All posts in “Apple Watch”

Apple said to debut voice-activated Siri AirPods in 2018, water-resistant model in 2019

Apple is preparing a couple of updating models of AirPods, according to Bloomberg. The popular fully wireless earbud-style headphones that Apple introduced last year are currently on track for a refresh in 2018 with the addition of a new version of the “W” line of chips that Apple created specifically to manage and improve Bluetooth-based connections between gadgets.

The 2018 hardware refresh would include not only an improved W chip (possibly the W2 added to the Apple Watch last year, or perhaps even a W3) but also the ability to activate Siri just by voice, rather than by physically tapping the AirPod in your ear, as is the case currently.

Like with Amazon’s Echo devices or the iPhone, a user would be able to trigger the virtual assistant simply by saying the wake word aloud – “Hey Siri,” in this case. That would indeed to a step-up in terms of shifting AirPods to a voice-first interface device.

As for the successor currently planned for 2019 (though Bloomberg notes those plans could easily change between now and then), it will add a new level of water-resistance, which Bloomberg reports will be designed to protect against “splashes of water and rain,” rather than full submersion like the current Apple Watch.

AirPods are doing well by all accounts, so putting them on an update cycle similar to the iPhone and other of Apple’s high-demand products seems fairly logical. It’ll be interesting to see if customers choose to upgrade in the same way they do with Apple’s other high selling devices, and what other updates might be in store (please made variable fit tip design, Apple, so that I can finally wear these things without requiring a little foam sleeve).

Apple and Android are destroying the Swiss Watch industry

In Q4 2017 – essentially during the last holiday season – market research firm Canalys found that more people bought Apple watches than Swiss watches. Two million more, to be exact. Brian Heater has more data but this news is quite problematic for the folks eating Coquilles St-Jacques on the slopes of the Jura mountains.

The numbers are estimates based on market data but they still point to a trend. In Q1 2016 Apple shipped 1.5 million watches to Switzerland’s 5.9 million. The intervening quarters were about the same until the launch of the Apple Watch 3 in September 2017, just in time for holiday shopping. The boost of a new phone and a new watch at the same time meant a perfect storm for upgraders, driving the total number of Apple Watches sold past the Swiss watch sales numbers.

This switch does not mean Apple will maintain that lead – they have one product while Switzerland has thousands – but comparing a single company’s output to an entire industry’s in this case is telling.

Wearing watches is, as we all remind each other, is passé.

“I check the time on my phone,” we said for almost a decade as phones became more ubiquitous. Meanwhile watch manufacturers abandoned the low end and began selling to the high end consumer, the connoisseur.

Take a look at this chart:

Sales of low- to mid-tier watches – and a mid-tier watch can range in price between $500 and $3,000 (and I would even lump many $10,000 watches in the mid-tier category) – were stagnant while the true cash cows, the expensive watches for the ultra-rich, fell slowly from a high in 2014. This coincides with falling purchases in China as what amounted to sumptuary laws reduced the number of expensive gifts given to corrupt officials. Sales are up as December 2017 but don’t expect much of a bump past the current slide.

As a lover of all things mechanical – I did ruin a few years of my life writing a book about a watch – I look at these trends with dismay and a bit of Schadenfreude. As I’ve said again and again the Swiss Watch industry brought this on itself. While they claim great numbers and great success year after year the small manufacturers are eating each other up while nearly every major watch brand is snooping around for outside buyers. There is no money in churning out mechanical timepieces to an increasingly disinterested public.

As time ticks ever forward things will change. The once mighty Swiss houses will sink under the weight of their accreted laurel-resting and Apple will move on to embedded brain implants and leave watches behind. The result, after a battle that raged for more than four decades, will be a dead Swiss industry catering to a world that has moved on.

Apple Watch shipments jumped in 2017, according to analysts

The Apple Watch continues to be a bright spot in amongst the middling world of wearables, according to new numbers from Canalys. The analyst group’s figures put the smartwatch at 18 million shipments for 2017, representing a 54-percent jump over the device’s 2016.

Apple’s wearable popped for a couple of reasons, LTE functionality being chief among them. For one thing, cellular connectivity was the top new feature for the Series 3. It also meant that the device got wider distribution, as more carrier partners started carrying the product in their retail stores.  The watch got its warmest reception in US,  Japan and Australia, struggling a bit more in the UK, France and Germany, where carrier partnerships are a bit more spotty for the product.

That said, the cellular version of the watch, not surprisingly, still only makes up a fraction of total sales, at around 13-percent by the firm’s count. That’s far fewer than the 35-percent of non-LTE Series 3 watches and a quarter of the combined Series 1 and 2 shipments last year, as Apple continues to make older models available at a discount.

While the company’s iPhone sales were said to be below Wall Street expectations for Q4, the watch saw impressive growth during the holiday season, up to eight million. That represents a 32-percent jump over Q4 2016, according to Canalys’ figures, and lines up with what the company reported during its last earnings call.

“It was our best quarter ever for the Apple Watch,” Tim Cook said during earnings, “with over 50-percent growth in revenue and units for the fourth quarter in a row and strong double-digit growth in every geographic segment.”

It also, unsurprisingly, represents the best sales of any LTE smartwatch. Apple’s far from the first company to offer cellular connectivity on a wrist worn device — Samsung, mostly notably, beat the company to the punch. I had some trouble finding a particularly compelling use case for bringing LTE to my own wrist, but apparently others haven’t had such a tough time.

What putting medical records on an Apple Watch means for your privacy

Apple wants to put your medical history in the palm of your hand. And, for good measure, on your wrist as well. 

The tech giant confirmed Wednesday that it intends to allow customers access to their medical records via iPhones and Apple Watches on iOS 11.3 beta. But like with so many things in the world of highly personal data, putting medical information on a digitally connected device is not without risk — and how it all shakes out could have a huge impact on the lives of millions. 

According to CNBC, which broke the story, the new feature will be folded into the Apple Health app. After a health provider is added to the app, the “user taps to connect to Apple’s software system.”

Does that mean this information passes through Apple’s servers before hitting your iPhone, or does it come directly from the provider itself? And how, exactly, is that data protected from hackers or leaks? That, unfortunately, is unclear. This reporter reached out to numerous people at Apple with a series of questions about the new service, but received no response. 

This is a problem. If Apple wants people to trust it with details regarding their “allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and vitals,” as CNBC reports, then it needs to be more forthcoming about how it plans to secure that information. 

Your life in an app.

Your life in an app.

Image: NurPhoto/Getty Images

Mashable was able to confirm that the medical records in question can be kept on an iCloud account — if you opt in — but that otherwise they’re stored locally on the device, and protected with the same form of encryption that secures everything else on the device. It’s unclear if this is a separate opt-in than the one an iPhone user makes to back files up to iCloud.

It is very possible that you might want your photos backed up to the cloud, but not the details of your embarrassing medical condition. Hopefully Apple plans to give users that flexibility. Unfortunately, however, at this time we don’t know. 

Risk and reward

While the benefits of having your medical history at your fingertips may be numerous, so are the potential pitfalls. After all, it’s not hard to imagine what could go wrong. As the notorious 2014 hack of celebrity iCloud accounts made clear, Apple can’t guarantee the safety of your data. Sure, that incident involved targeted phishing, but for many people, a jealous ex is part of a valid threat model — and that’s exactly the type of person who would be able to bluff their way into an iCloud account. 

That is also the same kind of person who might have physical access to your iPhone or Apple Watch. As soon as they got into one of those devices, your medical records would potentially be up for grabs.

To be clear, it’s not like your medical data is necessarily safe where it is. We learned in 2014 that hackers had stolen the records of some 4.5 million patients after breaching the systems of an American hospital network. 

As soon as they got into one of those devices, your medical records would potentially be up for grabs.

But, still. Throwing another potential target in the mix in the form of an iPhone or Apple Watch, no matter how secure Apple may claim them to be, doesn’t make this reality any better. 

We reached out to both the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for additional insight, and will update this when and if we hear back. 

In the meantime, it’s perhaps best to keep in mind that medical records present a unique challenge when it comes to balancing privacy, security, and availability. Not getting them into the hands of your doctor could have disastrous effects, but so could having them fall into the hands of a hacker. 

Apple’s customers would be better served by an open dialogue on how the company plans to achieve that optimal balance. Until that happens, however, upload your medical records to Apple’s cloud at your own risk. a2d2 4a0e%2fthumb%2f00001

Smart speakers to outsell wearables during U.S. holidays, as demand for wearables slows

Smart speakers will likely outsell wearable devices this holiday season. That’s the latest prediction from analysts at eMarketer, which forecasts a slowing growth rate for devices like fitness trackers and smartwatches here in the U.S. The wearable market is continuing to grow, to be clear, but it’s struggling to reach the mainstream. Next year, only 20 percent of the U.S. adult population will use a wearable devices at least once a month, the firm says.

Note that eMarketer is looking at wearable usage and market penetration here, not sales.

That being said, the firm is estimating that usage of wearable will grow just 11.9 percent in 2018, rising from 44.7 million adult wearable users in 2017 to 50.1 million in 2018. As a percentage of the population, that’s a climb from 17.7 percent to 19.6 percent.

Things won’t improved much in the next few years, either, if the forecast holds out. The growth rate will slow to single digits in 2019. By 2021, eMarketer is estimating 59.5 million adult wearable users, representing 22.6 percent of the population.

The firm attributes the majority of the growth in the sector – a market today that’s dominated by fitness trackers – to new users of smartwatches, like the Apple Watch.

This news follows on an earlier report where eMarketer had significantly downgraded its projections for wearable usage in the U.S. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The relatively “modest” growth for the wearable market overall is something other analysts have pointed to, as well. Globally, the market saw just 7.3 percent growth in Q3 2017, according to IDC, for example. Canalys had reported in August 8 percent year-over-year growth, largely thanks to Xiaomi.

Gartner, meanwhile, had predicted 17 percent global growth in 2017, but counts things like bluetooth headsets (such as AirPods), body-worn cameras, and head-mounted displays in its grouping, alongside smartwatches, fitness trackers, wristbands, and other health monitors.

According to eMarketer, the problem with wearables in the U.S., and smartwatches in particular, is their high cost combined with the fact that they haven’t really sold mainstream users on these being gadgets you simply can’t live without.

Instead, they still feel more like luxury items – things that are nice to have, but not necessary.

“Other than early adopters, consumers have yet to find a reason to justify the cost of a smartwatch, which can sometimes cost as much as a smartphone,” eMarketer forecasting analyst Cindy Liu said.  “Instead, for this holiday season, we expect smart speakers to be the gift of choice for many tech enthusiasts, because of their lower price points.”

A holiday bump in smart speaker sales is almost a certainty at this point. Amazon’s top seller during the Black Friday holiday shopping weekend was the Echo Dot, for example, and Strategy Analytics recently predicted nearly 12 million smart speaker units sold in Q4 2017, bringing the year’s total to 24 million units.

eMarketer has also forecast 55 percent of U.S. households would have one of these devices by 2022.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin