The device, in prototype form and being tested in homes, is the first to emerge from the company’s Building 8 lab, and, says chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, is aimed at bringing Facebook users closer. Elsewhere, Facebook squelched a widely reported, hyped-up story that it shut down “creepy” chatbots that were communicating with one another. Continue reading Facebook Builds Video Chat Device, Refutes ‘Scary’ Bot Tale

CTA Report: CE Industry Growth Is ‘Exceeding Expectations’

The Consumer Technology Association forecasts 3.2 percent growth for the U.S. CE industry this year, for a total estimated $321 billion in retail revenue. For the first time, drones, OLED TV and virtual reality tech are predicted to surpass the $1 billion revenue milestone, according to CTA’s latest “U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts” report. Smart home devices, wearables, 4K TVs and voice-controlled digital assistants are among the categories projected to experience significant increases. “Revenue growth in the consumer technology industry is exceeding expectations,” said Gary Shapiro, CTA president and CEO. Continue reading CTA Report: CE Industry Growth Is ‘Exceeding Expectations’

Apple Installs Interactive HomeKit Experiences in 46 Stores

In an effort to help consumers better understand the benefits of Apple HomeKit products, Apple has installed interactive smart-home displays in 46 of its retail locations worldwide. Apple customers can use the Home mobile app via an Apple Watch, iPhone or iPad to perform functions such as turning on Philips Hue light bulbs and controlling Hunter ceiling fan speeds. Apple’s Home app allows users to control HomeKit-enabled smart devices from a single location (or even collectively with a single command) by tapping the screen or interacting with virtual assistant Siri. Continue reading Apple Installs Interactive HomeKit Experiences in 46 Stores

Samsung and Alibaba Join the Digital Assistant Speaker Race

According to sources, Samsung Electronics is integrating its digital assistant Bixby into a voice-activated speaker, in a project dubbed “Vega” that has been ongoing for more than a year. Competition is stiff in the voice-powered speaker market, with popular options from a variety of tech leaders. Digital assistants — including Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and now Samsung’s Bixby — use artificial intelligence to “learn” over time. New speakers are joining the race later this year, and China’s Alibaba Group is currently debuting an inexpensive version, Tmall Genie. Continue reading Samsung and Alibaba Join the Digital Assistant Speaker Race

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